Westworld 2.06

‘Westworld’ 2.06 Recap: “We’re Not at Full Apocalypse Yet”

Barring an unexpected payoff later in the season, last week’s diversion into Shogun World seems more and more to have been a fruitless waste of time. ‘Westworld’ (mostly) extracts us from that storyline this week and tries to get things back on track.

This week’s episode opens, like so many do, with Arnold interrogating Dolores. However, the 2.35:1 aspect ratio of the footage is an immediate clue that something is different this time. Arnold expresses that he’s frightened of what Dolores might become, and has to make a choice between the unknown or “an end.” Dolores then flips the tables on the conversation and commands Arnold to sit down. She tells him that he misspoke a line, and that their conversation has been a test for “fidelity,” much like William tested the robot clone of James Delos. Arnold is not really Arnold. Does that make him Bernard? Honestly, I’m not sure.

The timeline for events in the rest of the episode is pretty confusing. It’s difficult to keep track of which storyline takes place before or after which other. I’m not sure when exactly this opening conversation takes place. For this recap, I’ll break things out by character group.

Maeve

We’re not quite done with Shogun World yet, unfortunately. The last episode ended with Maeve readying herself for a major samurai battle. Rather than show any of that, we jump forward to the grisly aftermath. Numerous bodies litter the ground in various states of dismemberment, but Maeve is still standing. She watches madam Akane tearfully cut the heart out of her surrogate daughter Sakura’s body and wrap it in a cloth.

Returning to the very Sweetwater-like town, Maeve discovers that Hector and Armistice (as well as Hanaryo, the Japanese copy of Armistice) are prisoners of a gangster named Tanaka. Musashi (Hiroyuki Sanada) challenges Tanaka to a duel. Even though she has the power to put a quick end to all this foolishness, Maeve elects to let it play out. “We each deserve to choose our fate,” she says as she steps aside.

Things seem to not go so well for Musashi as the duel begins, but he eventually cuts off Tanaka’s hand. The other man defeated, Musashi tosses him a blade and allows him to commit seppuku.

Maeve, Akane and their respective entourages trek to Snow Lake, where they can see a full-size Mt. Fuji in the distance. (Exactly how big is this Delos island? This seems absurd, even if we buy into the notion that the company has advanced terraforming technology.) Akane cremates Sakura’s heart at a ceremonial altar, then tells Maeve that she and Musashi will not be traveling with her any further. They have their own story to lead. Hanaryo, however, chooses to tag along with Armistice.

Maeve and her group enter the park’s tunnel system, and Lee guides them to the homestead range that Maeve remembers very well. When she spots her old house, she asks to go alone. Hector is wary but agrees to stay behind with the others.

On the front steps of the house, Maeve finds and speaks to her daughter. The girl is polite to her, but then runs into the arms of another woman she calls “Momma.” Maeve is heartbroken.

Just then, a group of Ghost Nation warriors ride toward the house. Remembering her old storyline in which she was murdered (repeatedly) by the tribe, Maeve grabs her daughter and runs off, leaving the other mother behind. Hector and Armistice charge in and begin shooting, even though the Ghost Nation haven’t actually harmed anyone. One Ghost Nation warrior catches up to Maeve and asks her (in his language, which she can understand) to come with her, saying “We are meant for the same path.” Prejudiced by her memories, Maeve interprets this as threatening and refuses.

Watching the scene play out, Lee pulls out the walkie-talkie he snatched from a Delos soldier’s corpse last week and radios for help.

The Man in Black

Having unexpectedly run into his daughter Grace in the park, the Man in Black initially assumes that she’s really a host robot replica and is part of Robert Ford’s game for him. He’s not buying it. Grace explains that she was invited to the board gala by Charlotte Hale, but since things went to shit at the Raj, she came to bring her father home and won’t leave without him, nor will she allow him to “suicide by robot” on whatever crazy quest he’s fixated on now.

The Man in Black seems to warm up to Grace when she helps him avoid an ambush. He agrees to leave with her at sun-up. Of course, she wakes up in the morning to find her father and his entire crew, save for one man, already gone. He abandoned her again.

Dolores

Following his reprogramming, Teddy has a decidedly darker edge. He says he’s “fixed” and is eager to get on the train to carry out Dolores’ mission. He even straight-up murders one of the prisoners from Delos with no provocation. This is no longer the sweet-natured Teddy we used to know.

The train gets underway and rides back toward the Mesa. As it gets close, Teddy hands a pistol and one bullet to the other Delos technician prisoner and tells him it’s “the last of my mercy.” Then Teddy locks him in the train’s lead car and decouples the back end of the train. He, Dolores and their other supporters drift to a stop as they watch the engine roar straight into the tunnel entrance in the Mesa.

The Mesa

Now that she has Abernathy in her possession, Charlotte sends out a secret message confirming as much and receives an immediate response that an extraction team has been dispatched. To make sure he doesn’t wander off anywhere, Charlotte has some of her techs literally bolt Abernathy into a chair. Stubbs finds this treatment troubling, even if Abernathy is just a host.

Later, Delos militia forces parachute into the park, led by a crusty Scottish commando named Coughlin. Initially, Stubbs is pleased to see some professionals take over and offers his help, but Coughlin treats him dismissively, declaring that “Amateur hour is over.”

After securing the Mesa, Coughlin’s men try to hack into the system but are rebuffed and can’t figure out exactly what’s wrong. They manage to get the 3D map of the park working just in time to see the train coming straight for them. As soon as it enters the tunnel, the train, loaded with all the nitro Dolores took from the Confederados, explodes.

The Cradle

It turns out that references to “The Cradle” earlier this season were not just another name for the park’s control center, as I previously believed. It’s actually a computer program that houses the memories and personalities of all the hosts in the park, for the purposes of creating a VR training and testing simulation. (This is where we saw Dolores and Arnold at the beginning of the episode.)

Elsie and Bernard walk along train tracks into the tunnel in the Mesa, which leads them to the departure center where guests first enter the park. Elsie logs into a computer terminal and discovers that the Cradle has somehow blocked attempts by the Delos “QA” security force to hack into it. Elsie is very shocked by this, as the Cradle itself is acting as though it’s artificially intelligent, which it shouldn’t be. She tries to investigate further but can’t access the Cradle remotely.

She and Bernard make their way to a room marked “CR4-DL.” Bernard remembers plugging a host brain into the computer there, but can’t recall whose brain it was. He tells Elsie that the only way to find out what’s going on is to connect himself to the Cradle. Against her objections, he tells her that he’ll be back in an hour, then hooks himself into a harness. A robotic arm cuts a hole in his skull and removes his brain core, then pops it into a device to read it.

Bernard wakes up on the train to Sweetwater – a simulation of it, at least. (The footage here is once again 2.35:1.) At his arrival, he sees Dolores and Teddy acting out their original storylines. Bernard ignores them and is drawn instead into the saloon, where he sees a familiar figure at the piano. Although we only glimpse his partial reflection, it’s clearly Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins). He greets Bernard saying, “Hello, old friend.”

Episode Verdict

For the most part, this episode is an improvement over last week’s. Frustratingly, all the events inside Shogun World are still terribly clichéd and pointless – especially the duel between Musashi and Tanaka, which serves no purpose at all aside from wasting a few minutes of screen time with a little mild swordplay. Now that we’ve left Musashi and Akane, I have to question why we ever met them in the first place. Maybe they’ll come back around later to justify their presence on the show, but until then their storyline feels like worthless padding.

Dolores has also been kind of a bore since going full evil. She was much more interesting as a naïve farm girl struggling to understand her place in a complicated world. She’s had much less to do since embracing the Wyatt personality.

Much of the plotting in this episode feels needlessly confusing. I don’t understand the purpose of introducing a VR simulation of Westworld inside Westworld itself, except to further muddy the distinction between what’s real and what isn’t. Does Bernard finding Dr. Ford in there mean that Anthony Hopkins will return to the show in a somewhat regular fashion? Maybe he’ll be able to answer some of these questions. Probably not, but one can hope.

3 comments

  1. eric

    Pointless? That seems a bit strong. Sometimes I feel like we are watching a completely different show.
    The entire point of a TV show is to entertain us, not elevate us to a higher level of consciousness. This is a TV show and an Epic one at that. What other show can seamlessly weave in Ninja’s and sword fights into an already badass Western SciFi program? I tip my black hat to the show runners this week. Epic. I wish there was a few episodes here and not just two.

    Let’s talk SHOGUN WORLD.

    I will concede that a full-size Mt. Fuji is a bit hard to imagine and was a distraction for me. But, it looked great. I will also add that popping into a tunnel for a hot minute and then back out and you are worlds away seems like an oversight too, but it moves the story line along, and I have a feeling the non-linear storytelling makes up for these types of choices and also saves us from a less than exciting story line if it was told in the chronological order – alla MOMENTO alla another Nolen family trope.

    This “pointless” trip to this new world is a major development for Maeve and the overall Storyline, it helps to explain some of things that are happening.

    First, it explains that the EMPATHY that Maeve and others (aka Dolores and Akane) have learned to make decisions for themselves, even if they don’t understand that is what is happening. Is this a major clue to what is causing the hosts to go off storyline and become more independent? Only Maeve and Dolores have seemed to fully understand what is happening and we are following their two very different paths through the season. Dolores is a terminator death machine and Maeve is more empathetic and carrying. They are still conflicted because they know their memories are not real but they both are trying to get back to someone they love. Even though they know that is probably just a fake memory too.

    Maeve see’s Akane’s actions and can relate to them, but also it helps her to understand better what is going on. Unlike Dolores, who just hard charges through these moments and moves to the next one, usually leaving bodies in her wake… Maeve takes her time and works these thoughts out. She understands Akane’s plight to save Sakura, it reminds her of her own daughter memory. Maeve needs to see this play out so she can better understand her own internal conflict.

    This is insight into what is going on with the hosts, insight into Maeve’s mind is direct insight into what is happening with Dolores.

    Maeve believes that the hosts need to make their own decisions to become independent and to break free of the chains of Delos and be human like. Dolores has no patience for it and is closer aligned to the Man in Blacks focus of beating Delos at their own game and being better than human, no matter how much she has to kill.

    Maeve gets a new-found power, which seems obvious now, but she is still figuring it out. Once she gains this power of mind control, she uses it briefly but it scares her because now she is doing what Delos does and she is controlling the narrative. As suddenly as we see here learn to use it, we see her learn when not to use it.

    Maeve also see’s that not using the mind control power in every situation that she can maybe help free her hosts from the bonds of their narrative. She believes if she lets them make their own decisions then they can also break free like she has. She can’t force them.

    On the other hand, Dolores uses brute force to accomplish the same thing. She uses the tech to change the personalities of those around her, including her beloved Teddy who won’t break free of his narrative. She gets impatient and makes the changes herself.

    Maeve is still learning and she uses the mind control in dire situations or when she is angry or forgets her power of persuasion when she gets scared.

    Dolores tries to make Teddy in her own image and is disappointed to see he wont “wake up”.

    This storyline also indicates that Akane is “waking up” and that we are only seeing female hosts achieve this status. It also indicates that this is happening in other parks and is part of a much bigger plot point than we may have thought before. It is not just Westworld, it is all worlds.

    • Josh Zyber
      Author

      All of those story points either already had been made or could have just as easily been made within Westworld. Unless there’s a major need for samurai later in the season, the entire trip to Shogun World accomplished basically nothing except to bide time.

      Maeve found that Lawrence has also woken up, so it’s not just the female hosts capable of it. The fact that she’s unable to control the Ghost Nation suggests that they’re awake too.

      • eric

        I am not 100% sure that Lawrence woke up, his story is so convoluted it is hard to tell. Maybe I am forgetting something concrete that would convince me otherwise. I am just happy they have kept him on, I like seeing Clifton Collins character, I always like him in movies.

        When I got to the end of Season One, I felt like I understood what has been going on the whole time and didnt feel like I needed to rewatch to figure it out and see it unfold now that I knew were it was going. But, with Season Two I have already gone back and rewatched episodes and I end up with more questions.

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