Westworld Season 2 and the Importance of William’s Daughter

We examine just who is William's daughter in Westworld Season 2, and why she will be so crucial going forward.

Katja Herbers in Westworld
Photo: HBO

This article contains spoilers for Westworld Season 2.

It isn’t until the very final minute of episode four’s Westworld that it all fell into place. “Grace,” as we’d come to call Katja Herbers’ runaway Raj guest who’s wandered into Westworld, descends from the golden hue of dawn’s earliest morning glory. Haloed by a sunrise and accompanied by Ramin Djawadi’s most sensitive of piano ballads, a bomb is dropped in the William/Man in Black narrative for season 2: His daughter has gone West, young man. And the not so young William is going to finally have to do what he’s sneered was impossible for his father-in-law and the long dead Logan—he is going to have to face reality.

It’s a tantalizing reveal and one that I personally did not see coming (mind you, I watched the first five episodes over a weekend, but still). William’s flesh and blood faces him, and suddenly the world he’s been escaping from to discover “what kind of men we could have been” has a face, and undoubtedly judging eyes will soon follow too. It was a highlight of the episode that breathed new life into season 2 and returned to the written narrative intricacy heights reached in our first trip to Westworld. But immediately it also raises a lot of questions about William and the House that Delos Built. And it is also something that will play out for the rest of his arc.

This is actually not the first time we’ve met William’s daughter. And I’m not referring to Ms. Herbers’ debut last week as a colonialist turned escapee either. Nay, we first met William’s progeny in the second episode of Westworld during what vaguely seemed to be both a birthday and retirement party of sorts for James Delos (the invaluable Peter Mullan). In that episode, a wee lass who could be no older than five or seven-years-old, watches Dolores play the piano and marvels at this woman’s beauty. Undoubtedly, the girl’s mother Juliet is also aware, as she commands her daughter Emily to step around the creepy robot her husband is pretending he isn’t hung up on.

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Presumably Emily has met Dolores on a number of occasions, as like her father, we discovered during Sunday’s episode, “The Riddle of the Sphinx,”  that she is as every bit as capable as her father at handling hosts, given she can speak the Ghost Nation’s language and is the sole guest to easily escape their clutches.

However, the fact she was introduced as “Grace” raises some interesting questions. Assuming this isn’t some trick by the writers to throw us off last week, let’s suppose Emily may just not want other guests to know that she is the daughter of the family who owns the Raj, Westworld, and all the other parks. Still, the look of dismay and discomfort on William’s face suggests something else. There’s clearly been tragedy and grief in the family ever since James Delos signed his way into a Sisyphean robo-hell.

For while Big Jim Delos spent apparently decades repeating the same monotonous task of essentially pushing a boulder up a hill (or in his case practicing his ‘60s dance moves), his family fell into real disarray. His wife died of a stroke several years after his own real passing. And his son Logan, whom he passed over stewardship of his company in favor of William, died of an overdose not too long afterward. Even his daughter Juliet, the wife of William, eventually committed suicide.

Every living person who kept his memory (or at least did so and liked the bastard) returned to the weeds. Only William and maybe Emily remain. William allowed this morbid bid for immortality to persist, if only seemingly to torment his father-in-law’s ghost by the end. By the time William was all-Ed Harris-y, he had given up on the outside world. When considering the death of his wife, William simply shrugs, “Some men are better off dead.” That implicitly includes himself.

William may have seen Delos’ stocks soar, but he’s lost himself to his opioid of choice: Westworld. Having gone to the park for 30 years, it is not hard to imagine what Juliet thought of the man who brought Dolores—“the pretty girl” who Logan no doubt ran his mouth about out of bitterness to his sister—into the home of their daughter. And I’m sure Juliet in turn would eventually confide to Emily who her father really is, and what Dolores means to him.

This makes her choice later in life, after she is well into her adulthood and her mother has committed suicide, to go by “Grace” all the more intriguing and tragic. I suspect there is a rift between father and daughter, and the inner-workings of the Delos House (and perhaps its collapse) will become clear as the rest of season 2 plays out. We still don’t know who is Charlotte Hale’s father, yet it is not hard to imagine Charlotte is Logan’s daughter. She, like Grace, has a history with the park. But the difference is Grace actually enjoys the parks enticements—to a point.

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In contrast to William, we’re introduced to Grace/Emily in another park on another adventure. While it is hard to imagine William ever traveling to the Raj, Grace is quite comfortable there, if a little bored. She doesn’t fully wish to immerse herself in the fantasy during last week’s episode, instead finding genuine arousal from the attention of a flesh-and-blood man, as opposed to a compliant nuts-and-bolts host. There is a palpable love-hate relationship with Grace and the parks. She can survive being attacked by a synthetic tiger in lethal-mode and escape the Ghost Nation, but she hasn’t lost herself to the rabbit hole the way her father has.

When she says “Hello Dad” at the end of her second episode, she is connecting with a man she clearly has a certain level of estrangement from. And a man who, even though Dolores appears to be about the same age as his daughter, still celebrates returning to the park by attacking the rancher’s daughter in the most violent and lurid of fashions. That is the vacation Grace/Emily is interrupting, and he too must now look at his reality. Earlier in the episode, William seemed to find a new lease on the “game” as he got to play the good guy for the first time in eons and save Lawrence’s family while slaughtering the Confederados.

Yet at least he claims he’s simply “playing it to the bone.” I think he doth protest too much, but he’s no hero. He is saving hosts he once killed, pretending to be the savior to those he was once acted as tormentor and an angry god. In some ways, he is simply getting what he wants: a game without stakes. He is not really the man he is outside of the park. This is all confirmed in the sixth episode of the season, when William leaves in the night to play his game, ambivalent about the fate of his daughter in this dangerous world.

Her relationship with William, and perhaps Charlotte Hale too, is about to define where Westworld goes in the next four episodes. And it is unlikely to be anywhere healthy or happy during this family outing.