This review contains spoilers.
2.3 Virtu E Fortuna
It’s difficult at times to get a handle on the scope of Westworld. It seems expansive, and it’s clearly large enough that it may take longer than a day to travel across it by horseback, but just how big is the world itself? And exactly how long would it take for the Delos QA teams to clear the park, going sector by sector? I’ve seen multiple variations, everything from 90 miles to 500 miles to the size of a continent, depending on who is talking and who they’re talking to.
Suffice it to say, Westworld isn’t the only world in Delos’s massive adult theme park. We’ve seen the size of the control facility, which looks to be something like 85 floors from available Delos-themed material online. There are six parks, only one of which we have seen a great deal of, but with the chaos in the park in the wake of the hosts gaining their freedom (if not their sentience), there’s bound to be chaos. The cold opening of the episode establishes an entire world in only a few scenes, then plunges that world into chaos almost immediately.
One of the best things about Westworld is the way the show plants Easter eggs. There’s so much background detail that it’s difficult to even catch all of it, but when it shows back up, it tends to be memorable. For example, the drowned Bengal tiger host that washes up on the beach near where the Delos assault team lays their beachhead and where Bernard is found unconscious. It’s a tie-in with the fact that this park is more than just the Old West, and having that back story filled in makes its appearance more meaningful. Rather than just an accident, it’s a symptom of systemic failure. That one moment, that one dead tiger, sets up an entirely new set of rules for Westworld; there are no rules anymore, save the ones that the hosts themselves write.
This is not the world that Lee Sizemore developed, but the elements are still there. That is one of the most fascinating things about what is going on with the hosts as characters. We’ve seen them behave in ways that aren’t scripted (especially Maeve), but we also see them continue to lean on their programming. A clever moment has Hector both going off-script (by being with Maeve) but also continuing to use his scripted dialog. It’s one of the strongest elements of the episode penned by Robert Patino and Ron Fitzgerald, and a fascinating little exchange to ponder. It’s interesting to consider just how much of the host’s actions are free will versus the very base nature of their programming. After all, Dolores is Wyatt, and she has that cruelty streak built into her just as much as she has the farmer’s daughter somewhere in her programming. Teddy is a killer, but he also has a heart of gold, as seen by his letting his prisoners go rather than simply executing them as ordered (to Dolores’s disappointment).
There’s an art to establishing shots, and director Richard J. Lewis has that skill. I immediately recognised the mood and the place even before it was spelled out. Simply a shot of a couple of peacocks at a party put across that this was Rajworld, even before elephants appear on screen. It’s impressive to see a setting established so easily without any exposition; the exposition helps develop it further, but is mostly unnecessary as Rajworld feels like a manufactured version of the British Raj almost immediately.
Lewis also demonstrates good rapport with his actors. Evan Rachel Wood does so much with a simple look in the direction of Teddy to communicate her feelings. Dolores and Peter’s brief reunion is heart-rending, and credit to Louis Herthum and the always-excellent Jeffrey Wright, both of whom do some wonderful physical performance bits this week. Herthum in particular is excellent as the malfunctioning host, torn between what bits of his previous lives he remembers and his all-consuming drive to catch the train as programmed into him by Charlotte.
Things seem a bit clearer in Westworld after this episode. There was more of a focus on a specific period of time, rather than multiple time lines, and the narrative played out in fairly traditional television style. That’s not intended to be an insult, or faint praise. Sometimes, a run right down the middle of the pitch is more exciting than tiki-taka, and the end result more satisfying.
If anything, focusing on one big event—the incredible battle between Delos’s QA soldiers and the Confederados—gave the episode more drive, and made things more compelling. When you open an episode with a tiger attack, it’s difficult to up the ante, but the large-scale combat between hosts and humans did just that. When a programme can satisfy from a narrative standpoint while still peppering in exciting glimpses of what’s to come, it makes for satisfying television.
If the first season of Westworld was a psychological thriller punctuated with action, this season is an action movie that occasionally becomes a psychological thriller. I have absolutely no complaints about this shift in philosophy. The performances remain enthralling, and the writing remains top notch. Westworld has become more exciting without sacrificing intelligence, and while the actual size of the park remains a mystery, their world is rapidly expanding.
Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Reunion, here.
US Correspondent Ron Hogan was really impressed with the battle scene this week. Dolores is definitely not a leader to be trifled with, and her army of robot zombies is only going to get bigger thanks to Delos. Find more by Ron daily at PopFi.