Saddle up! But beware potential spoilers in this review, which will discuss elements of the episode.
Watching Westworld can be a frustrating experience at the best of times – it can feel less like consuming a television show and more like figuring out a jigsaw puzzle when you don’t have all the pieces yet, and random bits keep popping up out of order. Fortunately for this second season, while the show is still doling out little parcels of story, we’re getting a lot more of the connective tissue, which helps make the whole that much more satisfying.
Dolores is, as ever, one of the main focuses here, acting – as Arnold/Bernard did last week – as our focal point through several time periods. We’ve finally invited to see more of story before Westworld as we know it existed, when a company called Argus invited Delos (with its figurehead played by Peter Mullan, who channels a blend of Ridley Scott and James Cameron for the doomed Jim Delos) to invest in its plan to create the convincing fantasy. It’s fascinating to watch the various players come into focus, particularly William, who thanks to some subtle work by Jimmi Simpson, is becoming ever more Ed Harris-y. And Ben Barnes’ Logan is, as ever, a slimeball with a beard.
In the present, Dolores’ bloody revolution continues, and she’s driven by experiences she’s had in the past. Her memories are much clearer than anyone imagined, and even moments such as Arnold bringing her to see the house he’s building for his family in the midst of an unspecified city in the past. There is a lot of backstory downloaded here, and it could make you feel like a host getting a memory upgrade were it not so skillfully handled.
It’s fun to see Dolores and Maeve interact in their enlightened forms, even if Maeve brushes off Dolores’ invitation to join the fight. Maeve isn’t convinced by the vengeful crusade, preferring instead to keep looking for her child from a previous narrative.
The older William is still making progress through his newly boss level game and recruits old pal Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.) It’s good to have him back, and he provides a fun link to the previous season. But truly the highlight of the MIB storyline this week is the presence of the current El Lazo, played by Breaking Bad veteran Giancarlo Esposito. It’s a little bit of a shame he only has this small cameo (though being a host, we assume he could still be resurrected), but he’s great at what he does, as ever.
Though there are plenty of reunions to give the episode its title, the big theme of this latest story is judgement. The Hosts are dishing it out to the humans, some think they can only be judged by God (though that’s simply part of their programming) and still others believe that they’re headed for some judgement and/or redemption. Weighty pondering, to be sure, but the show has found a way to work all that into the narrative without stopping for big speeches (well, one or two – but when they’re delivered by people such as Jeffrey Wright, it’s worth it).
Reunion, for all its time-hopping complexity, feels more satisfying than many episodes from the previous season, as it’s moving the story along and adding details that answer some of our questions and make the viewing experience that much more enjoyable. After a lot of preamble, Westworld is truly maturing in season 2.
1. What kind of redemption is the MIB hoping for? And what the hell will happen when he reunites with a firmly woke Dolores?
2. The MIB retrieves a medical kit from a wall in a bar – presumably one that is designed to fix hosts if needed but can also work on humans? What other secrets might he be in possession of that could help his future game playing?
3. Dolores says that the Valley Beyond/Glory/insert name here that so many hosts are headed for isn’t a place, it’s a weapon. And she’s seen it before thanks to William. We see terraforming construction going on in that flashback, so is it some facility? Blackmail material? Or just a giant, world-killing canon? Probably not that.
4. Another quote has Logan toasting the end of the species. Is he referring to the danger he perceives from the park? Or is there some terrible problem that people are using Westworld to ignore. Might humanity be as doomed as James Delos even without Dolores and co. waging war on them?
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Westworld airs on HBO in the US on Sunday nights and Mondays on Sky Atlantic in the UK