Westworld: Season 2 – Episode 3 ‘Virtù e Fortuna’ REVIEW
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Another long cold open this week, but it’s necessary for the material at hand. Because of the glimpse of samurai armour in the first season finale, the Westworld fanbase speculated at length about whether we might see Eastworld, or any of Delos’s other parks, at some point. The creators flatly denied that we’d see the samurai world, but this by no means precludes them from showing the British Raj world – which is where we begin this week.
And really, colonial India as a setting, with its rigid caste system already in place, makes a lot of sense for a world of subservient robots where the guests from elsewhere get to feel like gods. The only issue is that it comes off, at best, as incredibly racist, so one presumes Delos won’t be trialling Dixieworld any time soon (you’ll notice the Confederados never actually mention slavery, for one thing).
We follow two guests who, bizarrely, are there to hunt tigers. Granted, if you were someone who wanted to be eco-friendly but still go big-game hunting, Rajworld has absolutely cornered that market, and as you’ll see both of its potential customers are having a whale of a time. Having established they’re both human – because you can never be too sure, after all – they embark on a big-game holiday romance.
Unfortunately, it turns out that they’ve timed their soft-focus vacation to coincide with all the hosts’ programming going on the fritz – and their manservant turns on them, killing the man, with the woman only besting him by the skin of her teeth. Understandably, she panics, and tries to run back to safety, only to find, irony of ironies, a tiger instead. It chases her right to the edge of the park – or possibly the borders between parks, as we know that a dead tiger washes up on the shore of Westworld – and they go into the sea.
(And when, much later, she washes ashore, she immediately runs into the other kind of Indian.)
Back in the land of tumbleweeds and six-shooters, Bernard and Charlotte run into Steven Ogg’s unnamed bandit, up to no good as usual – and, in possibly the best moment of the series to date, knock him out and fiddle with his programming to turn him into a nice chap. I would happily watch an entire series of the people he was going to sell as slaves running away in terror as he prances after them saying “Wait! It’s dangerous to go alone! I’ll help!” – imagine a video-game escort quest only as a farce.
Their goal here is to catch up with Peter Abernathy, Dolores’s father, and find out exactly what weirdo programming he’s had stuck inside him. Whatever it is, it produces a genuinely creepy performance, hovering somewhere between elderly relative with Parkinson’s and half-mad oracle. Before they can dig into his brain, though, the Confederados show up – Charlotte gets away, but Bernard and Peter get taken prisoner.
(Again, the Confederados reveal themselves as surprisingly non-racist. For background, a key factor about slave societies was that even the very poor could consider themselves superior to slaves. Now, given that the antebellum South hated even those free black people who were trekking North with nothing but a carpet-bag, the mere sight of Bernard – an upper-middle-class, educated black man – would be like the ghost of Frederick Douglass kicking them in the nuts.)
Of course, where are the Confederados likely to take their prisoners? That’s right, to their set-piece fort, the one where Dolores has just allied with their commanding officer. And despite the Confederados not being Confederates so much as they are generic militia villains, Dolores’s ‘are we the baddies’-ometer should really be at bursting point. But reuniting with her father puts a bit of a pin in her newfound rough, tough facade – as does reuniting with Bernard, her metaphorical father.
For once, Dolores gets to take the lead in their one-on-one – and bluntly wonders how much of Arnold there is in Bernard, questioning his identity and whether he’s ever even left the park. This seems to be hinting in the direction of her trying to get him onboard with the robot cause, but this gets cut short, as he’s the best hope she has of fixing Peter, whose flashbacks to the idyllic pastoral life he had with Dolores are definitely leaning on the elderly relative side of things, to a heartbreaking degree.
Before too long, though, the showdown Dolores had predicted turns up in the form of Charlotte and the Delos security team – one young Confederado scout declares that they’re coming out of the ground, a line which from a more limited perspective could have been chilling. Despite Dolores’s big talk about how if the Confederados fight them head-on they’ll be slaughtered, they do indeed fight them head-on and get slaughtered – although Dolores’s weird mob shutting them out of the fort and then setting off a bunch of explosives doesn’t help with that.
As this happens, Charlotte has her security boys sneak in the back door (some fort this is) and grab Peter, much to Dolores’s distress – and presumably Bernard’s too, since they leave him. Dolores then sends Teddy to execute the remaining Confederados – but when their officer questions his identity, and there seems to be a lot of that going about, he lets them go. So it’s possible Teddy’s taken all this stuff about not mowing down robots all willy-nilly to heart.
Over in Maeve’s plot, it seems like he’s not the only one – some Indians catch up with them in a river, but are willing to let Maeve and Hector go if they give up Sizemore. This is presumably still them trying to get revenge for that dreadful ‘Odyssey on Red River’ plot Sizemore pitched in the first season. However, Maeve recognises one of them from the patchy, heavily cut tragedy she remembers befalling her and her daughter, and says no dice.
They manage to escape back into the park’s maintenance areas – where Sizemore becomes woefully lost. He’s also shocked to see Maeve and Hector holding hands, since he specifically wrote Hector to be hopelessly in love with someone called Isabella, which, it turns out, was basically him externalising his feelings about an ex-girlfriend. They do say to write what you know, so no wonder Hector comes off as an overly cool power fantasy (black leather in the wild west is a statement any way you slice it). Sadly for Hector, his feelings for Maeve are still based entirely in Sizemore’s scripts.
Shortly afterwards, they meet back up with Armistice, Hector’s pal with the snake tattoo that goes all the way down – who’s been having a blast messing with the two technicians Maeve kept threatening in the first season. With the team assembled, they go back into the park, into the snow level, and it then turns out the creators lied all along when a samurai jumps them. Roll credits.
While we’ve moved forward a good deal more than we did last episode – most notably, with Rajworld and Eastworld confirmed – any actual answers are still tantalisingly out of reach. Bernard reacts to the hidden code inside Peter, but doesn’t get a chance to expand on that before Delos take Peter away. And we know from a flash-forward they don’t manage to hold on to him, either, so exactly what he wants with the train is anyone’s guess – though the most obvious explanation would be simply to break out of the park.
There’s no clue as to how exactly things got as out of control as we’ve seen them get in the flash-forwards, either. The Confederados were the biggest, most organised group of hosts (aside from the Ghost Nation, who tend to stay off to the side) and Delos chewed them up like so much gum, as you might expect when people with automatic weapons go up against robots with flintlocks. And as Sizemore’s taken Maeve to the snow level, even though when she had her daughter it was clearly in midwest-style plains, a lot of the characters seem about as lost as we are.
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