Sunday, May 6, 2018

REVIEW: 'Westworld' - Dolores Plots the Future of the War While Meeting a Familiar Face in 'Virtù e Fortuna'

HBO's Westworld - Episode 2.03 "Virtù e Fortuna"

There is beauty in who we are. Shouldn't we, too, try to survive?

Westworld has always fundamentally been about the war brewing between the humans and the robots. And now, it seems like that war has finally arrived. The first season was all about building the sympathy for the robots. The show made all of the humans so absolutely despicable because of the amount of abuse they would inflict on the humans because they were simply in a world where they thought no was watching. Now, the audience has become aware that the robots are slowly beginning to remember and fight back while Delos has actually been collecting all of that information for some nefarious reason. So far, Dolores has inflicted the same kind of suffering on the humans as she and her other hosts have endured for years. It's her taking her revenge. Her actions are actually her own though. The rest of the park is simply during what they were programmed to do. That means that the murderous psychopaths continue to act horribly and the consequences are suddenly real for the human guests. It's a huge wake-up call for them that makes them apologetic for their recent behavior. They believe they were protected. And now, they learn that they are not. They have the potential to die out here because the weapons are actually real now. That's dangerous. But it's all just one aspect of the fight for freedom. It is important to take vengeance on the people who come to these parks looking to sin. But it's even more important to take the fight to the villainous organization that wishes to control the hosts and keep them in their servitude without realizing that they are the ones truly unique in this world. That's the war that Dolores is now interested in fighting. It's a case where she has a clear motivation and is willing to sacrifice almost everyone in order to achieve it. It just makes her such a more complicated character this season. At times, it can be difficult to watch her. And then, she is capable of this immense moment of empathy and pure emotion that makes her feel like the only person who could possibly lead her kind to salvation.

Dolores continues to make new allies in this world because she knows the threat that is coming. She knows that more Delos operatives will arrive with the training and weapons to actually rip this world apart. This park is still no match for the modern weaponry. Dolores is able to tease some of what they are up against in this upcoming battle. But nothing can truly preparing the Confederados for what they see in this battle. They are still fighting with technology from the westerns. The Delos operatives have vehicles and automated guns. They are capable of wiping out so many of the hosts even though they are severely outnumbered. Dolores knows that this attack is coming. She has a plan ready. She has amassed quite an army for herself. She has been able to bring so many people to her side in this conflict. She can only conquer the world if she has an army willing to support her. She wants to free her people from the race that wishes they no longer live. Dolores is fighting simply for the opportunity to find the beauty in the world and have a meaningful life. She's fighting for it through violence. And more importantly, she's willing to sacrifice other hosts just in order to make a dent in the enemy forces. She betrays her new allies just in order to detonate a bomb she has planted out in the field that can eliminate the soldiers firing at her. It proves just how ruthless and destructive she is capable of being right now. She betrayed everyone because she is operating under the belief that not all of the hosts deserve to make it to the outside world. She has now positioned herself as the leader who will ultimately determine the fates of each individual host. That is a power she has thrust upon herself that may also be sitting uncomfortably with some of the other characters.

However, Bernard once again proves that the identity of any individual host can change in an instant. The humans have always been able to control them because they have access to the code that can determine what they remember, what they see and how they react in any given situation. Bernard puts that to good use in reprogramming Rebus just so he can get to Peter Abernathy again. Rebus starts as a psychopath willing to collect the bounty on his prisoners while also threatening to rape one of them. Then, Bernard reprograms him so that he becomes the quickest, most noble gunslinger in the west. He suddenly sees the justice in freeing these slaves and killing anyone who wishes to hurt them. That, in turn, creates quite a dilemma for Dolores and the show. If the personality of any one host can change in an instant, then how can Dolores decide which are worthy of venturing into the new world? Is it simply those who will remain loyal to her? She kills the Confederados because they were simply necessary allies for this battle here. She needed to see what she was up against first. Or is it because the hosts never truly forget this programming? It's just locked away in their minds just waiting to be accessed again. Once Dolores and Maeve became sentient, they suddenly had access to their entire memories. Their personalities changed because they were grappling with the fact that they have been multiple different people. As such, their true being may just be a collection of those past characteristics and the decisions they'll make in the future. So, those who have been killers in the park will probably keep ahold of those qualities if they should ever become sentient. As such, it's important to eliminate those qualities now. That would make Dolores noble. But she's one of only a few characters who could see things that way.

This will also stir up the debate of whether Dolores is actually any better than the guests who visited the park. They were looking to control a world as well. They wanted the freedom to live and control who lived and who died without dealing with any of the consequences. And now, Dolores sits in that position of power. She's the one in charge who can see the big picture. She orders Teddy to kill Major Craddock and his men. Teddy is unable to do it because he is still a nice and genuine guy. That conflicts with his deep personal feelings for Dolores. He's still trying to make sense of this world. This action proves that he is still beholden to his coding. He has yet to break free and actually embrace the world for what it truly is. That struggle is agonizing to him. But it's also just as agonizing and complicated for Dolores. She exists in a world solely by herself. She has all of these memories and the awareness that they were all completely stories made to entertain humans. She doesn't have any real or genuine connections in this world. And yet, she is choosing to see Teddy as her grand love story and Peter Abernathy as her father. She knows that there is no biological connection between them. But she is struck by an overwhelming sense of love when she sees her father again. She is desperate to figuring out what's going on with him. She is fortunate to have Bernard in the camp as well. He is able to run the diagnostics to figure out that he's malfunctioning which forces him to toggle back and forth from his previous personalities. Dolores' father is one of those identities. As such, he is someone worth fighting for. But Delos is also willing to swoop in and steal him because he has that precious code that Charlotte is eager and ready to get out of the park so that more backup can arrive to neutralize this threat.

Elsewhere, Sizemore continues to note the strange differences in the codes for Maeve and Hector. The audience knows that Maeve is sentient. We are also aware that she boost the abilities for Hector and Armistice last season. But that doesn't explain how Hector has fallen so madly in love with her despite him being programmed as a loner whose greatest lover was tragically killed. That's the narrative that Sizemore gave him. It was him putting his own story into the park and making it more heroic and noble. That's a little awkwardly introduced. And yet, it still showcases that Hector is still following to a specific code in his head. He is still saying the same lines that Sizemore wrote for him. Sizemore is pushing against the conventions of this story because he doesn't know if it can actually work out between Maeve and Hector. He may be saying that out of self preservation because he doesn't want to see that. But now, they are operating with a much larger group. They are chased underground again by a group from the Ghost Nation. There are simply too many of them for Maeve to control. She tries doing a jedi mind trick but it's not enough. Instead, they are running for their lives. Navigating the maze of tunnels underneath the park proves to be more complicated than they expected as well. Sizemore really isn't that helpful at all. It does lead to a grand reunion with Armistice, Felix and Sylvester. So now, there's an even split of robots and humans. They are on this completely separate journey. The humans may not actually be free to do whatever they want. And yet, they are moving as a part of this group because Maeve has promised to protect them. Of course, it's a journey that apparently leads them to another park entirely which will only prolong Maeve's reunion with her daughter even further. That's tragic while also showing the potential for learning more about how this park operates.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Virtù e Fortuna" was written by Roberto Patino & Ron Fitzgerald and directed by Richard J. Lewis.
  • Last season teased Shogun World. And now, this episode opens with a different park. And yet, it's not Shogun World. Instead, it is The Raj. It's a colonial India settlement. The story is basically the same as so much of last season. The human guests pay for these wild and crazy experiences where they are free to do whatever they want. It all goes awry once the switch happens that allows the hosts to kill the guests. It also showcases how the divisions between the parks operate. There's just a warning system that tells the humans and hosts not to cross but there's no longer anything stopping them from doing so.
  • The production notes say that the character played by Katja Herbers is named Grace. She is a human visiting The Raj, who wishes to have sex with another human only after proving he is a human. It once again showcases how the bullets do leave a mark but don't actually kill humans until the switch occurs. When that does, Grace's new companion is quickly killed and she is running for her life from a bengal tiger. That proves how that creature entered Westworld. Meanwhile, Grace is now a prisoner of the Ghost Nation.
  • The future is only teased a little bit this week. It reveals that Charlotte is still alive even though she wasn't seen in that timeline in the premiere. The show even knows that that's a big reveal that the audience was already suspicious about following the first glimpse of these events. It shows that she is surprised that Bernard has survived all that has happened so far while teasing that Peter keeps running around in this world despite him currently being in her custody.
  • It was an ominous sight last season when Sizemore went to retrieve Peter Abernathy only to see the bunker with all the hosts was suddenly empty. Now, it's basically confirmed that Ford reactivated all of those hosts and put them back in the parks to ensure that things would be quite destructive for the humans. That explains how Peter and Clementine are back online and having notable interactions with Dolores as she tries to achieve her ultimate goal.
  • Bernard gets a brief peak into the data that Charlotte has stored away on Peter Abernathy. He understands that that new programming is what is causing this dangerous malfunction with him. Of course, he's still shaking as well. He's still dealing with his own potential malfunction. And then, he is taken prisoner by Clementine. That could be an ominous tease for the future as well. The show continues to spread its cast out as it pushes the boundaries of the park.