Seeing and Breaking Illusions
While Episode 1 was a slow buildup and reintroduction to the central characters, mostly Bernard’s POV. Episode II gives us a fairly similar pacing that feels like nothing much is going on. It’s an episode filled with interest and exposition, ironically not in the present or the future, but about the past – whose past? Well Dolores’.
SPOILER WARNINGS AHEAD FOR EPISODE II
Dolores is the main POV character for most of this episode – as we take a look at our opening scene. She is with Arnold again, a flashback. This is not the quiet pensive lab from the beginning of the previous episode. No, as she is brought back online, the scene is changed – bright lights litter the night blue expanse, high rise buildings assaulting the sky. Dolores is with Arnold, here, in our ‘real world’. Her first step into foreign lands, she’s floored and utters,
“It looks like the stars have been scattered across the ground. Have you ever seen anything so full of splendor?
-Dolores to Arnold in Episode II
Taken to Arnold’s future home nearby, he gives Dolores a small tour of the place – A place he had planned to move into soon for work reasons, bridging the gap of his two worlds. Why would he do this? To a host that probably would not be able to remember or appreciate the moment for what it is? Well, Arnold has always been one to see hosts for more than what meets the eye.
“You and Charlie (his son) , are quite similar. You both, see so clearly” he says. What they do see, perhaps is not as important as how they see. It is poetic, given Dolores’ inclination to absorb information and see past lies like that of a young child. This brings us to our central themes in this episode, Seeing, and Breaking Illusions.
Have you ever seen anything so full of splendor?
Right as Arnold is about to take her away and leave, she repeats herself, “It looks like the stars have been scattered across the ground. Have you ever seen anything so full of splendor?”. Arnold’s illusion of Dolores is broken once again, a close reminder that no matter how real she seems, her programming only allows her a set of prefixed responses.
Back in the present, and in Westworld, Dolores has declared a full on war with the humans. However, she is undermanned and knowingly at a disadvantage in numbers, trying to band together as many people as she can for her fight for freedom. There were signs in episode one, but Dolores, is more aggressive, more cold, and ironically, her facial expressions seem more robotic as ever. She has hardened, her illusion of her world having been shattered and plays the role of the dictator leader ruthlessly and without any more remorse.
She assists Teddy in opening his eyes to the world around him, harking back to the central theme of illusions. It’s painful sure, but i can’t help but wonder if this scene should have happened way earlier on. Teddy’s role in the show now seems more to question Dolores’ actions and intent, all without having a personal drive as his central presence is overshadowed by Dolores’ war we’re not even sure why he’s fighting for.
Is it odd I find her (Evan Rachel Wood’s) portrayal of Dolores in this manner as both expected and boring? She is a brilliant brilliant actress don’t get me wrong, her demeanor and tone is relentlessness, violent and yet…yes, expected. It’s a bit of a terminator vibe, and subtle now, but one i can foresee writers playing along for the ride as new episodes roll in. She’s building up a little bit of a God complex – why wouldn’t she? Besides perhaps Maeve, she is the only host to break out of her fixed programming, finding the ‘maze’ of her own will and takes autonomous control to the next level. Being one of the first hosts to be made as well, her memories and experiences must be ten fold.
“Let me guess, you think your way is the only way to fight for freedom?” – Maeve to Dolores during a confrontation.
We are treated to several more flashbacks, an interesting one with Young Logan as we play audience to his experiences of the hosts and Westworld for the very first time. Young William (played by returning Jimmi Simpson) also returns, a scene some 30 years prior with his ‘betrayal’ by coaxing the investment of Dallas company into Westworld shares. His conversations with Dolores are no less intriguing and gives us a glimpse into the complexity of his mantra and early stages during his transformation into *spoiler*, The Man with the Black Hat.
William, ‘found himself’ and by finding himself, he is changed. “I can’t believe I fell in love with you”, he said. It’s a heart breaking scene, cold and lacking of any empathy from either parties. Dolores is silent the entire time, but through her eyes you knew she understood every word that is being said to her. His tone very matter-of-fact, William exploits the moment,
“Turns out, you’re not even really a thing. You’re a reflection. And do you know who loves staring at reflections? Everybody”
-William to Dolores
A reflection, a ghostly illusion, one who isn’t even there. There are many ways to interpret that line, but that was how I read it.
If there is anything to be taken from this episode, the flashbacks with William and Dolores were truly the high points. Every scene feels like a shattered dream come alive, William’s realization about the hosts and himself, Dolores being subjugated and quiet, trying to break out of confusion. Though I love these scenes, this makes me wary, as it still relies on filling in exposition and plot points from previous seasons without moving forward. So far, I have little to no drive to see how everything unfolds in the future. Perhaps, this is still early on and with the cliffhanger of a ‘weapon’, being mentioned, we will just have to see now – won’t we?
Moving on to Episode III
You can also check out our previous review of Episode 1 here.