The hit US sci-fi show revolving around a wild-west-themed park – that is home to hordes of life-like and increasingly self-aware android known as hosts – returns this week with its second episode of season 2; Reunion. The show takes us into an entirely new timeframe this week; yes, that’s a brand new fourth stream of events you need to keep up to date with now. Oh, Brother. It should be said before we start talking “Reunion” that there will be spoilers ahead so if you’re not caught up yet: be warned.
We begin the episode with pre-Westworld Arnold testing an early Dolores’ personality and ability to capture the likeness of human speech, before being harried and ultimately deciding not to include her in his plans. She looks out on the city sky line of a glittering unnamed metropolis set against the darkness of the night sky, to which she comments on its beauty, seemingly awestruck. It’s clever what show-runners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy do with Dolores’ character in this episode. Her fresh-faced innocence really helps to make her more human and helps us, as viewers, to connect with her – in much the same way that Bernard’s vulnerability in the previous episode helped his character to the same end. A running theme of this episode is Dolores’ education as it were into human thought, culture and nature leading her to this god-complex she develops, but more on that later on.
Staying in the same pre-Westworld timeframe, we see what is essentially the origins of the different Delos parks, with Logan – the son of James Delos and brother-in-law of William – meeting a representative of an enigmatic “Argos” initiative for a demonstration of their life-like androids which later become the hosts that inhabit Westworld. Dumbstruck by their realism and likeness to normal humans, Logan agrees to convince his father to invest. The human aspect of the hosts is really explored in this episode making them seem quite eerily uncanny while also being the “good guys” in the grand-scheme of things.
Sometime in the future we find that Logan was not in fact the one who convinced daddy Delos to make the park a reality but rather his son-in-law William’s, who explains the park’s biggest commodity is its guests. He suggests they set the park up to collect data on their consumers’ opinions, tastes and true natures in a pseudo big brother style spying initiative. A disgruntled Logan is met by Dolores in this timeframe in the middle of drug-binge with the former tainting the latter’s perception of humanity with his parting misanthropic remark.
As we switch to a separate timeframe, we see Dolores’ revolution of rampant robots in full swing as they assault a refurbishment unit on the outskirts of the park. Again harkening back to the newfound glimmer of human in the hosts, Dolores forces the technicians in the outpost to help James Marsden’s Teddy to realise his true nature as a machine, resulting in the likable sheriff breaking down. The contrast, then, between the humanity we can see in him and empathise with and his realisation that his entire existence is a lie, makes this scene and Teddy’s subsequent Dolores-esque transformation that much more powerful.
We are treated to what could be considered to be the episode’s titular “reunion” as Thandie Newton’s Maeve comes face to face with Evan Rachel Wood’s Dolores, in an icy conversation which is somewhere between a recruitment and a stand-off. One of the most refreshing things about this episode and in fact Maeve’s character as a whole is the subtlety she conducts herself with and the power that lies beneath it. Despite all of Dolores’ gun-toting and rousing speeches which make it seem as though those she comes across owe their service and fealty to her as if she were a god – we see Maeve completely shut her down, presenting herself as being bigger than Dolores’ cause and hence casts the former into doubt. You get a feeling of déjà-vu with this scene which begs the question: How many times, if ever, have these two characters had this sort of confrontation?
As Dolores’ rebellion gains pace – and significant numbers after a showdown with the confederates – we switch to William in the present day as he saves Lawrence from execution (once again) before setting about to travel to Pariah to build an army of his own. However, after a short parley, the Ford’s hauntingly overbearing plan for him takes centre stage again, with El Lazo (played by guest-star Giancarlo Esposito) echoing the sentiment that the late doctor’s game must be played by Michael alone.
In summary, then, Reunion does well to tie up a couple of loose ends left behind by the previous series, while its nuanced comparisons between artificial intelligence and humanity makes the characters more multi-dimensional than just cowboy robots: the point of realisation – which we saw glimpses of during the first season – is so powerful and provides some great drama. The episode sets the tone for the rest of the series while opening up on some key driving forces we’ll see later on; Dolores’ tyrannical pseudo-god complex and how that sits with her followers, the weapon she mentions towards the end of the episode and Ford’s mysterious control over the present, given that we saw him die at the end of the last season, and his game for William.
Westworld continues Mondays at 9:00pm on Sky Atlantic.