Review – Westworld: Virtù e Fortuna

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Where to start with the latest episode of Westworld? The mystery of the washed-up Bengal tiger, the promise of other parks or Dolores’ ruthless warpath: episode 3 of the new series, Virtù e Fortuna, continues to expand the Westworld universe, deftly dropping hints and tasters of what’s to come. It goes without saying at this point that there will be some pretty big spoilers so be warned.

We begin in a pretty foreign setting to the one we’ve become accustomed to in Westworld; gone are the dusty badlands and saloons of the official Westworld Park, replaced instead by an secluded hotel of sorts in amongst the jungle undergrowth of colonial India. This is a major revelation as it confirms the existence of other parks, raising the question of how will the hosts react to one another should they ever meet – we already know Dolores wants to escape but will that lead her into one of these other parks and, if so, what kind of a reception will she get. To the same end, the revelation of the existence of this colonial Indian park shows a sinister truth emerging: the self awareness we’ve seen manifesting in Westworld doesn’t seem to be confined to the Wild West, with hosts already seen to be gunning guests down in these other parks. Is there more to this self awareness surge than meets the eye or could this be a part of somebody else’s plan?

Moving forward, we once again follow the show’s gun-toting heroine, Dolores, and her new confederate army as travel to an old confederate fort to parley with the soldiers stationed there. Things seem to be go pretty un-Dolores-like as she actually brokers a peace with the officer in charge of the fort in order to gain entry. However as with many things in Westworld, this is short-lived when the group stumbles upon some captives held by the soldiers: Dolores’ father, Peter Abernathy, and a certain Bernard Lowe included. You can pretty much see where it’s going from then on.

After subjugating the fort’s owners and rescuing her father, we begin to see glimpses of the old Dolores; fragile, vulnerable and oozing emotion, begging Bernard to fix daddy Abernathy up – he’s a stuttering, twitching mess who’s gibberish seems unintelligible. Evan-Rachel Wood’s performance throughout the episode is essentially what we’ve come to expect from her but this moment in particular shines with her ability to switch between the Dolores’ hard public persona and her sensitive inner self, while convincing as both, actually fairly impressive. Once Jeffrey Wright’s Bernard – who has already downloaded corrupted files from Peter’s programming into himself for safe keeping – does start digging through Mr. Abernathy’s head, however, he stumbles upon something far bigger than just some faulty programming which plants the seed for a really interesting sub-plot.

Over in Maeve (Thandie Newton)’s camp, we see Sizemore and his two host captors travelling across all sorts of terrain to get to a service elevator where they link up with Armistice; the tattooed season one regular who now seems to be hunting humans. Seeing the flame-wielding host return could signify that some sort of conflict between Dolores – with the Wyatt personality seemingly manifesting much more publicly – and Maeve’s new crew. We won’t be seeing that for a while however as we are introduced to yet another potential sub-plot in the cliff-hanger ending to the episode as Maeve, Armistice and Sizemore, fresh off the bat of discussing the hosts’ emotions and love interests, stumble into the icy forest of the rumoured “Shogun World.”

Back in Fort Forlorn Hope, Dolores and her army prepare for battle with Charlotte Hale’s Delos soldiers who are intent on bringing the malfunctioning Peter Abernathy back into their own custody. A lot of major talking points happen during and in the aftermath of the battle; Bernard is captured by Clementine, Dolores openly calls herself Wyatt and Teddy seems to defy Dolores, suggesting there may be tiny cracks forming in their relationship.

To summarise, while episode doesn’t blow us out of the water with many new concepts – the ominous threat in Abernathy’s head excluded – it does well at confirming a number of fan theories and expands the Westworld universe generously, opening up to the possibility of the lines between parks being blurred as perhaps not confining the hosts to their respective areas. This episode has its fair share of action with battles erupting between a number of different factions throughout the episode but isn’t so inundated with violence that it loses semblance of dramatic maturity – Dolores’ twin personalities makes her character a lot more interesting that just a revolutionary war-lord while Sizemore’s integration into Maeve’s posse continues to provide comic relief to counterbalance the intensity of the rest of the episode. In any case, the episode feels as though it is still building towards a climax rather than holding anything major in itself. What is for certain, however, there will be fireworks in the coming weeks.

Westworld continues Mondays at 9:00pm on Sky Atlantic.

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