Westworld 2.09: “Vanishing Point” Episode Review
Many individuals—robots and humans alike—are losing their minds this week. Some are on the brink of taking their own lives, while others struggle to find some hope of regaining lost connections and self-control. “Vanishing Point” features indications of even deeper secrets, which wily, old Ford (Anthony Hopkins) is well aware of yet no one else has seemed to ponder, implying he’s the ultimate marionette master. And we are offered deeper backstory into the past of the Man in Black (Ed Harris)/William (Jimmi Simpson), with red herrings diverting us in more than one direction until we are left wondering if he is more than the tyrant we’ve always suspected.
This episode examines a man losing himself and becoming swallowed up by his paranoia. But can there be a “vanishing point” if that person never existed to begin with? The Man in Black recounts his final words to his wife, Juliet (Sela Ward), telling her he’d always belonged to another world, as if he’d never fit in his own reality. Was William ever the white hat, the man we encountered when he first stepped foot in the park? His wife had once believed he was a philanthropic, humble man—where did he cross over? He’d recognized there was a speck of darkness always in him, and so he ended up leading a double life: a kinder soul outside the park/himself, and a ruthless man inside. Ford was probably the only one who saw what William really was like from the beginning.
But beyond the questions of whether he’d ever been a decent person, are there clues leading us to believe he might be more robot than human? At a party celebrating William’s achievements, Ford handed over a memory card containing William’s every thought and decision from his time in the park, declaring that William may not like the portrait of the man he sees. Even Emily had said—after admitting that she had found his profile card—that her father hadn’t lost himself in a lie rather he is a lie himself.
When a rescue team arrives and identifies William as the boss, they scan the back of his neck, which signals he’s “clear.” What is implanted in there? In a delusional rant, he mows down the entire squad and then, surprisingly, his own daughter, Emily (Katja Herbers). When he realizes he has killed his only child, he briefly considers offing himself. His voiceover intones, “What is a person but a collection of choices? Where do those choices come from? Do I have a choice?” This makes him reconsider suicide, and he instead grabs a knife and begins digging into the flesh of his arm. What’s he looking for?
Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) has another new name, The Deathbringer, and she lives up to it as she squabbles with the Ghost Nation Warriors over who is allowed to enter the Valley Beyond. But it’s not just those who oppose her that face death, it’s also her loved ones who are unable to bear the burden of the violence. Teddy (James Marsden) finally breaks, knowing he is not meant for the world where Dolores is bringing him—certainly not in the form in which she has changed him. I completely agree; I just don’t see Teddy fitting in beyond his comfortable little loop and character. And so, sadly, Dolores’s knack for death reaches Teddy Flood as he ends his time with a bullet to the head.
Though she is visibly broken up by his passing, I’m still not 100% convinced it’s for love. Could it be because she now lacks backup and must do it all on her own? Let’s not forget that William was supposedly her true love at one point in their younger years, as we were led to believe in the first season and are reminded in this episode of his jealousy upon seeing Dolores demurely flirt with another guest. Was this the moment William’s world shattered and he became the Man in Black? I still think she and William are due for a final showdown. Maybe Dolores is working through the hand of Ford to gun down the Man in Black. My question now: will it be human vs. robot or robot vs. robot?
Side notes from the episode: At Ford’s directive, Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) serves as a passive messenger, involuntarily uploading some code from Ford to Maeve (Thandie Newton). Not sure yet what that was about, except that Ford later visits Maeve and tells her she was his favorite. In giving her initial instructions to attain freedom, he’d never suspected the urge to save her child would override her data drive. He motivates her by telling her not to let them end her story or her bid for freedom here.
Bernard has had it with Ford’s directives—all the extraneous chatter in his mind is driving him batty, and he’s ready to finally be free—so he jacks himself into the system and deletes all traces of Ford from his code, much to Elsie’s (Shannon Woodward) distrust.
Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) is set to unleash a reprogrammed Clementine (Angela Sarafyan)—who now possesses the same capability as Maeve to communicate with other robots wirelessly—with the intention of using the former painted lady as a weapon to take down the rebellious hosts.
With one episode remaining this season, I hope we are, once again, treated to solid conclusions to some of these tantalizing, ongoing threads, leaving us feeling satisfied and wanting more.