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‘Westworld’ Ep.2.09: “Vanishing Point” Delivers Shocks in an Unshocking Fashion



After thrillingly branching out into previously untold parts of the park last episode, Westworld returns to familiar ground in “Vanishing Point.” Focusing on the backstory of William, aka The Man in Black, episode nine shows just how far dissociated he has become from reality. Yet, with so much progress made in the last few episodes, it seems that Westworld is taking a step back by retreading familiar clichés. Let’s take a look at the main themes of the episode.

Another Classic Nolan Character?

If there’s anything that motivates any of Christopher Nolan’s main characters — whether its in Inception, Interstellar, Momento or The Prestige — having a dead wife or girlfriend is character development 101. Hinted at throughout this season, “Vanishing Point” finally shows us the point where William’s wife, well, vanishes, taking her own life after refusing to go back to rehab. Westworld creator Jonathan is taking cues from his brother, using the death of William’s wife to give a reason into why the park means just so much to him. Its familiar ground for fans of the Brothers Nolan, yet episode nine deals with it in such a perfunctory way that it feels rather unnecessary.

Vanishing Point

With episode nine used in so many HBO shows — see: Game of Thrones — to ramp up the tension before the finale, “Vanishing Point” can’t help but feel a little thin on the ground, even if William eventually loses his mind so much that he even shoots (and possibly kills) his own daughter (who may still be a host, but who wants to take that risk?). With the previous few episodes suggesting that the show wanted to undo the archetype of the sad rich white man who thinks everything is about him, Westworld, in letting William live and see himself become the ultimate bad guy, is severely letting us down on its initial promise. This sense of predictability was extended not only to The Man In Black but to almost every other character in this episode; especially Delores.

The Deathbringer Delivers on her Name

The eventual larger showdown between the (supposedly) good Ghost Nation and Dolores’ evil posse is foreshadowed in a brief skirmish near the start of “Vanishing Point”. Again, the people we learned so much about in the previous episode are again reduced to bit players, ruthlessly murdered by Teddy. The only hope is they aren’t quite as pointless as the Samurai we met in ShogunWorld. While hardly substantial in and of itself, Teddy’s reluctance to kill one last man in cold blood seemingly prompts a break in his code, leading to his eventual suicide by gun. Dolores — infected by the spirit of Wyatt — has gone from a three-dimensional character to one hell-bent on a single aim: kill all the hosts. Even Teddy’s death doesn’t affect her much.

Vanishing Point

Here the dual narratives of Dolores and William are mirroring one another quite effectively. Both are moving quickly to The Valley Beyond — William to figure out Ford’s puzzle, Dolores to amass an even bigger army — and both have lost somebody close to them along the way. This is something hinted at by Dolores’ brief appearance at William’s sad rich people party at the start of the episode. With Meave sadly sidelined, the battle of the four armies initially appears reduced to just three — Dolores, William, and Akecheta. Yet perhaps Ford still holds all the final clues:

What’s Ford Up To?

The constantly bemused Bernard figures out that Ford’s presence is not so much an inevitability as something resembling malware. Once he figures out how to remove it, he ditches Elsie in the desert and drives off, presumably to stop the secrets of The Valley Beyond from being found out. Part of Ford’s master plan, The Valley Beyond is handily explained by Bernard in a moment of pure Nolanesque exposition, explaining that its “All the guests laid bare in code on a vast server, like the Cradle, only much bigger. It’s called The Forge.”

Vanishing Point

With backups of all the humans contained within it, this is the key to the immortality of the guests. Dolores is off to destroy it, as seen in the flood in episode one of the series — and it looks like no one can stop her. Except Ford — whose surname cleverly defines itself as a shallow place where one can cross a river— has now inserted himself (this sounds so weird to write out) inside of Meave’s comatose mind. We all know about Maeve’s powers. Perhaps Ford has a secret that will allow Meave to ford across the flood and save the park.

There’s no doubting Maeve is not only the best character in the show, but the best acted too, given so much depth and flair by the brilliant Thandie Newton. To see her lying in this state feels like a waste of such an exciting and much-needed human(esque) presence. With Ford taking control of her, she might remain our only hope. But will Westworld’s master creator embrace the light or the darkness? It is all to play for next week.

As far back as he can remember, Redmond Bacon always wanted to be a film critic. To him, being a film critic was better than being President of the United States

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