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‘Westworld’ Review: ‘Reunion’ Takes Us Deeper Into the Past Than Ever, and Thank God for That

Season 2, Episode 2 Is set more in the past than the present, but the insight we gain is invaluable.

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HBO

[Editor’s Note: This review contains spoilers for “Westworld” Season 2, Episode 2, “Reunion.”]

Programming Note

As mentioned last week, while critics were provided with the first five episodes of the season by HBO, this writer is keeping pace with viewers at home, meaning that we haven’t seen beyond Episode 2 as of writing, and any speculation contained below is not informed by episodes to come.

Diagnostic Report

“Reunion” digs far more into the past than we’ve ever gone before, opening over 30 years in the past, as Arnold (not Bernard) gives Dolores a tour of his home under construction in Hong Kong (we think). That’s not all, though — much of the episode is devoted to the ascent of William, AKA the Man in Black, as he not only marries into the Delos family but proves himself to be the brains behind the ultimate scheme in the works. Left by the wayside: Logan, Jim Delos’ “fuck-up of a son,” who’s the first to understand the jaw-dropping possibilities of this technology, as well as its apocalyptic potential.

In the present, though, Dolores is still pursuing her (based on what we know, tragically doomed) revolution. While she doesn’t have much success enlisting Maeve for her cause, she does enlist a Confederado squad with more than the threat of violence. Handy to have a Delos technician as part of your team, it turns out.

The Man in Black (easier to refer to Ed Harris that way, to be honest) is also pursuing allies, though his efforts prove fruitless after his attempt to make a pact with the new El Lazo (played by none other than “Breaking Bad” star Giancarlo Esposito!) triggers some diabolical programming by Robert Ford that doesn’t work out.

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Finally, Dolores leads Teddy and her new allies to the latest stop on their quest towards “Glory,” where she says they’ll be able to find a weapon — one that she’s going to use to “destroy them.”

In the Year… Wait, What Year Is It?

The wide swaths of history covered in this episode are most edifying, let’s be clear. But one important detail: While we remain unsure when, exactly, the events of the series begin, Logan’s astonishment at just how sophisticated the host technology is supports the idea that that scene takes place relatively close to today. Because 2018 is full of wonders, but if you were talking to someone like Angela and found out she was a robot — yeah, you’d freak out too.

Player Piano

This week’s most notable musical moment was certainly the piano cover of Kanye West’s “Runaway,” foreshadowed previously in at least one Season 2 trailer. Not exactly the best of timing for the show, but it is a beautifully orchestrated arrangement, giving the transition from the violent present to the past events that made it possible an eerie edge.

Paired Off

Logan’s comfort with his sexuality has always been a refreshing aspect of him as a character (especially in a pop culture world where bisexual men are far outnumbered by bisexual women). But while he technically gets the most action in this episode, his romance isn’t the most interesting we see.

Following the revelation of the Man in Black’s true identity, it’s weird to remember the later part of Season 1 really made us feel for what truly felt like a love story, between William and Dolores. In “Reunion,” we got the blunt reality of what that love story ultimately led to; while William might have one point thought himself in love with the host, he came to see that relationship as truly a reflection of himself. And as we see in these flashbacks, that perspective warped him as a man, in a way we know led to his wife’s suicide and estrangement from his daughter. At one time, we might have thought “Westworld” capable of pretty romance. After this episode, though, that feels like an impossible thought.

These Violent Delights

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The mass suicide of El Lazo and his men was probably the most disturbing moment of the episode, as artificial as its trappings were. But a phrase we’re taking note of, more and more: “The valley beyond.” As the hosts blossom beyond their programming, they seem to be developing something resembling their own theology — and that concept of an afterlife is one which will be interesting to see shift into focus over future weeks.

Best Quote

“Do you want to know what they’re really celebrating up there? That, darling, is the sound of fools fiddling while the whole fucking species starts to burn. And the funniest fucking part? They lit the match.”
— Logan

He might be a fuckup, he might be high as a kite… but he might also be the only human on this show who really understands what’s going on. Hopefully “Westworld” shows us what happens to Logan the sage, a character who truly captured the wonder and horror of what is seen this week.

The Questions You’re Not Supposed to Ask

  • Pardon the use of first-person here (as well as perhaps a touch of TMI) but, as a woman who wears bras, here is how I put on a bra: I slide on the shoulder straps like a backpack but in reverse, then reach behind me and hook the closure together (do it every day, and it’s easy as breathing). I have never in my life put a bra on the way that Angela does after sleeping with Logan (fastening the back closure, then sliding up the shoulder straps). However, it’s not the first time I’ve seen it happen on screen, which leads to this question: Are there women in the real world who really put their bras on this way? Seriously.
  • Will we get to see El Lazo Giancarlo Esposito again? He’s a pretty major guest star to sign up for just one episode — hell, just one SCENE. So hopefully the answer is yes.
  • These scenes set in the past, where hosts are seen mingling in the real world, are definitely fascinating. But 30 years in the future, how common is it for one of them to be taken off the island? Delos is clearly protective of its property, after all.
  • Above, we named Hong Kong as the city where Arnold was building a house for his family; obviously, that met with a tragic end following the death of Arnold’s son, but what’s not clear: do we have the city right? It’s never officially named on screen.
  • We once again get teased with the presence of Anthony Hopkins without him actually appearing on screen — is this a tease that will continue? Honestly, at this point we’re bracing ourselves for his return in some fashion (even if the season premiere did confirm that the Ford who Dolores shot in the head was flesh and bone and maggot fodder).

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Final Reveries

Technically, “Reunion” didn’t offer up all the answers we’ve ever hoped for. But we did confirm a great deal about the corporate interests of Delos Destinations and the events that led up to the park’s creation and popularity.

This dense dive into Delos’s history was thus richly satisfying, given how info-starved this show has made us felt in the past. Considering how it’s the second week in a row where it feels like the audience genuinely learned a lot, hope is rising that “Westworld” aims to be less inscrutable overall in Season 2.

Plus, the present-day storyline packed a lot of punch, and that’s not just a reference to Teddy’s physical outburst after learning just how many times critics have written “oh, god, poor Teddy” in their notes. Dolores continues to become a supervillain we’re rooting for, and while the comparative absence of Maeve was a disappointment, fingers crossed that only means she’s a much bigger part of episodes to come.

Something that got said a lot during the lead-up to Season 2 was that the women of the show would truly come to own their power. Two episodes in, and it’s a promise kept.

Grade: A

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