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‘Westworld’ Review: ‘Virtù e Fortuna’ Puts the Cast Through Their Paces, But Fails to Wow Us

Season 2, Episode 3 features some great scenes, but ultimately serves as a placeholder episode.

HBO

[Editor’s Note: This review contains spoilers for “Westworld” Season 2, Episode 3, “Virtù e Fortuna.”]

Programming Update

A good “Westworld” theory today can easily be a big “Westworld” spoiler tomorrow, as fans of the show know. But while critics were provided with the first five episodes of the season by HBO, those worried about any speculation in these weekly reviews being influenced by future knowledge of what’s to come should know that these are being written without knowledge of future episodes. Any speculation, thus, is 100 percent based in ignorance of what’s to come.

Diagnostic Report

We begin the episode by confirming a supposition from the first episode of the season: that the Bengal tiger found washed ashore came from one of the other Delos Destinations’ parks, specifically one that recreates colonial India (down to its safaris in the rainforest). More importantly, we meet Grace (Katja Herbers), who knows her way around these experiences and doesn’t hesitate to use to a bullet when confirming that a roll in the hay (so to speak) is with an actual human, not “a host.” Her own safari in the wilderness gets caught up in the same madness leading to the host revolution in Westworld, and while she’s seen to survive at the end of the episode, how she handles life in the Wild West is unclear.

Meanwhile, Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) continues leading her revolution, enlisting a new army to hold off the Delos invaders. Unfortunately, Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) and her team are still able to steal what they really need: the host body of Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum), which we’ve known for a while is stuffed with data that Delos HQ wants dearly. The bloodbath doesn’t just cost Dolores a key bit of leverage, but also her trust in Teddy (James Marsden), after she sees him spare a group of soldiers she told him to kill.

Oh, and while in the not-too-distant future, Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) has caught up with Charlotte, Maeve (Thandie Newton), Hector (Rodrigo Santoro), and Lee (Simon Quarterman) are continuing to forge their way through the park in chaos, accumulating allies… and arriving in Shogun World! What that means for them, ultimately, is one of the biggest cliffhangers of the season yet — one we’re excited to see resolved.

Westworld 203 Thandie Newton

In the Year… Wait, What Year Is It?

There aren’t too many clues buried in this episode, but the glimpse of another world (one which is extremely problematic in its racial politics) is fascinating, proving our point from Episode 1 that the tigers likely belonged to an India-themed park, which is popular with at least one guest who didn’t mind extreme colonialism in her narratives.

Player Piano

It’s not at all hard to pick out the episode’s most notable music cue — a sitar cover of The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” — though lyrically it’s hard to figure out just why it was selected for this part of Delos’ park. “And I’m bleeding, and I’m bleeding, and I’m bleeding / Right before the Lord / All the words are gonna bleed from me / And I will sing no more”? It’s not totally clear why these lyrics inspired the show’s creators, though… beyond the fact that it’s a cool-ass song.

Paired Off

Lee confronting Hector and Maeve over their “romance” — one he feels shouldn’t be happening, even though it’s fueled by lines he’s written — made for a fascinating moment, since Lee is technically correct about what’s fueling their connection, but their natural chemistry cannot be overlooked. Even more interesting is the news that Hector’s storyline was fueled by a previous heartbreak of Lee’s; a story only sad in retrospect.

On the flip side of things, Grace’s refusal to visit poundtown with a fellow guest until confirming he’s human speaks to a level of ethics we haven’t often seen from humans on this show. She’s still happy to participate in a fundamentally racist storyworld/narrative, but how she factors into future episodes will be fascinating to witness.

These Violent Delights

We got ourselves a full-on fort siege this week — complete with nitro explosions — but it didn’t really make an impact. Honestly, the most haunting violence of the episode was watching Dolores own her identity as Wyatt, and the bloodshed implied with that.

That said, Hector’s astonishment over Armistice’s flame-thrower — “She has a dragon!” — was the best comedic moment of the night. Can’t wait to see what carnage Armistice brings in the future.

This Natural Splendor

Confession: During last week’s episode, we’d forgotten how a major part of Dolores’ pre-established character was based in her “going out and setting down some of this natural splendor.” We have yet to see Dolores re-engage with that previous trait. Then again, she’s been busy.

Westworld 203 Jeffrey Wright

Best Quote

“We’re a kind that will never know death, and yet we’re fighting to live. There is beauty in what we are. Shouldn’t we try to survive?”
– Dolores

There’s the core conflict of the show, all wrapped up in a bow — and an idea we anticipate becoming more and more important down the line.

The Questions You’re Not Supposed to Ask

  • Winters is listed as a series regular for Season 2, so we’ll clearly see more of her in weeks to come. But how vulnerable will she be, given the way she washes up in Westworld?
  • Bernard has a sense of what data is inside Abernathy — but how much can he reveal, without Abernathy being present?
  • After Bernard’s “upgrade,” Rebus the mutton-chop guy is now playing a very different game. We see him get shot at the beginning of Season 2, Episode 1, but how much good will he do before then?
  • Not a question, more a note: Points to “Westworld” for explaining the tiger way faster than “Lost” explained the polar bear.

Final Reveries

In many ways, “Virtù e Fortuna” has a placeholder feel; it moves the narrative along without dropping any major bombshells (except, of course, for the existence of IndiaWorld — name pending). Some deep conversations between characters — including Dolores confronting Bernard over his nature, and Maeve learning about Lee’s real-world inspirations — were welcome, but ultimately the episode lacked earth-shattering components; that said, it didn’t lack for intrigue. We need episodes like these every season, to be honest, mostly to whet our appetite for the truly big reveals to come.

Grade: B

“Westworld” airs new episodes Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.

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