Continuing on from last weeks incredible ‘Kiksuya’, this weeks ‘Vanishing Point’ is yet another great episode of Westworld, that manages to simultaneously balance the payoffs to questions we’ve had since early in season 1, with some clever twists, turns, and reveals, all whilst telling a truly great story, that sets up the final episode of Westworld season 2 perfectly.
With the original idea behind the ‘Westworld Theory Log’ simply being one long form article, not anticipating how much speculation and theorising we’d have so soon, I’ve now split each episode’s entry into it’s own post. Each week there will be a new post with some of my own theories, and my take on some of the best and most interesting theories from the web, namely the overly active (and extremely impressive) Westworld sub reddit. That said, with the more recent episodes becoming less and less theory based, and focussing way more on reveals recent posts have focussed on observations rather than theories.
For most of Season 2 a number of different factions in the park, including Dolores and her troops, William and whoever he can bring along, possibly Akecheta, and even Hale and Strand (in at least one of their timelines), are all headed to ‘the valley beyond’. Multiple names have been used for it, but it’s been made clear more than once that they are pretty much al headed to the same place.
Episode 8, seemingly showed us the valley, or at least the beginning of it, where Akecheta came across it being built and saw ‘the door’ (and we also saw William showing it to Dolores in Episode 2), but it wasn’t until this episode where we finally get some confirmation about what is actually there, and why everyone wants to get there.
Our first explanation comes in a scene with Bernard and Elsie, and you’d be forgiven for doubting at least some of what Bernard is saying, as the details come in amongst a scene where he is battling with Ford about trusting Elsie. The very next scene however is a conversation between William and Emily (admittedly there is also some huge trust and believability problems there), and most of what is said seems to fit together between the two scenes.
Essentially ‘the valley beyond’ is home to ‘the Forge’ (which we now definitely know is the big secret area William built in the park years ago, and is intent on destroying in the present storyline). And the Forge itself is a bigger and badder version of the Cradle, except this one isn’t just keeping living back ups of the Hosts, it’s where all of the neural scans of the guests are kept.
So where the Cradle is the place in which the host brains are nurtured and fine tuned, evolving over time, the Forge is where the scans of living humans are placed in an attempt to eventually place them into a host body (like we’ve scene them trying to do with the James Delos host/clone already).
White Hat, Black Hat, or Scanner Hat?
It turns out you don’t really have much of a choice there, as William reveals to Emily that the hats (and presumably other clothing items) are how Delos has been getting the neural scans of park visitors (that are then held within the Forge).
The Story of William and Dolores:
I’d argue that Vanishing Point showcased the direct parallel between the modern day Dolores and William more than any other episode of the series, highlighting a huge number of similarities between the two. Firstly both are now at a point where their own actions (and the ‘monster’ inside of them), has caused their loved ones (Juliet for William, and Teddy for Dolores) to kill themselves. Whether or not William truly loved Juliet, or even if Dolores truly loved Teddy, is almost a separate point, but both Juliet and Teddy saw what was really underneath the front that William and Dolores put up respectively and couldn’t live with it any longer.
As an extension of this idea we can look to what Dolores and William now say about each other, in short they both hate each other, but that’s perhaps mainly due to what they see in themselves because of the other person. For Dolores, William represents the sins and corruption of man, and shows that no matter how they start off humans are doomed to becoming twisted and jaded in their old age, and will never see the Hosts as equals (and so must die). For William, Dolores shows him the ultimate lie that almost fooled him, one that he’s spent years trying to compensate for. Dolores is yet another thing William wants but can’t quite have, as he’s stuck between two worlds, neither of which he fully fits into.
Going even deeper into the parallel, if we look at Dolores, Teddy, and Peter Abernathy as a trio, Dolores and the two men she loves, and then William, Juliet and Emily as a separate trio, again William and the two women he loves, we can see that where Dolores and William made Teddy and Juliet kill themselves, they also voluntarily killed the third member of their small families. Dolores killed her father to prevent Delos getting the information in his head, and William killed Emily, (seemingly) mistaking her for a a host and a part of Ford’s game.
A final point worth nothing is that this episode really highlighted the profound impact William and Dolores have had on each other, and outlines the dark road it’s led them down. Almost everything they’ve both done over the past thirty years is a direct result of their original adventure and falling in love, and in many ways I’d argue they haven’t managed to match or replicate it ever sense, in short it’s irreplaceable. And something being irreplaceable (at least according the Arnold/Bernard) is what makes it ‘real’.
Whether the show would ever address the relationship between Dolores and William as one of the few true things in either of their lives, and how this parallel plays out in the final episode of Westworld Season 2 is yet to be seen, but it’s clearly an intentional choice for these two characters’ journey’s to mirror each other so closely, whether there is any redemption for either of them, and if those parallels continue will surely be a huge part of the final episode of Season 2.
Another of the episode’s big reveals was a full exploration of Juliet (William’s wife, Emily’s mother, Logan’s sister, and James Delos’ daughter). In Vanishing Point we get our first real look at Juliet, and get some pretty definitive answers on her thus far mysterious suicide.
The only real information we had after the first season was when the Man in Black (prior to him being revealed as William) explained that his wife had overdosed on medication and killed herself, and that his daughter now hates him and blames him for it. He goes on to explain that his wife was the only one to ever see the true monster underneath the mask William puts up in the real world.
Here we see that years of this had driven Juliet into an alcoholic state, barely holding it together at a big gala celebrating William (it also hints at an addictive personality trait in the Delos family, given that we know Logan also turned to substance abuse following William turning on him).
The scenes that follow show us a Juliet and William almost at odds with what we expected, for any on looker William seems like a caring and attentive husband who just wants to get his wife home after she’s had too many drinks. And even at home he lovingly strokes her hair and kisses her on the head as he puts her too bed, he is even un sure about sending her back to rehab (which is what Emily wants to do).
He does however admit to her (while he thinks she’s asleep) that he doesn’t belong to her, or ‘this’ world and that his true heart is in Westworld. Only for Juliet to look at William’s profile (that Ford gave him at the party, which showed a number of William’s more sinister actions whilst in the park) and have all of her suspicions of who William really was confirmed. Juliet then hides the profile in a music box she knows Emily will eventually find and kills herself.
The episode shines an interesting light William and Juliet, and shows William as someone who has his own mental problems that through years of exposure had an adverse affect on Juliet and those around him. I’d argue he does care about Juliet and even seems apologetic that he can’t bring himself to truly be hers, he just hasn’t been able to fall back in love with her since Dolores broke his heart, and since then a part of him has always been shut off and broken (or at lest that event exposed something that was always there).
The Father’s and Daughters of Westworld:
By the end of Westworld Season 1 (and following the ‘Bernarnold’ reveal) it was clear a lot of what had happened, and was about to happen, revolved around Arnold taking on Dolores as a surrogate child. This father/daughter theme has continued into Season 2, with the relationship between William and his daughter Emily a clear through-line, and now the revelation of Maeve as Ford’s ‘favourite child’.
Above all other episodes this one makes a clear point of highlighting these relationships and how they differ from each other, we quite literally see William kill his daughter, whereas we see Ford save his. We also get a solid confirmation that Maeve’s escape plan (and a lot of her ‘awakening’) in Season 1 was down to Ford’s direct intervention, and that he wanted Maeve to be free and escape the park. This scene rounds out with Ford pointing out she couldn’t leave the park as her love for her child was true strong, and that the exact same thing had now happened to him.
This idea becomes even more interesting when we look to Maeve as the victim of William’s attack (that eventually led to her awakening), did William perhaps know of Ford’s favouritism towards Maeve and chose her as his target to father antagonise Ford?
In Vanishing Point we see both the very first, and the very last moments of James Marsden’s Teddy Flood (although I’m sure we’ll see him again soon enough, probably in the Forge in next weeks episode). Teddy finally regained at least some of his old self, and decided that who Dolores had become (and specifically what she’d done to him) was too much too bare. Teddy also reveals that loving Dolores was his cornerstone from the moment he woke up, and that as such he could never hurt her, but to stop Dolores changing him any more he killed himself. Teddy’s overall arc has been an interesting and unfortunate one, and in many ways he is as much of a victim of Dolores’ as Juliet is to William.
William as a Host:
The idea of William being a host has been teased and played with all season, we’ve seen him seemingly overcome numerous fatal wounds, endure a number of possible fidelity tests, and survive almost impossible odds a number of times. This all comes to a head in Vanishing Point which all out addresses the question, begging the viewer to ask whether or not he is a host.
The first hint here comes when William (at the party scene during his flashbacks) reaches to his forearm, almost feeling for something, he touches the exact spot where we’ve seen a number of Hosts hardwired into and reprogrammed. He continues to do this throughout the episode leading into the final scene which shows William pulling back his sleeve and digging into his forearm with a knife, to finally get an answer on whether he is a human or a host.
For my money I’d argue that he isn’t, and that a reveal of that magnitude would of had to of been right at the end here (giving us time to contemplate it), rather than a cut away and leaving us with the question, leading into the finale, but this is Westworld so it’s anyones guess how the season will round out.