Best of the West: ‘Westworld’ episode 2×9 ‘Vanishing Point’ explores freedom through death

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Like last episode, this episode of “Westworld” includes an abundance of exposition via flashback, specifically of one event: Juliet’s (Sela Ward) suicide. In every storyline, however, major players come to wonder whether death is the only true way to leave their worlds of manipulation and find freedom.

William (past)

Years in the past, William (Ed Harris), Juliet and Emily (Katja Herbers) are at a gala celebrating William’s recent philanthropy efforts.

William uncomfortably hobnobs with the wealthy apex predators of society, clearly feeling out of place. Juliet swans in just in time to berate one guest who insults William’s humble origins and instead admires his self-made rise.

This is a role reversal compared to what we’ve seen of this troubled marriage in the past, with mostly tragic imagery of a dead Juliet and a harshly self-possessed William. Instead, William is the vulnerable party, and Juliet is the situation’s master.

Also unfamiliar is William’s dynamic with his daughter Emily, which we see was once affectionate and playful. The Emily shown thus far has been understandably frustrated with William for being so out of touch with the reality they share. For the first time, we can understand perhaps another reason Emily so doggedly seeks him out in Westworld — she misses the father-daughter love they once shared.

Later, William finds Ford (Anthony Hopkins) alone at the bar, and they start discussing William’s secret project of harvesting guest data in an effort to replicate human minds. We learn that the two had an agreement: In exchange for Ford’s full creative freedom, Ford will keep William’s project under wraps. However, Ford warns William that his own creations threaten the sanctity of their contract before sliding him a small metallic card, calling it an unflattering self-portrait.

William’s frustration at Ford’s riddles grows, and he leaves, telling Ford he’s done playing his games. Once William is out of earshot, though, Ford reveals that he still has one final game to play. Presumably, it’s the final game that William is, in the present day, so obsessively trying to figure out.

Soon, William and Juliet are back at their opulent home. In her drunken state, Juliet’s attitude is blunter now compared the cool front she put on at the gala. She reveals that while she was initially courted by William’s authenticity in the face of all the disingenuity surrounding her, she now realizes that he was the deftest liar of all.

Emily walks into the room during this argument and commands Juliet to return to rehab for her alcoholism. William manages to subdue Juliet and takes her to bed to rest.

In their bedroom, Juliet asks William with raw vulnerability whether anything they shared was ever real. When he doesn’t respond, Juliet falls asleep. William then tucks the metallic card into a copy of “Slaughterhouse-Five” — the tale of another William out of touch with his reality — and feels free to unload.

William expresses to a sleeping Juliet his slowly dawning realization that a virulent darkness exists within him. While William once believed that his time in the park stained him, he has by now realized that the darkness is the only true part of him, that everything else was a facade. He does admire and share some sort of closeness with Juliet, if only because she was the one person to see through that carefully conceived facade.

William later joins Emily back downstairs to find that his daughter has requested Juliet’s involuntary commitment to rehab. Just then, the two notice water dripping through the ceiling. William seems to know immediately what’s happening and sprints up the stairs, where he finds the distressing bathtub scene so familiar to us by now.

Bernard

Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) watches as Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) has Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) reprogrammed to share the same administrative privileges found within Maeve’s (Thandie Newton) code. As Clementine telepathically commands a room full of hosts to kill each other, Ford rematerializes and warns Bernard that humans cannot be trusted.

Bernard wants to find Elsie (Shannon Woodward) again, but Ford first takes him by Maeve’s operation room, where Maeve reads Bernard’s mind to find a secret message from Ford — essentially, Bernard has now uploaded Ford into Maeve’s mind.

Finally, Bernard reconnects with Elsie, ignores Ford’s warnings and tells her the truth — that the Valley Beyond holds a server called the Forge. Just as the Cradle held the backup cognitions of the hosts, the Forge holds the minds of Westworld’s past guests. Then he urges Elsie to come with him to get to the Forge before the other hosts can.

The pair makes a quick stop to pick up ammunition. While Elsie is away, Ford again warns Bernard that Elsie can’t be trusted. When Ford makes Bernard painfully aware of how easy it would be to kill Elsie and ensure his own safety, Bernard has his first full breakdown since way back when he first discovered he was a host. It’s a testament to Bernard’s stubborn morality that he only loses his composure when confronted with the possibility of being forced to kill.

Begging Ford to leave him alone, he cuts into his forearm, where hosts have a port through which their programming can be accessed. He plugs a tablet into himself and deletes the lines of code where Ford lives, while Ford himself observes impassively. Perhaps, because Ford now lives within Maeve, he no longer needs Bernard to stay alive. Finally, the deletion is complete, and Ford disappears.

Bernard still doesn’t trust himself, so when Elsie returns, he apologizes profusely and says he needs to leave her behind for her own good.

William (present)

William awakens soon after being recovered from Akecheta by Emily. She has brought him to a rally point and has called for medical help.

William is still suspicious of Emily — specifically, that she’s not truly Emily, but a creation by Ford and a part of the final game. Emily bristles at this idea and reveals that she knows about William’s secret project. She suspects that he’s so obsessed with being in control that he even wishes to control life and death. However, she also wants in.

This further makes William suspicious, given that Emily always acted as a moral compass for him. However, Emily explains that the immortality project would give her an opportunity to bring Juliet back in some form. It turns out that Emily has spent years obsessing over Juliet’s suicide. By bringing back Juliet’s mind, she hopes to understand more about her mother’s motive.

Just then, the medical help she called for arrives, but William is still paranoid about Ford’s presence and ruthlessly kills the Delos employees. Emily, terrified that William has killed innocent people right before her eyes, tells William the truth in an effort to prove her humanity — the real reason she sought him out is to learn more about his project before exposing him and having him locked up for his crimes. She goes on to reveal that she has read his “profile,” which Juliet left behind for her to find, and can prove that she’s telling the truth.

As she reaches into her jacket, though, William fatally shoots her — only Ford knew about the profile Emily alluded to, so he’s sure now that this Emily is a host created by Ford. However, as he approaches her body, he notices Emily holding the metallic card from all those years ago — and realizes he has made a horrific miscalculation about just how much his family knew about him.

What William didn’t realize was that Juliet was actually awake while he told her that she was right about the darkness within him. Once he left the room, she found the card and uploaded its contents into a tablet to find a detailed profile of her husband from his times in Westworld — including the countless atrocities he committed. Before her death, she hid the card inside Emily’s jewelry box for her daughter to find.

Understanding now that he has killed his daughter, William rides out into an empty plain and despairingly holds a gun to his head. However, he has a dawning suspicion and instead prepares to cut into his forearm — in the exact spot Bernard opened to find the host-specific port.

Dolores

Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and her gang soon encounter a group of Ghost Nation hosts, one of whom tells her that the Valley Beyond is not meant for the Deathbringer. Dolores denies the Ghost Nation’s belief in a new world beyond the door of the Valley, but she does believe in the existence of the immortality tool hidden there. Their disagreement brings about a skirmish.

Teddy (James Marsden) is beginning to have doubts about his new role as Dolores’ attack dog. Much like Akecheta in the flashbacks last episode, he starts to resist his primary directive and even lets an uninjured Ghost Nation host walk away from the fight.

By the end of the skirmish, only Teddy and Dolores live. Teddy shares his growing doubts with Dolores and reveals that he understands much more about his programming than he lets on. He even remembers being brought online at the underground lab, and he remembers the moment Dolores became his cornerstone.

Teddy understands that he can’t overcome his need to protect Dolores, but now that he doesn’t believe in her mission, he does the only other thing he can think of to throw a wrench into her violent plans: He shoots himself, thereby depriving Dolores of the only ally she has left.

Dolores reacts with shock and despair. For a few episodes now, we’ve seen Teddy lose his sentimental side as Dolores struggles with her own. She was able to overcome her inherent ability to love deeply to sacrifice Peter. Now, the loss of Teddy is too much for her to deal with.

As soon as the Cradle was destroyed, the hosts lost their immortality. However, now that the Forge’s existence is known, the tables have turned — humans, as Emily was aware, can be brought back to life through the Forge. Dolores called the destruction of the Cradle the shattering of chains. Could this new mortality for hosts actually be a shackle, now that humans can potentially be immortal?

Sahana Rangarajan covers TV. Contact her at [email protected].