Westworld basically repeats the same story structure it used last week in ‘Kiksuya’ with some minor alterations, and it makes for an average episode.
The bulk of ‘Vanishing Point’ focuses on giving some meaning to the long running subplot in season 2 that is the Man in Black. William’s journey following the host uprising has always been perplexing, as the character has been given some great moments, like when he reunited with his daughter, but ultimately the series faltered in explaining his significance. The episode seems to show that William has absolutely nothing to do with the larger plot beyond being involved in the creation of the valley beyond, or rather, the forge. His true role in the second season was to provide closure to his story, which began in the series’ very first episode.
The Man in Black persona, the obsession with Westworld, is all rooted in William’s guilt and the darkness lurking deep inside him. The park was an outlet for him, a form of escapism he got lost in, leading to him becoming distant from his family. William’s relationship with his wife and daughter made for a well-thought-out tragedy, one that came with a powerful and emotional ending. While his backstory is intriguing and explains the character’s mindset this season, it makes for a very underwhelming penultimate episode.
Most of the season’s major players have been sidelined since ‘Les Ecorches’, which is an incredibly odd writing decision when the writers are setting the stage for the big finale. A possible explanation is that the series always loved to show how clever it was; one way to convey that it is setting up the finale in largely character focused flashbacks. Both William and Akecheta’s stories revealed clues as to what the season’s endgame would be, but both episodes slowed down the story far too much. The series non-linear nature has become a weakness verses a strength, one that has really brought down a fairly well executed sophomore season.
A good chunk of William’s story is spent explaining what the gate is, which is fine. I admit to incorrectly assuming the point of the gate is in the last review, but this new answer seems so much more interesting. It is a data bank of all the consciousnesses recreated and collected by Delos, but its true purpose to the hosts is vague and purposefully so. To some characters it seems to exist as an afterlife of sorts, a plane of existence where there is no more violence or pain. For Delores, it’s another falsehood created by Delos, a fictional world that can only ever trap the hosts once more. Her mind is most likely still set on exploring the world outside of the park, one not created by Delos which is something established early on in the season.
Bernard, Maeve and Dolores are given smaller amounts of screen time – though of three, Bernard has by far the most screen time. This makes sense, given how little audiences have seen of him since ‘Les Ecorches’. He is still haunted by the programmed version of Ford’s consciousness, who is attempting to control Bernard and influence him into completing the park’s other true purpose.
‘Vanishing Point’ has largely been about people trying to control their own narratives and also learning the responsibility that brings. It’s so much easier to have someone control you, to not have to face the consequences of your actions, but autonomy does have its costs. William has finally made a decision that is his own, one not influence by his time in the game: to take his own life. Bernard also frees himself from Ford’s control from deleting the data pack installed in his hardware, deciding to live on his own terms.
The death of William is never seen on screen, but it is mirrored in Teddy’s fate, who kills himself to escape the monster Dolores has turned him into. In this way she truly has become her father, in that Dolores’ manipulation echoes Ford’s attempt to influence Bernard. Teddy directly states something the show has been building towards all season: what’s the difference between the hosts and their former masters? Despite how thematically rich this all is, I am fairly confident Teddy did not have to directly state that last point so directly. Westworld has done an excellent job in showing this theme to the audience without ever going about it in an obvious way.
Maeve is in a dire state, but some choice words from Ford have seemed to help her keep going despite the grievous injuries. The most interesting thing in Maeve’s storyline is Delos’ recreation of her ability to control other hosts. It is a huge plot development and the potential danger it can pose to the surviving hosts when in the hands of humans is perfectly on display in one harrowing scene. Hopefully this new plot element, and everything else going on this season, will find some conclusion in the finale, which has a lot to handle. What will most likely happen is larger story ideas like the one previously mentioned will be dealt with in the third season as a suspect next week to end on a cliff-hanger.
‘Vanishing Point’ is by no means a bad episode, but it’s a poor lead in towards the season finale.