Westworld Season 2, Episode 2, “Reunion,” left me with one overwhelming feeling: I wish this had been the Season 2 premiere. Episode 2 had the exact right mix of exposition, flashback, action, and mystery that made Westworld Season 1 impossible to turn away from, and which the Season 2 premiere’s 70 long minutes of weirdly paced setup lacked. At least we’re back in the saddle now.
The episode’s opening, with Dolores in the real world, is a perfect example. This scene showed us new sides of both Dolores and Arnold, revealing that Dolores has actually seen the world outside the park before. And now she remembers; “I’ve been there before,” she tells Teddy later in the ep. That’s clearly going to come up later.
There is one mystery here, depending how you read the scene: Is this really the outside world, or is it just another park? The exterior shots as Arnold leads Dolores across the street look uncanny, too clean, and filled with unnatural, robotic-looking people. The under-construction zone where Arnold is apparently building a house seems oddly placed in the middle of what’s apparently a city, and then there’s what Arnold says: “My wife says I live in the park. I’m moving my family here. I need to have my two worlds at least within reach of one another.”
Was Arnold planning to move his family into the park itself? Or is this simply a mainland city within reach of the island on which Westworld and the other parks lie? Maybe we’ll find out later, or maybe I’m reading too much into this scene.
When the episode returns to the party later, it’s to catch up with William and Logan as we first met them: Logan, a cocky, brash businessman, and William, his emasculated soon-to-be brother-in-law. This is before the transformation both characters undergo throughout Westworld’s first season, which, as we learned this week, will apparently lead to Logan’s eventual descent into addiction. That probably answers the question of where Logan is in the present, at least, though not in the way you might have hoped; Logan is a dick, sure, but it’s still sad.
“Reunion” also introduced us to Logan’s father (and William’s father-in-law), Jim Delos, who at some point before the present day, but after these episodes, is going to salvage Westworld with a huge influx of cash thanks to William’s shrewd influence. It can be deliberately tough to track the timelines on Westworld, but in this episode it’s clear that the initial party–at which the hosts put on quite a display for Logan–takes place before William and Logan’s adventure in Season 1, while William’s later scenes take place afterward. William clearly took the lessons he learned in the park to heart, and he’s acting much more like the Man in Black–his future self, Bill–here than the William we got to know in most of Westworld Season 1 (although William very intently checking out the host Angela as they pass at the party is definitely a hint of things to come for him).
These flashback scenes are great, not just for revealing new sides of these characters–Jimmi Simpson’s young William acting more like Ed Harris’s version of the character, and Logan spiraling after Season 1’s events–but for the other new tidbits they provided in Westworld’s never-ending trail of blood-soaked bread crumbs. We see William’s wife (Logan’s sister) for the first time, for example–we learned last season that she kills herself at some point, but we hadn’t met her before. And we met his daughter, Emily. What happened to her in the present day? And is the briefly mentioned “Argos Initiative” simply a code name for Westworld, or will we find out more about that later? (The word has many roots in ancient mythology.)
The biggest surprise of this episode, however, was definitely the appearance of Breaking Bad’s Giancarlo Esposito, who in the present day is playing the character Bill’s friend Lawrence used to play in the past: El Lazo. And the situation in Pariah has not improved; as Bill puts it, “This is what happens when you let a story play all the way out.”
What’s really unclear is why Bill needs Lawrence at all in this new game. Clearly Ford anticipated Bill’s moves, setting up safeguards like the mass suicide in Pariah to ensure Bill wouldn’t have too much help. At least the Man in Black elucidated his goal for us this week: to burn this whole enterprise to the ground.
Dolores and Teddy’s recruitment drive made up the other half of “Reunion.” With one of the park’s engineers in tow, she’s forged herself into a literal Jesus figure for the hosts who still remain un-woke. The dinner she interrupted was a none-too-subtle Last Supper pastiche, and the imagery of her raising her enemies from the dead to add them to the ranks of her followers wasn’t lost on anyone.
Are Dolores and Bill heading for the same destination? William clearly is not a good guy anymore–or maybe he never was. “This is the only place in the world where you get to see people for who they really are,” he tells his father-in-law. As far as he’s concerned, his transformation into a villain was a revelation of his true nature. His heart broken when Dolores forgot him in Season 1, he’s come to see her as nothing more than an object. But whatever William is digging in the park in the past–presumably the location of “his greatest mistake,” as Bill says in the present–must be something he truly came to regret creating.
Where this all will lead is anyone’s guess; the really intriguing tidbit from Dolores this week was her allusion to “the real purpose of this place.” She says Westworld “is not a place; it’s a weapon.” And she’s going to use it to destroy her former masters, and reach the glory of the Valley Beyond. Can’t wait.