The Sunday Sermon! 5 Takeaways From Westworld Season 2 Episode 9: 'Vanishing Point'
Its Sunday Sermon time with the Pop-Culture Theologians!
1. FIRST OF CONGRATULATIONS!!! Our very own Pop! Culture Theologian Kirsten Gerdes just got married YESTERDAY! In a dark world, what is better than celebrating love? We at the Engaged Gaze want to give the happy couple one hell of a "MAZEL". We love you both!
2. Welp. America has child internment camps now. GREAT.
3. Trump JUST tweeted out that immigrants do not deserve due process. WONDERFUL.
4. We are LIVING for people getting kicked out of restaurants for being evil. We hope the public Cersei-like shaming continues. We need to make being a garbage human shameful again.
5. The world is so crazy right now we are considering putting on our boots and actually hitching a ride TO Westworld for this impending battle. Join us?
Let's break down Season 2, Episode 7: Vanishing Point’
Spoilers Ahead: You have been warned...
Marci's 5 Sips of Tea:
1. ) Bye Teddy!
Welp. I guess its time we say bye to Teddy (or is it, who knows with this show). But something became really clear to me while watching him die. One: I expected it. I could have written that entire scene from the moment he opened his mouth. Two: I honestly did not care. Not in a callous way. I feel for Teddy. He was programmed to love someone that turned into a monster. His only way to rebel is to literally turn himself off because every time he turns back on he will be faced with the inevitability that Dolores is his cornerstone. But honestly--so what? Did we really have ANY time with Teddy this season? Do we even know how dark it got for him? I just feel like Westworld's inability to tell a straight narrative that invests in characters is really starting to hurts its ability to capture an audience. James Marsden put in for a Golden Globe for this episode! FOR WHAT?!?! For what this season!??! I can't for the life of me remember a single memorable Teddy moment. And that is on the writers, not James. I love his work.
And then with Dolores, am I supposed to believe she cares? SHE ERASED HIM. I still can't make the narrative jump that the monster who erases the fundamentals of a person and
replaces them with violence ALSO loves him and would miss "him". Nothing about her horror felt authentic. It felt very much like the writers seem to have some deep backstories on Dolores and Teddy that we are somehow supposed to "get". Well, we didn't have them.
2.) Bye Emily (Grace)
Welp x2. Emily also "appears" to be gone. I think we can also confirm the "William is a host" theory is debunked. So now we have a narcissistic madman who is devolving into self-destruction in the park. That is....
WAY LESS COMPELLING than a million other threads that we have all theorized. William being on his own maze, William being a host, William being the redeemer of hosts---ANYTHING was more interesting than some mild mannered social reject who finds glory in a simulation who starts to lose his mind. BLERGH.
And whatever Ford's final game is--again--why should we care? William is so far from his Dolores "cornerstone" that I am not sure how we round this all out in one episode.
And yes, I am aware I am complaining--but hopefully John will represent for the fans. I am more of a love/hater now.
And a couple notes on William and his wife. Not to gripe on character development again but for any of this to ring emotionally true--we needed to have way more background on William (young William PRE Delos, William in his marriage, William as a father). We needed to understand why his wife would have slowly come undone. Again, why EXACTLY did we go to Shogun world when we could have been building up the story they are actually telling.
3.) Bye Narrator
Slaughterhouse-Five is an interesting choice for the book that William hide's his truth in. This seems like a nod to how a person themselves can never be a reliable narrator to their own story. This makes me think of the Black Mirror episode "The Grain" and how we seriously cannot trust our own interpretations of our experiences and our realities. And there have been great TV experiences lately with unreliable narrators (Alias Grace shoutout!).
But I am not sure Westworld has establish any narrators at this point, which makes it difficult to navigate. We have to navigate timelines AND characters being unreliable. Does this work for some folks? Yes. I like rich narratives full of mazes. But eventually it becomes a gimmick that can lead some other folks to disinvest. Even Maeve apparently cannot be trusted because her own narration of what happened with Ghost Nation was unreliable (due in part to the show purposefully misleading viewers and then her own ptsd/recollections).
I'm not sure the show actually has a narrator. And you cant have an unreliable narrator if I don't know who to pay attention to anyway. Pretty much the only consistent storyline has been Stubs inability to do just about anything.
4.) Goodbye Sweetwater, Hello Valley Beyond
So we are all on the race to the Valley Beyond. YES!!!!
Wait.... are we exited? Are we supposed to be?
I get that the Valley (Forge, Cradle) is THE place to find revenge, but WHY? No explanation we have has given us a true reason to fear a large database. How exactly is Dolores going to use it? To blackmail folks with who they are in Westworld vs. who they are in the real world? To create hosts from visitor DNA?
And don't get me started on why Ghost Nation giving a shit is also ridiculous.
I KNOW I AM SUPER SALTY!!!!!! I HATE WHEN A SHOW GOES ALL "LOST" ON ME!!! (Above gif is actually footage of me)
5.) Goodbye Old Clementine, Hello Ladies.
OH FFS. LEAVE CLEMENTINE ALONE! I am so sad to see her revving up to battle Maeve. Maeve loves her like a daughter. Clementine is seriously suffering from PTHS (Post-Traumatic Host Syndrome) and now I'm supposed to watch these two battle it out? Cant they unite forces against Dolores? Or Dolores AND Charlotte? Wait, why is it all women going to battle? Can we all unite against...
Wait! Is this a women-run show?! Are all the leads women?
This makes me extremely happy. As in, we have villains, heroes, sidekicks who are women in a show that is about power and rebellion. No matter how problematic, I will take this as a bit of a win.
Yes, I know I am forgetting Bernarnold but honestly so has everyone else so...
John's 5 Sips of Tea:
1.) The Blame Game
Man oh man, did this episode pack an emotional wallop for William and his family. First off, I have to say, I love Sela Ward, and when I heard she was coming on as William’s wife, I knew it would be an episode not to miss. The pain in her eyres displayed the full rage, terror, and realization that Westworld has caused her family. As we weave through the narrative of her final moments, we are left with a bait and switch with how and why she decided to kill herself. Understand that William was, and always will be, the Man in Black, regardless of if he is in the park or not.
I think it was that understanding that finally pushed her over the edge. Much like when Logan realized it at the end of season one, she realizes it when it is too late and finally understands that not only her life was a lie but also what her brother and father told her about William was only true. She had to see it to believe and after finally seeing the terror and horror that William did, she realized that all the pain and emotional turmoil that she had put (or drank) herself through, does she understand that she may have never been crazy to begin with.
Look at what Dolores hath wrought! First and foremost, if we are following the colonial and imperialistic white narrative that Dolores is representing (and one that we can see with the path of destruction she is causing) her attack on Ghost Nation, who attempted to stop her, is only another feather in her well adorned colonial cap. However, that pain and destruction, does not seem to impact her; her white privy edge blinds her from fully seeing the destruction she is causing because she truly believes she is on the right path and no one should (or can) stop her. It isn’t until the pain actually hurts her, through the death of Teddy, that she understands what she has done. Her privilege is her weakest point and as we can see in the previews, it may be her undoing in the end.
3.) The Wizard of Oz
What happens after the Lion gets his courage, the Scarecrow gets his braking, and the Tin Man gets his heart? I think if I saw anything throughout the episode is was what happens after your creation being cognizant. Throughout the Wizard of Oz, the characters seemed like they were missing something; the same goes with Westworld. The choice that they becoming empowered by takes over all sense of reality that they experience, however, what they do with that choice then, is where we leave Oz and ultimately where we find ourselves in during these last episodes of Westworld (or ever since the end of season one). Did the Lion use his courage to fight for the little person or did he become a war monger? Did the Tin Man use his heart to heal the world or did he become selfish? And, did the Scarecrow use his brains to further science and discovery or to develop ways to get back at those that taunted and tormented him? We may never
know, but as Wicked taught us: “no one mourns the wicked,” in the the case of the Man in Black, no one seems to be mourning him as well.
Spoiler Alert: Emily is not a host. If you didn’t know that yet, her tragic end, at the hands of her father, proved that she, as her mother realized at the end of her life, was right about her dad all along. While she tried to outsmart her father, Ford’s game ultimately drove him to his darkest point yet: killing his only living decedent. We see with his inability to pull the trigger, that his legacy was never his daughter, but rather his storing of guest data and his search for immortality. I mean, who needs a legacy, when you can become a God and grant those rich enough to pay for it, immortality? Legacies are what you leave, immortality is forever.
5.) John 3:16
“For God so love the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believe that in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The whole sequence between Ford and Maeve may be one of the best things we have seen all season. Ford’s evolution into the Godlike figure, living in code, through people’s consciousness, and ultimately in the park itself, led him to bequeath his favorite creation: Maeve to save the world that he created. Maeve was sacrificed by the world that she loved the most and we see the final moment of the creator with the created and understanding that mankind is in between, as Ford sad: gods and the beast.
Next week: It looks like all hell breaks loose and Dolores might finally get her due; however, I am most looking for the Christlike figure to come back after being sacrificed: aka, I am looking for Maeve to return from the dead to save the world (and its people) before its too late.