Analysis: Westworld Season 2 Episode 3 Recap, “Virtù e Fortuna”

Dolores Westworld

Westworld at its most ideal seeks to be a story that is rooted in exploring the tragic, cyclical natures of violence and oppression. The two concepts, while standing just fine on their own, are nevertheless undeniably intertwined in their relationship. Oppression, the deliberate and often brutal subjugation of “the other,” is a system that is often created and maintained through the adoption of violence. Violence in its turn often relies upon systems of oppression to be adopted at all – whether the adoption is by the oppressors or the oppressed.

“Virtù e Fortuna” draws its name from two concepts entrenched in the work of the famed and infamous political philosopher Niccolo Machiavelli. In The Prince, he uses the two concepts to draw his heavily analyzed distinction of what makes a great leader. Machiavelli argues that “virtù” is defined by a leader’s ability to do what must be done, for a leader has the added responsibility of those they are leading. The constant adoption of what is generally assumed to be virtuous behavior is, in this line of argument, not just weak but irresponsible.

“Fortuna” is the constant thorn in the side of “virtù” because Machiavellian political theory looks upon the concepts of luck with scorn and trepidation. “Fortuna” can be a stunningly good harvest or it can be a sudden realization that your robot travel guide is about to actually kill you. A good leader steeped in “virtù” can mitigate or even negate the consequences of “fortuna,” as long as their foresight serves them well. As several characters in Westworld are navigating the increasingly chaotic world around them, they’re coming to terms with what type of leader they need to become.

Westworld-Raj-Featured-050618

The episode opens with an introduction to a brand new park named The Raj, which is a reference to the time period when the British Empire ruled the Indian subcontinent with an iron fist. Ramin Djawadi’s brilliant rendition of “Seven Nation Army” basks in the background as the series establishes a park that is truly fundamentally different from the familiar territory of Westworld. Some of the differences, like the geography, architecture, and climate, are quite obvious. The introduction of The Raj, more importantly, serves to cement the exact type of audience that Delos is attracting.

Westworld and The Raj are both established as the pastoral landscapes of the past that are deliberately designed to be evocative of a bygone era that is wrongly cloaked in an aura of simplicity. The past is hardly ever simple and certainly never forgiving. There is nothing forgiving about colonialism and there is hardly anything simple about genocide. Colonialism is not a vestige that has been forgotten and moved past, it is still very much in play but Delos’s parks are not designed for historical accuracy and self-introspection. They are designed as dreams for wealthy white people, some of whom have found the idea of ruminating in a park designed after one of the most unforgivingly cruel empires in history to be downright delightful.

Two of those visitors, Grace (Katja Herbers) and Nicholas (Neil Jackson) are two such colonizers, melting into a sea of white visitors being served by “exotic” hosts. They form a quick sexual connection, with Grace being the only human visitor so far interested in actually forming a connection with another human. The connection is short-lived, however, as the two of them arrive on elephants for a Bengal tiger hunt and find that the hosts they expected to be there serving them are not there at all.

Grace, proving to be a more astute colonizer than Nicholas, has the foresight to know that something has gone wrong. That foresight, combined with a bit of luck, allows her to run away while her lover dies at the hands of a host guide named Ganju (Sean Mann) but as she pauses for breath in the jungle, she notices the slow growl of a Bengal tiger. Not knowing the obvious trick of jumping to the side, she instead shoots the tiger and tumbles over the cliffside with it. As she washes ashore, she finds herself at the mercy of the Ghost Nation.

Dolores and Teddy Westworld

Dolores’ (Evan Rachel Wood) claim to leadership was rightfully questioned by Maeve (Thandie Newton) in “Reunion” on the foundation that her assumption that every host would want to fight and fight in the way she is proposing is at its core haughtily presumptions. In this episode, however, it becomes even more clear that as Dolores is becoming a leader in her own right, she is increasingly grappling with the internal conflict being driven by her dueling Wyatt and Dolores personas.

Her Wyatt is a terrifying revolutionary yet she still has to assert herself with weaponry because the men in front of her simply can’t believe that it is a woman whose name has become associated with fear and terror. She gains the Confederados over to her side with machine guns, but Wyatt is terrifically in tune with the Machiavellian “virtù” in this instance. She needs to remove as many of the Delos security forces as possible for she recognizes that there is simply no outright winning this war with the ammunition and army she has at her disposal. She ultimately needs to draw them into a trap and if she has to use a plethora of Confederados as nothing more than literal cannon fodder, she is happy to do it.

Yet when Wyatt reunites with Peter Abernathy (Louis Hertham), Dolores comes back to the forefront. She mournfully frets over her father’s condition, assuring him that she has decided to fight back and that she was going to take care of him. She asserts to a captured Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) When Peter is captured by Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson), there seems to be a merging of Wyatt and Dolores as she vows to find her father no matter the cost. That, and the added emotional complexities Wyatt’s disappointment with Teddy’s (James Marsden) act of mercy, makes this arc much more dramatically compelling.

Maeve Westworld

In the other rumblings of Westworld this week, we find Bernard safe and sound with the security team and Charlotte, who is very much alive in the present. His state of mind continues to be precarious but even while he teeters on the edge of full file corruption, he finds something alarming in Peter’s own heavily corrupted file. The audience can theorize away as the Westworld audience is wont to do, but for now the secret is with Bernard and Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) makes sure that he does not escape just yet.

Maeve continues her fantastic team-up with Hector (Rodrigo Santoro) and Lee (Simon Quarterman). Maeve’s relationship with Hector unnerves Lee, who is of the vehement mind that their relationship should not exist at all. He has one moment of rare assertiveness in which he recalls a line of his that Hector uses, but Maeve shuts that down shortly thereafter by noting that Lee had sadly simply formed Hector from the type of man he himself has wanted to be. The question of how independent the hosts are and who is more independent than others continues to linger, however, long after the welcome reappearances of Armistice (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), Felix (Leonardo Nam), and Sylvester (Ptolemy Slocum).

The group, now doubled in size, waltzes quietly through the night in an area of the park that has decidedly different topography to the Westworld they had been waltzing through so far. Lee is under the impression that they are near the northern boundary of the park. As the Bengal tiger washing up on the shores of Westworld notes, the boundaries between the parks have dissolved. Amidst the raging fire and snow, Maeve and company wait with bated breath and out of the quiet, a samurai runs forward with a mighty roar and his sword flashes into the night sky.

General Musings:

  • Ramin Djawadi’s “Seven Nation Army” is available to listen to right here and on Spotify.
  • Peacocks often symbolize awakening and immortality. Make of that what you will.
  • The shot of the tiger jumping and taking Grace with it was fantastic. More tension like that, please.
  • It seems like no mistake that in Westworld’s continued exploration of colonialism and oppression, that Shogun World would be modeled after the Edo period, when the West made its first serious contact with Japan.
  • The acting on this show is superb all around, but Evan Rachel Wood and Louis Hertham take the cake for their reunion sequence.
  • “She has a dragon.” Never miss a chance for cross promotion, HBO!
  • Does Charlotte suspect Bernard of being a host? The way she looks at him and the tone of her voice suggests that she is perhaps seeing something that she is not letting on.
  • Is Bernard in a loop? Am I obsessing over the “clues” from his clothing choices a bit too much?

Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed this episode as much as I did. Comment and theorize away below!

– Akash J. Saran

15 responses to “Analysis: Westworld Season 2 Episode 3 Recap, “Virtù e Fortuna””

  1. Something is up with Bernard. Maybe he is in a loop. He did take a bullet to the brain last season so some amount of dysfunction wouldn’t be unexpected.

    I try to use his clothes and accessories as clues, too. When we see him in the barn with Charlotte trying to hide from the hosts, he is in all black and wearing glasses. When we then see him regaining consciousness the beach, he is wearing a brown tweedy suit and his glasses float away and he doesn’t bother to retrieve him.

    There is a scene in the trailer of Charlotte finding “multiple Bernards” in underground storage. Depending on when this happens, she would certainly now know that he is a host. Right now – with very little information – I think that there is more than one version of Bernard in the park.

    PS – nice recap.

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  2. I find it interesting how Dolores is getting frustrated with teddy who is not understanding their fight etc
    I truly think that, like the other bots, teddy is becoming his own person, and his personality is to be merciful, a lover not a fighter, etc
    Love it.

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  3. Great recap, Akash!

    mariamb,

    I like the idea of multiple Bernard’s in our current story, and do think the Bernard on the beach isn’t the same one as right after the “party.” Although it is interesting that they seem to have the same mind… even though the beached Bernard can’t remember much. But I fully expect that by the current timeline Charlotte has found the multiple Bernard hosts, and this is why she talks to Bernard in such an odd way. It also seemed to me that Charlotte knew what happened to Abernathy (especially now that we saw her capture him), and was lying to the security team, which is interesting.

    All this being said, it does also seem to me that Bernard is just stuck in a weird time loop; especially because, as someone else pointed out a while ago, when he was looking at his damage on the tablet in episode 1, one of the symptoms he had was time slippage or something like that. But maybe Jonah and Lisa are just doing this to throw us off the “multiple Bernards” trail.

    Dee Stark,

    I just mentioned this in the other thread, but for some reason it felt to me that Dolores was content, and maybe even happy, that Teddy defied her orders and let the Confederados escape. I kind of think this is supposed to be evidence of his “awakening” starting up; it seems to me that this is the first time he actually made a decision for himself. And maybe that is why Dolores gave him the task in the first place, because she wants him to awaken. Also, I think this process started with the moment Teddy saw the pictures of his dead self. It could also be connected to how Hector is seemingly awakening after he “woke up in his God’s world and realized it was all made up” (paraphrasing from his discussion with Maeve and Sizemore).

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  4. Jaehaerys,

    Shouldn’t Bernard be the most sophisticated of the hosts? After all, he was created by the evil genius behind this AI, Ford. He was created to mirror another human being that Ford knew well. (Maybe there is even some of Arnold’s DNA in him?) Regardless, I don’t believe that Bernard has “awakened” yet. Perhaps it is because he took a bullet to the brain a few weeks ago. I’m sure that he will and that should prove to be quite interesting. How much of Arnold will he be…if at all?

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  5. mariamb,

    These are great questions. And tie in closely with Dolores’s comment, “Do you even know the man you’re based on?”

    Dolores and Bernard’s relationship is so unique, because when she looks at him she sees her old friend. But all he can remember (apparently) is his talks with her as Bernard. I loved when they were alone together and he just asks, “What are you doing, Dolores?” He seemed disappointed in a way, but also just in utter disbelief that this sweet girl from the Abernathy ranch is causing a (soon to be) worldwide war.

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  6. Jaehaerys,

    I like Bernard and Dolores’ relationship, too. Poor guy – he is in disbelief. Something has to bring him out of his haze. I would love to see him demonstrate more of Arnold’s sensibilities. Right now, Bernard is like a lost puppy.

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  7. mariamb,

    Bernard is awake, but yes, I think the bullet to the brain has effected him a lot.

    BUT NOTICE ONE THING…. some Bernards have a SCAR where the bullet was and SOME DON’T!

    Some Bernards have a black suit on….some have the vest and no jacket …..and some have a grey suit!!!

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  8. Thanks for the write up! Just a heads up the first paragraph after the Dolores/Teddy shot there’s a sentence that reads “highly presumptions” when you probably meant “highly presumptuous”. Other than that great read.
    Any insight into why Ghost Nation seems to be on a human-collecting mission?

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  9. Interesting that in British Raj World, the guns were not fatal to humans before they departed on Safari, then became so during the safari — perhaps during the intervening time, Dolores/Wyatt shot Ford and the revolt began?

    On the theme of a brutally exploitative past being neutered and re-visited for fun — well, that’s been happening at least since Hollywood invented the Western, hasn’t it? (The Romantic tales of long-ago Britain would be another example.) It’s worth noting that Hollywood’s early films about the Old West were more realistic — Doc Holliday ended his days in Hollywood, after all — but not the crowd pleasers which the later films, with their “white hat” and “black hat” caricatures, would become.

    Maybe we want a simplistic and forgiving view of the past precisely because we all know it just ain’t so.

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  10. Confirmed- Grace is NOT “just a guest”. Grace IS Williams Daughter – love it. 🙂

    She got picked up by Ghost Nation and was put with a lot of other guests and Stubbs was there as well.

    She understands the Ghost Nation language and can speak it! 

    She manages to untie herself and get away. They did not go after her. 

    MIB is riding with Lawrence and his cousins and a horse and rider appear coming towards them in the distance

    Hello Dad…..

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  11. Barbara,

    Yeah, I really liked the shot of her riding towards William with the sun blocking her face– I really thought it was going to be Dolores come for her reckoning with William… until we got a better glimpse of the hair!

    I felt like they were laying heavy hints all episode that William’s daughter would pop up, and when we saw her escape from the Ghost Nation hosts it seemed inevitable to me– she was a badass just like her dad!

    This episode kinda confirmed that the Ghost Nation hosts are up to something suspicious… it sort of seems like they are protecting the humans, but they also aren’t being very nice to them either. My guess is that it goes much deeper than just trying to protect the humans. Maybe Ford had some plans for them.

    Interesting that Grace can speak Lakota (it is an actual language that some Native American tribes use… I think the Sioux speak it). Makes me think that she has certainly vacationed in Westworld before… maybe took some trips there with William? Also pretty bummed to hear that Logan overdosed and died, I really wanted to see an old Logan. Hopefully Ben Barnes will still get some flashbacks.

    Last thought… I wonder how William’s daughter, Emily, became Grace. Maybe Jonah and Lisa were trying to throw us off with this whole Grace thing and that isn’t actually her name, or (more probable) maybe she changes it to try and distance herself as much as possible from William if they had a falling out (which it seems like they probably did).

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