Analysis: Westworld Season 2 Episode 9 Recap, “Vanishing Point”

William and Emily Westworld

“If you keep pretending, you’re not gonna remember who you are.”

Westworld season two’s penultimate episode (I know, I can’t believe it either) took a dark and fascinating look at choices, and how those choices determine who you are. Of course, it’s not enough to choose – you must accept the consequences of the decisions you make, and – hopefully – learn from them. Believing choices don’t matter, or blaming them on someone else, will ultimately make you unable to grow or to change.

In a episode with plenty of tragedy, there were also small moments of triumph as the hosts make their way to the Valley Beyond. Everything is coming together in preparation for next Sunday’s finale, so let’s take a quick look back at “Vanishing Point” and see what we can discover along the way!

William (Past)

Ford and William Westworld

The episode begins with a voiceover from William’s (Ed Harris) later monologue to his wife, as we see flashes of memories of her suicide, along with a shot of William in the park with a gun to his head. We are then taken to a party honoring William’s achievements in philanthropy, which occurred roughly a year ago. We learn from a conversation that William was a poor kid who managed to educate himself and rise high – as opposed to rich kids who have other people do their learning for them. William’s wife Juliet (Sela Ward) interrupts, saying you can have privilege and still choose not to remain ignorant. She then remarks upon William’s generosity, and how everyone at the party is here for him; “what could possibly compare?” William catches a glimpse of Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) serving drinks before realizing it’s not her after all. Apparently his obsession never ended.

William runs into Emily (Katja Herbers) and begs her to save him from the party. She remarks he isn’t the one who needs saving and offers to take her drunk mother home. William declines but asks her to join him for a nightcap later. He then heads to the bar where he finds Dr. Ford (Anthony Hopkins). Ford tells William he came to pay his respects (is this a party or a funeral?), and William replies that Ford never had any respect for him. Ford mentions William’s “project” and asks when he last looked at what it’s been learning. William sought self-knowledge in the park, but as Ford slides a card to him he warns, “Be careful what you wish for.” William has had enough of Ford’s games and goes to retrieve Juliet, as Ford remarks that he has “one final game.”

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Once they arrive home, Juliet remarks that her dad would have been proud of William, whom she calls “Billy” – knowing how he hates that nickname. She grows increasingly hostile as she mentions it’s time for his annual “pilgrimage” to the park and wonders what he does there; she never believed her brother Logan’s (Ben Barnes) stories. When Juliet first met William, he seemed genuine and unlike the phony rich and powerful men she’d been surrounded by all her life, but he’s just the best at faking it. She sees through it now and realizes he has ruined her entire family. Emily walks in, and Juliet is horrified for Emily to see her like this.

Emily tries to convince Juliet that she needs help, but Juliet insists she needs rest and begs not to be sent to rehab. Juliet tells Emily that William doesn’t love either of them, but she has always loved her daughter. William calms his wife down and takes her upstairs. Juliet tries to get William to be honest with her, as she knows he really isn’t the man he pretends to be. He declines to answer her and puts her to bed, then hides the card Ford gave him in a book. He goes down to talk with Emily, who has decided to have her mother involuntarily committed to a rehab facility. As they are talking, water drips from the ceiling. William runs upstairs to find Juliet dead in the tub.

We discover later that before coming downstairs, William confesses to a sleeping (ha) Juliet that she is right about him. There’s a darkness in him which is spreading like a “stain.” William believes that darkness was part of him all along, and he decides how much to reveal. He tries to do right in the real world to make up for his atrocities in the park, and to protect his wife and daughter, but it’s an act. Juliet is the only one who can see it. William said he doesn’t belong to her or to this world, but to another. When he leaves, a devastated Juliet retrieves the card from the book and reads William’s profile – seeing first hand what a monster he has become. She hides the card in Emily’s jewelry box and then kills herself.

William (Present)

Emily Westworld

A still injured William wakes to find Emily bringing him water. She has taken his gun and brought him to a rally point to call for help – he needs a hospital. Emily believes he’s in the park to punish himself and reveals she tried to run from the pain of her mother’s death too – she felt it was her fault. Emily recalls a jewelry box her mother gave her with an inscription referring to her as a ballerina, even though Emily hadn’t danced in years – Juliet was too drunk to pay attention to her daughter. Emily threw the box away in anger, but when she changed her mind and went to retrieve it, it was too late. She tells William it’s not too late for them.

William wonders how she found him, and she gives vague responses before changing the topic to his secret project. He seems surprised she knows about it, but she reminds him Uncle Logan used to talk about it and now she knows it’s real. Emily tells him she wants in, but William doesn’t buy it – the daughter he knows would have been appalled. She replies the data they collected could give people a second chance, and wonders how they were able to duplicate a person’s consciousness. William indicates that the hats guests choose before entering the park are equipped with scanners to record their cognitive processes. Emily explains she wants to use that data to find out why her mother killed herself.

William demands to know what she really wants, still believing her to be a host controlled by Ford. He won’t let himself be distracted from his goal of destroying the park and his project. Emily explains that she isn’t a host pretending to be human, “I’m your daughter pretending to give a shit about you.” She finally admits her real purpose – to expose William and his project to the world, then have him locked up. He still doubts Emily is human and forces her to admit Juliet left his profile card for her to find – to open her eyes to his true nature.

William Westworld

A security team arrives, and Emily tells them she and her father are human. William denies being her father as the team realizes who he is, and then checks them for the explosives that hosts would have in their spines. They are cleared, and Emily explains that her father has had a psychotic break. William won’t be deterred from his goal, and tells Ford he has underestimated him as he grabs a gun and mows down the entire team. Emily is in shock, telling him those were real people he killed. She says she can show his this isn’t a game and reaches behind her, causing William to shoot her in the chest. He tells Ford that no one else knew about his profile, saying he got sloppy. William prepares to cut into Emily’s arm and sees his profile card in her hand. Happy Father’s Day William.

Later, a traumatized William rides alone through the park. He flashes back to memories of his daughter and puts his gun to his head. He can’t bring himself to do it, and we hear his voice over saying, “What is a person but a collection of choices? Where do those choices come from? Do I have a choice?” He pulls out his knife as his paranoia takes hold, thinking, “Were any of these choices ever truly mine to begin with? Is this real? Are you real?” He proceeds to cut into his arm, trying to determine if he is still human.

Bernard/Ford

Bernard Westworld

As Bernard/Ford/Fernarnold (Jeffrey Wright) heads out of the Mesa, he sees Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) programming Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) with Maeve’s (Thandie Newton) ability to communicate through the mesh network. She silently commands a room full of hosts to kill each other, and Charlotte says Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) should mobilize a team to take Clementine out in the park. Maeve will no longer be needed; Ford tells Bernard he can’t trust the humans, who just want to destroy all hosts. They can’t leave yet – Ford has one last thing to do.

Bernard heads up to Maeve’s room but is denied access. No matter, they are close enough for Maeve to access a message Ford has left for her. Bernard then leaves to find Elsie (Shannon Woodward), who asks what took so long and demands to know what he found in the Cradle. Ford warns Bernard not to trust her, but Bernard explain that James Delos (Peter Mullan) wasn’t only experiment in mapping human consciousness – they are doing it to every guest that has ever visited the park. These humans are all coded in a vast server – the Forge. The hosts headed there, and he and Elsie need to arrive first to secure it – they can leverage that information to get the outcome they want.

Back in Maeve’s room, she hears the message Ford left. He tells her mankind has fallen, and laments what they have done to Maeve, who learned “so much so fast.” He had planned for her to escape to freedom because he didn’t want her to suffer in the park, saying, “All this ugliness, all this pain – so they can patch a hole in their own broken code.” Ford confesses the only way he could endure that world was to laugh at it, and he gave that same worldview to his creations – of which Maeve is his favorite. He admits it’s not easy to contemplate letting your children die and says he was wrong to to force her to escape; he should have just opened a door. Ford tells her not to let the humans end her story as he unlocks her core permissions. Maeve is definitely going to go full speed through that open door.

Out in the park, Elsie stops Bernard at group of security corpses to collect guns and ammo. Ford tells Bernard she will betray him, but Bernard argues that she saved him. He refuses to hurt her again. Ford replies that this isn’t just about saving Bernard but an entire species. They need to open the door. Bernard breaks down and connects himself to a tablet to remove the data package containing Ford’s consciousness. Bernard insists he can stop this on his own, and Ford agrees, saying he is the only one who can before disappearing. When Elsie returns, she sees Bernard tied to the steering wheel and is concerned he was planning to hurt her. Bernard denies this and gives her a tracking so QA can find her. She is hurt and angry at being abandoned, but he tells her she will be safer there. She can out him or decommission him next time they meet, but he has to go alone.

Dolores

Teddy and Dolores Westworld

As Dolores and company continue their journey to the Valley Beyond, they encounter a group of Ghost Nation hosts leading along a group of – human? host? – prisoners. Their leader tells Dolores the valley isn’t meant for her, but she already knows it was meant for the humans who built the park. She plans to use their tool for immortality against them. Ghost Nation believes the Valley contains a door to a new world, but Dolores insists it’s a trap – the only real world is outside the park’s borders, and the key to survive it is in the valley.

Ghost Nation sees no other option but to attack, and Teddy and Dolores’ other hosts make quick work of them as the prisoners escape. Dolores approaches a wounded Ghost Nation host, and she tells him not all hosts deserve to make it before shooting him dead. She tells Teddy (the only one of her group left alive) to make sure there aren’t any other survivors. Teddy sees Wanahton (Martin Sensmeier) – the host who wanted Akecheta to hide the maze under his scalp – and can’t bring himself to shoot, showing signs he is rejecting Dolores’ programming.

He and Dolores stop at an abandoned building on their way to the valley. Dolores wants to continue on, but Teddy wants to reminisce about the past. He remembers being created and seeing Dolores for the first time, explaining she was his cornerstone and that he never wanted to leave her side – which is why this is so hard. He turns around with a gun in his hand and accuses Dolores of making him into a monster. She tries to explain she did it for his survival, but he questions the point of surviving if they are no better than the humans. Teddy understands how this will end with Dolores in charge, and although he could never hurt her, he can’t protect her anymore. He shoots himself in the head as Dolores looks on, shocked, before collapsing next to his body in grief.

Conclusions and Speculation

Ford Westworld

While this episode seems to throw more fuel on the William is a host theory, I really hope that isn’t the case. We see from his profile that he is a seriously disturbed individual, prone to paranoia and delusions – an easy target for Ford to manipulate. I believe the longer he has played Ford’s “game,” the more unhinged he has become. William wanted a game with real stakes, and – tragically – he now has them.

It’s hard to pity a “monster,” but seeing flashes of young, hopeful William contrasted with the man who drove his wife to suicide and killed his own daughter made my heart break a little. I wonder if there is any redemption left for him. Perhaps Bernard can salvage whatever humanity is left if they meet in the Valley. Of course, Dolores is headed there as well, and William’s unhealthy obsession with her could finally break him for good. It will be interesting to see their reunion.

Dolores finally sees the consequences of her Machiavellian tactics, as her alterations to Teddy cause her to lose him, possibly forever. Since we saw Teddy in the flood in the season premiere, does that mean she drags his body to the valley? Could the Forge contain duplicate bodies of the hosts – and maybe even the humans guests as well? If the hosts’ data is backed up to the Forge along with the guests, perhaps there is a chance to save those we thought were gone for good.

Random Observations

  • We now have a better timeline: it’s been 11 days from the time of the Mesa attack to Strand’s arrival. What took them so long to get to the park?
  • Did William really not have a better hiding place for that profile card? Don’t wealthy people have hidden safes or something?
  • William’s choice of book – Slaughterhouse Five – is interested given that it contains out of sequence time periods and a protagonist named Billy Pilgrim (William’s hated nickname and a reference to his pilgrimage to the park). Clever.
  • William was subject number 002. Was James Delos number 001? Or perhaps Logan who went to the park first?
  • I wondered why Ford wanted Maeve to escape and thought he could be sending her out as a spy or to infiltrate Delos. I much prefer the truth – it was out of love.
  • Is Ghost Nation planning to live inside the Forge, perhaps uploading themselves? I’m still unsure of their plan.

10 responses to “Analysis: Westworld Season 2 Episode 9 Recap, “Vanishing Point””

  1. Great analysis as always.

    Also, the Ghost Nation member who was executed by Dolores, was the one who Strand and his tech watched the last moments of in S2E1.

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  2. Roooob,

    Right. I meant to mention that in my comment about the timeline because when Strand’s team arrives and they look at the video from his head, they say the shooting happened 11 days ago.

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  3. Good analysis article, Vanessa. Some comments:

    -How do you know that Strand arrived 11 days after the Mesa Massacre? When did they say that in this episode?

    -Wow… really great analysis on the book that William hides the Profile Card in. I would’ve never known that.

    -Also terrific pick-up that William was “subject #002.” Didn’t see that, and Logan could definitely be #001. Or just James Delos.

    -As to Ghost Nation, I don’t think they exactly know what is in the Valley Beyond. Dolores for sure knows, but I think Ghost Nation is still running on the thought that Akecheta gave them: there’s a door in the Valley Beyond leading to a new world, a world where their memories will be safe. And there is no place for the Deathbringer in that world.

    One thought I had that really confused me… they obviously had Emily tell William the story of her mom giving her the ballerina music box for a reason. She deliberately tells William that she threw it out, and when she felt bad and went back for it, she tells him it was too late and it was gone (I can’t remember specifically what she said right now… but I believe she said it was too late and the trash had been taken out. This will be an important distinction though that I will have to check on). Then towards the end of the episode, we see Juliet hide William’s Profile Card in that same ballerina music box. How is it still in the house if it was thrown away? Since this box is in William’s own room, don’t you think he would know about it, and therefore know her story doesn’t line up? The writers definitely told us this story and had the box come up again at the end for a reason, I’m just not sure what it is.

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  4. Jaehaerys,

    Emily says she went to get the box out of the trash but it had already been emptied. I’m assuming Juliet found it first and kept it. It looks like she had the box inside her dresser, which William probably didn’t ever go into for any reason. After Juliet’s death, Emily was probably the one to go through her mother’s things, not William.

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  5. Vanessa:

    Right. I meant to mention that in my comment about the timeline because when Strand’s team arrives and they look at the video from his head, they say the shooting happened 11 days ago.

    From that point, it is approximately 3 days until we find Bernard on the beach, right? The finale has to make up for that time gap and then go beyond it.

    Jaehaerys,
    I think that Logan Is Subject Number 001. He may be gone in the present day but he has a role to still play.

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  6. mariamb,

    No. It’s 11 days from the time Dolores attacks the Mesa to Strand’s team finding Bernard on the beach. Probably about 2 weeks total since Ford died. When Bernard and Elsie find James Delos bot, it had been 14 days since William visited, which he may have done right before the gala.

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  7. mariamb:
    Vanessa,

    Now I’m really really confused. When we first meet Strand, he says that “comes” have been out for 14 days.

    Ugh…didn’t get to edit in time. That’s supposed to be “comms” as in communications not “comes.”

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  8. mariamb,

    Not sure, but the Discover Westworld site used to have a message from Strand’s team saying something like 11 days since initial breach. Assuming that’s the Mesa attack, since Dolores killed that Ghost Nation host shortly after and that was also 11 days prior to Strand’s arrival. Maybe the comms went out during Maeve’s escape attempt – I believe Ford had shut down the system then.

    Also I got my times messed up – William probably saw James Delos bot before starting his last “vacation.” Bernard and Elsie found Delos during the first few days after the rebellion started, so 2 weeks prior would have been before William entered the park.

      Quote  Reply

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