Westworld Season 2 Episode 9 – ‘Vanishing Point’
Throughout the entirety of Westworld, William has been on a seemingly lifelong journey of self-discovery that has yet to give him the answers he seeks. Did the park corrupt him, or liberate his true impulses? Is Man in Black the real William?
William seems convinced that he is. And given the fact that his wife was driven to alcoholism after years of loveless marriage, culminating in suicide after seeing the contents of his Westworld “browser tab,” William has carried the guilty weight of his worst self for years.
But we’ve seen William act human and compassionate before. Plus, people can’t be divided into white and black hats – it’s not nearly as simple as that. And that neat division, that choice presented to you at the entrance to Westworld, may have led William down an unnecessarily dark road; perhaps those hats should have had a “gray” option.
“Vanishing Point” underlines the fact that our moment-to-moment choices continuously define us, not just our histories. Take Teddy and Dolores; Dolores reprogrammed Teddy into the Terminator (supposedly for his own good), but the hosts aren’t quite as malleable as computer programs. They’re sentient, and Teddy’s kind nature has been struggling with his newfound cruelty ever since Dolores carelessly tweaked his settings.
Teddy coldly guns down most of Ghost Nation, aside from our new favorite, Akecheta, but spares the last man standing, as his old, soft self jumps back into the driving seat. Like William, both Teddy and Bernard are grappling with their demons, except their demons stem from a few lines of unwanted code running through their system, rather than severe psychological issues. And as Bernard deduces, code can be deleted.
Bernard views Ford’s divine presence not as a guardian angel, but something resembling a brain tumor, seeing as the man keeps hijacking sweet Bernard into committing bloody murder, while pretending to be a big advocate of free will.
So Bernard uses that USB port all hosts have embedded in their forearm, deletes the malign presence from his brain, and drives far away from Elsie. Elsie may be stuck in a hot desert with no means of transport, but she should be happy she’s no longer hanging out with a host who suffers bouts of Ford-induced violence.
The man may have been erased from Bernard’s brain, but not before he transferred to Maeve (Ford always has a plan B, C, and D). During one of his trademark weighty monologues, Ford reveals to Maeve that she is his favorite daughter, and that he originally intended her to escape, before she overrode his narrative, choosing to be a dedicated parent instead. Ford can a good parent too, to some of his children anyway, and he blesses Maeve with a new superpower, which will surely lead to her escape (just in time too, because Charlotte just weaponized Clementine).
Meanwhile, poor William is starting to see Robert Ford everywhere. After absorbing an insane amount of bullets, and spending way, way too much time with hosts, William is utterly convinced that every single person in the park is secretly Ford, messing with him, even his own daughter. And to be fair, it’s not that unlikely, is it?
It doesn’t help that William has spent way too long in a fantasy land, two fantasy lands, really. One is the “real” world, where he is a loving husband, father, and successful businessman. The other is Westworld, where he spends his time acting out a Hollywood caricature of a villain. Neither is the real William, and the split has clearly led to a major identity crisis, Rick Deckard-style.
So when Emily reveals that her mother hid William’s data card for her, unbeknownst to William, he takes it not as a detail he didn’t know, but solid proof that she is really a host clone. You might think that with the arrival of park security, William’s game is over, but of course, the park’s woefully inept security team isn’t dexterous enough to gun down this severely injured old man (who the hell hired these guys?).
Finally, William shoots his own daughter, convinced that he’s bested one of Ford’s many mind games. But he soon realizes his terrible mistake, and here’s where Ed Harris’ acting chops come out in full force; not only is William responsible for his wife’s suicide, he’s just shot down his own daughter, and you can see every ounce of pain and regret in his eyes.
William considers suicide, but stops himself. He needs to answer a question first, one that’s been haunting him for decades. Throughout the flashbacks to William’s old life, we continuously see him checking out his forearm, seemingly unsure if he’s actually a host clone. So instead of shooting himself, William carves into his arm, determined to know if he’s really real.
We’ll have to wait until next week to find out, but I’m really hoping that my fan theory is incorrect. Writing William off as a host clone just seems too easy – indeed, I think William might be secretly hoping that he is a host, as it would explain his inability to connect with his family, relinquishing him of responsibility.
The episode actually ends with Teddy, in a scene that connects his and William’s storyline wonderfully. Like William’s wife, kind-hearted Teddy has watched his significant other slowly reveal their true colors, and he is sickened by what he sees.
Worse, Dolores intentionally warped Teddy into a monster. And Teddy doesn’t see the point in survival if it means turning into his worst enemy. So after a season of being pulled around like Dolores’ pretty puppet, Teddy takes his life into his own hands, and shoots himself.
It’s a noble decision, one that hopefully teaches Dolores a lesson. After all, Dolores isn’t quite herself either – she still has a Wyatt infection of some kind, that perhaps she can shake off, if she’s willing to embrace her former humanity. Only problem is, Dolores’ firmly believes that empathy is a weakness in wartime, and she might well be correct.