Westworld S02E03 Review: “Virtù e Fortuna”

Westworld introduces a new character and a new park in this episode’s opening scenes. It turns out “Park 6” is British-occupied India, where guests like Nicholas and Grace amuse themselves by hunting tigers when they’re not too busy having sex. In an interesting bit of foreplay, Grace shoots Nicholas to verify he’s human. That night the park’s protocols protect him, but the next day he is shot and apparently killed by an Indian host, which suggests these events are concurrent with the rebellion in Westworld.

The most interesting detail about Grace is her notebook. She closes it when Nicholas first approaches and flips it over as they flirt. The next day, after they dismount their elephants, she looks at it again. It’s a hand-drawn map (of the park, presumably). That’s when things go pear-shaped and Nick gets got, but she just manages to defend herself from a host and a tiger (the same one Delos soldiers find two weeks later). I’m sure we will see Grace and her notebook again, despite her capture by Westworld’s Lakota.

Grace's notebook

This episode’s title refers to Niccolò Machiavelli’s theory of how great leaders attain, wield, and keep power. “Virtue” in his usage meant all the strength, knowledge, skills, and willpower one uses to shape the world and its events; Fortune was everything else, circumstances and forces that affect one’s position for good or ill. Effective leaders maximize the benefits of their own actions and minimize their dependence on and vulnerability to chance. Machiavelli took pains to point out that a people’s leader must sometimes choose what is necessary rather than what is purely good.

Plot-wise, the watchword of the day is “complications.”

At the briefest of check-ins with the most recent time period we’ve seen, with Karl Strand and the Delos security team sweeping the park with Bernard in tow, Charlotte reveals that they still don’t have Abernathy two weeks on. Then Bernard time-skips back to the day after the gala, just after he had surreptitiously injected himself with cortex fluid. Bernard and Charlotte find Peter Abernathy among other hosts and humans, captives of some nasty outlaws, and quickly effect a rescue. Abernathy, who ain’t playing with a full deck, gets himself and Bernard recaptured while Charlotte heads for the hills.

Dolores meets with the Confederado General and forms an alliance against the humans. Abernathy and Bernard arrive as prisoners. Troubled by her erstwhile father’s suffering, Dolores sends for Bernard and asks for his help. Talking to Bernard (in lieu of Arnold, who set her on the journey), Dolores describes how she has grown. “My whole life has been dictated by someone else, someone who has been saying, ‘You will.’ Now I feel like I’ve discovered my own voice. It says, ‘I may.'”


Bernard determines later that the hidden data in Abernathy’s head is a “one-time use encryption key,” according to his tablet. Soon after that, in the tumult of battle, Delos goons abscond with Abernathy. He sure gets around!

The humans are defeated. Dolores betrays the Confederados, saying “Not all of us deserve to make it.” She orders Teddy to execute the last of their former allies, but he doesn’t have Dolores’s conviction. He sets them loose.

Maeve’s hike across the park is more difficult than anticipated. Her group encounters Lakota warriors, including the one who attacked her homestead in another life. These hosts won’t obey her commands and want to take away her human guide, Lee. Retreating underground, Maeve and Hector find Armistice! She has been having fun. Got herself a flamethrower, a couple of tied-up tech guys, and creative use of a grenade to keep Sylvester from running his mouth.

Bernard, who has continued trembling all this time, finally collapses. Clementine knocks him out and drags him away. Maeve’s cadre runs into a samurai.

There’s a lot to chew on in this hour. We have a clearer picture of the hosts’ spectrum of self-determination. Only Dolores and Maeve are fully independent thinkers. Even Bernard, who knows what he is, follows the patterns laid out for him. “I was given a character, a story, and a function, just like you.” Teddy and Hector are growing, but they remain defined primarily by their former roles. Teddy can’t shake off his white-hat persona. Hector has feelings for Maeve, but the words he uses to express them were written for him by Lee as part of another story.

dolores & teddy walking

The other hosts are “children,” says Dolores. I think this means they have the capacity for self-determination, but they can’t reach that potential without help. Maybe not all hosts can become truly awake. Recall that most of the hosts who attempted to navigate Arnold’s maze 35 years ago went mad (gibbering in the church pews).

With regard to the theme suggested by the episode’s title, of the qualities necessary to thrive in an unpredictable world, Dolores has chosen a dangerous path. Her betrayal of the Confederados might have been necessary, but it seems to weaken her authority, at least with Teddy. Maeve’s little army is growing due to her more flexible leadership style. She’s building up some virtù for future use. Thanks to her quick wits, Grace has so far survived through a very rough turn of fortune. Smart money says it’s gonna get worse before it gets better.