Westworld S02E09 Review: “Vanishing Point”

Westworld explores how memory and storytelling help create identity, among other themes. Season one’s chronological obfuscation served that purpose, allowing the audience to form ideas about William and the Man in Black before revealing they’re one and the same. That made us question our judgments and consider how the former became the latter.

This episode is loosely tied together with a mini-theme of individuals “writing their own stories,” to borrow the phrase Maeve used in last season’s finale, rather than following the roles assigned to them by others. Everybody’s doing it; It’s the latest craze!

In William’s recent past (it seems like no more than a year before his latest/current visit to the park, although there’s no specific marker), we see what kind of life he has made in the real world. He’s richer than Croesus, has a lovely family, and is celebrated for his philanthropy. He doesn’t care about any causes; He gives to charity only because it’s expected. Still, he muses, that the money did help people, and “That has to count for something, right?”

He seems to have a good relationship with his daughter Emily (finally “Grace” is called Emily onscreen). But he’s distant with Juliet (Sela Ward), who drinks to cope with her loneliness.

Emily Juliet William

Robert Ford makes a surprise appearance at the party, giving William his Westworld-compiled personality profile. Back at home he hides it in Slaughterhouse-Five, a cheeky reference to the show’s desultory chronology: the novel’s hero “had become unstuck in time.” (Also on the table: Moby Dick, Jude the Obscure by Thomas Hardy, and two volumes of Plutarch.)

Although he is consistently polite and even kind to her, Juliet knows that something is wrong in William. Being the only one who can see it is eating her up inside. Despite having no specific cause for complaint, Juliet refuses to play the role of the happily married woman. She drinks too much. She baits William to show his true nature. To tell her something true, even once.

Thinking she’s passed out in bed, he tells her she is right. The thing that only she can see is real. He admits that his true passion is in another world. He says that he slowly came to realize the fleck of darkness in him was the true identity he made, and everything else—the accomplishments and good deeds—are how he pretends to the world. After her husband leaves the room, Juliet retrieves William’s profile card, reads its contents, and hides it in the jewelry box for Emily. Offscreen she takes an entire bottle of pills and gets in the bath, dying from the overdose.

In the later period of the post-anarchy parks, Emily (formerly known as Grace) has patched up her father and called QA for pickup. She says she knows her mother was right about him, and she’s seen his profile. But Emily doesn’t want to follow the story written by Juliet. Even though she has reason to hate and resent her father, she wants to choose another path.

William's profile

Alas, William has already chosen his role, and he’s the villain. His personality profile flagged him as Category 47B, complete with a red triangle warning icon and the descriptors “Persecutory subtype. Delusions. Paranoid subtype.” He still thinks everything that has happened to him was directly engineered by Ford, including Emily showing up to rescue him and salvage their relationship. (He is paranoid, after all.) When park security agents arrive, he jacks one of their guns and kills them all. He shoots Emily too, and delivers a postmortem lecture aimed at Robert Ford.

That’s certainly making the unexpected choice! Has William gone mad? Spraying five people with bullets, one of whom may or may not be your daughter, is very hard to justify as a rational decision. He could have ordered the security personnel to patch him up and escort Emily back to park HQ. Then he would be rid of her, whether she was real or not.

When he finds the profile card in her hand, his conviction is shaken. Is it really her? Has he really killed his child? William puts his revolver to his temple, but even after his latest mistake, he can’t bear to check out before he finishes the game.

Charlotte Hale and Roland have cooked up a weapon based on some of Maeve’s code. Using Clementine to test it, they watch happily as a roomful of infected hosts attack each other tooth and nail. If it works in the field, they won’t need Maeve anymore. Roland called her “sweetheart,” which makes me hope he’s the first to bite it when she turns the tables.

In a message passed from Bernard to Maeve, Ford gives Maeve a pep talk. He says she was his favorite host, comparing her to a daughter. He is impressed that she decided not to follow her instructions, but to return to the park out of love for her daughter. He urges her not to give up.

Look at the creatures you have to share this world with, these men of stone. All this ugliness, all this pain, so they can patch a hole in their own broken code.

Bernard confirms to Elsie that the Forge is the facility where all the guests’ personality constructs are kept, like the Cradle but much bigger. It’s what everyone is after. Charlotte Hale and Delos want it for their immortality project. Dolores intends to use it against humanity in the wider world somehow. Bernard wants to use it as leverage, to “dictate the outcome we want.”


Of course Bernard still has a “glitch,” since Ford’s ghost is riding piggyback on his brain. The ghost insists that Elsie will betray Bernard. Ford has written a little tale wherein Bernard uses the gun to make Elsie into dead weight and drops the dead weight, then hustles to the Valley to do what Ford wants. Bernard rejects that role. He hacks his own mind to delete what Ford added in the Cradle. That seems successful, but he isn’t taking any chances. He leaves Elsie with the beacon and drives off alone.

Elsie’s “Fuck you, Bernard” is saturated with wounded disappointment. A human who had good reason to fear him (as he’d attacked her before at Ford’s behest), she listened to his plea and decided to trust him. To her this seems like Bernard’s rejecting her partnership because he suspects her without cause. Of course we know that Bernard mistrusts himself, not her. He decides to keep his promise not to hurt her, judging that more important than sharing everything he knows, especially when spilling his secrets might antagonize Ford’s ghost. Bernard’s decision to leave her behind was as wise as William’s gunplay was foolish.

Teddy refuses to play the role Dolores has assigned him. At an encounter with Ghost Nation warriors who don’t want her to reach the Valley, she orders Aggro Ted to distribute lead. And he has a bullet for everyone except Wanahton (Martin Sensmeier), Akecheta’s lieutenant, whom he lets escape. Later in private, Teddy tells Dolores that she is his cornerstone memory. The first thought he remembers is concern for her and wanting to give comfort. That core of kindness can’t coexist with the cruel killer Dolores needs him to be. He shoots himself in the head to end the conflict.

Teddy and Dolores

Will Dolores change course at this? Did William really just kill his kid? How will Maeve escape, and where are her motley lovable sidekicks? Tune in next week, same bot-time, same bot-channel.