'Westworld' Review: 'Reunion' Goes Back To The Beginning

Welcome to our weekly recaps of HBO's Westworld. This Westworld review takes a look at the second episode of season 2, "Reunion." Be warned: spoilers follow.

Oh, wow! Welcome to Westworld, Giancarlo Esposito!Oh, wait, never mind, he's dead.The sudden appearance – and quick departure of – Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul actor Giancarlo Esposito is only one of the several surprises that await us in season 2 episode 2 of Westworld, "Reunion."This is an episode all about filling in the blanks, while also creating a new set of questions in the process. Westworld season 2 isn't as puzzle-driven as season 1, but episode 2 shows that the series isn't quite ready to give up all of its puzzles just yet."Reunion" gives us our best look into the history of Westworld (the place, not the show) yet. It also reveals that there's an insidious agenda beneath the park's world of gun fights and sex bots. There are two distinct timelines in tonight's episode. Well, okay, there are actually several timelines, but for the sake of brevity, let's call them "The Distant Past" and "After The Revolution".There are no glimpses into the present, where Bernard and the Delos clean-up crew are trying to piece together what the hell happened after the big robot uprising. Instead, we stick with the events immediately following Dolores' (Evan Rachel Wood), bloody revolt, while also going back further and further in time to see how Westworld came to be. These timelines are intermingled, but I've separated them into two distinct sections below, because I'm here to help.westworld season 2 episode 2 review

The Distant Past

"Have you ever seen anything so full of splendor?"This is Dolores' go-to phrase as she finds herself awakened not in Westworld, but in our world. From the looks of things, these are Dolores' very early days, when she's still a fresh, young robot. She's in the presence of Arnold (Jeffrey Wright), who is kind and caring and clearly starting to think of Dolores not as a machine but as an actual individual.Arnold shows Dolores the real world, full of skyscrapers, which blows her dang robot mind. "It looks like the stars are scattered across the ground!" she exclaims. "Have you ever seen anything so full of splendor?" These moments between Arnold and Dolores are kind and caring, and are a sharp contrast to what happens to Dolores later in the episode.In still another flashback sequence, Logan (Ben Barnes) returns, and we learn his full name is Logan Delos. That name should sound familiar to you, since they're the company that owns Westworld. Logan is chilling at a swanky bar when he's approached by members of the "Argos Initiative" who want to show him a few things. Those few things turn out to be robots. And here's a twist: it turns out everyone in the bar is a robot. It's a chilling, awe-inspiring moment, and Logan is suitably shocked. He can't believe how life-like these hosts are. You can practically sense him itching to grab his checkbook and invest.Time keeps on ticking on, though, and Logan is soon drifting out of the picture. Westworld is fully built now, and the robots are inhabiting the world and running through their loops. Logan's father, rich, imposing man James Delos (Peter Mullan) is feeling a bit unhappy about the entire investment, and makes this displeasure known to William (Jimmi Simpson), AKA the younger version of the Man in Black.As James Delos sees it, Westworld is little more than a place for the wealthy to act out their fantasies, and he's not particularly interested in that. William, however, sees bigger, and more morally questionable things, in store. It's here we learn of Westworld's true nature: William and company are using the park to gather personal info (and possibly more) on the human hosts. In other words, William is pulling a Zuckerberg and stealing personal data.Of course, it's worth noting that William and James have this entire conversation in front of a frozen Dolores, who will later remember it and use it to her advantage.Speaking of Dolores, when we next see her in a flashback, she's playing the piano at James Delos' retirement party. William is at the party too, along with his wife – James Delos' daughter – and his own daughter, Emily. Dolores casts a sad, longing look in William's direction, which makes us wonder: is she remembering their love affair in the park? Has that even happened yet? It's hard to tell. Later, Delores goes outside and runs into Logan, who is stoned on FUTURE DRUGS. Far out, man.One final flashback jumps forward a little further. William has now aged a bit – his hair is starting to gray and his face looks more haggard. He wakes an offline Dolores up in the bowels of Westworld, and proceeds to act like a real prick to her. "You really are just a thing," he says. "I can't believe I fell in love with you." Not cool, William. Not cool.William takes Dolores out into the park and shows her...something. It's not entirely clear what it is, but there's some sort of construction going on in a secret portion of the park. "Have you ever seen anything so full of splendor?" William asks her with a touch of smugness. Man, this William fellow is a bit of a jerk, let me tell you!westworld dolores maeve

After The Revolution

The running theme of the flashbacks in "Reunion" is "Dolores lives constantly at the whims and mercies of others." But those days are gone. Now Dolores is woke, in more ways the one, and she's prowling Westworld and killing off any dumb human who gets in her way.She helps wake up Teddy (James Marsden) by showing him the behind-the-scenes parts of the park. Here, Teddy is treated to a iPad slideshow of all the times his character was brutally killed in the park. He doesn't take it very well.After he gets over the whole "oh shit, I'm a robot!" thing, Teddy reminds Dolores that if she means to fight off the inevitable retaliation from Delos, she's going to need an army. Dolores agrees, and sets out to raise one. Along the way, she crosses paths with Maeve (Thandie Newton). Eat your heart out, Infinity War! Here's the crossover event we've been waiting for!Except...it doesn't go so well. I'm sure a lot of people were hoping that Dolores and Maeve would team up and become badass killing machines together, but Maeve seems utterly bored with Dolores' little revolution. She has her own quest, and she and Dolores part ways not-quite-amicably. Sorry, everyone. The Dolores/Maeve team up will have to wait.Eventually, Dolores and her gang come across a group of Confederados, and asks them to join her. They scoff at the idea, so she proceeds to murder them all. And then, bring them back to life. It's a startling sequence, and it makes the Confederados fall in line pretty quickly. You'd probably fall in line too if someone shot you to death and then brought your bullet-ridden corpse back to life instantly.Through all of this, Dolores keeps spouting her cryptic flowery prose. She knows the real reason Westworld exists, she keeps saying. And more than that, she knows something else. She knows where a weapon is located. A weapon that she's going to use to destroy everything.Dolores isn't the only person on a journey this week. We also get to check in with the older William, aka the Man in Black (Ed Harris). The Man in Black is still stuck playing a game set up by the late Robert Ford, and he's decided to recruit some back up: Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.), the host formerly known as El Lazo.Much like Dolores, the Man In Black is prone to talking in riddles and flowery prose. He tells Lawrence the truth about Westworld – although Lawrence doesn't seem to entirely get it. He also says that Westworld was created because "people wanted a place hidden from god; a place they could sin in peace." But the Man In Black adds: "We were watching them; we were tallying up all their sins." This seems to give further weight to the idea that the Man In Black and Delos have been data-mining the human guests of the park.As the Man In Black and Lawrence continue onward, they come across the new El Lazo, played by Giancarlo Esposito. The Man In Black wants to recruit El Lazo and his men into his cause, but that's not how this game works. Robert Ford has apparently predicted everything, and after the Man In Black's request, El Lazo and his men proceed to kill themselves. It's shocking, and the entire look of the scene – bathed in a smoky haze cut through with torchlight – invokes one hell of a mood."This game was meant for you William," El Lazo says before he bits it. "But it was meant for you alone. I'll see you in the valley beyond!" Sorry, Man In Black. You're on your own here (well, Lawrence is coming along too; you still have Lawrence, Man In Black. Isn't that enough?!).

Stray Observations and Questions

  • This episode, coming on the heels of the excellent season 2 premiere, feels a bit slight. Yeah, there's a lot going on here, but a lot of it feels like filler. I'm also a bit more interested in the flashbacks than I am the revolution storyline, and that's a bit of a problem.
  • There's no way that will be Giancarlo Esposito's only appearance, right? He's too talented and recognizable to waste in such a small cameo (even though he does kill it; no pun intended).
  • What the heck is that thing William is building out in the desert? I'm assuming this is the big secret "weapon" that Dolores talks about, but that doesn't explain what it is, exactly.
  • Robert Ford returns! Sort of! We hear his voice and see a reflection of his younger self in a window in one flashback.
  • Anyone else getting the sense that Dolores really isn't as free as she thinks she is? That maybe, just maybe, she's been programmed do to all the things she's doing, for some greater purpose?
  • Have you ever seen anything so full of splendor?