Robot, meet toxic masculinity. I still don’t fully understand (and maybe am not supposed to) what it is about Dolores that turned William into such a monster. That she couldn’t love him back? That her memory reset every time he abused her? That her language function in these early stages seems fatally limited to platitudes about stars and splendor? But there’s something fascinating in how “Reunion,” by stepping outside the park, was able to comment more explicitly on contemporary questions about morality when it comes to technology. By contrast, I just couldn’t get that excited about the characters in Westworld, still set on their various missions, even if we did get to see Maeve and Dolores face off for the first time in a while. I’m intrigued by what “the valley beyond” might be, though. What do you think, David? Was this episode more of a destination or a weapon?
David Sims: If anything, this episode felt like a necessary if routine stop at the gas station on the road to something more exciting. The flashback-heavy worldbuilding had the hint of fan service, but in centering the episode on William and his turn from white-hatted hero to black-hatted nihilist, “Reunion” turned what could have been a boring infodump into something a little more oblique. You ask just what turned William into a monster, Sophie? Nothing, really, except for his own vanity, his own revulsion at realizing he’s not the hero of any story in particular. The crux of his humiliation at the end of last season was that at the end of his long quest to rescue Dolores, she didn’t even recognize him, having returned to her original loop.
William is smart enough to know that was just part of her programming, but as his older self told Dolores in the first-season finale, she helped him “find himself” by unconsciously rejecting him. In referring to her as a mirror, William is being quite unintentionally revealing, because that’s almost what his younger self wanted from Dolores—someone to help him bask in his own glory. Instead, he just got a view of himself at his neediest, and it was enough to harden his heart. Last season I wrote about Westworld as a metaphor for video gaming, and William is the Gamergater at the heart of that allegory, a man desperate to beat every corner of the game and bend it to his will, to prove his dominance by becoming lord of a virtual domain.
This fantasy recurs throughout the episode, and throughout the show in general. It’s one that appeals to the dunderheaded Logan Delos, as he sees how all the robotic hosts around him can freeze at a moment’s notice, and be arranged however he might like. It’s even one that’s enticing to Dolores as she rampages through the park with her zombie host army, running roughshod over Ford’s old storylines and violently pressing the Delos staff into service. But it’s inherently limited and empty—like you say, Sophie, every triumph in the park now feels particularly faded, even when it’s at the hands of the hosts.