Westworld, season 2, episode 3 recap: welcome to the dubious delights of Empire World

Katja Herbers as Grace
Katja Herbers as Grace

I've a feeling we're not in Westworld anymore. Or at least we’re not in the "West" part of Westworld. In a dramatic opening sequence, this week's episode plunged us into a whole new simulated experience, this one set in a disquieting version of an Empire-era India, before whipping back to the main (well, the familiar) park and the ongoing deadly Dolores drama.

Her explosive antics and continued fatalism were entertaining enough – and the aforementioned opening an enjoyable mini-drama in its own right, introducing an intriguing new character and exposing us to another side of the company and its creations. But, aside from the revelation about the nature of one of the other parks – and a solution to the Bengal tiger mystery – this episode felt a little less vital than last week’s instalment. There were tense scenes with poor old malfunctioning Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum), pursued across the park by a determined Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson), and, again, we had some lively, revealing Maeve-Lee banter. But we missed William (both flashback William and present-day William). Things are always more interesting when William is around.

Would you visit ‘Empire World’?

We all know that modern-day Britain has no desire whatsoever to reclaim its “glorious” colonial past and is happy accepting the fact that it’s no longer a major world power. We can therefore state with confidence that absolutely no one would want to visit this romanticised recreation of Empire-era India, complete with peacocks, an (unseen) governor, polite, subservient Indians and “dangerous” Bengal tiger hunts. What were Delos thinking?

Joking aside, the existence of the India/Empire World feels quite telling. Over the past two episodes, it was strongly indicated that the real reason the park exists is to collect data on the guests themselves – perhaps to explore and exploit/expose their psychological weaknesses, or perhaps even to recreate them in some form or another (why else collect DNA?).

But this week’s episode showed that even the choice of park – the decision as to which one you’d most like to visit; which ones you’d feel at home in and which ones might make you feel a little uncomfortable – might be significant. Hollywood has a long, profitable history of romanticising certain eras – offering escapism shorn of problematic reality – and Westworld, and its companion parks, are clearly just an extra-interactive extension of that. But even so: to us, this new world felt especially unsettling.

Our new female guest seems intriguing

The resourceful character, played by Dutch actress Katja Herbers, is credited as Grace – but is she the right age to be the daughter of William and his (late) wife? Either way, she certainly seems to be a seasoned, experienced guest, and one who harbours an intense fear of being tricked into an amorous encounter with a host. The lingering look on her face after her companion queries why the park would bother making hosts pretend to be human felt significant. She could be a host herself (the obvious, rather cheap-trick interpretation) – but it feels more likely that she’s a human being with some behind-the-scenes knowledge and a few bad experiences under her belt.

Herbers has already been billed as a season regular – and her extended introduction, escape across the lake and dramatic final capture seem to be setting her up as an important new personality. All should be revealed soon – or, this being Westworld, not revealed at all.

The animal bots are dangerous now, too

Newly lethal tigers
A newly lethal robotic tiger

As demonstrated by our furry orange-and-black friend (RIP), the Westworld animals are newly out of control (aside from the flies, who were presumably never in anyone’s control in the first place – on-set fly wranglers aside). But we now know that our parks are teeming with fierce Bengals and who knows what other recently wild creatures. A robot tiger, we’d presume, would still be able to eat a real human being. Call us disturbed – but we’d quite like to understand the exact mechanics of how this might work.

Fort Folorn Hope showed that Dolores/Wyatt is as ruthless as ever

Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Teddy (James Marsden)
Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Teddy (James Marsden)

Betraying her supposed allies, detonating them along with her enemies, and ordering a brutal mass execution of any survivors – it’s all in a day’s work for this terrifying new incarnation of our heroine (played by Evan Rachel Wood). But poor Teddy? Dolores’s bemused boyfriend (James Marsden) still doesn’t seem on board with all the killing.

Problem is, Dolores seems to know this too, after spying on him balking on his bloody duties – and witnessing his secret moment of mercy. She’s already tried to explain what she’s doing to him – but, while he remains as loyal as ever, he also seems slightly terrified of his newly murderous partner (witness the scene earlier in the episode where he anticipates that Dolores is about to shoot and quickly gets a punch in first). Are Teddy's days with Dolores numbered? Are his days numbered point blank?

Poor Lee Sizemore is still confused

His robots aren’t behaving the way they’re supposed to. They’re having relationships that haven’t been programmed into them! They’re expressing emotions! But – tellingly – they’re still doing so while speaking his lines. No wonder the poor man can’t keep up.

The Westworld writers are still having fun with the character (Simon Quarterman), gently mocking screenwriting conventions (and the pretensions of screenwriters themselves) with each new revelation. Lee, it transpires, took inspiration form one of his own failed romances, then wrote a heroic version of himself into his storyline. It is, as Maeve points out, rather sad. But it’s also fascinating to explore the extent to which the hosts are still staying on-script and the extent to which they’re going AWOL.

Armistice is back

And, as Hector put it, she now has a dragon (read: flamethrower). She’s also got a nice new robotic arm, and a penchant for playing with grenades. It’s good to witness the return of the tattooed female outlaw, played by Ingrid Bolsø Berdal – and, it now seems, a part of Maeve’s ongoing quest to locate her daughter. We were also reunited with a rather shell-shocked looking Felix (Leonardo Nam), the park repair-worker who assisted Maeve in her quest to become a super-host, and unsavoury fellow technician Sylvester (Ptolemy Slocum) who was being tortured by Armistice with the previously mentioned grenade.

The Dolores-Bernard scene was interesting

Dolores made it clear that she remembers Arnold, the man Bernard was based on – and pointed out that Bernard, the host who believed he was human, has never yet been out of the park. She herself, she told him, had – a reference to the scenes we saw in last week’s episode. But just how much does Dolores know about the outside world – and what bearing will her plans have on it?

Let’s get this timeline stuff straight (if we can)

As far as we can tell? The young William and young Logan scenes from episode two, naturally enough, take place in their own, much further-back timeline. But lots of the main story is still being told through flashbacks. We see Charlotte and Bernard escape together, with Charlotte later breaking free and making her way back to HQ, where she demands the use of an elite team to head back into the park and grab Peter. That’s all in the recent past – and all part of the extended flashback. So, too, is the Dolores storyline, in which Bernard (flashback Bernard) is currently embroiled.

But the scene where a shaky-looking Bernard turns up and where Hale is impressed to see he got out alive? That – and the Bernard waking up/ Lake-of-the-Dead-Hosts sequence from the first episode – are presumably taking place slightly later, in the show’s equivalent of the “right now”. If correct, this means that Shakespeare-spouting broken host Peter Abernathy – and the vital file encrypted in him – is again on the loose, despite being captured in this episode. Or is it all the other way round?

Either way, Bernard now knows exactly what was in that data file – and he seemed pretty shocked by its contents.

The long-teased Shogun World episode should be happening soon

That dramatic ending certainly suggests so, anyhow. Bring on the Samurai.