Connect with us

TV

Westworld, Ep 2.04: “The Riddle of the Sphinx” Brings Family Together

“The Riddle of the Sphinx” has been the tightest and most succinct episode of Westworld Season 2 thus far. Enveloped in alternate timelines and memories this week’s episode has finally drawn together the threads behind the Man in Black, James Delos, and the true purpose of the park.

Who is James Delos?

Throughout the course of this episode we learned the fate of James Delos, founder of Delos Incorporated who own, among other things, the entirety of Westworld and its research. For over thirty years James Delos has lived, died, and lived again within an observation chamber, his gleaming Californian apartment. Westworld is meticulous in its uncanny unpicking of reality, and Peter Mullan does an excellent job of portraying James as he glitches living out the same conversation again and again. We learn that James, dying of a disease, invested everything into Westworld’s research in the hopes of living forever, but the technology was never perfected far enough to allow James to leave.

James is clearly a businessman through and through, but when played against Ed Harris’ icy composure as the William/the Man in Black it’s hard not to empathize with his emotional breakdown. Learning of the death of his wife and daughter sends James into an all-too-human spiral, while his cognitive degradation allows Peter Mullan to go full horror show with the role. When we stumble into the observation lab in the show’s final moments the screen is saturated with red light, James’ corruption has consumed him and turned him into a monster, but it is the Man in Black’s willful abuse that haunts the scene.

This series of flashbacks chart the Man in Blacks actions before he dons the black hat and enters Westworld in Season 1, and we can now see how he came to believe that he ought to die in the park. “People aren’t meant to live forever”, not James Delos, and not William either. However, this episode doesn’t only give us backstory as to the Man in Black’s intentions in the park, because the present day narrative is simultaneously tracking something rather new in the Man in Black’s story: a good deed worthy of a white hat.

A Family Reunion Like No Other

In the new robot-run Westworld trouble is catching up on the Man in Black in the form of Major Craddock and his band of Confederados, whom Teddy probably should have finished off last week. The Man in Black, together with Lawrence, who appears to be remembering things from previous cycles, head to the town of Las Mudas where Lawrence’s wife and daughter live.

We know that the Man in Black is without scruples, once the town has been captured by Major Craddock he gives up Lawrence and his family in a heartbeat. But once things get serious something changes inside the Man in Black. In the same episode, we see him continue past prisoners being executed and used as railroad tracks, something else entirely is triggered when he sees Lawrence’s wife being made to poison her husband. The falling rain, the liquid poison, all swirl together in a memory of Juliet’s suicide, the Man in Black’s wife, and the discovery of her lifeless corpse in a bathtub overflowing with water.

The Man in Black chooses to save Lawrence, his family, and the town. He passes judgment upon the Confederados, and in doing so he plays the game as a true white hat would. As we are duly reminded, this doesn’t mean the Man in Black is absolved of his past sins, but it’s the beginning on a path that might well change him. In the closing scene, Grace, the escapee guest from The Raj park, reveals herself as the Man in Blacks daughter, presumably Emily Delos, and a new player in the game for Peter Abernathy. Will this change how the Man in Black values his life, and what game, exactly, is he playing? It seems the Man in Black is headed towards his own revelation, perhaps one which will need him to learn to play as a white hat once more to see his journey through to the end. What’s certain is that when you play riddles with a sphinx, you either discover the truth, or you die.

A Game of Control

In Bernard’s story, we follow not only the discovery of James Delos’ observation lab but also a series of revelations for Bernard himself. Memories of his actions under Ford’s control have begun to resurface, and though Bernard feels ready to finally choose his own actions the specter of Ford’s command is hard to forget. Westworld does a fantastic job of interweaving timelines and flashbacks into a consistent narrative, blurring just enough that we experience Bernard’s disoriented perspective without losing track of the stories arc.

We don’t know if we can trust Bernard, awakened to his own consciousness yet haunted by his own violence, we don’t even know if the trace of Ford’s control has truly left, and nor does he. Westworld season 1 liked to play a game with the audience over whether you could tell the difference between human guests and hosts, now we are playing a much more subtle game of guessing who exactly is in control, and how far the hosts’ free will extends.

Now that the Man in Black is reunited with his daughter, and Lawrence has seen his family saved, it only remains for Maeve to finally reach her own daughter, and to wreak what havoc she may once her goal is fulfilled.

Written By

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Facebook

Trending

Queer As Folk 1999 retrospective Queer As Folk 1999 retrospective

Queer As Folk – A Cultural Milestone

TV

Stranger Things Season 4, Chapter 4 "Dear Billy" Review Stranger Things Season 4, Chapter 4 "Dear Billy" Review

Stranger Things Hits a Terrifying Home Run with “Chapter 4: Dear Billy”

TV

John Carpenter's The Thing 1984 movie retrospective John Carpenter's The Thing 1984 movie retrospective

Ambiguity Makes for Better Horror in 1982’s The Thing

Film

The Witch: Part 2. The Other One The Witch: Part 2. The Other One

The Witch: Part 2. The Other One is a Disappointing Genre Hybrid

Culture

Web of Make Believe review Web of Make Believe review

Netflix’s The Web of Make Believe Gets Off to a Scary Start 

TV

Stranger Things Season 4, Chapter 6 "The Dive" Stranger Things Season 4, Chapter 6 "The Dive"

Stranger Things Scrapes the Bottom with “Chapter 6: The Dive”

TV

Top Gun: Maverick Top Gun: Maverick

Top Gun: Maverick is Franchise Filmmaking at its Best

Film

Jurassic World Dominion - Tilt Jurassic World Dominion - Tilt

Jurassic World Dominion Misunderstands the Entire Franchise’s Allure

Film

Stranger Things Season 4 Chapter Two: Vecna's Curse Stranger Things Season 4 Chapter Two: Vecna's Curse

“Chapter 2: Vecna’s Curse” Is Both Too Much and Not Enough for Stranger Things

TV

Stranger Things Catches Its Breath with “Chapter 5: The Nina Project”

TV

RRR RRR

RRR Delivers Infectious Charm and Unparalleled Action

Film

The Interceptor The Interceptor

Netflix’s The Interceptor is Sunk by Laziness

Culture

Stranger Things Screeches To a Halt with “Chapter 7: The Massacre at Hawkins Lab”

TV

The Wilds vs. Yellowjackets: Which is Better? The Wilds vs. Yellowjackets: Which is Better?

The Wilds vs. Yellowjackets— Which is Better?

TV

Rutger Hauer Rutger Hauer

Blade Runner and the Particular Qualities that Noir Fans Can Appreciate

Friday Film Noir

Stranger Things Pulls Itself Together with “Chapter 3: The Monster and the Superhero” Stranger Things Pulls Itself Together with “Chapter 3: The Monster and the Superhero”

Stranger Things Pulls Itself Together with “Chapter 3: The Monster and the Superhero”

TV

Connect