“I’m in a dream.”
“No. You’re in our world.” With those words, Arnold took Dolores—and us—beyond anything yet seen in Westworld. We spent more time than ever before with Arnold in this episode, which answered a lot of questions. But we also have new mysteries to unravel. The Valley Beyond? Finding Glory? Ghost Ford? Let’s dive face-first into the white-hot bubbling mysteries.
Where the Hell Is “Our World?”
After alluding to the outside world in the premiere, Westworld finally pulled back the curtain in Episode 2.
“Looks like the stars have been scattered across the ground,” Dolores says. “Have you ever seen anything so full of splendor?”
Yes! In China!
Theories have swirled since last season that Westworld might be located in the South China Sea, where the real-life Chinese government has been constructing artificial islands. Those theories gained credence after this season’s premiere showed Delos security–Skeletor impersonator Karl Strand (Gustaf Skarsgard) speaking Chinese with a soldier as an aircraft carrier floated in the distance. “See this? It’s an official statement executed by your country giving Delos, and consequently me, authority over this entire island.”
This episode was even more explicit, as Arnold and Dolores walked by a sign written in Chinese that translates to “Space 47.”
But what if this isn’t China? The real outlandish theories come when we question whether the show takes place on Earth at all. It’s quite the leap for logic (and humankind), but some have wondered if Westworld takes place on a different planet or a moon somewhere else in the solar system, which would add weight to Anthony Hopkins’s monologues in the first few episodes of Season 1, when he discusses humanity reaching the peak of its evolution. This theory strikes me as a little out there, but I wouldn’t put it past creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy.
Regardless of what planet we’re on, Dolores’s insistence on conquering the human world at the end of Episode 1 makes it seem likely that hosts will run amok in this nearby city at some point. Maybe we should consider Dolores’s quest to be a world conqueror a bit more literally.
What Is the “Weapon” and the Valley Beyond?
At the end of the episode, Dolores and Teddy (James Marsden) stare off into the distance as Dolores tries to explain what they’ll find in something called “the Valley Beyond.” (Dolores does a lot of explaining to Teddy.)
“Glory. Valley Beyond. Everyone’s got a different name for it, and they’re all bound for the same destination,” Teddy says.
Dolores is unfazed.
“I know what we’re going to find there,” Dolores says. “An old friend was foolish enough to show me long ago. It’s not a place. It’s a weapon. And I’m going to use it to destroy them.”
Based on young William explaining his business vision for the park to James Delos and old William’s explanation of the park to Lawrence, one candidate for a potential “weapon” is the information Delos has gathered on the guests. As Teddy points out, it’s hard to conquer a world you don’t know anything about. Perhaps Dolores agrees, and her plan is to take the 30-plus years of Delos data and share it with the other hosts to bridge the information gap. That data was uploaded by Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) into Dolores’s father, Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum). If the “weapon” Dolores seeks is information, then she will be completing one of her old character loops and trying to save her father. The difference this time is the raiders will be corporate.
“The Valley Beyond” is the cryptic place that’s been referenced a few times this season. It was first mentioned in the premiere when Karl Strand, Bernard, and the Delos team (literally) extracted the memories of the Native American host and replayed them. “Not all of us deserve to make it to the Valley Beyond,” Dolores says before shooting him. That same episode, a host stable boy uses the phrase in the barn with Bernard, Charlotte, and various board members. Dolores also mentions it and the destination of “Glory” at the Confederado Last Supper (why the hell are they all sitting on one side of the table?).
We hear the phrase again when the Man in Black (Ed Harris) and Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.) head to Pariah, where they meet El Lazo, the character Lawrence used to play when William originally visited the park. (El Lazo refers to a rope, but loosely translates to “The Loop” in Spanish.) Now El Lazo is pitch-perfectly played by Giancarlo Esposito, whom you might know as Gus Fring from Breaking Bad, and the Man in Black tries to convince him to go to the Valley Beyond with him. When the Man in Black puts a gun to El Lazo’s head, Ford’s virtual ghost seems to take control over Lazo.
“This game was meant for you William, but you must play it alone,” El Lazo says as all of his men turn their guns on themselves and pull the trigger. “I’ll see you in the Valley Beyond, William—” before grabbing the pistol pressed against his head and doing the same.
It seems that “the Valley Beyond” joins “the door” as Season 2’s version of “the Maze” mystery.
What Are Dolores and William Staring at at the End of the Episode?
After El Lazo/Gus Fring/Ford’s virtual ghost eliminates El Lazo’s army, Lawrence and William storm away.
“Who the fuck is Robert? The man who built this place you’re looking for? This place of judgment?” Lawrence asks.
“No Lawrence, he doesn’t get that honor,” William says. “I built it. And this place we’re going is my greatest mistake.”
We cut from there to decades earlier, presumably back to the unnamed Chinese (?) city. Young William is talking to Dolores like a Bond villain explaining his master plan to break up with his high school girlfriend, and then he whisks her away in a conveniently edited scene where the two are staring out at … some sort of collapsed bridge. Or is it a construction site?
Combined with Dolores’s comment to Teddy later in the episode (and in a different timeline) that an “old friend was foolish enough” to show it to her, it seems like whatever happened in this moment is what William is referring to when he says, “I built it.” It’s not clear exactly what the cranelike structure is, but take a closer look at those rock formations. Are they the same ones that appear jutting out from the middle of the mystery sea?
Perhaps the Valley Beyond is the literal construction William began decades ago.
Bonus Question: WHEN ARE WE GETTING SAMURAI?
This was the only question that mattered last week, but this episode gave us even less of Shogun World than the premiere. Episode 2 featured just one scene of Maeve, but she was going somewhere with Hector in a hurry. If they aren’t wielding katanas in Episode 3, this entire season might be a failure.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.