The Man in Black's rainstorm scene is Westworld's greatest moment yet

Monday, 14th May 2018, 3:20 am
Updated Tuesday, 15th May 2018, 1:25 pm

*Spoilers for Westworld season 2, episode 4* 

Westworld's latest episode is the thing truly great drama is made of. Palpable emotion, powerful action, and a sense of real transformation; embodied by Ed Harris's solemn, contemplative Man In Black bowing in the rain.

Exquisitely directed by the show's co-creator Lisa Joy, it bears the title: 'The Riddle Of The Sphinx'. And if you don't know your ancient mythology, the answer to the Sphinx's riddle was 'man'.

All too fitting then, for an instalment where we finally see the elder William's humanity - and both the best and worst things a man is capable of.

'You think you know death - but you don't'

Captured in a storm-hit town, The Man In Black and his host companion Lawrence - probably the closest thing to a friend he has in the park - find themselves at the mercy of the surviving Confederados and their leader who, having been 'resurrected' then betrayed by Dolores, has lost his artificial mind.

"You didn't recognise him sitting across from you this whole time..."

Even worse, the militia have ensnared Lawrence's 'wife' and 'daughter' - and are taking great pleasure in tormenting and menacing the pair. William knows it's only a matter of time before these woman and child hosts are brutally murdered.

Over many years, The Man In Black has become the ultimate nihilist; so numbed to suffering that he has spent decades treating the hosts as playthings, killing and maiming them without flinching.

But this time the plight of Lawrence's wife, sent trembling out into the downpour to die as sport, awakens some shred of empathy and humanity deep in William. It brings back memories of his own wife. His own loss. And with a thrilling surge of purpose and outrage, he acts.

The moment when the Confederado leader realises just how much trouble he's really in (Photo: HBO/Sky)

We get beautiful, heart-wrenching music from Ramin Djawadi as the slow-motion action intercuts between Lawrence's wife strolling through the rain, and William's painful memory of finding his spouse dead in the bath years earlier.

His speech to the unhinged commander, coupled with the rising score, sends chills up the spine.

"You think death favours you?" William asks. "Death's decisions are final. It's only the living that are inconstant. Death is always true. You haven't known a true thing in all your life. You think you know death, but you don't.

"You didn't recognise him sitting across from you this whole time..."

And with that, the self-proclaimed personification of death strikes out with ferocious, righteous intent.

The gunslinging rampage that follows is exhilarating; bullets flying and adversaries falling as William puts his long-honed skills to wrathful use. When a shot grazes his neck, it does not slow him down in the slightest.

Once the dust has settled, and he lets Lawrence take his revenge, that image of him standing silent, head bowed in the rain, is stunning.

Just two episodes ago, we saw William's newly cynical younger self referring to Dolores as a "thing". He once killed Maeve's daughter in front of her just to prove he was capable of such an act. And, back in season one, The Man In Black even shot Lawrence's wife himself in order to try and get information about The Maze.

But here, he risks everything to protect a trio of hosts he feels a pang of conscience for. His entire outlook may be starting to change.

The Jim Delos sequence evokes Black Mirror in its existential terror

The tragedy of Jim Delos

This is all doubly meaningful as it contrasts so heavily with William's previous sadistic, terrifying actions towards his father-in-law and his cloned consciousness; the reveal of which is horrifying.

The episode's gorgeous opening tracking shot literally sets the scene for Jim Delos's fate. Actor Peter Mullan gives a great performance as the aged CEO; the sequence where William brings a version of him back for the 149th time, only to torture him with news of his children's deaths, and then refuse to put him out of his misery, is unbelievably disturbing.

It evokes Black Mirror in its existential terror.

Peter Mullan has been extraordinary as Jim Delos this season (Photo: HBO/Sky)

When the host version of Jim learns his daughter is dead, and starts screaming for Logan, it's unbearable. Haunting. When William leans in and informs him Logan succumbed to an overdose decades earlier, it's a twist of the knife that is unbelievably, needlessly cruel.

In the hands of Mullan - and William - Delos descends from twinkle-eyed rogueish charm to anguished despair and tortured, deranged madness before our very eyes.

With this knowledge, The Man In Black's newfound ray of humanity is even more striking.

'Hi Dad'

Ed Harris has done a magnificent job portraying a menacing, bitter figure with anger and resentment running through him. But this episode, we see the real man underneath; and his performance suddenly takes on a powerful sense of pathos, just as The Man In Black truly finds new purpose.

William has been given a new 'story' to follow by Ford, who seems intent on getting the Man In Black to reconnect with his humanity. Though, as he warns, one "good deed" is not enough.

Saddling up anew: there's hope for William's soul (Photo: HBO/Sky)

William is still a darkly ambiguous figure. But there may be hope for the man yet. Having saved Lawrence's wife and daughter, he literally rides off into the sunset with a band of followers at the episode's end.

And who should come galloping towards him out of the light than his own daughter - who we learn is the very survivor who escaped the tiger, and the Ghost Nation, last week.

This is one reunion that carries greater weight than most in the Westworld saga. A meaningful arc for The Man In Black likely awaits.

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[Main image: HBO/Sky]