Here goes! I’m going to attempt to bring some clarity to the ending of Westworld season 2 episode 4 ‘The Riddle of the Sphinx’!
Spoilers ahead for Season 2 Episodes 1-4!
The most important line in this episode is said by Lawrence’s daughter as she tells William,
“…then you still don’t understand the real game we’re playing here. If you’re looking forward, you’re looking in the wrong direction”.
When Ford is giving these cryptic messages to William, he does so mainly with child hosts because he knows what narratives would impact William and create some emotional change within him, pushing William towards the end of the game he laid out for him. I believe that this episode, in a sentence, is about William looking in the past to try and regain his humanity. Although William denies it to Lawrence’s daughter, he does look into the past to begin a slow redemption- Ford’s game seems to be working, in regards to William at least!
At the beginning of this episode, we see the man in black ride past hosts being used as planks of wood to extend part of the railroad. His biggest concern was that the tracks were supposed to be running north, not west and that Ford’s game must have several more contenders. He just did not care about any of these hosts!
In ‘The Riddle of the Sphinx’ we see a flashback where William was so caring when visiting James Delos, more so than during the earlier years. Both of them mourned the death of James’ wife and William expressed his joy when talking about his wife and daughter, tearing up when he does so. However, when we see the flashbacks of William talking to Delos on the 194th attempt, William is a different person and seems to have given up. Over the years, William had to repeatedly talk to James about the state of his family, explaining the changes of everyone close to him. Over the years, the family update would get slowly worse – upon the discovery of his daughter’s death, Delos suspects that William was the reason for her suicide and William’s face shows some guilt.
In season 1 episode 8, William opens up about his tragedy, how his wife’s death was not accidental it was a suicide and that it was because of him. In that episode, Teddy questions William asking if he hurt his family. William replies “Never. They never saw anything like the man I am here.” However, he admits that she knew the kind of man he was, even though she never saw it herself. She just knew that there was an entirely different person hiding behind all the good deeds William had done. So William came back to Westworld to reveal his true self and prove that he wasn’t the person his wife thought he was. This caused him to kill Maeve and her daughter, just to see if he could feel anything, but ended up feeling nothing. Also, in season 1 episode 2, he is trying to extract information out of Lawrence to find the entrance to the maze – he uses Lawrence’s family against him. He kills Lawrence’s wife and daughter right in front of him.
William had come to the conclusion that some men don’t deserve to live, referring to himself and Delos. William was so lost, but now Ford is pointing him in the right direction in this episode.
Laurence and William’s conversation in front of the bar in this episode looks as if it was mirroring the scene where William takes Laurence to see his family in season 1 episode 2. The same scene where he ends up murdering his wife, except things are very different this time. William mentions that Laurence doesn’t seem too thrilled to be home, Lawrence goes on to explain that he has never been the domestic type and that by some fluke of nature he ended up with a wife and a daughter. Then he claims that the best thing for him to do is to keep his distance from them, at this moment we see what the man in black sees in Lawrence.
William could relate to him due to the fact that they were both poisonous for their families and that they should both keep away. In season 1 episode 2, William was killing all of Lawrence’s cousins as they got in the way of him getting the information about the maze. He ends up getting this information by terrifying and killing Lawrence’s family. Now in ‘The Riddle of the Sphinx’, William kills all of the surrounding soldiers of the Confederate to save Lawrence and his wife, earning the respect of Lawrence’s cousins as they follow him to go on his journey.
He saves Lawrence’s family because he can now better empathise with the hosts. This path laid out for him is making William realise who he really is. Straying away from being ‘the man in black’ and showing himself that he is not entirely the monster he once was. He is now starting to redeem himself at the end of the episode.
In the closing minutes, William and the gang encounter his real-life daughter. We find out during this episode that his daughter doesn’t like people and would rather live in these fake worlds. Perhaps she’s not wanting to face reality. It will be really interesting to see how these two characters interact with each other for the rest of the season!
The main point though is that she comes back into Williams life at a perfect time. William has finally got what he wished for, which was a world with consequence. He is now in a truer version of the world and he can end up saving his relationship with his daughter. Let me know what you think in the comments below!