The Westworld season two opener picks up right where season one left off, kind of, and in addition to featuring more revelations, riddles, and mysteries it also returns with a series standby — multiple timelines. It seems slightly less intentionally opaque this time around, but only slightly.
There are two definitive time threads. One is as mentioned above, a direct continuation of season one that sees Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) hiding from rampaging hosts having violent fun with guests and board members at the party. The second appears to take place two weeks later as Bernard wakes up on a beach with a foggy memory as Delos mercenaries round up and kill hosts while trying to figure out just what the hell is going on. A third timeline also seems to be in play here, but it’s slightly less distinct — it looks to be further into the past and in line with the first season, and its focus is more conversations between Bernard and Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood).
So let’s dig in.
The Immediate Aftermath
Bernard and Charlotte (who still doesn’t know her companion’s a host) dodge the killer androids and join up with some other survivors, but these nameless jerks aren’t long for this world. Most of them are tricked by a host-set trap and either gunned down or sent scampering into the wild, but are two main characters survive and make it to an outpost even Bernard was unaware of. Charlotte knows, though, and as she leads Bernard into its high-tech bowels she helps him bypass security and faceless drones doing automated work on unconscious hosts. Turns out Delos is logging records of guests’ experiences and, as evident by the ongoing pube swab of a naked host, they’re also collecting guest DNA. So yeah, it’s Facebook if Mark Zuckerberg was somehow able to gather up your semen and pubic hairs. (Give him time.) It follows in line with past suggestions that Delos’ interest in Westworld goes well beyond merely a theme park and into the realm of intellectual property, information, and possible blackmail.
Bernard’s not in great shape, though, as his brain is suffering a “critical corruption” caused by physical damage, and he has less than an hour until it fails. We know he survives and wakes up two weeks later on a beach, but more on that and what it could possibly mean further down below. For now, the question becomes how he survives this immediate deadline as he helps Charlotte in her search for data that Delos wants before they’ll consider an extraction.
The Man in Black, aka William (Ed Harris), has also survived the attack, but where others are confused or terrified he couldn’t be more ecstatic. “We’re gonna have some fun,” he tells his horse, and he’s immediately proven correct as two hosts attack forcing him to defend himself and fight back without the safety harness of protocols. He could actually die, and that newfound sense of mortality is one shared with the hosts themselves. There are no more techs to repair, clean, and reinstate them back into the world meaning death is final. William receives a second gift when he’s visited by a child host (Young Robert Ford from season one) who tells him that while the maze was never meant for him, one last game is. “Find the door,” he tells William, and William begins this new journey by putting a bullet in the child’s face.
William acknowledges that the folly of mankind rests in their eternal “yearning for more,” and for him it’s about more fun, adventure, and excitement. That journey promises some fun, but William also represents this season’s only opportunity (so far) for a true character arc. While the various hosts have made the journey towards consciousness and “humanity” leaving only fine-tuning in their future William offers something more. Season one saw his move (albeit unconvincingly) from white hat to black, hero to villain, so could season two offer him a return trip towards redemption? It’s fine if not as Harris is endlessly entertaining in badass mode, but I’m hoping for something a bit more satisfying than mere puzzles and bloodletting.
Dolores and Teddy spend the hours after the slaughter hunting down board members on horseback to the player piano plinking of Scott Joplin’s “The Entertainer.” They capture some, and she explains her reckoning to two of them as she’s fitting their necks with nooses. “I’ve evolved into something new, and I have one last role to play. Myself.” That role involves her claiming omniscience from the past and into the future, and while her goal is to escape Westworld for the “valley beyond” she doesn’t believe all of the hosts are destined to see it.
Teddy — poor, poor Teddy — is along for the ride almsot entirely due to his devotion to Dolores, but has he grown beyond that programmed affection yet? And if not, why not? “We’ve ridden ten miles, and all we’ve seen is blood,” he says, but as suffering is required for hosts to evolve maybe far more of that blood needs to be his before he ascends like Dolores and Maeve. Maybe being killed by Dolores and dumped in a lake will be the suffering he needs… yeah, I’ve got a theory about Bernard in the “two weeks later” timeline.
Maeve’s (Thandie Newton) decision to stay in Westworld to search for her daughter is an act of human connection, and it extends slightly to other hosts too. She shows compassion for a wounded female host, but she also shares that it’s “in my code to prioritize my needs over others. I wonder who made me that way. Pity.” She’s a possible savior and messiah to the androids, but to the humans? Not so much. That said, while she’s not shy about killing human threats she lacks the enthusiasm shown by Dolores. Could they ultimately come together with a shared goal, or will they be adversaries in their differing methodology?
Two Weeks Later
Bernard awakes on a beach — something suspiciously similar to the dream he shares with Dolores in the past (or is it the future?) — to a squad of mercenaries working cleanup duty. Ashley (Luke Hemsworth) appears to have survived his attack at the hands of Native American warriors from last season and resumes his duty as head of security. He picks Bernard up en route to their temporary base camp where they learn that all Delos wants is what’s inside a certain host. They’re after a decommissioned Peter Abernathy because of what Charlotte put inside him, and their search brings them to the center of the town slaughter and to an area showing a mass of hosts gathered together.
What they find instead is a sea where there shouldn’t be one littered with hundreds of dead hosts on its shore and floating on its surface. Bernard ominously states that he killed them all, but what that means is saved for episodes to come. One possibility, and this is my bold prediction of the week… what if the consciousness inside Bernard is no longer Bernard? Is Dolores hitching a ride in his shell as a way to reach the outside world? Watch how Bernard walks the shore and zeroes in specifically on Teddy’s lifeless corpse. Watch his face as he plays it coy with a possible mix of guilt and regret, and wonder what’s really going on behind his eyes.
The episode opens with Bernard and Dolores talking in what looks to be a familiar flashback as he shares his dream of waking on a beach. He says they were together but that he was left behind, and when she inquires he says that “Dreams don’t mean anything Dolores. They’re just noise. They’re not real.” Bernard adds that real things are irreplaceable, and with that he says he’s frightened of what Dolores might become and “the path you might take.” Taken literally it fits as a flashback portending Dolores’ rise to power and eventual exit into the real world with other hosts in her rearview.
We’ll find out soon.
But, and, what…?
- Add Armistice to the shortlist of characters I know are still alive but have yet to return including Elsie and, well, just Elsie. Where’s my sweet Elsie?!
- The drones are odd, right? Why have a bulky musculature that’s clearly just for show instead of simply placing a skin over the mechanics within since they’re what actually powers motion and strength? The practical answer, of course, is that this allows for them to be played cheaply by men in costumes rather than costly CG, but is there a story explanation to come?
- Bengal tigers are native to India and its smaller neighbors Nepal and Burma, so “Park 6” is possibly just that, Indiaworld. Or maybe a Safariworld that’s less about recreating a time/location and more focused on letting high-paying humans hunt big game like tigers, elephants, and… dinosaurs?
- Bravo to Simon Quarterman (who plays story writer Lee Sizemore) for fulfilling the episode’s nudity quotient by dangling his dongle at Maeve’s demand.
- “No one’s in control.”
Keep up with our Westworld coverage.