Westworld S02E01 Journey into Night Review – the robots get the big picture
Westworld S02E01 Journey into Night Review
For the last several days the fever around Westworld has been remarkable. It would call it an understatement that HBO is just pushing it to potentially replace Game of Thrones when that show ends. As much as I love these kinds of shows I remain totally uninterested in the promos, story analyses and cast interviews. I just want to watch the show. Now after almost a year and a half the second season of the remarkable Westworld has arrived. Based on the novel by Michael Crichton the show is set in a theme park where the robots, called hosts, have turned on their guests. Westworld brings an interesting mix of mystery, gore and nudity.
Yet, season 2 does do things different from the first. Westworld is not meant as an episodic sci-fi show. Instead characters and stories change drastically. That is what I intend to cover in this review. After all, everybody needs a new narrative. That pretty much sums up the themes of the season premiere. While there is room for mystery – the new storyline focus mostly on survival. The hosts need to survive the coming purge form Delos while the guests and workers need to survive the onslaught brought by Maeve and Delores.
The second season begins with an interview between Bernard and Dolores. He recalls a dream in which he is alone adrift in an ocean – abandoned by the hosts that are on the shore. Dolores shows remarkable insight when he answers her question of ‘what is real?’ Bernard tells her he is afraid of her – of what one day she may become.
Next Bernard awakens on a beach – it has been two weeks since the massacre that ended the first season. Delos has sent Karl Strand to restore order in the park. he has arrived by ship and a large security team. Along with Ashley Stubbs Bernard has to answer questions as to what happened. Bernard recalls the events since the massacre.
Bernard and Charlotte
The flashback reveals what happened immediately after the massacre. Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) survive with other guests by hiding in a barn. Outside the hosts continue to casually massacre remaining guests. In the morning Bernard, Charlotte and a group of guests (redshirts) attempt to make their way to a safe bunker several miles away. During the trip several of the obnoxious guest reveal the legal repercussions they intend to inflict should they survive. Which they don’t as they are fooled by an ambush (the old dead body propped up to look alive trick). Bernard and Charlotte are the only two to survive as Bernard suffered a seizure and couldn’t follow the guests.
After composing himself they make their way to the bunker. Charlotte shows a great deal of knowledge of the park. The secret bunker was intended to read the experiences and DNA of the guests – for purposes not yet clear. Now Charlotte uses it to communicate to the outside world. However, she receives a curt message instructing her to proceed with the original extraction of host specifications. This was a subplot of the first season. Charlotte tells Bernard they need to retrieve information from the Abernathy host. Bernard suggests using the hosts in the bunker as carriers. He reprograms one to spread their search query as soon as it is in proximity of another host.
As Charlotte is changing out of her cocktail dress she has worn since the massacre Bernard suffers another seizure. A scan reveals that his host body is breaking down. Not wanting to reveal he is a host he attempts self-surgery as Charlotte is in the next room. He succeeds, but Charlotte appears aware something is wrong. Whether or not Charlotte will find out if Bernard is a host or if she already knows will probably be a major story arc of this season.
In the present – Bernard, Strand and Ashley arrive at the site of the massacre with their Delos security team. The bodies of the guests and Robert Ford have been decomposing in the sun. Strand acts frustrated and demands to know where all the hosts are. Eventually they retrieve information on the largest gathering. Somehow in the middle of the park a large lake has appeared, a sea if you will, with the hosts floating lifeless in one corner. When Strand asks what happened Bernard replies he killed them. This appears to be partly an allusion to his opening interview with Dolores. The final shot is that of the Teddy host submerged in the lake.
Season 2 catches up with Dolores as she chases down guests on horseback. Along with Teddy and Angela she casually shoots any of the guests that survived the massacre of the night before. She tells a small number of prisoners she feels conflicted by their survival. Where as Dolores the rancher’s daughter would prefer to spare them – Wyatt would prefer to slaughter them. My praise goes to Evan Rachel Wood for portraying such a villain with multi-personalities. Dolores leaves the issue of the prisoners in limbo as she orders nooses placed around their necks. She leaves after they are placed precariously on wooden grave markers (homage to The Good, The Bad and the Ugly).
In a later conversation with Teddy Dolores explains to him about them – “creatures that look and talk like us but who are not us“. Dolores understands there is a world outside the park – a world that could threaten the park. Dolores tells Teddy they need to take that one as well. So, for season 2 Dolores I set to take on the whole wide world.
We catch up with Maeve (Thandie Newton) as she wonders the hallways of the Delos compound. In her business dress and high heels sporting a p90 she encounters Lee Sizemore – about to be eaten by a cannibal he probably created. Maeve spares his life, but only because for as long as he us useful in navigating the park. Maeve’s first concern is to find her daughter. A daughter Lee reminds her is not real. She counters him by asking if she is real, if anything is real. Maeve makes it clear what would happen to him should he disappoint her.
Knowing Maeve’s ability to reconfigure herself from season 1 – I wonder what she will do to the park in the future – and if that sets her on a collision course with Delores. Meanwhile, I was happy Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) has a more substantial role – and that he is on a narrative to stop being a bitchy middle-management type. Whether that will save him from being killed by Maeve or Hector is in doubt. However, after being threatened by Maeve and even forced to strip nude in front of her it is clear his narrative is subservient to hers.
William / The Man in Black
The end of season 1 confirmed that the young William, played by Jimmi Simpson, is indeed The Man in Black (Ed Harris). Old William survived Dolores’s massacre, but has to fight his way out of the immediate vicinity. The prospect of death appears to please him. William encounters the young 10 year old Ford host at a minor massacre. During the conversation Ford reveals a new game for William, meant just for him. William’s purpose is to survive the park – find a way out. The prospect pleases William and he promptly shoots the young Ford host through the head.
It is remarkable how satisfied I feel with the season 2 premiere of Westworld. Literally everybody got a new story arc, or narrative. Yet, for each the arc was considerably furthered as most characters got at least two scenes. The creators behind Westworld, Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, appear to understand what is expected of this season. Unlike a series such as Lost they do not intend to focus on yet more mysteries. Mysteries take to long to set up and unravel. Instead the start of season 2 is focuses on dealing with the fallout of the season 1. With the high number of dead (rich) guests, the appearance of Delos security forces and references to the larger world this season’s scope has increased considerably.
The story is not just about robots taking over a theme park. It is about robots exacting revenge and humiliation. I could not help but feel satisfaction when Maeve ordered Lee to strip. That along with Dolores’s turn to the dark side means the women is where the show is at. I hope you enjoyed my recap / review of the season 2 premiere of Westworld. I hope you will be back more often to SciFiEmpire.net.
For a snippet of what the next episode will bring start the teaser below.