The first season of Westworld was often frustrating in its wheel-spinning and world building, and it never felt quite like it kicked off until the robot revolution began in the season finale. Now that the revolt is happening, the returning series is all-around stronger, and it kicks off with Sunday’s dazzling, action-packed season opener.
Although it spent a great deal of time establishing where (and when) all the important players are and what their journeys will be this season, the episode also brought up some thorny moral questions about who is right in this mess. Is it the enslaved and oppressed robots, even though they’re killing terrified humans indiscriminately? Is it the humans, now so fearful of machines they’ll kill preemptively, even if there’s no sign of aggression? Is it everyone or no one? The show touched on these themes last year, but now that the android hosts can fight back, the questions are far thornier.
We spend much of the episode seeing the world, and the different timelines this season is employing, through Bernard‘s very confused eyes. The episode kicks off in classic Westworld style, with glimpses of times and places and characters. You have no idea what is going on.
But once the show stops flashing between scenes so fast it might as well be a strobe light, we can figure out what’s going on, maybe.
We find Bernard, on a beach, clearly some days or weeks after the massacre at the gala, discovered by Stubbs (he’s alive!) and other security forces. We’re introduced to our first major new character this season, Karl Strand, Delos’ head of operations, who has been sent to the park to clean things up.
He takes Bernard along as one of the techs dissects a host to figure out what caused the revolt, and they find the maze, familiar to viewers, etched on the host’s scalp (implying it is on all of their scalps). They look back at the host’s recorded memories and discover Dolores is leading the revolt.
Bernard then flashes back (or something, you never know with this show) to the night of the gala, as he and Charlotte are hiding with a group of humans as some outrightly evil hosts (like the gang that sometimes helped guests rape Dolores) terrorize and murder humans. Bernard doesn’t look great, there’s ringing in his ears and white liquid leaking out of them.
Eventually, the group escapes, but only Bernard and Charlotte survive a trap set by hosts, and she takes him to a secret outpost populated by “drone hosts” (terrifying hosts with no faces or skin, just the white muscular stuff). She tries to call Delos for help, but they refuse to do anything until they get one particular host, Dolores‘ father, Peter Abernathy, and the information in his brain. She asks Bernard for help finding him.
Meanwhile, Bernard, who repaired himself by injecting brain liquid from a sleeping host, looks at his surroundings and guesses that Delos is data-mining the hosts for information about the guests (Sound like any company you know?), including their activities at Westworld and their DNA. Charlotte won’t confirm, but that might be what all that data in Abernathy’s head relates to and what Delos really wants from the park.
Evan Rachel Wood isn’t portraying Dolores or Wyatt. Now she’s playing the real person Dolores is under all her programming. You can hear it in the fabulous way Wood plays with her vocal register in the episode, raising it for her rancher’s daughter shtick, lowering it as Wyatt, finding a new tone for her own voice.
Dolores has wasted no time in taking leadership of her revolution, with Wyatt’s soldiers (including Angela) and Teddy at her back as she terrorizes and murders any humans (and some hosts) she finds. In one particularly chilling sequence, she hangs a group of humans just low enough so that their toes barelybalance on wooden grave markers, keeping them alive as long as their stamina lasts. She asks them, in an echo of the techs from Season 1, “Do you know where you are? Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality?”
Parts of her monologuing are a bit cheesy (“I have one last role to play: Myself,” really?) and her tactics made me, and Teddy it looks like, incredibly queasy. He is clearly uncomfortable with his love’s reign of terror. Dolores tries to convince him that the humans are the enemy and that the hosts should take the world beyond the park, too. She then tells him that she has to show him the “truth,” whatever that is.
The game is real
If you were hoping the Man in Black (aka William, but we’re going to refer to the elder, Ed Harris-played version as MIB to avoid confusion) didn’t survive the massacre, you should know HBO would never let him go that easily. MIB emerges from the wreckage of Westworld‘s Escalante site and is overjoyed to discover what he always wanted: The stakes are real and the guests can die.
After changing back into his Western clothes and killing some hosts, MIB runs into park creator Robert Ford, deceased in real life, in the form of a young host. The boy creepily tells him, “You’re in my game. In this game, you must find the door. Congratulations, William. This game is meant for you.” Of course, MIB kills the robot kid and moves on.
Did you guys forget about Sizemore? Because I kind of did. The pompous writer finds himself on the wrong end of one of his creations, the clichéd cannibal he thought was going to be Wyatt, in the ravaged park operations center. Maeve, who chose not to leave the park on the train last season and instead returned to find her daughter, saves him from becoming host dinner, and he persuades her that he can help on her mission. Of course, Sizemore betrays her to some guards, but she eventually gets the upper hand back and threatens him.
They find Hector in the pool area. It appears he’s killed dozens of humans and he’s covered in blood. In one of the show’s more macabre shots, Maeve and Hector kiss, two revolutionaries standing over their fallen foes and in front of their prisoner.
‘I killed them’
At its close, the episode returns to Bernard, Stubbs and Strand in the “present,” where they find a dead tiger, from, as Stubbs says, “Park 6,” indicating there are at least six parks, including Westworld and the teased Shogun World. The group also finds a sea that’s not on the park‘s map where dozens of hosts lay dead in the water.
Let the Season 2 games begin.
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