Westworld Season 2, Episode 1: “Journey into Night”

Attention, ticket-holders.

Due to an earlier incident involving a homicidal robot uprising, Westworld park will remain closed indefinitely. There are no refunds. The waiver you pretended to read before signing absolves Delos Corporation of any liability for your untimely demise and, also, like other evil mega-corporations before it, grants troubling privacy permissions. Very troubling.

We apologize for any inconvenience.

Now, saddle up. Spoilers ahead.

We’ve got a really big narrative going on in Westworld now, and a lot of narrative trickery that improves on last season’s sleight of hand.

Time’s still all wibbly-wobbly, but Westworld is at least admitting it upfront, not moving towards a reveal most astute viewers could see coming from a mile away. While the different timelines still seem too contrived, it’s also too early to say how these past, recent past, and future developments might inform one another.

So, for now, like Bernard, we’re along for the very violent, not-so-delightful ride.

Dolores has been a busy mecha-messiah after her newly-sentient consciousness remembered that she was also merged with that of killer cult leader Wyatt as part of the late park co-creator, Arnold Weber’s, grand game to unlock the hosts’ consciousness. Yeah, it’s an awful lot to remember and sometimes not as exciting as the simple pleasures of killer robots. Evan Rachel Wood radiates power as Dolores gallops over the plains with a bandolier crossed over her breast, shotgunning down her human oppressors, many of which are also male.

Yes, it is the Wild West and the scenes detailing the mass shooting at Ford’s final dinner party are mercifully brief, but there are a lot of scenes of people—and hosts who are as “alive” as people—being shot execution-style or as they are fleeing or lying dead in pools of blood and it is rather distressing.

As it is supposed to be. Mass shootings are not comfortable to watch at the best of times, but particularly in a moment when the stakes feel all too real.

I’d not go so far as to say that an unchained Dolores is also an unchained feminist id, but the Westworld creators certainly have her chafe against her trite rancher’s daughter trope. Yet, Dolores’ newfound personhood sometimes gets lost in existential speeches that try to appeal more to lovers of puzzles than people.

And can you blame any host for hating people? Humans in Westworld are largely duplicitous, arrogant, ignorant, cruel, and/or “prisoners to their own desires,” as Dolores claims. And there’s a lot of money to be made from exploiting that. With a little help from the Borg drone hosts and Dolores’ “dad,” Abernathy, who has gone missing with his backup of park data. Guess we know how 2018’s investigations into Facebook’s privacy invasions pan out. Spoiler alert: Facebook won. This is certainly an interesting thread to watch unspool throughout the coming episodes, though the immediate effect is pretty bad for Charlotte Hale and host Bernard, who is experiencing some critical malfunctions himself.

But I still like William as the Man in Black, the ultimate prison to his own desires, playing his best game of Red Dead Redemption ever on Hardcore Mode. Dude even finds loot crates around town with outfit changes in them! Come. On. The Man is Black is happy with these upped stakes. Instead of a maze, he searches for a door out of the park. (“The Door” is Westworld’s second season subtitle, in fact.) He’s finally found a game that is meant for him, a man who is convinced he truly  knows himself. I’m going to guess that that is not true—otherwise he’d be pretty boring to watch. What drives him to test his survival skills over and over? Will he be the one to figure out how a tiger strayed between parks and an ocean appeared out of nowhere?

So, humankind is represented by a cutthroat executive, a paid hack—who must come face-to-face with his own hokey horror creation!—and an actual hacker who cannot let go.

Our sympathies are primarily supposed to be with the hosts, but few provoke as much sympathy as Maeve, the brothel owner who also broke her AI shackles and came very close to leaving the park. Thandie Newton’s Maeve is, without a doubt, the best part of Westworld. Abandoning her escape plan last season, Maeve is arguably the most powerful host in the park and is on a quest of her own: to retrieve her daughter. She knows the daughter isn’t “real” and yet, Maeve’s love is a cornerstone aspect of her being. She is the flip side of the coin stamped with Dolores’ hate. Only Maeve doesn’t always need to kill humans—though she sure can!—she’s also able to humiliate them with a withering gaze or a command to strip naked.

Maeve and her daughter. Maeve and her hot sidepiece, Hector. Dolores and Teddy. Bernard and his late son; with all of these scripted relationships becoming genuine, will Westworld be a story of love conquering all?

Considering where we last saw Teddy Flood, floating dead in that mysterious sea, perhaps not.

Final reveries:

  • Line of the night: “Doesn’t look like anything to me.” Stone. Cold. Dolores.
  • I get unreasonably excited by new opening credits. Buffalo! Mother and child! Gorgeous work. And also I love Delos’ dune buggies.
  • Tessa Thompson looked better being birthed by Janelle Monae’s pants. I’m now certain no one can make a yellow silk slip dress look flattering. I’m mostly just glad she isn’t too big of a star to be working on this show. She had quite a 2017!
  • Speaking of Too-Big-for-TV, I’m a bit bummed that kiddie Dr. Ford couldn’t stick around this season, even if he was just going to speak in code.
  • Where is Armistice? Where is Armistice’s arm? Where is the only “bad” human, Felix?!
  • Did you catch new Chief of Operations man, Strand, confirm the park is on an island?
  • R.I.P. Rebus? Maybe not for good? That’s two shows now that have less Steven Ogg! I loved how meta it was to have the voice of a popular video game character in a show about a game. But with the time-jumps, who is to say any actor will be gone for long.
  • Next week: “Reunion.” There’s a press embargo on revealing the actor playing El Lazo. I won’t spoil the surprise, but if you’re like me, you’ll scream your face off. It’s a more enjoyable hour than the premiere. There’s lots of new faces next week, as well as some old familiars.

Westworld airs Sunday nights at 9PM E/PT on HBO.

Theresa DeLucci is a regular contributor to Tor.com covering TV, book reviews and sometimes games. She’s also gotten enthusiastic about television for BoingBoing, Wired.com’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast and Den of Geek. Reach her via pony express or on Twitter.


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