This must surely be a very ambitious season of Westworld, because I feel as though we are still moving a lot of pieces around a big, temporal chessboard in our journey to get to a promised land that may never come.
Dolores is mean! Bernard is torn! Charlotte is ruthless and well-dressed! Teddy is not very bright!
But two women are really compelling this hour. Obviously, one is Maeve. If this ever proves untrue, I might have to quit Westworld in a rage.
The other… well, she says more about the bigger picture outside of Westworld, the park, than Dolores’ platitudes do.
Spoilers ahead, adrenaline junkies.
What do we call this new park we glimpse in the opener?
I’m going with Temple of Doom world, because it’s full of what seem to be treasure-hunting quests, big game, and some really uncomfortable examples of Orientalism at its worst. Every era we’ve seen in the parks is a romanticized, dime-store version of some very ugly real history. This new world of British colonialism just seems more overt. Hosts are (or were) slaves to their programming and their human overlords, no matter if it’s Hector robbing brothels or Clementine working in said brothel. So I don’t know why the hosts in Temple of Doom world bugged me more, though I guess because while cowboys vs. Indians reductivism of the American West is some bullshit, we see that there are other things to do in Westworld.
In Temple of Doom world, “Indian” hosts serve gin and tonics and carry luggage and cook meals for predominately white visitors and it just seems like a weird place to want to visit: “Oh, honey, let’s spend $40,000 a day to be waited on by a people economically subjugated to an imperialistic, racist empire. How romantic!” Now, we’ve only seen a few minutes of this world. And I’m saying all of this as someone who loves Indiana Jones and the Uncharted video game series. But it makes me wonder what the park visitors as a whole are lacking in their future normal lives, to fantasize about such historical settings. Education? Imagination? Animals? Pretty landscapes?
But before I get too deep into my thinking, the show serves up some very attractive people who, of course, start taking their clothes off. It’s not TV, it’s HBO. I’m bummed Fassbender-lite dude got killed by a host.
Thankfully, I really liked the brunette we met. It’s fascinating to see a guest asking for consent, i.e. to make sure someone is human and can consent. I feel that the fact that this guest be a woman is not coincidental. And seeing the subtle ways the park tries to keep guests from interacting with each other—I’ve always wanted to know what the human/host ratio is. Knowing about the data collection and swabbed genitals (ew) we saw previously as the work of the drone hosts, it makes even more nefarious sense.
So what the heck is she doing in Temple of Doom world? Game hunting at the wild edge of the park, it seems, only the host rebellion is in full swing here, too. And now we know how the tiger crossed into Westworld. I liked this brunette so much, I’m going to call her Marion Ravenwood—because she reminds me of the cool parts of the Indiana Jones films.
I wish I could say other things in Westworld interested me as much as this lady and the park-crossing, but there was a bit too much plot-related wheel-spinning for me, this week. Bernard was so great last season, but now I keep wishing he could heal his cortical failure and become less… conflicted, and torn between two equally boring factions, really.
Team Delos will heat up eventually, I’m sure, but as rote baddies, they have little to do. The new Chief of Operations (Gustaf Skårgard) and his tactical team, played by Betty Gabriel (who you might recognize as Georgina from Get Out) and Lesser Hemsworth—who I do actually enjoy—keep losing fights against the hosts. Charlotte only cares about getting
grizzled Johnny Mnemonic Abernathy’s data out of the park, but since we don’t have more info on what Delos has and who outside wants it for what reason, the data is currently a MacGuffin that isn’t being used to illuminate the characters’ growth or change. For a show that strives to be so intellectual and philosophical, it’s disappointingly literal right now.
Dolores is a big frustration in this regard. I just want a bit more forward momentum getting to “the valley beyond.” I’m liking this Reddit theory that posits that the weapon Dolores is looking for is (highlight for potential spoilers) a dam that will flood the valley and kill all of the unchained hosts. In the meantime, her Wyatt persona is getting more screentime than the liberated Dolores. I wonder if we’re going to get more flashbacks of her in the outside world, because it’s hard to believe Dolores is so much more worldly than Bernard, whose cornerstone memories took place outside of the park, even if he himself has never physically left.
I hope the writers have some tricks up their sleeve for Teddy, who is so obviously on Dolores’ naughty list. Being Dolores/Wyatt’s last lingering vestige of a false home life does not seem to be a secure long-term position in this operation. Getting rid of Teddy could be all that stands between her and her goal of leading the hosts out of the park.
But would you miss him if he ends up gone?
I sure did miss Felix and Armistice, though! What a great angry fellowship they all make, with Maeve, Hector, Lee—and his romantic woes—and Sylvester. Shoguns in the Klondike, eh? That’s definitely wrong. We’ve all earned a change of scenery.
- “She has a dragon.” —Hector or Tyrion Lannister? Loved that little Game of Thrones wink.
- A recent interview with actor Jeffrey Wright (Bernard) said some seeds of the second season were planted in Westworld‘s very first episode. After watching Dolores and Abernathy, I wonder if this callback was the echo of the word “splendor,” which Dolores used repeatedly in the outside world last episode. Either way, it was nice.
- So, was the tiger rebelling against its programming and that was why it was so bloodthirsty and able to leave its park bounds? If so, does that mean all the animals can rebel and the Man in Black will really be going full Red Dead and thus subject to really inconvenient fatal cougar mauling?
- Clementine! That was a disturbing reappearance. Like Ophelia, but worse as she has no mind to lose anymore.
- I want more of Sheriff Rebus. We can use a little levity on this show and his big scene was great. Now I feel extra bad that he’s going to be executed by the tactical team.
- Being that opportunities for Native Americans were extremely limited in the old West, I wonder how often Ghost Nation characters were cycled out into new roles. I’ve very curious to see what they have to say in all of this. I really hope they’re not just going to be used in some lazy mystical spirit guide way.
- Next week: We’re not in Shogun World yet, but we do check in with The Man in Black in a big way.
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 Boing Boing, Wired.com’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast and Den of Geek. Reach her via pony express or on Twitter.