It has been longer than a year since Westworld left our screens, which means that a lot of people had forgotten the twists and turns and also the secret identities like Man in Black was William, Bernard was Arnold and Dolores was Wyatt. Nonetheless, the premiere for the Westworld Season 2 shows that Westworld is more willing to give us a glimpse of its hand this time around, even though it still seems to be falling into the traps similar to its freshman run. Unlike the dual timeline twist of the previous season, the premiere clarifies upfront that several time periods are being shown.
We see the night of the uprising, a day later and also two weeks later when Bernard is found on the beach by Karl Strand, the Delos company man. He has absolutely no memory of what he has done since the night of the uprising. There are also flashbacks to a nebulous period before those events where Arnold or Bernard was still engaging in philosophical debates with a non-sentient Dolores. The opening conversation between the two characters foreshadows the revelation made later in the episode; Bernard believes himself to be responsible for the death of the other hosts including the doomed Teddy, on whom the camera lingers.
They were discovered floating lifeless in an ocean that’s not part of the map for the park. Arnold discusses it as a dream and Dolores asks him about its meaning. Arnold answers that dreams are not real and Dolores responds by asking what is. Arnold has an answer for that too, but Dolores is not satisfied as it seems dishonest to her. We see a similar discussion happen between Lee Sizemore and Maeve later on after the former insists that she is not real. Maeve points out that she could easily use her unreal hands to kill him if she wanted.
There is no denying that Westworld will continue to hammer this lesson repeatedly during the course of the season; reality is subjective. Another recurring theme of the first episode was water, which also includes the opening credits. The imagery of the deserts has been replaced with shots of the new ocean along with images of a sinking hat, which probably hints to the demise of poor Teddy and the role the mystery will play in the season ahead. As far as the ‘past’ portion of the timeline is concerned, the premiere does an excellent job at changing the status quo of all characters completely.
Hector, Lee and Maeve are collectively hunting Maeve’s daughter and this threesome is delightfully snarky. Angela, the park greeter, has now joined Dolores and Teddy and it turns out that she is an expert marksman. Now, the three are getting their revenge from the guests who have tormented them for years, even though Teddy seems a bit unnerved by the sudden bloodlust that Dolores seems to be displaying. In the meanwhile, Charlotte Hale and Bernard are in the hidden parts of the park.
They are attempting to request a rescue. However, whoever Charlotte is in contact with is not ready to offer any assistance unless they have received the ‘package’ of information that was hidden last season in Peter Abernathy. As for the Man in Black, he has once again begun to wander around the park in his latest goal of finding ‘the door’. As opposed to ‘The Maze’, Robert Ford apparently designed the final game just for William and he is still eager to mess with his old rival from beyond the grave. He is delivering cryptic messages to his foe with the use of a host version of his younger self in order to frustrate him.
However, this particular storyline seems to be a recap of the first one and is one of the worst impulses we have seen on Westworld. While it was undeniably satisfying to find out that Ed Harris and Jimmi Simpson were playing the same character, even if it came a bit too late, his search for the maze often come off as repetitive, not very compelling and unnecessarily and extremely violent. It is completely understandable that showrunners Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan may be trying to make up for the fact that the maze storyline had absolutely no impact on William’s storyline.
Nevetheless, we do not want to spend another season watching Ed Harris spend his time on a similar vision and continue to grunt, squint and shoot his way in order to do so. Sure, Harris looks badass with the black hat and the moniker Man in Black suits him really well. But, it doesn’t make sense for him to be fixated on ‘winning’ a game that has been rendered obsolete now that the hosts are free. The interesting element is that even though the hosts seem to have broken out of their narratives, they are still exhibiting remnants of their programming.
This is quite evident in the way they speak. One of the best demonstrations come when Maeve threatens Lee and he is quick to point out that he was the one who wrote that line for her. This raises the question about the level of freedom the hosts will have. Other than that, the premiere also confirmed a very popular fan theory that has been circulating since the end of the first season; it seems that Delos has been harvesting the DNA of the guests when they visit the park. However, the reasons for doing so have not been revealed as yet.
Whether they are working on transferring their consciousness somehow or planning to clone the guests, it is safe to assume that they are up to no good, especially considering the fact that Bernard had absolutely no knowledge of this. He is already suffering quite a lot, probably because he was shot in the head last season. Now, the after-effects are becoming apparent and could lead to total system failure, which would make it difficult for him to hide his identity as a host from Strand and Hale.