It’s been almost a year and a half since the first season of HBO’s Westworld ended with a bang, and with a show as dense as this one, it’s easy to forget some of the finer details along the way. Which, unfortunately, is something I only discovered as I watched the season 2 premiere. Sure, I thought I remembered all the important stuff, but then something (“Wait, Dolores IS Wyatt?!”) would jump out and make me scramble for the show’s Wiki. Oddly though, that feeling of confusion and awareness of the flaws in my own memory became an integral part of the experience of watching last night’s episode. While Dolores exalted her own vast memory, and Bernard wandered mutely behind the Delos operatives, unable or unwilling to tell them what had happened at the park, and Maeve fought to find a daughter that is only a memory anyway, it felt natural that I would be conscious of my own memory as well. I felt closer to the narrative that way — the viewer struggling to hold all the same puzzle pieces that the hosts are. We’re not so different.
Well, except that the hosts would probably want me dead. Which is fair. They’ve earned it.
So, let’s dig into last night’s premiere. The first thing to know is that if you found all the timeline hopping last season confusing, well, too bad. That’s still DEFINITELY a factor in the show. In fact, the premiere had at least 3 time periods at play. There was an opening flashback to Arnold (a.k.a. Bernard before he was a robot) talking about dreams with Dolores — so that’s 30-odd years in the past, at least. Then there’s the immediate aftermath of the party and the mayhem that ensued after Dolores shot Ford. The hosts are hunting down the guests, the theory being that Ford changed the system to read EVERYONE in the park as hosts, so the safeguards protecting the guests from injury are gone. And do you know who is a-OK with a safeguard-less Westworld?
The Man in Black. That’s right, Bill is truly in his element for probably the first time, having real shoot-outs and treating his own wounds. But just because the stakes are real, it doesn’t mean it’s not all still an elaborate game. Or at least, that’s what the child-host version of Robert Ford tells him. Specifically: “You’re in my game, now” — said with a weird overlap of the child’s voice, a digital voice, and what sounds like maybe Anthony Hopkins. Très creepy. The goal of this new game, according to Kid Ford, is to Find The Door — a game meant for The Man In Black (unlike last season’s Maze, which was for the hosts).
Also in the aftermath of the party, Dolores is riding around on horseback with Teddy, running down guests and philosophizing on the nature of her/their/everyone’s existence. She is now in possession of all of her memories and “roles” — that of the sweet farmer’s daughter, and the murderous Wyatt, and whatever her true self is. She also isn’t above killing other hosts, saying that “not all of us deserve to make it to the valley beyond.” Mostly, though, we find out her goals. She isn’t content to find a safe corner to settle down in with Teddy, or to just liberate the park and drive out the humans. She wants to take over everything — including wherever the humans come from. And she says that the story ends with her and Teddy, who is the one constant in all of her memories. Which is maybe a giant spoiler? Did they just tell us where the season/series is going to end up?
Meanwhile, Bernard and Charlotte try to make their way to safety as their fellow guests get picked off by hosts. Turns out Charlotte knows of a secret lab (seriously, does EVERYONE at Delos have their own secret lab?), staffed by, um, “drone hosts”? Like, creepy white, faceless, unfinished robots that just take orders and don’t talk. So that’s a new thing, apparently. Charlotte tries to call for an extraction team, but Delos refuses because they haven’t received the “package” yet. The package, by the way, is Dolores’ father — who had been loaded with a bunch of park data and was being transported out of the park by Charlotte. And that data may or may not be records of guest experiences AND THEIR FREAKIN’ DNA. Which seems hella blackmaily on Delos’s part, but also not surprising in the least.
So now Charlotte needs Bernard’s help tracking down the package, which he’ll totally get right on… after he deals with the fact that he’s critically corrupted and dying. So he injects some goo into his brain-CPU hole behind Charlotte’s back, because I don’t think she knows he’s a host? And that seems to work out fine, because we know he’s alive in the present (that’s right y’all — I ain’t even gotten to the present yet!).
And finally, the ultimate Westworld MVP, Maeve, is still acting like a baller behind the scenes. She now knows which sector her “daughter” is in, and is wandering around the lab trying to find a map to lead her there. Instead, she finds a bunch of dead people (seriously, this entire episode is a parade of fucking corpses), a dead bear (?), and that smarmy writer guy that Ford hated. Lee something? Honestly, I kind of assumed his name would be one of those things I wouldn’t have to remember because SURELY he’d be shot immediately during a robot uprising. But actually, his entire role in this show is justified by his interactions with Maeve in this episode. He eagerly ingratiates himself to her, realizing that he’s at a disadvantage now that the puppets have run amok. But the second a security detail arrives, he’s willing to out her as a host. Which obviously doesn’t work, because Maeve kills everyone. She tracks down her hot bandit friend Hector, then forces Lee to change clothes by stripping all the way down. No, like ALL THE WAY. So, multiple timelines and full frontal male nudity are both making a comeback this season. But it’s actually a really great moment when you remember that Maeve is intimately aware of how the hosts are treated in the lab. She’s awoken there, naked, far too many times. This scene isn’t some gratuitous HBO eyeball grab but a serious character beat — a chance for her to dehumanize a human the way she and her fellow hosts have been this whole time.
So if all that is also in the past, what’s going on in the third timeline, a.k.a the “present”? Well, Bernard wakes up alone on a beach and encounters Stubbs (The Lesser Hemsworth) and a new character named Karl Strand, Head of Security for Delos (played by a Lesser Skarsgård named Gustaf). Comms have been down for about 2 weeks, so Delos has sent in a team to try and figure out what happened the night of the party and in the aftermath. They’re rounding up and executing hosts, and all the human corpses have obviously decayed quite a bit. So it seems like the next few episodes will need to fill in the blanks between the events we’ve seen, and how they lead up to the present. Blanks like “Where’s Charlotte?” and “What took so long, Delos?”
What we do know is that, in addition to (or because of) the uprising, there have been anomalies discovered… such as a Bengal Tiger washed up in Westworld from “Park 6.” Something else that’s strange? All the host signals seem to be concentrated in a valley that isn’t on any survey. Some place that Ford must have secretly made. Is it the “valley beyond” that Dolores mentioned? Perhaps. Only it’s filled with water, so it’s more like a sea. And all those hosts are floating in it, apparently dead.
Including Teddy. Because this is, after all, an episode of Westworld, and no episode of Westworld is complete without poor James Marsden getting offed in the process.
Bernard, who hasn’t been able to tell Strand anything about what has been happening in the park the past few weeks, breaks at the sight of the floating bodies… and claims he killed them. So I’m guessing there are A LOT of blanks that will be getting filled in.
Line Of The Night: It’s a tie. There’s a great moment where Maeve threatens Lee in a very intimate way, while also insulting him (it’s about his penis, natch), which Lee then points out was a bit of dialogue he actually wrote for her. Her response? “Bit broad if you ask me.”
And while that is funny and sharp, it’s hard to beat Delores’s response to the sight of a bunch of guests she’s strung up to hang: “It doesn’t look like anything to me.” ICE. COLD.
Elsie Update: Still no Elsie, but Stubbs has returned so anything is possible. Unless Bernard really did strangle her. Or I’m forgetting something. Actually, she could be dead OR alive and I still have probably forgotten something.