Recap: ‘Westworld’ Season 2 premiere episode

Iñigo De Paula
Was 'Journey Into Night' worth the hype?

JOURNEY INTO THE NIGHT. Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) is taken hostage by Maeve (Thandie Newton) in 'Westworld' season two's first episode. Photo courtesy of HBO

** SPOILERS AHEAD **

MANILA, Philippines – You know what they say about social media: “If you’re not paying for the product; you are the product.” It’s interesting, and a bit unnerving, how social media monitors and quantifies our behavior, like a genome project for human tendencies.

The second season of Westworld takes this premise to its logical extreme. Whereas social media collects our data, Delos, the company that operates Westworld, has been using the theme park to collect guests’ actual DNA. When you have an island full of people copulating and murdering, DNA samples must get everywhere.

This revelation is the biggest bomb so far. We don’t know yet what Delos does with these samples, and it’s a little too soon to lump them in with the Weyland-Yutanis and Skynets of science fiction. For all we know, this could be another layer in Robert Ford’s (Anthony Hopkins) plans to give Hosts life and agency.

A bloody return

The first season of Westworld ended on a bloody note; the Hosts Dolores (Rachel Evan Wood) and Maeve (Thandie Newton), had become self-aware, and were last seen instigating their own upheavals. Dolores led a shootout that saw a large number of guests and Delos executives, including Ford, killed. Maeve overrode her own programming to infiltrate the mainland, and instead returns to the park to search for her lost daughter.  

The second season neatly segues into Dolores’s and Maeve’s individual storylines. The two characters embark on divergent paths that represent two layers of motivation. Dolores’s is more grandiose and political, while Maeve’s is more personal. 

Dolores has finally realized her true nature. She is neither Dolores nor “Wyatt” (the villain whose consciousness was merged with her own in season 1). She is, simply, herself. And as of this episode, that means becoming a Joan of Arc-style revolutionary figure. Spurred by dreams and visions, Dolores goes on a murderous crusade to reclaim the park and the outside world.    

Last season, Dolores would utter the line “It doesn’t look like anything to me” when presented with information that didn’t fit into her pre-programmed narrative. But now, when she repeats the line after leaving a group of guests literally hanging, it becomes a declaration of wokeness.

Will this new Dolores continue to be the show’s emotional center? Or will she become an antihero, or even an outright villain? I can’t wait to find out.

Photo courtesy of HBO

Maeve’s quest appears to be smaller – all she wants is to find her daughter.

In one of the control rooms, she encounters the vile scriptwriter Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) who was being hounded by a cannibal Host. Maeve reminds us of her ability to control Hosts by telling the cannibal to stand down. Sizemore, who is familiar with the park’s layout, convinces Maeve to spare his life. In return, he would take Maeve to the sector of the park where her daughter is.   

Maeve forces him to strip before changing into costume. The scene recalls many previous ones where Hosts are stripped and laid bare during routine maintenance. But this time, Sizemore is aware of his nakedness, and as a result, his vulnerability. Maeve regards him with the slightest bit of contempt. I went through hell across multiple lifetimes, she seems to think, because of this fragile, naked bag of sleaze?

Photo courtesy of HBO

Everything is code

On the surface, it looks like both Dolores and Maeve are acting out of their newly-acquired free will. But in Westworld, self-determination is just another layer of programming. Or as the robotic boy Robert later tells William, the Man in Black: “everything is code.”

The visions that drive Dolores were implanted by park co-founder Arnold, and were later activated by Ford (via the “These violent delights have violent ends” voice command). And Maeve seems to be acting on maternal instinct, but being a mother was just another storyline created by Sizemore and his narrative team. And let’s not forget Maeve’s ability to control other Hosts, which we learned last season was given by Ford.   

The heart of Westworld isn’t the conflict between Hosts and humans; it is the Hosts’ search for the authentic. How can you be true to yourself when each epiphany reveals yet another layer of programming? Perhaps the only true thing in Westworld is the struggle; like William, with his obsession over “a deeper level to this game.”

Keeping time

This wouldn’t be Westworld if it didn’t present multiple timelines at once. This time, they involve Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) the park’s head of programming, who also happens to be a Host. Chronologically, we get back to Bernard during last season’s shootout. He escapes with Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) and a few guests. The guests are killed by members of the Ghost Nation, but Bernard and Charlotte manage to escape to one of the park’s control rooms.

Photo courtesy of HBO

This is where we discover that the park has been collecting guests’ DNA. We also learn that Delos is demanding the delivery of the “package”, or the apparent source of the Hosts’ glitching (presumably Peter, Dolores’ father).

Fast-forward two weeks, and we find Bernard washed ashore. He joins the Delos security team, who are executing Hosts both hostile and otherwise. During their survey of the park, they discover a large lake which was terraformed by Ford without the Delos board’s knowledge. They approach the the lake and find a large number of seemingly dead Hosts floating in it. And this is where the show drops another bomb: Bernard, looking at the literal sea of dead Hosts, mutters “I killed them. All of them.”

What happened during that period between the control room and Bernard getting washed ashore? Did Bernard kill the hosts himself, or was it Dolores and her posse? Nobody knows yet. But again, like William, we can’t wait to get to the center of this maze. – Rappler.com