Thank God (or should that be Robert Ford?) for recaps. If it weren’t for quick catch-ups, this first episode of Westworld’s second season would be as much of a maze as the figurative one that Ed Harris spent all of the first season searching for. We’re not five minutes in and already there are questions. Where did Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) reappear from? What happened to Bernard and Charlotte in between the two timelines? Does Charlotte know Bernard is a host? Is this host rebellion real or are the hosts just enacting Ford’s last narrative? It’s enough to make your head hurt.
I somewhat foolishly thought that once Westworld had all its world-building in order, we’d move past the riddles and get to the full-on human vs host ass kicking. Turns out this show can’t let go of the mysteries, which could get a little tiresome. Season one asked a lot of patience from its audience as it kept every single card close to its chest right until the last moment. I’m not sure I’m on board with another season of withholding. At least the show has developed a knowing sense of humour, which serves to balance out the bloodshed – of which there is plenty.
Westworld is up front about its dual timelines this time around, it’s just a little tricky telling which one individual plotlines belong in. We get the immediate aftermath of the uprising at the gala dinner, terrified guests being hunted down and executed by vengeful hosts, led by a surprisingly bloodthirsty Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood). In this one, Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) are trying to find a way out of the park, while Bernard tries to conceal the fact that he’s really a host. We also get a second timeline, a little further in the future, where Delos heavies are attempting to quell the rebellion by rounding up and executing hosts. They find an unconscious Bernard on the beach and enlist his help, even though he’s on the list of high value targets. There’s also no Charlotte to be seen, which raises more questions.
Meanwhile Maeve (Thandie Newton) has returned to the Delos facility and is attempting to locate her daughter. She reluctantly teams up with the weaselly Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman), taking the time to repeatedly humiliate him along the way. Thandie Newton remains the series’ MVP, delivering put-downs with an icy deadpan. Our last check-in is with William/The Man In Black (Ed Harris), who fends off some hosts and has an enigmatic exchange with the young host version of Ford.
All of this adds up to an entertaining first episode that zips along and has the feel of a more confident version of Westworld. It’s still a show that’s easier to admire than to love, but the premiere strikes a better balance between mystery and revelation than at any point previous. That’s summed up in a curiously grim final scene that will definitely have us rushing back next week. Just don’t bet on getting any answers just yet.
Questions, questions, questions
Just what did happen to William to turn him from hopelessly devoted to unfeeling and brutal? Jimmi Simpson was a highlight of the first season so let’s hope we get a bit more backstory as this season unfolds.
The Delos heavy who finds Bernard clearly recognises him as a high-level threat from her deck of cards (nice touch that). If she knows he’s a target, then surely the rest of the Delos team do too. What’s their game?