As ‘Westworld’ season two begins, and the first notes of Ramin Djawadi’s score are played, we see the credit sequence. Still familiar, but some things have changed. Instead of seeing two hosts having sex, there is a mother holding her baby; instead of machines creating a horse, a bison is smashing through glass; instead of an eye being created, it is being destroyed. This is no longer a show about pleasure and fantasy–it’s about death and rebirth. The senseless slaughter of hosts at the hands of humanity seemed without consequence. But now, it’s time to pay in blood.
Season two begins with the conscious-robot-filled theme park, Westworld, in shambles. The park’s robots, known as hosts, have rebelled against humans and begun their revolution, led by the rancher’s daughter, Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood). Dolores is no longer the doe-eyed, naïve damsel-in-distress. She has taken control of her own consciousness, as she leads a group of trigger-happy robots on a path of destruction.
This season’s storylines are split among Dolores, Maeve (Thandie Newton), Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), and the Man in Black (Ed Harris). Each wanders through body-filled landscapes searching for some kind of freedom. Whether it’s Maeve’s journey to find her daughter, or Dolores and the Men in Black’s search for the mysterious place called Glory. Regardless, this search for freedom is a step towards each of these characters being reborn. As Dolores says in the first episode, “Under all these lives that I’ve lived, something else has taken root. I’ve evolved into something else, and I have one last role to play: Myself.”
While season one seemed to focus on the torture and objectification of the female hosts, season two is about their revenge. Dolores and Maeve won’t stand to suffer at the hands of men, so they’re hanging up their carefully designed petticoats, going to war, and ripping off those hands and wearing them. Newton continues to be my favorite part of the show, playing the steely and ruthless Maeve with just enough feeling to encourage empathy. Instead of cringing at Maeve threatening to feed a man his own penis, I threw my hands up and cheered. You find yourself supporting the hosts, egging them on towards their revenge.
The biggest flaw of ‘Westworld’ continues to be its multiple timelines. While they seem to have pared down the confusing dialogue, writers Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy are still trying to pack a lot of story into episodes that run for over an hour. With so many details to remember, on top of making sure you know which timeline you’re in, it gets difficult to orient yourself within each episode.
This season further shows how ‘Westworld’ fits squarely into the genre of cyberpunk. It draws so much from films like ‘Blade Runner’ and ‘The Matrix’, which doesn’t make the show any less fun or enjoyable. In fact, that’s what makes this show fun for me. ‘Westworld’ shouldn’t be viewed as a piece of groundbreaking media, but instead, as an impressive continuation of a genre built around A.I. sentience and rebellion.
The first two episodes leave us with major discoveries. Bernard discovers in episode one that the company has been logging guest experiences and DNA. This is explained further in episode two, as a young Man in Black (Jimmi Simpson) convinces his father-in-law to invest in the park with the possibility of surveilling guests who commit unimaginable acts without any consequence. In an all-too-real twist, it seems that the powers that be have been using Westworld to create a surveillance state.
As episode two ends, Dolores reveals that the mysterious Glory is not a place, but a weapon. What’s that weapon? Could it be connected to the logged guest data? We can’t be sure yet. For now, we can only keep forging a path towards Glory.
Check back next week for our review of episode three!