Westworld Season 2 Premiere Recap: One Last Role To Play

Photo: Courtesy of John P. Johnson/HBO.
Hello friends! Are you ready to bring yourself back online? Good, because you're going to need every single bit of brainpower you have to take in all the information that Westworld is throwing at us this season.
Before we start in on this week's premiere though, do yourself a favor and refresh your memory about where we left off last season here.
"Journey Into Night," named after Westworld creator Robert Ford's (Anthony Hopkins) grand final narrative that actually turned out to be a ploy to liberate the hosts, answers a lot of lingering questions and poses some new ones, so let's examine what we know.
1) Reality bites, Bernard
The story picks up with an interaction between Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), reminiscent of the conversations she and Arnold had in the early days of the park. This time, however, he's the one dreaming: he describes a recent one in which he was on an ocean, with Dolores and the others on a distant shore. "You'd left me behind," he says, "and the waters were rising above me."
Given that the next scene shows Bernard lying facedown in the sand with the water, I'm guessing this conversation is taking place some time after the host uprising. (Although it's entirely possible that it's a flashback to the conversations Dolores used to have with the real Arnold.) Most importantly though, Bernard appears to have suffered some damage that's left him unable to distinguish reality from memories. He's constantly asking "Is this now?" in an attempt to anchor his mind. (This is most likely due to the bullet that grazed his cortical shield when Ford ordered him to shoot himself back in episode 9. Felix managed to bring him back online in the season 1 finale, but mentioned that there had been some damage.)
2) When Are We?
Season 2 also operates on multiple timelines, so get ready to keep an eye on those costumes for visual clues as to where we stand in the space/time continuum.
It's been at least two weeks since the rebellion when Bernard is found by Westworld head of security Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth), who apparently managed to escape his Native American host attackers at some point in between seasons. The Delos cavalry has been called in to deal with the situation, and armed commando units (one of which includes Get Out's Betty Gabriel, a welcome addition) are swarming the beach on their way to secure the park. Since Stubbs refers to Bernard as "the boss," it appears that the secret of his host status is still intact (although he does appear on Betty Gabriel's High Priority "wanted" cards, so I suspect she'll be playing some role in discovering his true identity.)
3) Where Are We?
After taking Mad Max-like utility vehicles to the new basecamp (as we see later, the Mesa has been overrun by rogue hosts and most of the infrastructure destroyed), Bernard meets Karl Strand (Gustaf Skarsgård), Delos' head of operations, who's here to oversee cleanup. His argument with a military group led by a Chinese soldier over jurisdiction of the island suggests that Westworld exists in Chinese-controlled waters, on land that has been leased to Delos. Further references to "the mainland" confirm that the park isn't that far away from the real world, and definitely not on another planet, as some theories would have it.
4) Brain Damage
If you've ever wondered what the inside of a host’s head looks like, today is your lucky day! In an effort to figure out what happened to some of the dead hosts on the beach, Strand and co. cut one open and extract the screw-in digital brain that stores all of the hosts’ internal code. This is also where we learn that hosts have something called cortical fluid, which they need in order to function. This becomes important when Bernard's starts leaking out of his ears while hiding in the barn with guests and Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) in the aftermath of the doomed party.
The footage extracted from the host shows that 11 days ago, Dolores and her posse came through the area, killing hosts as well as guests. Her final words are pretty fucking sinister: “I told you friend, not all of us deserve to make it to the valley beyond.”
5) Is Dolores The Hero Or The Villain?
Season 1 established Dolores' dual identity as a rancher's daughter who sees the beauty in the world, and a bloodthirsty killer known as Wyatt. So, who's currently minding the store? Her riding down terrified guests and leaving them to hang themselves seems more up Wyatt's alley than Dolores, no matter how much she claims to have found her own voice. (“Under all these lives I’ve lived, something else has been growing," she says. "I’ve evolved into something new. And I’ve one last role to play: Myself.”)
This new Dolores/Wyatt speaks without an accent though, which tells us that she's out of character. What's more, her ability to use irony, and turn the dialogue she's been given as part of her loop against the guests she's captured, cements this new, liberated identity. (She's ice cold, reacting to the guests pleading for their life with a detached: “Doesn’t look like anything to me.")
Interestingly enough, she still has feelings for Teddy (James Marsden), which are either the result of lingering programming that will fade over time, or, as in the case of Maeve and Hector, a glimmer of true emotion that's been brewing since before the uprising. (I am shipping those last two HARD.)
6) Here Comes The Man In Black
There was some question about whether or not the Man in Black (Ed Harris), who we now know is one and the same as William (Jimmi Simpson), had survived the uprising. I am happy to report that he has, and is in fine form as he rolls out from under a pile of host bodies to retrieve his signature black hat. This is an ideal situation for him: Ford has left him a final game to play, and the stakes are finally real.
7) Is Mark Zuckerberg Running Delos?
I'm sorry but this whole business about Delos secretly gathering guests' DNA and records of their experiences inside the park is just too real given the recent Facebook congressional hearings. But also, we finally find out what those white robots from the trailer are all about: they're drone hosts, trained to do Delos' dirty work that the regular employees don't know about.
In addition to this sneaky behavior, the company refuses to send help until Hale delivers a special host whose code is critical, otherwise known as Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum), Dolores' father who malfunctioned early in Season 1. Hale did give instructions to Sizemore in episode 8 to give Abernathy a basic personality in order to sneak him, and the code he is carrying, onto the train headed out of the park. But what is he carrying in there?
8) What Is The "Host Mesh Network"?
In searching for Abernathy, Bernard mentions something known as the "host mesh network," which is a system of intra-host communication not unlike an ant colony. When he taps into the code of the host on the lab table, he can basically send out a query to hosts throughout the park, a Where's Waldo game come to life. This also gives Bernard a chance to low key self-inject some much needed cortical fluid in order to keep going, although judging from his behavior in the two-week flash forward, something goes wrong for him in between.
9) So, Who's In Charge?
While Dolores' gang is roaming the actual park, hunting guests and unworthy hosts, Maeve is securing her dominance over the Mesa. The only one still able to voice command the hosts, she saves Lee Sizemore, head of narrative and Westworld asshole-in-chief, from being consumed whole by a cannibal robot, which basically makes him her bitch. To appease her, he offers to help find her daughter, who apparently still resides in one of the other parks. I love everything Maeve, so I'm biased, but their exchange drives home just how shocking it is that the hosts are rebelling against their code; Sizemore just can't fathom a reality in which Maeve really cares for her daughter. Because we've seen things from the hosts' perspective, it's easy to forget that the humans are well and truly confused by what's happening. Similarly, Hale still thinks that Ford programmed the hosts to rebel as some sort of revenge for getting fired. The idea of free will doesn't even occur to her.
9) What Have You Done, Bernard?
The episode ends in present day, with Bernard, Strand, and Stubbs looking for a massive cluster of hosts that appear to be congregating on their digital map. On the way, they come across a Bengal tiger that has crossed over from Park 6 (what is this park and when can I see it?), a first that is pretty alarming. Who knows what else is out there.
Eventually, their scan of the area leads them to the western valley, where they realize that A) there is a small sea that doesn't appear on any maps, B) it contains hundreds of host bodies, including Teddy's. (!!!)
When Strand asks Bernard to please, please shed some light on this, he pauses: “I killed them. All of them.” Yikes. Does anyone else think this has something to do with his dream from the episode opener? In any case, have a whole week to stew it before Episode 2 throws us a new curveball. Welcome back, Westworld. You've been missed.
Additional Thoughts
- This episode had a lot less sexual violence and gratuitous nudity than in the previous season. If you'll recall, the series premiere had the Man in Black dragging Dolores into a barn by her hair.
- However, we did get a full frontal dick, courtesy of Lee Sizemore, which would feel utterly unnecessary if it didn't come off as Maeve's well-deserved revenge for having been made to parade through the lab naked so many times.
- This line from Dolores and Bernard's opening conversation seems like it's worth keeping in mind for the future: “What is real?” she asks. His answer? “That which is irreplaceable.”And in Westworld, that definition applies to very few things, indeed.
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