504 days. More than one full calendar year. That’s the number of days between December 4th, 2016 (the date the finale of Season 1 aired) and April 22nd, 2018 (the date season 2 premiered).
That is a long time for a narrative show like Westworld to resolve the cliffhanger it left us with in 2016.
So how did the show handle its return from its long layoff? My initial reaction is mixed.
In some ways, the show maintained the momentum of the finale, picking up right from the point where Dolores blew a hole in Dr. Ford’s head and a number of other hosts massacred the guests at Ford’s big announcement. The carnage and chaos left behind by the rebelling hosts was laid out very effectively in every part of the park (well, at least on the Westworld side of things, that is). The show also wastes no time with Dolores, moving Dolores right into the awakened form Arnold feared at the beginning of the episode.
But you would think 504 days would grant us at least a one episode reprieve from the art of psycho babble the show perfected in its inaugural season. Instead, we spend half the episode debating what the hell Bernard Lowe/Arnold is doing, what time period he is in, and what undefined struggle is he enduring?
And of all the missing characters we had to revisit, why was Sizemore the one the show brought back?
Now, if it weren’t for the 500 day wait, I would be far less critical of the premiere. And I will be far less critical of the “psycho babble” (after all, it is a central part of the show) the rest of the season if quality payoffs follow.
And since its been so long, I will try to give brief reminders of who characters are as we move forward.
Now let’s start Season 2’s first recap with the man I suspect will be the central character to Season 2: Bernard Lowe.
Lowe: Present Day?
Humans are battling hosts all over Westworld, and the one stuck in the middle is Bernard Lowe: the host Dr. Ford created as a copy of his old partner, Arnold.
We learned Lowe was a host at the end of Season 1. But the great mystery surrounding his character is that, unlike the other hosts in the park, he doesn’t seem to realize it. Or if it does, he’s clearly struggling to come to grips with it.
We see the struggle played out at what appears to be two distinct timelines (and I think the opening scene was a third timeline, but more on that later).
One of those is Bernard hiding out in a barn like a normal human with several actual normal humans as the rebel hosts murder everyone on the outside.
The crew in the barn escapes, but most of the crew are killed after falling for a trap set by another group of hosts. The only two survivors are Lowe and Charlotte Hale: a major executive at Delos, the company that owns Westworld, who showed up last season to force Dr. Ford (Anthony Hopkins from season 1) into retirement.
The pair makes it to what Hale describes as a “manual override” buried underneath the park. Here, she attempts to contact someone on the outside for help. But whoever she is trying to contact won’t arrive until a package (one of the hosts, from the sounds of it) arrives.
Meanwhile, Lowe locates Peter Abernathy (Dolores father from the premiere last season and the host that was supposed to be sent) and delivers some kind of shot that keeps him from hallucinating (what’s up with that?)
We’ll get to the Charlotte Hale-less portion of Lowe’s arc later.
Season 1 hinted at a dark Dolores who killed without conscious those who’ve done her wrong. And the premiere of Season 2 gives us Dolores Abernathy: Assassin in full form. Our very first scene of Dolores is of her riding on horseback gunning down runaway humans with Teddy by her side. Of course, Teddy still has the same confused look he’s had in every scene he’s ever done on Westworld.
Later, Dolores has three captives with hands tied behind their backs and nooses around their necks standing on top of gravemakers (not a good time to be in high heels, as one of her captives is realizing in this scene).
Classic, cryptic quotes follow (“Have you ever questioned the nature of reality?” and the classic “These violent delights have violent ends.”). She lectures the humans, discussing how they are all about to pay for the terrible things that have been done to her (and the rest of the hosts) in the park. She leaves them alive, but dangling. As for Teddy, he still has the same confused look he’s had in every scene he’s ever done on Westworld.
Later, Teddy (with the same look…) questions Dolores about what is happening. Dolores seems to profess her love for Teddy, a love that is always at the end of every arc programmed into her. She also makes reference to “their world, the one that belongs to them (so she wants to invade the human’s world?).” A woman who led an assault against several humans earlier tells Dolores “We have him.” To which Dolores tells Teddy, “You need to see this.” I guess he’ll have to see it next week because that’s the last we see of Westworld’s star crossed lovers.
As for our favorite brothel owning host, not much has changed since the finale: she’s still looking for her daughter and she’s still a bad ass. And much like last season, she has a human on board to do her bidding.
At the point of the night where we see Maeve for the first time, we’ve only seen the carnage caused by the hosts in the park. But clearly, the message of rebellion made it to headquarters as dead humans are everywhere Maeve walks. Somehow, the hosts didn’t get the message to kill the most annoying of all the humans: Sizemore (the arrogant, British head of creative).
The good news is we will at least get to see Maeve boss him around for awhile. And she will have the help of Hector Escaton, her bank robbing love interest.
Maeve debates with Hector what she plans to do with the annoying human. But Sizemore says he knows the park Maeve’s daughter is located in (remember the note she received as she was trying to leave the park in last season’s finale), so she’s going to keep him around for at least a little while (hopefully, not too long).
The Man in Black
Yes, we now know his name is William. But season 1 ingrained in my head The Man in Black, or MIB as the loner persona Ed Harris plays in Westworld. And Season 1 seems to be setting us up for a near repeat of season 2: The MIB seeking out a deeper game. But unlike the first season (remember, the maze was for the hosts, not the MIB), this journey is for him.
After killing a pair of hosts who try to take him out, the MIB gathers up his things, changes into his familiar garb, and heads out for a journey. a journey he’s introduced to by the “Ford as a child” host.
The host’s voice is muffled, almost a combination of Ford and the child put together. But the host tells the MIB, “Congratulations, William. This game is meant for you.”
And nothing says, “I’m the MIB and I don’t give a f@#* like shooting dead the host who just delivered that message. “Alone Again, Naturally” would have been the perfect song to be playing here as the MIB rides off on an arc that looks an awful lot like his journey in season 1.
Bernard Lowe: The future?
The other part of Lowe’s arc appears to be in the future, after armed personnel have arrived to bring peace to Westworld. A couple of observations to consider before we go a little deeper here:
- Lowe is no longer with Charlotte Hale in these scenes.
- Stubbs (the Hemsworth on the cast) is back. He was missing when last season ended.
- Many of the hosts who’ve wrecked havoc in the premiere are seen dead here.
We also get a number of new characters showing up on the beach like they’ve been here all along. One of them is Karl Strand, the tall bald guy who appears to be in charge. The other is Antoine Costa. He’s the one looking into the hosts for clues about what happened. By the time they arrive, it appears the carnage is grown much larger, but it’s hosts who have suffered the most damage.
Through Costa’s work, the crew discovers Dolores is the one responsible for the death of these hosts.
Later, the new guys and gals in town assess the damage from Ford’s big announcement. The further rotting of the human bodies is further proof this crew has taken a long time to get here. I am assuming this is the crew Hale was trying to communicate with.
The group also discovers a host Bengal Tiger (one that Stubbs says crossed over from Park 6, the same park Maeve is going to find her daughter).
The last image we see is this crew looking over a body of water and seeing hundreds of dead hosts floating in it. Bernard tears up when asked how this happened. I had a hard time understanding his words here, but he seems to think he’s responsible for it.
-Was Teddy one of those bodies in the water?
-The opening scene seems like Arnold talking to Dolores and expressing fear at what she could become. But he also shares a “dream” with her where he woke up on the ocean (exactly as he would wake up for the future portion of his arc). So is that Arnold from the past or Lowe in the future talking to Dolores?
-Lowe also discovers in the “manual override” chamber that guest DNA is extracted there. Is that part of Delos’s greater use for the park?
-There was also confirmation that Ford was indeed shot and killed by Dolores. Of course, we know that doesn’t mean a host Ford won’t show up. Or could that have been a host giving the speech and that host’s body just rots like a human body? Oh, how I’ve missed the tangled webs Westworld weaves.
-Male nudity outnumbered female nudity in the premiere as Maeve’s request that Sizemore strip all the way down in front of her was shown at full frontal for a moment.
-The Bengal tiger, the samurai’s at headquarters in the season finale, and the shot of Maeve in full Oriental garb leave little doubt that the mysterious park 6 is set in Asia.
So in conclusion:
-Dolores is out for revenge on humans, but she will direct her fury on the hosts later.
-Maeve is out to find her daughter.
-The MIB is out to find a deeper a game actually meant for him.
-Lowe doesn’t know what he’s looking for, and he might be the key to the whole season.
See you next week.