Five episodes were provided prior to broadcast.
Bring yourself back online.
The brainchild of Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s cerebral interpretation of Michael Crichton’s 1973 sci-fi western, Westworld became the most-watched first season of an original series in HBO history, earning the network a bevy of accolades, and vindicating the Time Warner division’s $100 million gamble.
In season 1, Arnold’s labyrinth of consciousness provided visitors with an unparalleled look at the inherent humanity of Artificial Intelligence and the dangers of playing god. “The Maze,” or so it is dubbed by those above-the-line, appropriately delivered twists and turns, luring both the guests and hosts on a “voyage of self-discovery.”
At season’s end, Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) shepherded the robot revolt against humanity, killing countless Delos’ executives and the park’s co-creator, Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), thereby initiating his last narrative. The finale had its pièce de résistance deadened, however, by Redditors who prognosticated that the Man in Black (Ed Harris) was indeed William (Jimmi Simpson), just thirty-years older. Joy and Nolan managed to get even last week, though, duping users of the news aggregation site with an elaborate, hauntingly beautiful Rickroll disguised as season 2 spoilers. Serves them right.
Much like the park itself, Nolan and Joy’s rendering of Westworld 2.0 has gone off the grid, opting for the simplicity of character and story development over season 1’s non-linear, puzzle box-like structure. What last season felt like the compression of an elaborate and confusing TED Talk into an hour of sci-fi scripture, no matter how intellectually stimulating it may have been, has transitioned into a fleet-footed, vastly more entertaining sixty minutes, occasionally in excess of. Each episode shoots off like a spring-loaded snake-in-a-can, keeping guests’ intensity and vitals at intoxicating levels. You can either play the game or ride the roller coaster, and Westworld’s sophomore outing has reached the necessary height requirements and buckled Sweetwater residents in for the ride
Maeve (Thandie Newton) and her multifarious team – Lutz (Leonardo Nam), Sylvester (Ptolemy Slocum), Hector Escaton (Rodrigo Santoro), Armistice (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) and new meat Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) – are in search of the madam’s cornerstone, her daughter. Meanwhile, Dolores/Wyatt and Teddy (James Marsden) are recruiting an army to overthrow their engineers and claim the new world as their own.
Elsewhere, The Man in Black, or William as he should now be referred to given last season’s conclusion, has reunited with his favourite sentient, Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.), and is relishing the park’s newfound reality. As for Bernard Lowe (Jeffery Wright), he’s adrift in his mind, unable to decipher the present from memory, which quite possibly has opened a secret door that could tectonically shift Westworld forever.
Like his brother Christopher, Jonathan Nolan’s oeuvre is enkindled by lofty concepts, and while I do miss pontificating over Anthony Hopkins’ poetic, elucidated monologues, Westworld is a much more enjoyable and emotional experience for muzzling the pastiche and allusion. Season 2’s story arc has largely done away with the intrinsic existential quandaries of consciousness, AI or otherwise, to deal with more pertinent questions, not the least of which is how the hosts that inhabit Delos’ various adult-theme-parks, actually work.
As an elated William concisely put it, “The stakes are real in this place now.” This clever bit of dialogue serves as a reflection of Westworld’s evolution from a theme-park based on rape, murder, and code to a metaphysical world run by chaos and morality. In this new world, each character can exhibit compassionate behaviour, AI or otherwise, allowing them to break free from their narrative loops. Watching these sentient beings learn and display emotion is as fulfilling and terrifying as listening to Ford compare humankind’s intellect to a Peacock’s display or a mere mating tactic. Still, Westworld hasn’t completely purged itself of cryptic flummox, once again overvaluing the secrecy of a place called “Glory” or “The Valley Beyond,” but we’ll likely have to wait until Redditors decipher it or season’s end to figure that mystery out.
A lot has changed in the second season of HBO’s arcane sci-fi thriller, but the show’s ensemble remains its most prized asset, notably Evan Rachel Wood and newcomer Peter Mullan (Sunset Song). Joy and Nolan aren’t without upgrades though, as season 2 of Westworld has dealt with a critical error in the show, namely having its characters serve the overall narrative and not the other way around, and the difference is akin to the disparity between binary and quantum computing; it’s no contest. Ramin Djawadi’s player-piano still echoes throughout the show’s southwestern USA landscapes, even if the canyons don’t run as deep this time around.