There’s that great line in the Rocky Horror Picture Show. Frankenfurter sings “I see you shiver with Antici… pation!”. This must’ve crossed the minds of more than a few viewers who’ve hung in there for over a year shivering with anticipation for the second season of Westworld.
It isn’t just loyal viewers, either. HBO must be praying that Westworld continues to rate well, as it’s clearly aimed at filling the void about to be left once Game Of Thrones comes to an end.
Sky TV aired the first episode of Season 2 at 1pm on SOHO Monday, and our team at Witchdoctor streamed it on Neon the same time as it hit small screens in the US. It’s a clever move designed to give pirates less reason to walk around with a large parrot on their shoulders.
Warning: Spoilers ahead…
Episode One of Season 2 kicks off with Westworld in a state of chaos. The android hosts of Westworld, a hotel/theme park run by the Delos Corporation, have become sort of self-aware and escaped the programming (called narratives in the show) that controls their constantly looping and frankly horrific existence.
Funnily enough, they’re really pissed. Because of this, they’re engaging in a bloody vendetta against human Westworld guests who have previously used them for target practice and rough sex. This isn’t a huge surprise. Season 1 had been building towards this for ages and things really kicked off when the hosts ran amok, killing guests at a party hosted by Robert Ford, the co-founder and creative director of Westworld in the final episode of the first series.
The premiere episode of Season 2 mostly revolves around Bernard, who oversaw the development of the artificial intelligence that powered the hosts. In what was a last-minute twist during the end of the first series, he found out that he was a host too, and appears to spend much of his time in the first episode of Season 2 being disorientated and trying come to terms with his new-found synthetic identity.
Other new characters are also introduced, including Karl Strand who has been bought in by Delos to clean up this mess. He’s a fast-talking, no-nonsense guy who takes no prisoners. His many charms include executing hosts and digging memory storage units out of their skulls in a particularly gruesome scene early in the show.
Overall, the first episode ramps up and continues the many threads already woven by the first series. Dolores, a host (and rancher’s daughter in Westworld) is dealing with the discovery that her life was a lie, by leading a group of rebels and killing whatever guests she can find. Her hard-as-nails, yet conflicted character this time around makes for a nice contrast from the soft role she had in the first series.
Willian, who it turns out is the Man In Black (this was done using a juggled timeline that spanned 30-odd years and some clever storytelling) seems over the moon that life and death are now very real risks for Westworld guests who could previously kill and screw hosts with no consequences whatsoever. Having embarked on a full-on hunt for ‘the maze’ during the first season, he’s now looking for ‘the door’. I’ve no idea what it is, but am hoping it is something a little less lame than the metaphor for self-awareness that the maze was in Season 1.
Then there’s the host called Maeve. She was a Madam at the local Westworld knocking-shop. In the first series, she’d used the violent nature of the brothel to get ‘killed’ numerous times. This saw her transported back to the Delos control centre where she underwent repairs, and eventually used these visits to surreptitiously upgrade her own AI, so she could escape.
The first episode of the second season of Westworld delivers three juicy tidbits that are bound to be relevant to later episodes.
1) There are six parks in the Delos chain, and hosts appear to be crossing the boundaries between these differently themed parks.
2) Delos has been secretly recording guest’s DNA. Why? I’ve got no idea, but this is part of the charm of Westworld – breadcrumbs are slowly dished out, building a teetering pile of questions for viewers and theories that keep you coming back to find out more.
3) The third and equally tantalising twist might also be the beginning of yet another timeline juggle that probably won’t become apparent until later in the series. Teddy, the host who is a gunfighter and Delores main love interest, is very much alive during most of the first episode, yet confusingly he’s shown as being dead near its end.
HBO have again adopted a tactic they originally used in the Battlestar Galactica remake. By mirroring recent events – in this case Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica saga – they’ve created a compelling story they’ll slowly unfold and which will probably see Westworld continue to be ratings gold.
I’ve barely scratched the surface of the many undercurrents and plot threads bubbling around in Westworld. There’s a tonne of plot twists and turns, plus some philosophical headscratchers around the nature of intelligence. As the rest of Westworld’s universe is gradually painted into existence and some of the unrealised plot twists develop, it’s a fair bet that it will continue to enjoy a devoted following.