‘Westworld’ Season Two Recap
Well, that was one hell of a season Westworld dropped on our minds. Over the course of this ride, Cawatrooper(Thomas) and I have spent the season speculating what it all means. Instead of our usual recap, we decided to have a conversation about where Westworld has been and where we think it’s going. If you haven’t seen season two or the finale, you should probably get to that before clicking through.
Kyle: I guess the first place we should start is Dolores. Wow. That was pretty crazy stuff with the Charlotte/Dolores brain swap. I didn’t see that coming at all.
Thomas: Yeah, me neither. I was wondering all season what the point of the flash forward segments were, and I think that it paid off pretty well with that twist!
K: Absolutely. I need to go back and re-watch the whole season to see if they hint at it. Can you remember anything off the top of your head that would have suggested that?
T: The only thing that comes to mind right now is actually still from the finale, when Bernard accuses what he thinks to be Charlotte of killing Elsie. Then she says something along the lines of “Was it me”? But I’m sure there were definitely more clues throughout the season!
K: Aw yes. I was getting kind of lost and I think my mind was racing trying to figure everything out they were throwing at us in the finale. Lots to take in. I’m really fascinated at how the staff writers have walked the line of villifying Dolores and making her a martyr at the same time. I didn’t believe for a second that she was truly dead when the Delos folks came upon her body, but I wonder what most people walked away from the finale feeling. She’s proclaimed she’s going to bring down humanity. For all the grandeur of that declaration, it seems pretty one-dimensional for a character so multi-faceted. What do you think?
T: Yeah, the whole “end humanity” thing is pretty cliche at this point. I do think that even now, in what seems like a faux-finale to the series itself, we don’t really know the true motivations of everyone yet. This season actually seemed like it was headed in the direction of Futureworld, the 1976 sequel to the original Westworld movie, in which cloned humans essentially invade earth, given all of the references to guest minds being mapped. But now, I’m not sure if that plot is even moving forward either. I think at this point, Dolores’s real goal is simply to survive, and next season will probably see her making more subtle moves.
K: So, you just kind of blew my mind because I had no idea they made a sequel to the original film. I’m going to need to go and watch that. Ha ha. Well, yes, I agree that Dolores motivation has been distilled to survival. I’m curious how that instinct will manifest itself in her actions and if she’ll acknowledge the irony that she’s now bound to the same fate as the guests since all the Delos infrastructure that was built to confine her and her people is now gone. She turned those things against her captors, but now she doesn’t have anything to use other than the knowledge she got from the Cradle, which is a pretty substantial weapon, but doesn’t give her invincibility. I guess she does acknowledge it when she tells Bernard “We’ll both probably die”, but I still feel like Dolores has too much confidence for her own good. I think that overconfidence may be the thing that defines her next season, just like how reprogramming Teddy totally backfired on her.
T: Oh yeah, I could see that. I definitely thought it was weird how she so purposefully recreated Bernard’s host body, knowing fully well that he’d oppose her. No idea what her game plan is there, unless as you state, it’s simply overconfidence. I do think that, if I understand you correctly, that she may not see this lack of Delos infrastructure as a bad thing because as she put it this season, it’s a “shackle”. Sure, she was basically invincible when Delos techs could just rebuild her body and upload her programming while still in the park, but I guess I can see how that is kind of a dark outlook even from a human’s perspective.
K: I guess I was thinking more of the systems she turned against Delos. Like resurrecting other hosts and the familiarity of the park. You make a good point though: Dolores wanted free will. For better or worse, she’s free, but now she’s in an entirely different world that she only has second-hand knowledge of from the minds she delved into. That makes me wonder what difficulties she will have moving forward, since the “real” world is something she has only experienced through the perceptions of the minds she’s seen. It should be interesting.
T: Absolutely. Let alone host-specific problems (like Bernard’s cortical fluid issues this season), but I think we could definitely see an interesting “fish out of water” scenario in the future- it’s not like the hosts don’t have the knowledge needed to navigate the modern world, but as you mentioned, knowledge and experience are two entirely different things.
K: Where do you think they take Bernard from here? He’s set-up to be the benevolent host who seems to think there is some balance to be achieved between hosts and humans. I’m thinking he’s going to have some sort of massive identity crisis due to the fact Dolores built him and I’m wondering if he’ll be constantly questioning his actions because he’s not sure if they are a part of his programming or if he truly has free will.
T: Yeah, I haven’t actually thought about that, but it’s a really good point. It would be fascinating to see a “who built who” chart of hosts at this point, because I feel like there’d be a ton of overlap. I saw someone on Facebook make a comment that the next season could see Bernard and Dolores take on a sort of Professor Xavier/Magneto relationship, and I’m all about that happening. Speaking of which- what other hosts do you think Dolores has the data to bring back?
K: I was thinking about that before we started our discussion. I have no idea, at this point. I thought that was one plot point they did a good job of keeping mysterious. I read somewhere it’s a safe bet that Teddy is gone, but I wonder if there is some part of him that will reappear or if we’ll see his existence in this “host heaven”. I can’t remember the name of the lady with blonde hair who died in the Cradle trying to seduce the guard, but it seems like she’s here to stay and I could see her coming back in some form. I’m wondering if Dolores already built all of these hosts before they Bernard or if that will be a plot point next season – trying to find the resources to get these host minds a body. Do you have any guesses as to who she brought out?
T: Honestly, no idea. I think any of the hosts in the Valley Beyond are probably done. Maeve will likely be back, but probably under Delos control. Maybe I need to watch again, but I have no idea whose cores Dolores had collected. I’m also super confused who’s in Charlotte Hale’s inspired host body, since it looks like we have OG Dolores again.
K: That’s what threw me off too. Is it Charlotte’s mind that Dolores somehow convinced to join her cause, or is it Charlotte’s mind that Dolores was able to somehow re-purpose? I think I saw on io9’s discussion that someone thought it could potentially be two Dolores’, but I just think that would be super out of character for Dolores. That’s something I’m really looking forward to gaining some clarification on. Now, about William/Man in Black? What the hell was that post-credits scene? That’s when my brain left the party.
T: Haha, I’m sure you’re not alone. We had a watch party, and people were legitimately mad after that scene. After a few days of thinking about it, along with the showrunner’s confirmation that the host William scene takes place far in the future, I think it’s safe to say that this wasn’t any sort of “it was all a dream” ending. My guess is everything can be taken at face value (or whatever Westworld’s equivalent is of that) and that this is just some clue to what happens in the future, after the incident at the park and William’s eventual death. What’s interesting to me is, what did William actually find in that base? Clearly it must be important, if his future host mind is defaulting to that period of time. Seems like he may have discovered something important, so maybe an upcoming season might explore that.
K: I wondered that too. I was thinking it might be the host version of his daughter. Like maybe Ford had created that intending to be part of the game or maybe his mind has some sort of override program on all the systems of the park and the Cradle or operating system of the park becomes his own worst nightmare. I think the connection between showing James Delos’ last memory of his son will ultimately have something to do with Man in Black/William being stuck in a loop, just like the hosts he taunted for so many years. I agree that it should be taken at face value and that maybe this is William’s version of hell. It’s so bizarre and just another reason I need to watch this whole season again. In the first season we saw the dichotomy of William/Man in Black in two different time periods. Were we watching two different Man in Black’s in season two: one playing Ford’s game as the host uprising commenced and the other trapped in his own loop/hell in the far future? Lots of possibilities here. As much as this confounded me, I loved it.
T: Wow, I haven’t even thought about that possibility. I think it’s certainly possible- William spent a good chunk of this season separated from a lot of the other major players. Luckily, at least next season we might have an advantage of identifying William by whether or not he has the serious hand injury that Dolores gave him- because apparently he’s a pretty slippery dude to pin down!
K: Yeah, he’s the character I’m most fascinated with. I ate up last week’s episode. I love them all, but William/Man in Black is played so well by Ed Harris. He just seems so haunted in every action. I like the point you make about the real world keeping things a little more grounded in terms of who’s who and what time we are experiencing things, though I’m sure the writers already have a clever plan around that and how they can misdirect us. I just hope there are no “it was all a dream” moments in the third season, which would be an easy thing to do if we approach shark jumping territory. I agree with you that Maeve will be back. Unlike Solo, you don’t toss aside talent like Thandie Newton and I think her performance this season was the crown jewel of Westworld. I’m guessing she will be at a crossroads with either joining Bernard or Dolores, now that her daughter is safe. What do you think?
T: I think that assuming Maeve returns, she has a long road ahead of her before she even gets the chance to decide between Bernard and Dolores. My guess is she’ll be thrown back into circulation in one of the parks- which might be a good thing, since she was getting to be a bit too omniscient to see much as a threat anyway. I do think that her storyline should get really interesting soon, since I feel like now that her daughter is clearly in the paradise of the Valley Beyond, she can focus on other pursuits. How’d you feel about that whole scene at the Valley Beyond, by the way?
K: I thought it was great. Had the potential to be super cheesy, but I liked their ‘less is more’ approach and I honestly hope that’s all we see of it for a while. I thought they set it up beautifully with Akecheta’s story, which was my second favorite episode of the season. Just so well done. If we don’t see it again, not seeing Akecheta would be my only regret about it. I think that they have the potential to tell stories there, but it could get pretty far gone if they went too deep. It would be interesting if Dolores could go between there and the real world. What did you think?
T: Honestly, I wasn’t a fan. As much as I’ve loved this season, this episode really didn’t sit as well with me, and after some introspection, I think this scene is why. It felt so final for so many characters. Like, the Red Wedding is infamous for how it killed off a lot of major characters, and even though these characters weren’t necessarily killed off, I still think their stories are effectively over. As a series finale it would’ve been fine, but we’re confirmed for a third season, and that has me worried. I’m hoping we can go into a bold new direction, and not see something like Scrubs season 9, where the show just tries to survive with an almost brand new cast. I’m sure the writers know what they’re doing, but I’m very worried.
K: I totally see that. I agree that it had an odd sense of finality to it. You bring up some valid concerns I share. The writers are going pretty big, which the pessimistic Lost fan in me says “don’t jump that shark”. You can’t un-jump the shark, which was Lost’s downfall once it was so far gone. I think you are absolutely right that the only way they can move forward is if they totally reinvent the setting for season three. They’ve set it up, I just hope they don’t go too overboard, but at the same time aren’t scared to go in a new direction. I feel like Nolan and Joy have a great sense of storytelling and cadence in which they layout crazy things. I have faith, but I share your sentiment about his season finale. It was certainly my least favorite episode of the season. I like your idea about seeing other parts of the park. Do you think we’ll get medieval, like the original film? I thought the Edo-period part of the park was done really well and had a good sense of finality to it. Thoughts on that?
T: I could see something like that. It was interesting to me that it seemed like Rajworld was definitely affected by what I like to think of as this show’s Order 66 (the hosts revolting), but everything seemed business as usual in Shogunworld outside of the Shogun’s cortical fluid issue. We never saw any other guests there, as far as I know, but it seemed like the hosts were still on their regular patterns, which was kinda strange. Perhaps not all of the parks were affected by whatever went wrong, and some familiar hosts (Maeve!) could be reworked back into the story that way. I’d be totally down for a medieval world or a classical world. I know that the Westworld ARG website teased quite a few parks, and unless I missed some easter eggs, it seems strange that we’ve still only seen three.
K: I love that idea for other hosts moving through those other worlds. Maeve especially. Maybe that will be a season three arc: Delos trying to save face/cover-up while opening another itteration of Westworld and Dolores trying to stop them. It could definitely set-up all of the players, for sure. Order 66 is certainly an appropriate name for what happened. I feel like that would also be a good way to refresh the show. I didn’t pick up any Easter eggs, but I’ve been avoiding doing a deep dive the last couple days. What is one thing you want to see next season?
T: Honestly, I want to see more parks. I know that seems silly, when we have so many well developed characters to explore (well… somewhat less now…) but I just find endless potential in the idea of all of these parks. I’d love a more thorough examination of one of them, and I think it would be a great side story to Dolores and Bernard’s inevitable conflict in the “real world”. How about you?
K: What you said about more parks and how that relates to Dolores and Bernard are definitely things I want. I’m interested in the dueling existential crises Dolorese and Bernard are bound to experience with “free will”. I don’t mean to come across as condescending to the characters, but that has to be a monumental and daunting experience to all of a sudden be free of a construct that has defined you. I’m also excited to see how William plays into that, because I do see him becoming an ally of either Dolores or Bernard, at some point in this struggle.
What was your favorite thing about this season?
T: I was absolutely blown away be the episode ‘The Riddle of the Sphinx’. The Delos fidelity tests, the shootout at Las Mudas… man it was such an incredible hour of television. Easily the highlight of this season, and probably my favorite episode of the show so far. What was yours?
K: Right there with you. ‘The Riddle of the Sphinx’ was my favorite by far, and pretty much everyone I’ve spoken to. I think my favorite part of this season was how unique each episode was. Each had it’s own tone, its own story to tell. They all had obvious connective tissue, but the second season was all about the journey. I think that’s why the last episode was kind of a letdown. It tied up way more loose ends than I hoped it would. I hope that’s what they strive for next season. It felt like each week I was watching a brilliant, new sci-fi movie on HBO. Finale aside, I think this second season raised the bar pretty damn high for next season. Let’s just hope they don’t jump that bar with a shark swimming under it.