The following is a spoiler-filled review of the first episode of Westworld: Season Two – Developed by Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joy
In the first episode of the second season of Westworld (“Journey Into Night”), Bernard (played by Jeffrey Wright) has trouble remembering what happened since the massacre at the end of season one, Maeve (played by Thandie Newton) finds a new friend to guide her in her search for her daughter, and William (played by Ed Harris) learns about a new game.
And here we are. Westworld is finally back on our screens! Can you believe that the first season of Westworld ended way back in December of 2016? It feels like ages ago, to me. And I have to admit that, as I was watching “Journey Into Night,” I did feel a little bit rusty. I watched each and every episode of season one three or four times as I was reviewing it in 2016, so I didn’t feel like I wanted to go back and rewatch the season, which I did love.
But I probably should have, because I definitely needed some sort of recap. So, if, for some reason, you decided to read this review prior to watching the season premiere, then I would suggest to you that you search online for a comprehensive recap of the great debut season. There is no shame in doing this, a lot of us will need it. But I digress.
This season premiere was a solid table-setter for the rest of the season that provided us with new puzzle-pieces, more instances of ‘time-slippage’ from a key host, and more on-the-nose dialogue than you could have possibly wanted. It is nice to be back in Delos’ Westworld. And it all started with a new slightly altered title sequence. It had the same Djawadi theme that I just adore and always hum along to. But the images this season are of a mother and a child — alluding to Maeve and her journey — as well as of a Bison and a falling cowboy hat — perhaps alluding to the Man in Black’s likely fall in the unsafe new world of Westworld.
And then came the first scene in the second season and it was… A bit disorientating, for me, to be honest with you. I was very confused by the altered aspect ratio in the conversation between Arnold (at the very least, I think that is Arnold and not Bernard) and Dolores. Perhaps this aspect ratio is used to distinguish scenes set way back in the past from the other much more recent temporalities or timelines, or whatever you want to call them.
Their conversation is quite intriguing, as it shows how Arnold is describing a dream to Dolores, in which he was surrounded by rising water. Arnold goes onto then tell Dolores about how worried he is about her, and that she actually frightens him. This revelation comes right after she says he isn’t being honest, when he is saying that the only things that are real are the things that are irreplaceable.
What I, having seen this episode now more than once, read this scene to be about is Arnold’s fail-safe protocol, and his own troubling thoughts about having to use it. If something were to go wrong, Arnold might have designed a procedure which would remove or immobilize everything replaceable — that being the hosts. At least, that is my theory right now. However, it may also just be related to the idea that the hosts need to branch out and find their own new world to populate.
As the scene comes to an end, flashing images return us to the proper aspect ratio and introduces us to the time-slippage that Bernard is experiencing in the present day, when Delos soldiers have been sent to the island. In multiple scenes this episode, Bernard is trembling, and we later learn that he, as a host, is critically corrupted and, at one point, is malfunctioning. This, of course, doesn’t immediately seem odd to those unaware of the fact that he is a host, as one could easily read him trembling as a sign of post-traumatic stress.
The beach narrative, timeline, or temporality seems to be the ‘present day’ of the show, and it introduces us to plenty of characters — new and old — including Luke Hemsworth’s Stubbs, and the two Swedish newcomers Gustaf Skarsgård (playing Karl Strand) and Fares Fares (playing Antoine Costa). Their scenes in this episode manage to actually reveal a couple of things about the show. For example, we are starting to learn more and more about where the Westworld parks have been built.
Costa shows us the last memory of a fallen host, which was, supposedly, recorded eleven days ago, in which Dolores takes the host out after having said that “not all of us deserve to get to the valley beyond,” thus likely referring to our world, our nations — the world that they know practically nothing of.
“Can’t you see, we are sorry?”
“It doesn’t look like anything to me.”
Dolores, who is played wonderfully here by Evan Rachel Wood, is, in another scene, quick to point out how there is a split in her personality that has allowed for her own voice to shine through, and that voice is calling out for revenge. And so she goes on a killing spree, before she ultimately tells Teddy of her plans and her desires.
Seeing the intelligent hosts gloat and have their revenge on the creators and guests is satisfying to a certain extent, but it also gets a little bit old fairly quickly. While I love Maeve and Dolores both of their characters speak in lines that are a little bit too on-the-nose, for my liking. But then again, some of their lines have probably been designed by Lee Sizemore (played by Simon Quarterman) who I, honestly, enjoyed seeing be teased by Maeve in this episode. I’ve never been a big fan of his character, and I remember really enjoying how Ford had dismissed him in “Chestnut” in season one.
“Congratulations, William. This game is meant for you.”
I also want to talk a little bit about William, who, in his first scene, wasn’t really injured enough. Maybe it is that I remember what happened to him last season as being more gruesome than it really was, but he seemed too uninjured in his first scenes. Nevertheless, I really did enjoy watching him in this episode. Because William knows the game, and that is exactly the reason why he is able to get out of a bad situation just fine.
He is very skilled at playing around in this world by now, and this game — supposedly designed for William, as the young host-version of Ford tells him — is exactly what he needed. Something with real stakes and consequences. This is still Westworld, but it is on a much harder difficulty. It certainly seems like this season will be focused on the journey towards ‘the Door,’ which is to say the way out of the parks.
William is probably trying to get out, Dolores definitely is, and Charlotte Hale (played by Tessa Thompson) is even more desperate to be extracted from the islands. Don’t underestimate Hale’s journey, she and Delos has much bigger plans for the data collected in the parks than we could possibly imagine. Of course, these three attempts at getting out are probably taking place at three different times, which will be exciting to figure out.
The big moment in this episode was obviously the final scene reveal, which suggested that Bernard, indeed, did take out the majority — if not all — of the hosts in the park. Again, I think this was Arnold’s old fail-safe protocol, but we will have to wait and find out what is really happening. Unless, of course, Reddit and the online fandom community figures it out before next week.
In any case, I think it is a good idea to potentially have this season be seen mostly from the perspective of Bernard. That we already now know that Bernard has attempted to kill each and everyone of the hosts is probably also a wise decision to make for the writers of a show that everyone tried to guess their way through in season one.
For my reviews of the previous episodes in the series, click here.
– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen