Best of the West: ‘Westworld’ season 2 picks up with harrowing action

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With its first season, “Westworld” presented a show ripe for picking (apart) and analyzing. However, by the time the season ended, the character most apt to philosophizing, Robert Ford (portrayed with unnerving calm by Anthony Hopkins), died at the hand of his own inventions. The hosts populating Delos’ Westworld park had begun a violent uprising, providing an action-packed point for the second season to pick up from. The first three episodes didn’t disappoint on this front — already, there are at least three different timelines and a number of disparate storylines and characters converging explosively.

Bernard (present)

The season opens as a disoriented Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) awakens on a seashore in Westworld two weeks after the carnage of the gala. Oddly enough, he is greeted cheerily by Ashley (Luke Hemsworth), who, last we saw, was attacked by a rogue Ghost Nation host in the park. Soon, they meet the newly introduced Karl Strand (Gustaf Skarsgård), the head of operations at Delos Incorporated. Strand views Bernard, the head of behavioral programming, as the vital piece in learning why the hosts suddenly grew violent.

As the group investigates the park for clues that might explain the eventful preceding weeks, it comes upon anomaly after anomaly, beginning with a Ghost Nation host who died just less than a fortnight before. After extracting the footage of his final memories, the group discovers that Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) was his killer, which goes very much against the motivations of the gentle character she was written into the park to be.

The next dead body they approach is no less baffling — a Bengal tiger, from one of the other parks, swam across the gulf separating the parks from one another and died at the shore of Westworld. Apparently, this is the first instance of any sort of host crossing park boundaries. This tiger just might be the setup for a cross-park, host-led revolution.

Finally, they come to a cliff overlooking a valley excavated by Ford in one of his final projects before his death. It is flooded in equal measures by water and the bodies of dead hosts. As Strand wonders what exactly it is they’re seeing, Bernard hesitantly confesses that he killed them all.

Bernard (past)

Flashbacks reveal what also happened during the interim of the current timeline and the gala two weeks prior. Bernard and board Director Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) flee the gala to a known access point two miles away — during this time, Bernard sustains a moderate head injury. However, it turns out that the access point was a setup by Wyatt’s (also Evan Rachel Wood) gang, which ambushes them. The two are on the run once more until they reach an underground lab, the existence of which only Charlotte knew of. It turns out that Delos refuses to send help until Charlotte sends them a “package” — which turns out to be host Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum), Dolores’ father, who was written out of the park’s narrative because of his antiquated code.

Peter is being held prisoner by some Confederados, so Charlotte and Bernard, through some reprogramming, get them to release him. But in doing so, they attract further hostile Confederados, who capture Bernard as Charlotte flees.

Dolores

The Confederados bring Bernard back to a very familiar face — Dolores. After the revolution she incited, Dolores, along with Teddy (James Marsden) and Wyatt’s gang, has been riding around Westworld and dispensing her form of justice by frightening and killing the humans who wronged her. Her ultimate mission, as she reveals to a disheartened Teddy still earnestly in his original narrative, is to invade the humans’ own world, too. She cites her knowledge of their world — based on memories of the times Arnold (of course, also Jeffrey Wright) would take her to his world — as proof that she knows enough about them to exploit their weaknesses. To this end, she reveals, there’s a weapon out west — where everyone, host and human alike, seems to be heading.

To meet with the forces that Delos is sending to subdue the hosts, Dolores needs an army, so she seeks out the Confederados, led by the cruel Major Craddock (Jonathan Tucker). First, she attempts to woo them by bringing one of their dead soldiers back to life — with the help of some engineers at headquarters whom she ambushes and intimidates. When this fails, she kills all of them and has the same engineers bring them back to life. This seems to convince them, and Craddock agrees to work with her.

At the Confederados’ camp, Dolores, now their de facto leader, meets Bernard. She seems to remember him, and she asks him to repair her malfunctioning father, whom the Confederados also brought back. While examining Peter’s source code, Bernard realizes that Peter was never a full host — he was merely a mule for a huge package of encrypted data, masked by a generic personality. This would explain why Delos is so eager to get him back.

Soon, Delos’ army, including a small team headed up by Charlotte, arrives to respectively attack the hosts and recapture Peter. Dolores double-crosses the Confederados to lead the Delos army into a trap and get a leg up on them, but Charlotte and her crew still capture Peter.  A heavily malfunctioning Bernard uses the chaos to escape but is unable to make it more than a few yards before Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) wordlessly approaches, clubs him and drags him away.

Maeve

Back at headquarters, Maeve (Thandie Newton) seems to be taking the hosts’ takeover very much in stride, and she takes writer Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman), who promises he will help her find what she’s looking for in exchange for her protection, as a semi-prisoner. She begrudgingly accepts his help in finding her daughter. The two link up with Hector (Rodrigo Santoro), who — against his programming — has fallen in love with Maeve.

Finally running into the two Quality Assurance engineers who helped Maeve escape in the first place, the group takes them in, and the five embark on Maeve’s mission. On their way to find her daughter, they encounter Dolores as she’s about to meet with Craddock, and Maeve expresses doubt in Dolores’ revenge plan. Dolores seems to judge Maeve for her fraternizing with humans and tries to compel her to enact vengeance.

Maeve, however, argues that the “greater movement” Dolores is rallying for is unproductive and reductive of her own personal loss, which she is attempting to right. Dolores’ erasure of Maeve’s personal situation in favor of a movement perhaps less concerned with these situations is reminiscent of the present-day argument of white feminism’s erasure of intersectional feminism. As the show moves forward, it’ll be interesting to see where these characters, both strong women in their own right, come to terms with this conflict.

The members of the group then continue on their journey. Finding themselves in a cold region, they see with relief that someone set a fire and camp nearby. However, upon closer investigation, they find a severed samurai head by the fire — another host from a different park. Before they can flee, another samurai charges them, sword in hand, and the episode fades to black.

William

Among these hosts coming to terms with the revolution is a human doing the same — William or Man in Black (Ed Harris). However, he seems to be enjoying it a lot more than his fellow humans are. William’s complaint about Westworld from the start has been that the stakes aren’t high enough nor real enough. The stakes now are real — anyone, including him, can die at any moment by the hosts who used to be harmless to them. As he explores the park, William discovers that Ford had left a “game” for him and that he must head west to win. William finds Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.) again, and the two set out together once more to solve Ford’s riddle.

Grace

As all these familiar characters reappear and grapple with a new reality, we are introduced to a new character as well — Grace (Katja Herbers), who appears to be a veteran of the Delos amusement parks. She particularly favors Raj World, an exoticized colonial Indian park where visitors can be attended by Indian servants and led by mahout hosts to big game hunts, as Grace does. Soon, the hunting trip turns sour as one of the hosts, Ganju (Sean Mann), kills her companion and turns on her, too. She’s able to kill him before he also shoots her, but she attracts the attention of a Bengal tiger — the same one Bernard and Strand encountered. As she attempts to fight it off, it tackles her, sending them both over a cliff into water. Later, as the two wash up onto the shore of Westworld, Grace comes to and is captured by the Ghost Nation.

At this point in the season, although there are still a lot of mysteries, the strands are already beginning to combine. The second season of “Westworld,” if the first three episodes are anything to go by, promises to reveal many truths about this cryptic world.

Contact Sahana Rangarajan at [email protected].