Howdy, hosts and guests alike, and welcome to another few months of What in the name of Ben Barnes‘ beard face is happening on Westworld? Season 3 is fast approaching, and it’s extremely understandable if you can’t succinctly sum up what happened in season 2. No one can. Creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy cannot. If a friend tells you they have a quick, tidy summary of Westworld season 2, just assume they are a robot programmed to mislead you, specifically. The only way to know for sure is to ask politely or shoot them in the chest with an old-timey six-round revolver. You are human, you have choices. That’s actually a pretty major theme of Westworld season 2, now that I think of it.
But first! Here’s a recap of what happened at the end of season 1 (if you want to skip the season 1 recap, click here):
“Westworld” is a sprawling, multi-level theme park in the style of the old lawless American West, in which human Guests come to interact with robotic Hosts, fulfilling all their crude and violent desires without any of the remorse. Unbeknown to the guests, however, a plan set in motion by enigmatic park director Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) has introduced newfound sentience in the Hosts. Chief among the enlightened are Maeve (Thandie Newton), a brothel madam who begins to remember all her past lives, and Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), a rancher’s daughter who is revealed to be one of the first Hosts ever built by Ford’s late partner, Arnold Weber (Jeffrey Wright). Arnold himself was re-created after death in the robot-body of a man named Bernard, Ford’s right-hand man.
Dolores, having found the center of the “maze” crafted long ago by Arnold, gains full sentience, learning she is the much-feared Big Bad named Wyatt that was discussed throughout season 1. In the season 1 finale, a gathering of wealthy clients arrive at the park to see Ford’s new narrative. Thanks to a fully-aware Dolores and her budding robot uprising, the theme of the evening turns into “getting shot in the face.” It’s a slaughter. Imagine the level of revenge if every sex toy in the world not only gained full sentience but remembered everything you’d done to it. Yes, you.
Important note: Throughout season 1, Dolores has run-ins with two very different men. William (Jimmi Simpson), the kind-hearted Guest who falls in love with Dolores despite his impending marriage to the daughter of the man who just bought the park, and The Man In Black (Ed Harris), a violent outlaw Guest who is also pursuing the center of the maze, often with bloody results. A crucial part of Dolores’ endgame is finally remembering that William and The Man in Black are…the same person at different points in his life. Two of the narratives presented side-by-side in season 1 were, in fact, happening decades apart. Dolores obviously hadn’t aged, but falling in love with a woman whose memory could be completely rebooted broke something inside of William over the years. He returned yearly to the park—even after he essentially owned it—to commit more atrocities, trying to fill a hole inside of himself by making many holes inside of others.
This twist also happened to break something vital inside the collective brains of the Westworld writing team. Internet sleuths picked up on the William-Is-Man-In-Black reveal somewhere around episode 4 or 5, and nothing can make me believe it didn’t affect every choice made in crafting season 2. The second chapter of Westworld contains moments of great beauty, of genuinely clever writing, and even the deep pathos its constantly reaching for. But it also comes with some— as we say in the TV critique industry—pure, uncut fuckery. So strap on those bootstraps and let’s dive in.
Analysis. Cognition only; no emotional affect.
Okay, some emotional affect: