If one thing’s readily apparent about the initial episodes of Westworld Season 2, it’s clear the tone of the show has changed. Beware, Spoilers Ahead!
Westworld Season 2: Episode 2 wasn’t the greatest offering of HBO’s philosophical Sci-Fi drama. But the episode solidified a couple of things about the overall plot/timeline for the show. “Reunion” specified where the show takes place, and what happened between the past and current timelines of the show. Westworld clearly began somewhere in humanity’s not-too-distant future and the choices/actions of Season One’s returning characters have changed the way they fit into the show rather dramatically.
Among many of the returning characters, the do-no-wrong William gains some much-needed context explaining how exactly he became the morally compromised Man in Black. William and his brother-in-law Logan take up the majority of Episode 2’s running time. Their plotline focuses on how they became financially invested in the park and William’s takeover of Delos corp.
Lighting The Match
We open at some point during the past – with Arnold, Ford, and Dolores preparing to present their perfected hosts to potential investors. But unable to bear using Dolores as a centerpiece, Arnold excuses her from the presentation against Ford’s wishes. Instead, Arnold shows Dolores around a semi-futuristic city to an empty home hidden away from the world. They converse almost as closely as old friends. Arnold seems particularly enamored with Dolores’ view of the surrounding world, remarking that the masses lose that sense of wonder as their lives become routine. But the moment becomes spoiled as Dolores loops to an already stated piece of dialogue from earlier. She has a long journey ahead of her before she becomes the revenge-driven revolutionary comes forth.
Logan and William come into focus after this interaction. We join the duo with Logan bragging to an unknown colleague about one of his many salacious encounters – and William before Westworld looking bored and disinterested. Excusing himself from the pair, William leaves just as a mysterious pair appraise Logan for a business proposal. Arrogant and belligerent as ever, he follows them to a private demonstration for Argos Technologies. But what he encounters doesn’t appear private at all. Bewildered, Logan accosts the two about taking advantage of a potential price war – but they surprise him with another challenge. After finding out every single person in that room was a host – including the initial pair he encountered – Logan declares his interest in acquiring their tech then and there.
Of course, this ends up becoming a prologue of sorts to William and Logan’s adventure during the first season of Westworld. As the show progresses, we jump forward directly after William’s initial transcendental experience. He no longer comes across as the White Hat good guy – that man died somewhere in the park. This new William appears ruthless and opportunistic – convincing his father-in-law James Delos investment will pay dividends for future market research. William confirmed one of the most widely speculated plot threads of episode one – Delos uses the hosts of Westworld to record the darkest impulses of the park’s guests.
“Half of your marketing budget goes to trying to figure out what people want, because they don’t know,” William relays to his father-in-law. “But here they’re free. Nobody is watching. Nobody is judging. At least, that’s what we tell them.”
After this interaction, William’s episode arc ends with a celebration at his mansion. A younger Dolores plays the piano at a lavish house party – and becomes noticeably emotional upon seeing William with his wife and young daughter. But just as it looks like William and Dolores are about to have a heart-to-heart conversation, James Delos comes forward to accost him. William’s father-in-law seems sickly, bowed and coughing as he chides William for his apparent “coronation.” This apparently is the moment William takes over Delos – and his father-in-law steps down to retire.
We end this episode arc with Dolores meeting Logan – now shooting up drugs and a complete mess. When he recognizes Dolores, he looks over at the mansion to make a candid observation. He toasts to the end of humanity, alluding that the A.I. hosts will eventually lead to their downfall.
The Host Uprising
If one thing stands out sorely among Season 2’s initial episodes, it’s the evolution of Dolores as a character. The loss of her identity as the rancher’s daughter brings a rather bland personality to the surface. The actress just doesn’t strike the correct tone as a revenge-seeking revolutionary. While clashing with a hidden Delos bunker and confronting Teddy with his own identity as a machine, her monotone doesn’t convey the presence needed for a sparkling revolutionary. Perhaps this will improve with time – but personally, the progression of consequence for her character is refreshing. Time will tell whether she’ll mold into the complex character her host form turned out to be.
But this storyline meandered without much progressing with the host rebellion. Apart from commandeering a Confederales outfit and a brief encounter with Maeve and Hector, nothing new was revealed. Dolores ended the episode primed to face off against the main Confederales army at their base of operations. The next up teaser showcased a massive battle between the forces for the next episode.
The Man In Black
The resident BAMF of the present day Westworld returns – and remains the most interesting character of the show. Saving his trusty sidekick Lawrence from another near-death situation, the pair goes to a small bar in the middle of nowhere. Leveling with Lawrence, the older William bluntly tells him what has occurred within the park. He tells Lawrence about the judgment of humanity, and about where they’re bound for the next episode. They travel to Pariah, the den of murderers and thieves within the park.
They bear witness to the aftermath of a massive bloodbath. El Lazo, played by Giancario Esposito, dazzles in a cameo appearance surrounding the pair in the Town Square. After William’s attempts to convince El Lazo to follow him across the park to destroy a Delos installation end at an impasse, William takes El Lazo hostage. He forces him to command his men to follow him, at which point something triggers the surrounding hosts. They each turn their weapons upon themselves, and El Lazo turns to William mouthing the words of Ford. The game was meant for William to play alone, without the help of others.
Cursing Ford’s memory, William and Lawrence set off again. They race Dolores and her army of hosts for control of an undisclosed ‘weapon’ near the park’s end.
Conclusion, And The Weeks Ahead
Episode 2 was a bit of a letdown. While this was certainly setting up the paths of several key characters, moments did not have the obvious punch to them because of a few directional flaws. Dolores, in particular, stands out as a huge problem here. Her behavior seems erratic – instead of the complex, emotive character seen last season, she’s relegated to an emotionless state most of the time. Not just her past self used more for presentation purposes – but her present self doesn’t display the same level of emotion displayed by those actors playing Teddy and Maeve. She doesn’t project confidence as a leader. Moving forward, her character should ideally grow into this role to continue the show’s momentum.
Events amounted to providing characters direction for the next few episodes – meaning not much happened in episode 2 of Westworld. We’ll see what the set up amounts to during the weeks ahead.