Warning. This review contains several spoilers about the second season of the TV show “Westworld”!
On June 24 the second season of the show “Westworld” ended.
The TV show is inspired by the 1973 movie “Westworld”, written and directed by Michael Crichton. The story was based on the theme that was already a classic of the machine that rebels to humans, in this case in a futuristic amusement park. In the movie, behind the rebellion there was some vague information about a malfunction with the possible presence of a virus, in the show the question is much more complex, connected to the self-consciousness in the robots.
The first season of “Westworld” ended with the chaos in the huge amusement park in which is set. The human visitors who participated in what are basically role-playing games with hosts, robots built to be as similar as possible to humans, became real victims when the hosts started kill them. Among the victims there are also Robert Ford, the park’s creator, and several members of the board of Delos, the company that owns the park.
In the first season we see some of the hosts in their evolution that leads them to self-consciousness. This theme, intertwined with that concerning the relationship between creator and creature, is the foundation that offers the possibility of developing a mix of introspection, various philosophical elements and intrigue. The final twists left various issues open to broaden the show’s themes.
“Westworld” second season cast consists of::
- Evan Rachel Wood (photo ©Gage Skidmore) as Dolores Abernathy
- Thandie Newton (photo ©Ministry Of Stories) as Maeve Millay
- Anthony Hopkins as Robert Ford
- Ed Harris as William, the Man in Black
- Jeffrey Wright as Bernard Lowes
- James Marsden as Teddy Flood
- Ingrid Bolsø Berdal as Armistice
- Luke Hemsworthy as Ashley Stubbs
- Sidse Babett Knudsen as Theresa Culle
- Simon Quarterman as Lee Sizemore
- Rodrigo Santoro as Hector Escaton
- Angela Sarafyan as Clementine Pennyfeather
- Shannon Woodward as Elsie Hughes
- Ben Barnes as Logan
- Clifton Collins Jr. as Lawrence
- Tessa Thompson as Charlotte Hale
- Zahn McClarnon as Akecheta
- Katja Herbers as Emily
- Talulah Riley as Angela
The second season maintains the style of the first, with a narrative fragmented on different timelines, to develop the themes that in the first season were secondary and sometimes barely mentioned. There’s less philosophy and more intrigue so from the beginning there’s at the center a progressive discovery of various agendas that give a much wider sense to the park’s existence.
The first episodes in particular are not always easy to follow because of these changes. The quests started by Dolores and Maeve at the end of the first season are the most linear subplots, while the ones concerning the activities of Delos are revealed bit by bit, as is Robert Ford’s real agenda.
There’s still introspection, linked above all to the motivations of the various characters. The contrast between creator and creature remains in particular in the actions of the groups led by Dolores and Maeve but in many ways the border becomes more and more blurred. Maeve’s growing ability to control other hosts, the experiments concerning James Delos with their link to William’s obsessions, and more show the main themes of the second season in various ways.
Even with regard to the events in the park, there’s an expansion beyond Westworld, the section that reproduces the Old West. In the section that reproduces the Japan of the samurai, Maeve and other hosts who follow her meet what are their versions adapted to that setting.
For a while that subplot is based on a sort of mirrors dance that has a number of dramatic connotations because Maeve relives in her alter-ego her own separation from her daughter. At the same time there’s a funny element because it shows how those hosts were created by recycling code that was already used because it would take too much time to create original characters.
Perhaps the subplots included too many themes to get a balanced narration and it’s not surprising that not all of them had a conclusion but some twists that teased the audience thinking about the third season. The first season was very cerebral but paradoxically simpler because the second one developed various agendas by the factions in action making parts of the plot too convoluted.
The narrative on different timelines was useful in the first season to understand the various steps of the “special” hosts’ development, in the second season sometimes added perhaps too much complexity. Perhaps within the production crew they realized that as well and in the very long season finale they added a mini-summary of some important moments from Bernard’s point of view to help the audience understand their chronology.
In the second season the death of various characters has become normal but one of the themes is precisely the attempt to overcome death in some way. The consequence is that sometimes the show is brutal but the dramatic impact is limited. I still find interesting everything behind the events of the park and in the second season some themes are inspired by the movie “Futureworld” (1976), the sequel to the original movie “Westworld”.
Overall, this second season of “Westworld” seemed to me a bit chaotic and therefore not always balanced in the development of the various elements and the various subplots. I think it was still very good and the final twists, including the one after the end titles – luckily even if for me it was 4.30 AM I watched everything until the very end! – offer intriguing cues for the third season.