Westworld season 2, episode 1: 7 questions and theories from the series opener
Warning: this article contains spoilers for Westworld season 2, episode 1, ‘Journey Into Night’.
Westworld season one was very preoccupied with getting one over on the viewers, but most of the show’s puzzles were solved way in advance by its savvy audience. That must have grated on creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, as they recently got their own back by promising to reveal the series’ entire plot ahead of time to reduce spoilers – only for it to turn out to be an elaborate rickroll.
Based on the first episode, the second season doesn’t seem quite as tricksy – at least, not yet – but that’s not to say there aren’t still puzzles to be solved. The most obviously Westworld trait that remains is telling the story in multiple timelines, only this time, there’s no secret about it.
Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) wakes up on a beach roughly two weeks after the massacre in last season’s finale, where he’s rescued by Gustaf Skarsgard’s Delos official. Oh, did we mention? The show casually confirmed the long-held theory that Westworld is on an island.
Anyway, we also see Bernard – and almost every other character – in the very moments after the massacre began. Much of the episode, and presumably the series, is set in that time period, as we find out what the hell happened in the 11 days or so in between.
1. Where did the new sea come from?
Okay, so it’s been under two weeks, and Ford is dead (his maggoty corpse putting paid to any notion Anthony Hopkins might be returning, at least as a human), so how did someone manage to terraform Westworld with a brand new sea? We know that the hosts now have access to the Delos facility, so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that one of them could somehow have created this new topographical feature. But why would they?
2. How did a Bengal tiger wander into the wild west?
Perhaps the only disappointment of the opening episode is that we don’t get to see the promised Shogun World just yet, but that’s surely to come. What we do get is our first instance of something (in this case, a Bengal tiger) straying into Westworld from another park.
Does this mean that all the parks are contiguous, with no barriers between them? Or is the idea that the tiger wandered into the Delos facility and found its way through to Westworld from there? Either way, what’s intriguing is that Bengal tigers aren’t native to Japan, the basis of Shogun World. So… just what is Park 6?
3. What’s with the freaky drone hosts?
Bernard and Hale (Tessa Thompson) find their way from the massacre to the Delos facility, where Hale learns that before she can expect any rescue, she needs to locate Abernathy (Louis Hertham, as Dolores’ discontinued father).
In the search, they come across ‘naked’, faceless drones, eerily going about their business and seemingly extracting and logging host memories. So who programmed them on that path? And why? The notion of robots building robots is a frightening one – unlike the hosts, if someone were to bend these drones to their will, they’d have no conscience to hold them back.
4. What is ‘the Valley Beyond’?
Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), our sympathetic heroine from the first season, seems to be set up as season two’s big bad. She’s no longer Dolores, nor the merciless ‘Wyatt’ character, but a third, new version: a natural version. She’s herself.
And somewhat understandably her goal is not only to claim Westworld for her and her kind, but to go further and extend her wrath to the real world and give humanity a taste of its own medicine. Before that, though, she and her army of awakened hosts must reach the so-called “Valley of Beyond” – but just what or where is it? Is it a real place, a route out of Delos’ grasp? Or just a metaphor about reaching further enlightenment? And either way, where did Dolores get the idea of it from?
Dolores, with her influence and promise of salvation, has become something akin to a cult leader, and it makes her a far more fascinating figure. Evan Rachel Wood seems to be relishing the chance to play the baddie.
5. Will Maeve find her daughter?
Maeve – the imperious Thandie Newton – is another awakened host from season one on a mission this year. Taking craven scriptwriter Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) captive, she’s out to find her daughter, who remains out there, somewhere in the park.
But even if Maeve tracks down the host that was once scripted to be her daughter, what will that mean? The child will be living a different life now. Can it simply be rolled back to its previous incarnation? Will that be enough to satisfy Maeve now that she knows how deep the artifice of it all is? Can a home built on a fabrication really be a home?
6. Is Bernard a cannibal?
Okay, so obviously he’s not a cannibal in the way that the deranged host attacking Sizemore was, but he’s definitely not himself.
Given that his systems are in critical condition – presumably a result of being ‘killed’ by Dolores last season – Bernard was forced to extract some sort of plasma from a defunct host and inject it into himself. This seems to be the only way to stave off his tremors and prevent his systems from collapsing entirely.
How many more hosts will Bernard need to cannibalise in this way? It’s all well and good extracting from a ‘dead’ one, but now that the hosts are alive and conscious… Is extracting from them murder? And on that note…
7. Is Bernard a mass murderer?
The episode closes on the reveal (in the present) that many of the missing hosts are all in one place and that place happens to face down, dead, in the new sea that’s appeared. “I killed them,” Bernard stammers in disbelief. “All of them”.
The Bernard that we see in the present seems unsure of himself and what’s happened (much of the season will doubtless be unravelling how he came to be washed up on that beach) but he seemed fairly sure about those final comments. How exactly did he kill them? With a bit of code that made them drown themselves maybe? And if so, why?
Whatever the answers, one thing’s for sure: it’s a bold new Westworld out there…
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