“The women rule supreme this season, it’s all about the women.”
That’s what Tessa Thompson (aka Delos exec Charlotte Hale) told us yesterday at our Tribeca Film Festival studio in regards to Season 2 of HBO’s Westworld, and indeed the message was clear tonight in the Season 2 premiere: We are women, hear us roar.
After being abused by both guests in the park and the engineers behind-the-scenes who mess with their minds, femme bot cowgirl Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) and former prostitute bot Maeve (Thandie Newton) are waging a war throughout Westworld following the former offing her creator Dr. Robert Ford. And they mean business.
After Delos exec Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) tells Maeve that the daughter she’s searching for is just part of a story that was once programmed in her head, she threatens him with a gun saying, “Not real? What about me? My dreams? My thoughts? My body? Are they not real? What if I took these unreal fingers and used them to decorate the walls with your out-sized personality? Would that be real?!”
Dolores too has her own soapbox speech that she delivers to human guests before hanging them, asking them if they “ever questioned the nature of your reality.”
“Under all these laws I’ve lived, something else has been growing, I’ve evolved into something new. And I have one last role to play (beat, edit cut with a slow close-in on Woods): Myself,” says Dolores. Bernard warns us in the opening scene of Dolores’ wrath as he runs through a programming diagnostic, “I’m frightened what you might become,” he tells her.
Meanwhile, on the Delos side, Thompson’s Charlotte appears to have survived corporate politics and is determined to get this Robopocalypse under control with the help of dutiful Delos host Bernard (Jeffrey Wright). But is the Robopacalypse already under control? Because when we get to the end of tonight’s episode, titled “Journey Into Night,” Bernard, standing with the Delos SWAT team, stands on a cliff overlooking a lake filled with dead hosts, a sight at which he softly admits, “I killed them. All of them.”
But because this is Westworld that means there are two timelines going on, and co-creators Jonathan Nolan and wife Lisa Joy are quite blatant about that in tonight’s episode directed by Richard J. Lewis and written by Joy and EP Roberto Patino wrote. Last season we could only decipher the decades time jump by whether Woods was wearing slacks or a prairie dress.
Early on tonight, Bernard wakes up in a grey tweed suit on the shores of the island where the Delos theme parks reside. He is surrounded by a Delos SWAT team that is hunting down and killing hosts. He’s in a state of bewilderment as he watches the bodies of hosts drop to the ground. Nonetheless, it appears that Delos has the upper hand in the situation and they’re keeping Bernard alive since he’s an ally that can help. However, Dolores is still out there on a killing spree, and we know this after new tech guy Antoine Costa (Fares Fares) pulls the memory out of a host and watches the video playback of her bloodshed 11 days ago.
It’s at this point that zip-zap-zop Bernard’s memory twitches and we’re allegedly back in the past, where he’s holed up in a barn with Charlotte and some human guests as gun-toting hosts close in. Wright warned us about Bernard’s condition when we spoke with him at SXSW: “He’s got some health issues…He’s got some cognitive challenges as we enter the first episodes of Season 2 and he has additional challenges that come up as he goes on board in terms of him being able to process.” And that’s because Bernard shot himself in the head last season. And while the majority of the episode sticks with Bernard and Charlotte’s flight to safety back to an underground part of the park’s HQ, already we see that Bernard’s brain is providing the suspense in regards to what time frame we’re actually witnessing.
After Charlotte asks for his help to find Dolores’ father Peter Abernathy, a decommissioned host, Bernard drugs himself and blanks out. When we next see him, he’s back with the Delos SWAT team. It’s clear that Bernard has lost his sense of time between when he was last with Charlotte and when he wakes up on the beach at the beginning of the episode. Wright also told us at SXSW that Bernard struggles internally with his devotion to Delos and his sympathies for the hosts, and that’s played out in tonight’s episode.
While in the underground HQ, Bernard runs into what looks like a white beta host, which Charlotte tells him is a “drone host.” “Delos has off-network hosts working down here?” Bernard asks Charlotte. “He read your DNA, he knows you’re not a threat,” she answers. While the drone host makes an appearance like a featured extra, God only knows what trouble this silent being will stir. Remember, this is Westworld, and when a small detail is revealed on screen, it typically signifies something greater.
Overall, Westworld is off to a nimble pace. It’s hell at the park with the robots raging; everything we were craving for last season. There are bodies littered everywhere with that final shot of floating corpses in the lake akin to a dead fish scenario at the Salton Sea. Even Ed Harris’ Man in Black has been warned that he must fight his way out of the park as foretold to him by a small British boy with a mixed Dr. Ford-digitized voice (Hopkins’ character will reportedly not be returning this season, but we’ll hear his voice in flashbacks).
However, for better or for worse, Westworld is still about the game, and the nuanced details that speak to greater turning points. By no means can one watch this show with one eye open. No, Shogun World doesn’t make its official appearance tonight (you’ll have to wait to Episode 3), but it makes a cameo in the form of a dead Bengal tiger on the shores of another lake in the park. How do we know it’s from Shogun World? Because if you’re listening, Luke Hemsworth’s Delos head of security Ashley Stubbs provides the foreshadowing: “We have Bengals in Park 6, we’ve never had a stray cross park borders.”
What remains ironic about Westworld is how much we feel for these robots and their ‘human’-like feelings and memories. Much of that has to do with Wright, Newton and Wood’s acting chops. But, we’re literally rooting for these A.I. creatures to win. What happens when these hosts rule the world and it’s the humans that are penned up? Perhaps that’s Westworld Season 3.