After a long 16 month hiatus HBO’s cowboy-em-up is back and this, the first episode of season 2, picks up quite soon after where we left off. Bernard is trying to piece together exactly what has happened, Delores is off on a killing spree and Maeve is still trying to track down her “daughter”.
Well howdy y’all. Westworld has moseyed its… nope, I can’t do it. I was going to attempt to recap this season of Westworld as a genuine (gen-ewe-eye-n) cowboy, starting here with Journey Into Night, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Sorry. Y’all.
It’s finally here. After a long, long wait we can finally find out what happened after all of the chaos at the end of the first season. The first series was a really fascinating show that required the upmost attention and was absolutely ripe for fan theories. I should know: I had more than a few theories myself about how things were going to play out. I was really keen to see what was going to happen next, particularly with the gap between the seasons – I suppose it’s at least good training for life without Game of Thrones.
Personally, I thought that the gap between seasons did hamper my enjoyment of Journey Into Night, as I spent a large portion of the episode trying to remember who was who, what they were trying to do, and why it was important in the first place. Aside from Delores (Evan Rachel Wood), Maeve (Thandie Newton) and Bernard (Jeffery Wright), most of the remaining characters seemed to be divided into two categories in my brain: grubby cowboys dressed in brown, and Delos workers who couldn’t be trusted. It’s my own fault, really. I should have gone back to the revisit the first series, but I just ran out of time before the debut of season two. It would have perhaps been a more entertaining experience to not have to pause the episode every few minutes to Google a character’s name or history.
The first season of Westworld felt very much like a JJ Abrams show (he is an executive producer, so it makes sense) in that it was very much a mystery box. Every episode seemed to introduce new layers to the mysteries. The end of last season definitely gave us some answers, but not quite as many as I had hoped. I was hoping that season 2 might carry on where the season 1 finale left off and continue to reveal more secrets; instead, it just seemed to set up a lot of new questions. Journey Into Night focused largely on three character arcs in the shape of Bernard, Delores and Maeve, so there’s still quite a lot of plot to explore.
Journey Into Night opens with Bernard chatting to Delores in what I assume was a flashback or flashforward; time has always been a fairly fluid concept to Westworld after last season’s intercutting of William and the Man in Black. Bernard had a dream, of himself stood out in the sea with all of the hosts on the shore, as the waters slowly rose around him in a bizarre take on King Canute. This is something that has been very heavily trailed in promotional material for the return of the series, so I suspect it might be relevant in future episodes.
We then see Bernard waking up on a beach surrounded by champagne glasses and fairly heavily armed security personnel – it seems as though someone had quite a big night. The security personnel seems to be headed up by Ashley (I had to Google his name) who is of course played by the lesser Hemsworth, Luke. It seems Delos have finally gotten wind of everything that has gone on at the park and is sending in a cleanup crew to execute all of the remaining hosts and to try and get things back under control. This seems to involve rounding up and executing any remaining hosts and hacking their heads open to get at their memories.
The big focus for Bernard in Journey Into Night (and seemingly further into the season) is going to be him piecing together exactly what happened to him between the chaos of the party at the end of season 1 and waking up on the beach at the start of this episode. Journey Into Night jumps backward and forwards in time from the present day to Bernard’s adventures during the off-season – which seems to involve him hanging out with Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) as they try to escape the carnage at the party.
It’s not really clear what exactly is going to happen to Bernard as the series progresses and I’m really struggling to gauge whether he’s going to side with the hosts or the humans. Up to now in Journey Into Night, he’s looked equally ill at ease with either side. There’s no real sign of Charlotte in the “now” timeline so I’m hoping that Bernard hasn’t got rid of her.
I can’t actually wrap my head around the geography of Westworld. I remember there was a lot of internet-based speculation about where the park(s) actually were, with suggestions ranging from “America” right through to Mars. It seems the answer is a little less interesting and they’re actually just based on an island… somewhere. When we cut back to present day Bernard, hacking around the desert with the Delos clean-up crew, they come across a seemingly uncharted sea. This isn’t just any sea though; no, this is a sea that has a lot of dead hosts bobbing about in it. It took me a while to realize this wasn’t the beach where Bernard actually woke up but somewhere else entirely. Like I said, Westworld geography isn’t my strong suit. It does seem pretty apparent that this scene is going to be important going forward as it looks like we’re going to be trying to unravel the mystery of the floating hosts for quite a few more episodes. Bernard did say that he had killed them all, but surely it can’t be that simple? After all, he was off having adventures in Tessa Thompson’s secret bunker (not a euphemism).
Next up we check in with Maeve, who you may remember had very nearly escaped the park to live in the outside world at the end of the last season. At the last minute, she had a change of heart and wanted to head back into the action to find her “daughter”. This first episode sees her teaming up with an unlikely ally in the form of Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman). Come on, you remember Lee (even if like me you don’t remember his name). He’s the British game designer who got really drunk and had a wee on the cool 3D map of the park. Well the two of them are going to team up so he can help Maeve recover her daughter. It’s going to be an interesting pairing and I’m not really sure how that’s likely to develop over the course of the season, but I’m interested to find out. In the first episode alone Maeve has burned Lee about having a small dick and then made him strip naked. Solid work indeed, and Thandie Newton continues to be one of the best things about the show, without showing any real signs of stopping.
Another host who is very much continuing from where she left off last season is Delores, who seems set on continuing her killing spree. We first see Delores on horseback hunting down guests in the park for sport, with a somewhat more reluctant-looking Teddy (James Marsden) in tow. As if gunning down the guest wasn’t quite enough, it seems that Delores is now into rounding them up and hanging them. It seems like the lines are being drawn for a conflict with humanity, and Delores sees herself as a savior for her people. I think there is definitely a Battlestar Galactica vibe to this aspect of the story, with the “artificial” humans wanting to distance themselves from their creators and carve out a life of their own. Again, as with Thandie Newton, Evan Rachel Wood is another high point of Westworld and she very much picks up where she left with another strong performance.
Finally, we’ve got The Man in Black, aka William (Ed Harris), who actually survived last season’s finale. I was pretty much convinced that was the last we were going to see of Ed Harris so it was a welcome surprise to see him back again. He seems to be pretty thrilled with the chaotic state of the park, as this was what he’s been searching for for so long – a game with real consequences, a game that is literally life and death.
It was an interesting opener in that it didn’t really deliver what I was expecting. I was hoping to find out what happened after the events of last season but it seems like that might be drawn out for some, if not all, of this season. It seems as though we may be concentrating on a few key storylines with Maeve, Delores, Bernard, and William and I think the show may be more focused for it, which is certainly no bad thing. I’m absolutely on board to see what happens with the rest of this season, I just hope that the showrunners can find satisfying answers for all of the mysteries that are being lined up.