26 April 2018

REVIEW: Westworld Season 2 premiere

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The highly anticipated season 2 of Westworld premiered this week. HBO kept a lot of things under wraps, teasing various worlds but revealing very little in the actual trailers. Season 1 ended with Dolores 'waking up' and killing Ford, creating chaos at an official event with the owners of the park. It's revealed that some hosts were beginning to experience consciousness set in motion by the reveries update. Spoilers ahead!

WW 2x01 Journey Into Night, directed by Richard J Lewis

"In the aftermath of Ford's party, the hosts hunt down the remaining humans while searching for a new purpose. Maeve sets out to find her daughter with some unexpected help." - IMDB

The premiere episode can be summed up with three words: Kill All Humans. The episode begins with a thorough recap of the previous season, reminding us of the characters situations as well as the major plot points. The majority of the episode is from Bernard's point of view: it begins with him waking up on the beach 11 days after the incident in the season 1 finale. Bernard, a character who was revealed to be a host modeled after Arnold (Ford's partner and co-creator of the park) wakes up surrounded by military personnel and lots of new faces. 

The structure and editing of the episode allows us to walk in Bernard's shoes: through-out the entire episode both him and the audience is trying to make sense of what happened during and after that violent event: how on earth did this bloodbath unfold and (spoiler alert) is everyone really dead? Hosts and Guests alike?

Everything is quite chaotic and very unclear. We alternate between temporalities: we have flashbacks of the night of the incident 11 days ago, moments from the present and some snippets of the future. There are some very short but interesting scenes which allow the viewers to theorize and question the plot of the season - a clever move to keep the audience invested from the get-go: we already have the part of the outcome, now we need to know how it happened.

This first episode seems to suggest that we will be following a similar temporal structure to season 1 but I'm sure we can expect a few twists and turns along the way. After all season 1 was so successful because of how they approached this story which stretched decades: the mystery, the suspense and the freaking huge plot-twists. The difference being that this continuous jump between temporalities was only revealed towards the end of the season. In season 2 the different temporalities are clear, at least for now. The first season set the bar very high and we can only hope they push it even higher, without going too over-the-top.

Guns, violence and chaos reign in this episode. The focus is mainly on the hosts who are hostile by nature, which is determined by their coding and their current story-line as written by Westworld employee Lee Sizemore. These hosts are now able to shoot and seriously harm guests, something which was previously impossible due to restrictions in their coding. Westworld allowed the guests to experience danger, violence and adventure without any of the consequences - until now. This unsurprisingly has a massive impact on the humans involved. They are now truly lost in the world which they created albeit without that safety net, it'll be interesting to see who is smart (or lucky) enough to survive it.

Apart from Dolores, it is unclear just how many hosts are truly 'awake': it seems a number of them have remained within their written loops and character specifications (the exception of course being the able to harm guests part). We have yet to see more of the hosts from the sub-level that appeared in the finale of season 1 (which include Clementine). We see glimpses of non-threatening hosts who appear to not have committed any crimes, however the humans make no effort to distinguish the two. It's one of the many questions raised upon the seeing the revelation at the end of the episode.

The premiere showcased the cruelty, humiliation and absurdity the hosts are usually subjected to by reversing the roles: the hosts Dolores & Maeve subject their creators and guests to the treatment they would usually receive. Maeve demands that Lee Sizemore strips completely before changing clothes, a reference to the hosts situation whenever they are being fixed or updated downstairs. Dolores kills and threatens the guests, inflicting them to their own 'dark desires'.

As for the hosts which are not quite awake but have gained the ability to shoot and harm guests, they too are now agents of chaos and destruction. At one moment in the episode we see a group of hosts take turns attempting to shoot a glass off the top of a human woman's head, a direct nod to a scene in the season 1 finale. Were the hosts doing it for revenge? Or is it simply because their personality/coding would lead them to do that, now that some actions are no longer restricted? We could also question whether there will be some sort of pecking order, it'll be interesting to see whether or not those who are 'awake' allow others to be as powerful as they are, or if they believe themselves to be superior and take advantage of others.

The first episode of the season teases the other mysterious fictional worlds created for the enjoyment of the guests: the full scale of this universe has not yet been determined and as we saw in the premiere even the humans seem to be in the dark. A sea was created in the park without any of the other humans knowledge, a tiger has wandered across worlds to die in Westworld: for once the humans in charge of the park are now too going to explore the unknown along with the guests, albeit not for fun and adventure, but for survival.

The season 2 premiere offered very little in terms of this season's overall arc, focusing instead of the chaotic aftermath of the finale: this first episode is full of guns, which sadly leaves little room for anything else. We know that Maeve is still determined to locate her daughter from a previous loop and it is revealed that Dolores wants to be in control of their world (and maybe the human's one eventually). The end of the episode raises more questions than answers, as we discover that SPOILER ALERT Bernard is responsible for all of the hosts deaths and a certain character may not be who we believed they were.

From the structure of this premiere, we can expect the following episodes to showcase the events that led to the deaths of the hosts by Bernard's hands over the span of eleven days - or perhaps we may see a different version of events. Who is to say that what Bernard believes he experienced is even real?

Summer & Holly

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