Westworld is finally back for its second season. I reviewed the first five episodes in general terms a while back, and I have specific (and spoiler-filled) thoughts on the premiere coming up just as soon as I throw the line you wrote back at you…
The first season of Westworld was a series of concentric circles, with characters — human and robot both — repeating the same patterns, living out the same stories, again and again, sometimes across decades, because their emotional conditioning or synthetic programming made them. It was an interesting collection of round trips for some, a frustrating one for others (myself included).
Season two, on the other hand, starts out more as a pair of straight lines that are destined to intersect, and that have to keep moving forward as they do. There are still oblique clues, still hints about things we don’t understand, like “the valley beyond,” or why so many hosts (including, it seems, Teddy) wound up dead and floating in the water together, but for the most part we are following two clearly-delineated timelines:
1) The immediate aftermath of William Ford launching the final story of his career and life, with Dolores trying to conquer the park, Maeve searching for her daughter, and Bernard, Charlotte, William, and others just trying to stay alive and make sense of it all;
2) Sometime in the near future, when Delos reinforcements have finally arrived at the park to clean up the mess Ford made.
This being Westworld, some temporal games still have to be played, which means we open the season not in either timeline, but with Bernard — or maybe Arnold? — in the lab with Dolores again, talking about dreams, then get a series of rapid-cut flashes of Bernard’s recent past and impending future that include him uttering the line, “Is this now?”
What in this story is a dream? What is happening in the present? Will there be another not-so-hidden timeline, akin to Young William’s adventures with Dolores in the first season? There are clues you can sniff for like premium cable truffle, and theories you can put on your whiteboards, but the most satisfying aspect of “Journey Into Night” is how easy it is to take most of what happens at face value, because there’s an actual story being told, involving the robot uprising and its consequences, and thus the series is free to spend long stretches letting things actually play out, rather than leaning on cryptic teases and circuitous narratives to nowhere.