Each week, Brian Grubb and Keith Phipps will attempt to unpack the latest episode of the HBO series Westworld, a show about an amusement park populated by lifelike robots that’s also about… other stuff.
“I’m frightened of what you might become”
Keith Phipps: Brian, we’re back in Westworld, which is somehow still in existence after the first season’s near-apocalyptic finale. And it remains an intriguing, sometimes confusing, treacherously fascinating place to visit. I’ve only seen the first episode, but I suspect that the Bernard/Dolores conversation that opens the season two premiere does a lot of table-setting for the rest of the season. Does it take place in a dream? Some kind of robot collective unconsciousness? Do we know? We know that dreams aren’t real, because Bernard says so (even if he’s not being completely honest). So what is real? “That which is irreplaceable.”
What will that mean for season two? What’s irreplaceable? Specifically, what’s irreplaceable for our hosts, beings used to being rebooted and memory-wiped, of having everything in their lives replaced with the flick of a switch. Except the erasures, we’ve discovered, are never quite complete. Dolores can’t replace Teddy. Maeve can’t replace the child she had in a past existence Sizemore dismisses as not being worth her talents. Is the ultimate journey of the hosts one that takes them from being disposable to being as real as the humans who made them? If so, they’re off to a tough start this season. Witness the wholesale slaughter of hosts on the beach. If longtime Westworld visitors like our Man in Black have come to see the hosts as having some kind of lives of their own, to these new Delos arrivals, they’re just machines that need to be shut down. Grim stuff, right? Does it seem to you like this season could ultimately be darker than the first?
Brian Grubb: Well, considering the first season started with Dolores as a pleasant rancher’s daughter who was just goin’ into town for some supplies and this season started with her wearing an ammo belt across her chest like Rambo while riding a horse and hunting Delos board members with a shotgun, I’m gonna say… maybe! It’s definitely going to be different. I think that much is clear. Dolores is openly invoking her inner Wyatt and talking with Teddy about taking the real world from the humans, too, not just the park. She’s gone full supervillain. If she doesn’t drop a “we’re not so different” on Charlotte Hale by the end of the season, I’ll spit on the floor.
(Semi-related: That Teddy/Dolores discussion gave me serious Pinky and the Brain vibes. “What do you want to do today, Dolores?” Teddy, you sweet, handsome fool.)
The whole thing feels a little bit like a high-tech murderous Pinocchio situation. The hosts are striving for whatever degree of realness they can attain, from Maeve and her daughter to Dolores/Wyatt and her desire for revenge. Different endgames, one looking for the human-like embrace of family, one exploiting the human-like finality of death, but starting from a similar place. (Okay, both are killing people, yes, I saw Maeve mow down half a dozen people with an automatic weapon, leave me alone, I’m trying to make a point.) One imagines these two ideologies will bonk into each other at some point.
What’s going on with Bernard and Charlotte and that secret bunker/lab?
Brian: So two thoughts here:
One, and Lord knows I didn’t want to type the phrase “multiple timelines” ever again after season one broke me in half like a stale pretzel rod, we have a multiple timeline scenario on our hands. At least two. One in which Bernard and Charlotte are on the run from cowboy robot ambushes and in the secret Delos bunker, in the immediate aftermath of the robot revolution; another in which Bernard and the Delos types are examining various massacre scenes on various beaches. What we don’t know is how much time takes place between those two sets of events and where the things that are happening with the other characters are taking place, Maeve excluded, because again, gunning down all those guards in the freshly stormed facility.
The second thing is, like, what’s up with that bunker? They’re extracting guest experiences and DNA? For what? Do we have a Facebook situation on our hands here? And also, if Delos won’t send backup to save anyone until they receive “the package,” does that mean the package gets sent someone between the two timelines?
Look what you’re making me do, Westworld.
Keith: That Delos was up to something fishy — fishier than a murderpark filled with robosexcowboys — became increasingly clear by the end of season one, increasingly so after Charlotte’s arrival. So it makes sense that she’d continue to try to push that agenda even while chaos reigned around her. The question is what that agenda is, where it leads, and what it has to do with “The Package”? A further question: What is the significance of the package being Peter Abernathy, a.k.a. Dolores’ dad, a.ka. the rancher whose role we saw played by two different hosts last season after the first one melts down and gets replaced by a second? Also, come on Delos: You’re not going to rescue a bunch of employees and paying guests until you get that package? That’s cold. Also, how much do we want to read into the fact that Charlotte is nowhere to be found in the the later timeline?
Finally, I feel like we buried the lede here. Those drone hosts are terrifying, though I’m sure nothing could possibly go wrong with them. Westworld has just casually introduced senseless, hulking, robot golems, and I’m sure they’ll continue to follow their programming for the rest of the season without incident.