Westworld recap: Episode 1 sets up season 2 perfectly

Mike P Williams
Contributor
(HBO)

Westworld is back! And for many fans the wait was far too long to reacquaint ourselves with Bernard and co. after the devastating and somewhat frantic finale to its debut season.

Early on, we wake up with a dazed and confused Bernard on a beach, seemingly unaware over where he is or what’s happened. After he’s escorted to what can loosely be perceived as ‘safety’ we get a horrifying glimpse into how the hosts (yes, they may be AI and all but we’re made to care) are rounded up and butchered.

But something doesn’t feel right.

Once we discover he’s been found a whole two weeks after the hosts revolted at Ford’s shareholder event, we’re immediately left to wonder what the hell he’s been up to during this period; especially considering he himself is a host but no one else seems aware of it.

Hobbling across a devastated beach without a clue what’s going on feels very Lost, but Westworld quickly tightens the reigns on its own identity and gets into the familiar, suspicious rhythm of its first season.

Suspicious in the sense that, for most of season 1, we were deceived; having had the proverbial wool pulled over our eyes only to be slapped in the face with huge reveals such as discovering Bernard was a host, the Man in Black and William are one of the same, and that we were in fact witnessing two completely different timelines of the same place.

It’s in this respect that, after truly appreciating the incredible writing, we’re now encouraged to feel paranoid about virtually everything that is going on and to question everything. In short, that’s the sheer beauty of the show: with the revelations that’ve come before, our intuition advises us to look a little closer and therefore take nothing at face value.

(HBO)

Chances are that Bernard has malfunctioned at some point between the flashback story and when he washes up on that beach – not least because Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) is nowhere to be found post-flashback, as we dart back-and-forth into Bernard’s fracture mind as he relives or remembers what happened in the aftermath of the uprising.

And throughout the extended duration of the episode it appears we are, again, seeing multiple timelines at various points. Beginning the episode with an interaction between Bernard and Delores (Rachel Evan Wood) is surely from a while back, although it isn’t clear how many decades ago or whether it’s the current host Bernard or the original flesh and blood. They’re in the lab, so is an interesting throwback to before her character goes totally rogue and, as we see in season two’s debut, morphed into a dangerous badass.

Delores is now a brutal, unforgiving gunslinger. She’s killing people left, right, and centre in her quest to escape the constraints of her robotic and controlled existence and break free into the real world with, as we learn, a desire to take it over.

She’s nothing if not ambitious, and you really have to admire that. However, her character has now completely altered. Transforming from a sweet and innocent young woman into a fearless, murderous villain is fascinating – not least the subtleties such as her accent changing. (She’s since lost the one accredited to her fictional persona and is now using the voice she’s programmed with outside of appeasing the park’s guests.)

The discovery of a dead Bengal tiger on a riverbank tantalises us of yet another new world besides the samurai setup we caught a glimpse of in the last episode. How many more parks are there? How closely located are they? No doubt both queries we will learn answers to shortly.

(HBO)

And then there’s William or, as he’s now exclusively, the Man in Black (Ed Harris). He looks to be thriving and actually enjoying the mayhem and carnage unfolding around him. Despite being shot and worse for wear, and now with the very real chance of dying, it appears to be exactly what he craved all along. There’s also the suggestion he had prepared for such an event: when he takes a moment to tend to a bullet wound in a shack, he has a supply crate – complete with hat and weaponry – waiting for him. It seems likely he will have a big role to play as the chaos ensues, that’s for sure.

Then there’s Maeve (Thandie Newton): arguably the sharpest, most dangerous host of them all; on her way back into the park in order to track down her daughter from a previous story thread… but are her intentions as clear cut as they appear?

(HBO)

Already, things have taken a much darker and sinister turn, with the early beach wandering scene feeling straight out of Children of Men with its rounding up of ‘aliens’, imprisoning, and slaughtering them like animals. Despite these people being human-built bots, it’s difficult not to feel some level of empathy and compassion for them –  and that, I believe, is what this season promises to be all about.

Catch Westworld each Monday, at 9pm, on Sky Atlantic.

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