The second season of HBO’s science fiction and western drama “Westworld” has finally arrived after a 15-month hiatus.
The season premiere was packed with the show’s signature violent delights and tantalizing twists and turns, leaving eager fans, once again, with more questions than answers in its premiere episode “Journey into Night.”
If stakes seemed high in “Westworld” before, they’re practically soaring now. The season two premiere picks up in the aftermath of the chaotic season one finale, when human-looking robotic hosts designed to service the fantasies of amusement park guests become sentient and stage a violent uprising against the park’s visitors. The finale’s bloodbath and death of a major character is not even the most shocking revelation.
The guests of the park, who often interact with the hosts ruthlessly and without remorse, realize the park’s rules have suddenly and inexplicably changed. The guests are no longer in control of their chosen adventures or invincible in the one place they turned to as a precious escape — and for the first time they can be killed by the hosts.
Major investors, park management and conscious hosts all struggle in different plotlines to grasp the nature of reality in a place where every action, behavior and dialogue is programmed and scripted.
The possibilities are limitless in this sci-fi drama, as season one contained surprising reveals demonstrating that human and artificial intelligence are not features to be necessarily presumed for each character. The lines between the two are constantly blurred, drawing viewers into nuanced philosophical and existential crises with each new episode.
Theme park androids Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) and Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton) took the spotlight of the show toward the end of season one as their characters became sentient and explored their newfound autonomy. In “Journey into Night,” viewers get a better sense of what the women do with this freewill and empowerment, making their own choices in a way that was impossible before.
The actresses’ mesmerizing performances are one reason why “Westworld” succeeds at capturing the attention of those who may be disinterested in the gratuitous violence so prominent in the series. The strong focus on their emotional journey is poignant, compelling and completely authentic.
Showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy delicately set the stage in season one, introducing viewers to the theme park’s possibilities and its characters. The scenes in “Journey into Night” hint that season two will dive deep into the park’s limitations, showcase the characters’ motivations and flesh out the hosts’ new personalities as a consequence of being powerless for decades.
In season one, Nolan and Joy took great pains to weave multiple timelines and create narrative misdirection, turning dedicated fans into detectives hell-bent on finding some semblance of the truth in an otherwise unsolvable, always-shifting riddle. This unique style of storytelling, while sometimes frustrating, continues seamlessly in “Journey into Night,” with some scenes bearing no particular time element relative to the rest of the episode.
Typical of any “Westworld” episode, fans may walk away feeling perplexed or mentally exhausted from trying to piece together the complex puzzle that Nolan and Joy carefully and cleverly craft. Despite the risk, the story is still told in a way that is fluid, comprehensible and most of all, entertaining.
“Westworld” is an incredibly unique show that isn’t afraid to take risks and explore new styles and ideas, as it can faithfully depend on the characters to keep viewers deeply invested.
The show resonates with its audience because at its very heart, “Westworld” is a tale about human imperfection and the paths that are forged by personal weaknesses. Those who tune in to watch the new season will be reminded of this in the most delightful and intriguing way possible.