Mary K Gowdy
Westworld Season 2 Review - The Good, The Bad, and The Things You Missed
Is this now?
Well, not exactly since I wrote this possibly weeks before this present moment. And I'm also several weeks behind in reviewing Westworld Season 2.
Since I'm so late, let's jump right into the topic of this post:
Westward Season 2 Review: The Good, The Bad, and The Things You Missed
And yes. There'll be plenty of spoilers, so don't say I didn't warn you.
1. I gotta talk about my girl Dolores
She was so creepy and badass this season. I loved it! In season one, there was a distinct separation between the Wyatt part of her brain and the Dolores part. But in season two, these two parts merged to where I really did feel like Dolores was her own person that was a combination of the two.
What was so creepy about it was how she could switch between the sweet farm girl and the vengeful Wyatt. Evan Rachel Wood does such a great job. The way she juggles the two sides of Dolores was both off-putting but natural. This combination of sides makes Dolores such a unique and fascinating character. I love seeing the damsel in distress get fed up with her role and decide to get vengeance on everyone who hurt her. It's such a delicious turning of a trope on its head.
I love her sense of humor and that she has a heart for others. She hasn't been consumed with vengeance like Dolores. She's one of the most three-dimensional characters. Her search for her daughter was compelling and easy to root for, but I love how she chose to sacrifice being with her daughter for her daughter’s safety.
But I will admit, towards the end of the season, she became too powerful. I liked the idea of her being able to harness the ability to communicate and even control other hosts, but her being able to on such a large-scale was too much for me. I have no doubt that she’ll be back for season three. But I hope she won’t return as powerful. It’s not a good idea to have any one character be so powerful.
3. I still don't understand William
When it was revealed that William and the Man in Black were the same person, I couldn't wrap my head around how sweet Jimmi Simpson William became Ed Harris William. I hoped that season two would provide more backstory, but I still don't understand how they're supposed to be the same person. Maybe Jimmi Simpson is too good of an actor. Yeah, upon rewatch, I can see how he was holding himself back in season one, but overall I believe that he was a genuinely good person (not to mention I shipped him and Dolores so hard. How their relationship ended still hurts). In season two, the show reveals that he was always faking at being the good guy, but I just don't see it.
The transformation was too drastic and happened too quickly. If they’re going to make a change like this feel believable, the writers need to show it happening over several seasons. But they did it in like a five minute montage in season one. I could understand Ed Harris’ actions in season one, but once they threw in that he's connected to Jimmi Simpson's character, I couldn't understand his arc. And it got even more confusing even season two—partially because they're trying to show how they’re the same person. But that makes his motivations make no sense. If he hates Dolores for being fake, why does he invest in Westworld and in making Delos immortal? Then, he's disappointed when all he can make is fake Deloses. You think he would've figured that out with Dolores and not have wanted to contribute more to this fake reality. He constantly surrounds himself with what is fake while admonishing it for being fake. He’s also supposed to be the fake one and to have had this darkness in him all along. But in season one, he’s his most genuine self around Dolores, which is a pretty good moral man. Then, he turns into “true dark self”, which is someone that Dolores hates. That doesn't make sense.
And the dual timelines in season one seem pointless in light of season two. So much of season one was dedicated to building up the character of William/Man in Black and his connection to Dolores, but that’s so wasted in season two. He and Dolores only have a couple of scenes together. Then, think about it: he spends the whole season wandering around, bumping into his daughter, almost getting killed, murdering his daughter, and then accompanying Dolores to the Forge only to get tricked into blowing his hand off. He affects the main plot in absolutely no way. Yes, he was integral in shaping what Westworld became, but that was all backstory.
Lastly before I move on, I didn’t understand his interactions with the Confederados in Lawrence’s hometown. He trades in the guns, condemning the whole town to possible death, in return for “glory”. Then when he doesn't like how the Confederados are treating the townspeople, he kills all of them. And then the townspeople are like “you're a good man.” What?
Anyway, rant over. Onto:
4. Dolores and Teddy
I liked them as a couple too, but I knew they wouldn't last. Dolores is just too vengeful for Teddy and was ordering him around rather than allowing him to make his own decisions.
I hate to admit it, but their sex scene in Sweetwater was cringe-inducing. It could’ve been because I knew Teddy had his doubts. And afterwards, Dolores is like “what we feel for each other is real” but then she changes him to fit her goals. I think that she believes herself, but I think that if she truly loved him, she wouldn't have changed him.
I do love how their story ended. They were never meant to stay together. During their final scene, I so thought Teddy was going to try to kill her. It was a nice twist that he killed himself instead because it stayed true to the goodness of his character. I'm also glad that Dolores released him into the virtual paradise. It was time for her to let go, and Teddy deserved it.
5. Who is/was sentient?
I think there’s a difference between a host being awake and being sentient. It’s possible for a host to understand what they are and even act out against their usual narratives, but I think that a host is sentient only when they have found their own voice and are able to make their own decisions.
I don't believe that Teddy was sentient until he killed himself. Up until that point, he was just following his programming to protect Dolores and did what Dolores was telling him to do.
I also believe that Dolores and Maeve were the only two hosts that were sentient at the end of season one: Maeve when she decided to go after her daughter instead of leaving like Ford had programmed her to, and then Dolores right before she killed Ford.
Then, Hector is a good example of a host that is awake but isn't sentient. He understands what he is but is still following his programming. When he confesses his love to Maeve, he’s just spouting out what Lee wrote for him to say about his previous love.
Finally, I don't think Bernard became sentient until the end of season two, which leads me to:
6. While season one focused on Dolores’ quest for sentience, season 2 focuses on Bernard’s.
Season one’s multiple timelines revolve around Dolores, and season two’s around Bernard. The conversations between Dolores and Bernard/Arnold in season one are about Dolores achieving sentience, and in season two they are about Bernard achieving fidelity to Arnold. In season one’s finale, Dolores achieves sentience, and Bernard doesn’t achieve this until the finale of season two when he conjures up Ford after he had deleted his code from him. They achieve sentience in the same way—when they realize that the voice of their makers is really their own.
I love this creative decision because it allows the audience to get to know each of them better before they are pitted against each other in future seasons. It creates a nice dichotomy.
In the first half of this episode, I kind of thought it was pointless, but as I continued watching, I fell in love with it. The story of Akecheta going to “hell” and back to find his love and then forming a new way for his people to survive in Westworld is simple yet compelling.
This episode solves a lot of mysteries—directly and indirectly. It fits into the previous narrative like an missing jigsaw puzzle while also providing a new perspective on what the Door is and what it means for the hosts to be free. It deepens the religious metaphor of the series, which I'll get into later.
8. Shogun World
Unlike Kiksuya which was a side narrative that added depth to the main one, Shogun World was a side quest that basically had no point. Don't get me wrong—it was one of the funniest and most entertaining parts of the season. I loved how it was basically a copy of Westworld, and it’s so realistic that that's what would’ve happen. It was hilarious watching the Westworld characters react to their shogun counterparts.
The characters, the sword fights, the setting, and even the narrative were all great. But other than Maeve discovering her new power, everything could've been cut and it wouldn't have affected the season. And Maeve could've discovered this new power in another way.
The detour into Raj World was also pointless. What happened to Emily could've just as easily happened to her in Westworld?
Not only that, but the addition of the other worlds only confused the narrative, which leads me to:
9. What the hell was happening in the other parks while this was all going on?
In Raj World, the hosts are malfunctioning and killing guests. Is the malfunction in their code spreading to other hosts or did Ford program them this way? Are they sentient? Does Ford have a similar plan for them to escape to a virtual paradise?
If the same thing is happening in the other parks, why is Delos only concerned about Westworld. Why are the Mesa, the Cradle, and the Forge all located in Westworld? Or do the other parks have their own versions? If so, why are they only concerned about the ones in Westworld?
Then, the hosts in Shogun World were also malfunctioning and able to kill the Calvary. But why was the Calvary even there because except for a few variations and broken hosts everything seemed to be going fine? Were they killing guests? But there were no guests in Shogun World. I didn't see a single human.
There's so many unanswered questions concerning what was happening in the other worlds, and none of the Delos characters even mentioned if similar things were occurring.
I love the idea of multiple parks, but the show jumped the gun with the reveal. There was obviously a lot more story to tell in Westworld, so they didn't have time to explore the other worlds. It would’ve been better if they had waited before giving that reveal.
I love/hate the trope of taking a completely unlikable character and turning them into a more layered, sympathetic one. As Lee connected with the hosts more, his character fascinated me. He was killed off way too soon. There was so much more to explore in his character arc as an employee who began to sympathize and work with the hosts.
And his sacrifice happened so soon that it felt out of character. There wasn’t enough time for him to believably progress up to that point. Some people have criticized his death scene for its cheesiness, but I'm sure that's what the show intended. You could tell by the music change. And how he delivered the speech was so hilariously bad. He was a ridiculous character up to the end.
11. I don’t think the fact that the hosts couldn’t die diminished their sacrifices
Though I knew that all the hosts that died were probably going to be revived, I still found their sacrifices compelling because they revolved around something more than just their lives. Maeve sacrificed her daughter. Then, when Bernard killed Dolores, that decision had ramifications for the direction of his character and the park that went beyond Dolores's death. Having the sacrifices mean more than just life-and-death circumnavigated the issue of them being meaningless because most of the characters can come back to life.
12. The Use of Multiple Timelines
Some people choose to see the ugliness of this strategy. The disarray of convoluted storylines. I choose to see the beauty.
I didn't mind the multiple timelines. In fact, I'm a sucker for big reveals that allow you to re-watch everything in a new way. So I loved the reveal that Hale was really Dolores in the present storyline.
The fragmented storylines in both seasons also further paralleled Dolores’ and Bernard’s character arcs. Season one was fragmented because Dolores was having memory issues, and likewise season two was also because of Bernard’s memory problems.
I like how these two seasons were told, but they should drop it for future ones. You can only pull off this trick so many times before it gets really old. I hate it when a show continues telling their stories in a particular way because they feel like they have to continue the trend rather than because the story needs it. For example, the flashbacks in Lost and Once Upon A Time stayed present way beyond their usefulness.
13. Religious Undertones
There's definitely religious undertones in Westworld with Ford and Arnold sort of representing God and the hosts man. The first season could be seen as an Adam and Eve story. Dolores and the other hosts gaining knowledge of their world caused them to break from their creators’ will and then chaos—or sin—entered the world. Then, in season two the Door and the virtual paradise represent the new heaven that God—or in this case Ford—had promised his faithful children.
Also, this season focused heavily on free will and the concept of reality for the hosts. Bernard—and eventually William—often questioned whether their actions were their own. And the other hosts rebelled against their programming in an attempt to find their own voices and wills.
Then, the reveal that humans are simple algorithms without deviation also suggests that there is no freewill. If humans are programmed to do the same thing without change, then their actions are based on something predetermined—just like the hosts. Hmm.
14. Do people change?
The idea that people are simple and never change is a bold statement for Westworld to make. But it's not the first time I've heard it, though. You know, for a medium so concerned with character development over time, TV loves circling back to the idea that people don't change. It's a cynical view of humanity.
And I would beg to disagree. I think people are often more complex than we give them credit for and that they do change. But I understand that my perspective has been shaped by life and the people around me, so I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
15. Hubbs is a host???
*sighs* Really? Why? There was really no point because Dolores as Hale could've escaped without anyone stopping her. And one to two “this human is a host” reveals are fine but any more is pushing it. It doesn't seem believable for his character either. And how have these people not notice that their coworkers don't age?
Whatever. Moving on.
16. I appreciate that Dolores gives Bernard the choice to fight against her.
For one, their fight over humanity is going to make great TV. And second, it fits with Dolores’ character. The humans controlled them, but Dolores takes the higher ground by allowing Bernard the choice to fight against her. She allows him to have freewill. Just another reason why Dolores is fuckin’ amazing.
Before I go to my predictions for next season, I have some honorable mentions:
Angela’s final scene in the Cradle was fantastic and provided spot-on commentary about society’s view of the ideal woman.
Lots of side characters need more development like Felix, Hector, and Armistice, and several more.
I knew from the beginning that Maeve would've been replaced as her daughter’s mother. I'm surprised that none of the characters thought of that.
Predictions for next season:
I think the virtual paradise will come back into play. And obviously Felix and Sylvester are going to fix Maeve up, so she will definitely be back for next season. I think that most of the hosts that died will be back for next season.
My best guess for the host inside Hale would be Angela. I'm not sure how Dolores would manage to get her code after she blew up the Cradle, though.
Next season will start a while into the future when the park is open again (or at least running). The hosts will have to reawaken, but it'll happen pretty quickly.
The writers won’t be able to resist telling us Dolores’ time as Hale through flashbacks.
Instead of multiple timelines, there will be a real world storyline and a Westworld storyline.
The other parks will be explored more. We'll see the shogun world characters again.
Those are my thoughts on Westworld season two. Overall, I enjoyed it, but there were definitely some things that could've been improved upon. I’m really excited for season three.
What did you think of the season? What did you like or dislike?