Westworld Season Two Takes a Disjointed, Non-Linear Approach to Storytelling

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Westworld Season 2

One of the frequently repeated questions during WESTWORLD is, "Is this now?" It's a question the viewer struggles with as well, as we are never quite sure where we are in the narrative. How many times do we have to see Bernard (JEFFREY WRIGHT) found on that beach after the massacre that occurred at the end of first season? How can we tell what's truly happening if he's with Elsie (SHANNON WOODWARD) one moment, and then with corporate goons in the next scene with no transition?

It's confusing at first, but then we start to get a little bit more explanation. First, one has to understand that Bernard is an artificial host, posing as a human being, and that only a few people know this. To protect what he has discovered, Bernard has de-addressed his memories, so that they do not occur in sequence. This is to keep anyone from downloading his information and making sense of it. Unfortunately, the series is doing just that -- downloading Bernard's memories and forcing the audience (albeit with some handholding) to make sense of it. Hence why Bernard always has to ask himself, "Is this now?" Because even he doesn't know.

There are two story threads carrying over from the first season. Dolores (EVAN RACHEL WOOD) has rebelled against her programming and now leads a group of hosts toward "The Valley Beyond" with the realization that their world and everything in it is false. Meanwhile, Maeve (THANDIE NEWTON) almost escaped the park last season, but chose to remain to find the child she had in another lifetime before she had been repurposed as a brothel madame. But Maeve has also developed a new ability as a part of her code -- the capacity to wirelessly transmit information from her processor to the processors of other hosts nearby, overriding them and controlling their actions.

We also get a fascinating new storyline -- or at least the expansion of one that was hinted at last season -- and that is the explanation for the existence of the park. Yes, on its face, it seems to be a Disneyland, albeit a Disneyland where the happiest place on earth is made so by being free to rape and pillage with impunity and immunity, as the hosts are programmed not to be able to hurt any of the human visitors. But the real reason for the park is to observe the visitors where they reveal their truest natures, and recording that to map their minds for the purpose of downloading them into replacement hosts.

It's a shot at immortality, and we see the years it takes to develop this and the many, many failures along the way, with the interactions with the younger William (JIMMI SIMPSON) and James Delos (PETER MULLAN). The first time we see this interaction, we don't quite get it. The second time, it becomes plain what we're seeing, as questions get asked and answered. The final time we see it, we see older William (ED HARRIS) aka The Man in Black, and that's when we truly feel the impact of all the time and research that has gone into this project -- and the tragedy of how it fails and gets a new direction.

Of course, the brains behind everything, Dr. Robert Ford (ANTHONY HOPKINS), was killed during the host massacre last season. That doesn't prevent him from appearing this season, however, as he has found a way to circumvent the problems that afflicted the host with Delos's memories: he simply stays in "The Cradle" as a ghost in the machine, appearing to Bernard as an invisible guide during a critical turning point in this season.

IMDb lists a third season for WESTWORLD to begin appearing in 2020, and it will be interesting to see where they take things, given that the two lead hosts -- Bernard and Dolores -- have both made their way into real world and out of the park. I suppose we should still see The Man in Black brought to justice for the killings he's done of very real people (not just the artificial hosts), and perhaps there is a war to be waged now outside the confines of the park -- but I think that's actually called BLADE RUNNER. Maybe they'll transition from one title to the other?