Westworld: Journey Into Night

“Under all these lives I’ve lived, something else has been growing. I’ve evolved into something new, and I’ve one last role to play. Myself.”

With its second season premiere, Westworld continues to be one of the most richly fascinating and engrossing series I’ve seen. As well as one of the hardest to review. I seem to be drawn to shows like this.

A good part of this stems from its labyrinthine plot and mind-boggling atmosphere, which often bewilders me as much as it engages my interest. The previous season repeatedly challenged our perceptions — of self-identity, of free will, of time, and of reality — even as they were assaulted on the surface with endless ultra-violence and debauchery.

All of which led to the point when Robert Ford, the god-complexed creator of Westworld, initiated his wild new game. The one in which the long-suffering machines rise up against their vain human oppressors, starting with his death.

I enjoyed the fact that we open in-medias res as opposed to last season’s slow buildup to the show’s vividly nonlinear narrative. We begin the premiere with Bernard’s perspective. The fact that Bernard is severely damaged after being forced to shoot himself in the head last season makes this interesting.

Bernard wakes up on a beach two weeks after the Westworld hosts were given the agency needed to turn on the park’s guests and staff. He doesn’t know what happened, and neither do we; we share his disorientation.

A lot seems to have happened already. Delos operatives have landed in the park with a serious paramilitary force, carrying out an investigation that involves rescuing guests and executing hosts. Stubbs apparently survived his encounter with the Ghost Nation indians. There’s a dead Bengal tiger lying around. It’s crazy.

The other half of the episode show how things escalated from the night of Dolores’s revolt. Bernard is on the run with Charlotte Hale, while struggling to hide what he truly is. Dolores embraces her inner SkyNet, massacring people with glee. William is back in black, embracing the danger and vulnerability of real consequences. And my favorite part, Maeve turns Lee Sizemore into her new personal slave, using him to navigate through Westworld.

I imagine a good chunk of this season will be spent in the flashback timelines which gradually catch us up to the present-tense scenario, even as the present-tense scenario takes us further still.

The thing I found most interesting about ‘Journey Into Night’ was the hosts and their evolution to a state of apparent free will. Many choose to join Dolores in the slaughter of the park guests, while others like the poor stableboy are more or less adhering to their original benign personalities. Teddy in particular seems very conflicted about the bloodshed he’s now party to; despite the love and faith he still has for Dolores 2.0, he hasn’t stopped being the standard good guy he began as.

Bernard is in an extremely precarious position. Forced to hunt his precious malfunctioning robots while concealing the fact that he is also a malfunctioning robot. The identity crisis of being a machine designed to help humans and being the artificial ghost of the man who made his creation possible. Who or what will Bernard decide to be in the end? Those intermittent flashes he has of events to come don’t bode well. And when Delos discovers all of the hosts (including Teddy) dead in an unexplained body of water, a stunned Bernard claims that he killed them all.

Still, the most unique transformation has been with Dolores. She no longer seems to have an identity crisis. More like an identity celebration. She’s fully aware that she has become three-dimensional: her original compassionate self as the Rancher’s daughter, the megalomaniacal Wyatt personality and the inner voice instilled by Arnold and Ford, all neatly combined to make Dolores into this revolutionary force of nature we’re seeing now. And it’s a sight to behold.

I especially like the idea that to the Westworld hosts we humans are basically demons or monsters invading their world. Dolores and Maeve have basically realized that they’re all enslaved to a virtual reality; it’s like The Matrix, only the machines are the protagonists.

Other than that, I’m just blown away by the scope of this show. This episode alone expands upon the world so much, inside and outside the park. Dialogue suggests Westworld is one of, at least, six different parks. The parks seem to be on a collection of islands somewhere in Asia; not sure if we knew that already, I thought it was maybe a domed facility like in The Truman Show. Delos has been secretly using the park and its hosts to collect information and DNA from their wealthy clientele, and they're willing to sacrifice hundreds of lives to obtain it. Most notably, Dolores plans to conquer the real world as well as the one she calls home. And there's still the possibility that all of this is playing out according to the late Ford's design, regardless of what either the hosts or the humans really want.

Can't wait to see how they're able to unpack all of this and just how far they're able to take all of these amazing concepts.

Loops and reveries:

* How this episode opened is somewhat confusing to me. I imagine that’s deliberate. Bernard (or perhaps Arnold) wakes up from a dream and begins chatting with Dolores. They proceed to talk about dreams, what’s real and not real, and about the scary potential Dolores possesses. It isn’t clear if this is a flashback where Bernard apparently dreamed of a future involving the flooded water, if it’s Bernard having a dream about things that have already happened, or if it’s Arnold ignorantly putting ideas in Dolores’ head. The last option seems the simplest and most logical, but the first and second could raise all sorts of questions.

* The arrival of Delos reminds me of InGen in the second Jurassic Park movie. Only a lot more hardcore.

* Maeve and Lee find a bloody bear among the dead in the park control room. Nice synchronicity with the out of place Bengal in the present.

* That mysterious wolf shows up again, locking eyes with William. Kindred spirits, or the hunter becoming the hunted?

* Team Maeve is still missing a few players. Felix, Sylvester and Armistice don’t show up in this episode. We instead meet new characters such as Karl Strand, the man Delos sent to deal with the Westworld incident; Maling, one of Strand's mercenaries; and Costa, one of the park's surviving tech experts.

* The young Ford host’s voice — a synthesis of a child, Anthony Hopkins and an insidiously distorted robot inflection — was really eerie.

* I’m calling the flooded valley where all the hosts died the Valley of Death. The new opening credits feature a lot of water imagery, so I’m guessing this new sea is going to be integral to the story. Bernard washes up on the beach with a wine glass. Did the hosts throw a party of their own during that two week gap? With the homicidal visionary persona of Wyatt driving Dolores' crusade, I’m getting bad vibes. Was the watery death of the hosts some sort of twisted baptism? Nothing cultish about that, right?

* Bernard is suffering from a bevy of disorders thanks to the damage to his noggin, including loss of motor functions, aphasia and cognitive dissonance; talk about unreliable narrators. He's able to temporarily fix himself by draining cerebral fluid from another host's brain and injecting it into himself. Someone online compared Bernard to a vampire, which I thought was a unique take.

* We are also introduced to drone hosts. Just in case you weren't scared enough of the humanlike androids.


Quotes:

Bernard: Dreams don’t mean anything, Dolores. They're just noise. They’re not real.
Dolores: What is real?
Bernard: … That which is irreplaceable. That answer doesn’t seem to satisfy you.
Dolores: Because it’s not completely honest.

Bernard: Is this now?

Stubbs: Bet you’re pretty fuckin’ out of sorts right now.

Dolores: I told you, friend. Not all of us deserve to make it to the valley beyond.

Delos guest: Please, it was just a game. We’re begging. Can’t you see, we’re sorry!
Dolores: Doesn’t look like anything to me.

William: We’re gonna have some fun now.

Young Ford host: You’ve made it to the center of Arnold’s maze. But now, you’re in my game. In this game, you have to make it back out. In this game, you have to find The Door. Congratulations, William. This game is meant for you. The game begins where you end, and ends where you began.

Very glad to be reviewing this show after Josie, as daunting a task as that is. Four out of four scalped androids.

4 comments:

Mallena said...

The only way that I can follow a show like this is to read an intelligent review of it. I get confused by the many timelines and the hosts taking on different characters, so I'm really glad that you are doing these reviews.

I hope that we get more stories of the guests that are trying to survive. I'd also prefer that there wasn't as many jumps in time. A few are good, but I have a hard time telling if young William has already been to the park or not. I guess I'm supposed to see his jaded expression and cynical ways about him, afterwards. Problem is, I'm not that astute.

TheShadowKnows said...

How sure are we that Ford is even dead? That could have been a robot double that Dolores shot; we know Ford made a copy of Arnold, so why not himself?

And if Ford DOES show up again, how will know whether the purportedly resurrected Ford is human or a robot double? Does it matter?

Patryk said...

The show is back with all the questions we loved it in season 1 for. That's great for me. Should be great ride.

The episode did feel a lot like Jurassic Park as You said in the review. I wonder if all the parks had similar uprisings and would the animal hosts rebel too and gain conciousness?

Logan Cox said...

As a fan of Lost and Quentin Tarantino movies, I feel very comfortable getting thrown for a loop by nonlinear storytelling. That said, this show really does put my ability to decipher such stories to the test. It massively succeeds where AMC's Preacher fails as far as its surrealism and intentionally disorienting structure. Although, it does have the downside of making me feel too slow-minded to keep up with it at times.

As for Ford, I think he really did die, but as the Man in Black later says, "Dead ain't what it used to be." He still lives on within the code of Westworld, evidently succeeding at emulating the legendary composers who "simply became music," as he said. However, I wouldn't doubt him making a host copy of himself as he did with Arnold, or that he's got a copy of his consciousness saved somewhere.