This article contains some Westworld Season 2 spoilers.
There has been a fair bit of debate over the direction of Westworld Season 2. Some argue that the show has completely lost the thread of its former glory in season 1, while there is at least a minority that thinks it’s as good as ever. We’re in the third camp: one that thinks it is missing a step (at least in the first three episodes), but that’s a byproduct by the clever design of season 2. The first year welcomed us to the park, and the second is seeing the tourism fantasy end. Instead of a slow boil to a robot revolution, every week has been about bloody chaos.
Season 1 seemed as elegantly designed as a human system; season 2 is about a world without systems (or at least ones that can be easily marketed as a fun getaway to low-attention investment bankers). And yet still, there have been improvements. The last two weeks of Westworld have been especially strong with the introduction of Shogun World and the nefarious Hell James Delos lived and died in. Again and again. Westworld Season 2 is carving its own bloody path and is defiantly different from what came before. And while finding its own way, it’s finding some new virtues as well, such as the role of Lee Sizemore
Indeed, Sizemore was once an awkward fit in Westworld. While it’s unclear if it was more of a scripting misstep in an otherwise nigh perfect freshman effort or simply an issue with actor Simon Quarterman’s approach, Lee Sizemore could best be described in season 1 as broadly obnoxious. Obviously meant to partially be the comic relief, and the lone extrovert in a sea of miserable introverted Delos employees, Sizemore was foul-mouthed, crude, and altogether grating as he sniveled before Anthony Hopkins’ sedate Robert Ford or lusted after Tessa Thompson’s Charlotte Hale.
But in season 2, that has changed in large part because Lee is no longer a member of political machinations and shadowy corporate power moves between Ford, Hale, and the rest of the Delos empire. Nay, whereas in the season 1 finale he was set-up to try and help Charlotte bring order to the park, he finds a far better rhythm in season 2 as Maeve’s plucky comic relief.
In season 1, Lee was a noisy and unpleasant contrast to Robert Ford’s aged auteur, but his hacky quality has been used to amusingly clever effect next to Maeve. As it’s been revealed throughout season 2, much of Maeve’s “narrative” and loop after she was turned into a courtesan was courtesy of Lee Sizemore. As such, Lee is technically responsible for much of the personality that is entirely dominating him throughout season 2 and keeping him as a hostage and semi-confidante. Yet the creation has also outgrown him. This is brought up time and again throughout season 2, beginning with Maeve threatening to cut off his manhood and feed it to him if he betrays her.
“I wrote you that line,” Lee all but weeps, and Maeve begins her season long critique of his talents, by noting it always sounded a little arch to her. In a nutshell, Lee Sizemore is forced to live what so many authors muse exists in their heads: a conversation with their characters. I’ve talked to a number of writers who say they’ve argued about plot details with their protagonists, but that becomes an actual fact of life for Lee Sizemore when he sees Maeve and Hector—the lonely gunslinger cliché that Lee wrote as an avatar for his desires—holding hands.
While “there is supposed to be some attraction,” Lee is horrified, because Hector is meant to be haunted by the death of a lost love. Mind you, that lost love is a stand-in for a woman who dumped Lee, but he cannot fathom these characters finding a depth or growth that exceeds his own limited understanding of relationships. He is seeing his characters literally become bigger than he is.
That is a clever conceit that they have gotten mileage out of all season, perhaps no more so than “Akane No Mai,” the most recent episode of Westworld Season 2. In that latest hour, Maeve and the other hosts come to realize on top of being a mawkish traveling companion, Lee is also a lazy self- plagiarist. Aye, much of “Shogun World” is a direct lift, beat by beat, of the narratives and characterizations he gave each of them in Westworld. In essence, they are realizing with greater clarity how much their lives have been lies, and how complacent their existence has been for their creators.
Yet this gives avenues for Maeve to show a greater sophistication and self-awareness as she sees Akane as a doppelganger of herself, but also a fellow woman and maternal figure in pain. She bonds with Akane and reaches a higher level of understanding herself—while Lee is faced with the fact that he is a pretty fraudulent writer.
All of this though is just to say, it gives Simon Quarterman a lot more fun to play as the comic relief. Whether it is his deadpanned “Um, no,” when Ghost Nation warriors want to take him prisoner or just looking like he is about to have a panic attack when ninjas attack, a character who was an albatross around the neck of Westworld Season 1 has become a virtue in Westworld Season 2. At least until he does something dumb with that radio he snatched off a corpse. At which point, he might be eating his manhood.
As such, it offers an alternative question to those who think Westworld Season 2 is missing a step: What if it is also finding a new pace altogether worth exploring?