This article contains Westworld Season 2 spoilers.
If you’ve been keeping up with the second season of Westworld, then chances are that you have noticed the series has gotten quite fluid with the direction of its narrative. While once deceptively linear in its freshman effort—until showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa decided to pull the rug out from beneath us—the series now playfully embraces the expectation that it’ll toy with time and space. After all, one half of the creative team also worked on Memento, The Prestige, and Interstellar. So with Westworld Season 2, Joy and Nolan know that we know what is occurring in any given scene may not be taking place even in the same decade as the previous scene.
Hence this season beginning with the host we call Bernard trying to discover cohesion in the seemingly wiped data in his memory banks… and things getting only more convoluted from there. If the first season was a maze, then this year is an island-sized labyrinth with an Anthony Hopkins-shaped monster waiting at its elusive heart. Nevertheless, we are here to try and help make sense for you of what exactly is occurring among the five primary timelines, as well as everything else we’ve seen hinted at in the sophomore season.
Timeline A: The Main Story
Most of the events of season 2 are, of course, occurring with some narrative momentum. While it is neither the future-most or oldest timeline in the second season, the main story (or “present,” for lack of a better word) can be described as Timeline A. This is the series of events that have the most dramatic heft this year and take up the most amount of screen time: Dolores turning Teddy into a kill-bot; Maeve reuniting with her daughter after traveling to Shogun World; and William getting to be the big damn hero before revealing to his grown daughter that he is actually a coward.
We can be sure these events are occurring concurrently due to their brief but still tangible intersections. For instance, both Dolores and Teddy’s earliest bloodlust in the season 2 premiere and Bernard and Charlotte Hale’s narrow escape of the Robert Ford Massacre happened in near-tandem. While we are introduced to Bernard and Charlotte, plus a handful of clearly doomed extras, at night and Dolores and Teddy in midafternoon and mid-slaughter, the two see their narratives converge: the board members who Bernard and Charlotte fall back from are the same fools who fall into Dolores and Angela’s trap, which in turn leads them to the engineers Dolores needs for her nebulous plans.
Bernard of course later becomes a prisoner of Dolores, which then leads him to Elsie. However, Charlotte runs off on her own misadventures before she reconnects with Ashley Stubbs… a man who until the fourth episode was a prisoner of the Ghost Nation tribe. He was of course saved though by the machinations of Emily-Grace, the adult daughter of William. And after helping Stubs, Emily winds up riding headlong into dear old dad.
All of this confirms and reconfirms for us that these events are in the same timeline. As does the fact Maeve and company crosses paths, if ever briefly, with Dolores in the season’s second episode while looking for her daughter (who she finds in the sixth hour). Still, this isn’t the only currently in-progress narrative.
Timeline B: Waking Up on a Beach
While most of the events in the series are occurring immediately after the robot uprising succeeded Ford’s death—Charlotte Hale even says it’s been about a week in the sixth episode—it is not the first or even second timeline we are privy to viewing in the premiere. In fact, the first and perhaps biggest narrative puzzle is introduced in season 2’s second timeline, which is the kickoff point for what I am dubbing Timeline B.
These are all the scenes involving Bernard, Ashley Stubbs, (supposedly) Charlotte Hale, and a man named Karl Strand. This begins with Bernard waking up on a beach and struggling to remember how he got there. In fact, he is the only “living” host we’ve seen in this timeline, and he appears as wiped as many of the deceased ones. Karl Strand tells Bernard that they’ve arrived 11 days after the security breach that led to the robot revolution. Strand claims he is interested in saving potentially “hundreds of guests” still alive in the park, but given the mass murder we’ve seen in Timeline A, this claim seems dubious.
Timeline B is the future-most timeline in the season, focusing on its later version of Bernard coming to understand what occurred in Timeline A. Whatever happened, the events were obviously apocalyptic, as all of the hosts they’ve thus far discovered have not only been destroyed but wiped of all IP. They’re even described as “virginal.”
Notably of the hundreds lost at sea, the only named “dead” host recovered so far is Teddy Flood, and as we later learn in Timeline A, Dolores more or less killed the Teddy we all loved, anyway. Bernard claims he himself is responsible for the “destruction” of all these hosts, and I believe him. Although it turns out he feels guilty for not allowing Dolores to kill all the humans threatening the hosts–a mistake he rectifies by putting Dolores’ control unit inside a replica of Charlotte Hale’s body and then sending her after the cold-blooded, fleshy exec.
Timeline C: Testing His Fidelity
With that said, there is yet another timeline in addition to the above two. And while we did not know it at time, this timeline was also introduced in the season 2 premiere. In fact, it was the very first scene.
During the opening of season 2, we are allotted a familiar setup: Jeffrey Wright as Arnold Lowe is giving a diagnostic (but really a sentiency) test to Evan Rachel Wood’s Dolores. This type of scene was a familiar staple in season 1, as there were about a half-dozen or so vignettes about Arnold discussing his pain with Dolores and finding a kind of daughter to make up for his lost son. Granted, we are initially made to think these scenes are happening during or near the main events of season 1, and that it is human Bernard testing Dolores. Only once we are more than halfway through the season does it become clear Bernard is actually a host, and these are unannounced flashbacks between Dolores and Arnold, the true mastermind of the park and the man Bernard is modeled after.
Season 2 much less gracefully attempts to echo and repeat this twist with the revelation that the “flashback” we saw at the start of season 2 is not to the time before with Arnold at all; it’s a fidelity test Ford is having Dolores run on the then nascent Bernard in the hopes of her being able to make him exactly like Ford’s long dead friend, Arnold. This is revealed in the first scene of season 2’s sixth episode, where Dolores announces to “Arnold” that this is a fidelity test, and she is seeing if he is able to correctly repeat the exact character and mind of her dead creator.
These fidelity tests are the same hellish ones we saw Jim Delos (Peter Mullan) experience at the hands of his son-in-law over decades, as the latter morphed from being played by Jimmi Simpson to Ed Harris. The fact Dolores is performing the fidelity test opens an entire can of worms about how aware she is of Bernard’s creation and genesis, and just how much of herself did she implant in Bernard (or manipulate him into being her own skewed perspective of Arnold?)
It leaves a lot of dangling threads that we are only beginning to consider after Ford confirmed in the seventh episode he based Bernard on Dolores’ “memory” of Arnold.
When this article originally ran, I thought I caught a glimpse of a fourth timeline (or “Timeline D”) when Bernard had a momentary flash inside the facility where robo-James Delos rotted in proverbial Hell. For a moment, as he fails to be able to distinguish between what is present and what is the past in his cognition, Bernard not only disappears into a glimpse of the past where he murdered the local engineers on Robert Ford’s orders, but also when he is standing in the same area some time later… and without Elsie. He even remarks, “Why did I come back?”
The answer was revealed somewhat clumsily in the season finale. From what I can tell he returned to that facility during his efforts in between timelines A and B in order to build a robot replica of Charlotte Hale in which he stored Dolores’ control unit. If I had to guess, this off-the-books site is where he made the replica after retrieving Dolores’ control unit from her broken body. Or perhaps he just raided it for spare parts? Either way, it was a fourth timeline for all of one scene in episode four and then again during the brief montage of episode 10!
It couldn’t be a Westworld season finale though without more timeline revelations. Thus enters what I am now calling “Timeline E,” which is the final scene before the credits. Dolores is now seemingly in possession of two bodies, one made to duplicate her original Evan Rachel Wood visage and the Charlotte Hale variation Bernard built for her to escape the park in. Both watch Bernard 2.0 (or Arnold 3.0) get booted up based on Dolores’ latest attempts to create an improved version of her own creator. She claims she is doing this for the betterment of her speices, however I remain skeptical about that. My guess is she has designs for Bernard that extend beyond just being a good counterbalance to her bloodthristiness.
We also don’t know when this scene occurs. Dolores says it is the present, but clearly some time has passed, as she has made new bodies for both herself and Bernard, the latter of whom she then had to train to her specifications and preferences, as she did with the original Bernard. She also might have used some of his old control unit for him to have a clear understanding of their shared history. What is also evident is that potentially years have passed and Dolores might have designed a whole new intricate loop for Bernard outside of the park. I imagine when season 3 drops sometime down the road, when this scene occurs (and what happened while Bernard was off-line) will become crucial.
But wait there’s more! In the final scene of the night, after the credits are over, William drags his bad Man in Black self off the elevator into the bowels of the Forge to discover… he’s already done this before! Many times. In fact, he is now a host enduring a fidelity test that was enacted by other artificial beings. After all, his daughter is dead. He killed her. Yet here she is sitting there waiting for him, hinting that they are trying to get the Man in Black’s cognition just right.
This is of course a brain teaser that must take place years into the future. It’s probably been decades. Maybe even centuries. This is hinted at by the fact that the Forge now lies in ruins, and whatever came next for Delos wasn’t good. The park is abandoned and one machine is now testing another, while both wear the masks of humans long since dead. What this means is literally anyone’s guess, but mine is that much of Westworld Season 3 (if not all of it) will take place in the distant future after Dolores and Bernard’s clashing ideologies clash even harder against humanity. And by this point, it doesn’t matter if you’re biological or mechanical. All that matters if you’re the one being ordered to sit or if you’re the one doing the ordering.
With that said, there have been a number of flashbacks to the past that are easy to verify as true blue flashbacks and not part of the “current” narrative’s progressing events. Here is a round-up of other fragmented timelines we have seen:
– Arnold and Dolores in a Southeast Asian city is really Arnold and Dolores (not a host Dolores is trying to turn into Arnold). In fact, this occurs before any other scene we have seen in the whole of Westworld, because it is the only time we see Arnold not grieving over the death of his son Charlie. Instead Arnold is happily anticipating Charlie moving to this nondescript country to be closer to his father, who is working on the park in Westworld. We can also confirm this is not a fidelity test by Dolores, because it happens concurrently with a young Logan being introduced to the concept of Westworld by Angela.
– Akecheta is first introduced (if we are speaking in linear fashion) around the time Arnold forces Dolores to be Wyatt, or the “death bringer,” and put a bullet in his head. Akecheta discovers the carnage afterward in one of his many flashbacks during the phenomenal eighth episode of this year, “Kiksuya.”
– Before the park is opened (so before William and Logan first visit in season 1 as young men), Akecheta is reduced to a lazy and racist cliché to better sell the fantasy of killing American Indians to rich white tourists.
– Akecheta is next seen in a flashback wherein he meets Logan after the events of season 1. Logan is naked and delirious, because William forced him to ride bareback (quite literally) into the sunset. He has not recovered from the heat, but his babbling about “a door” inadvertently kickstarts Akecheta’s self-realization. He shortly thereafter kidnaps his love Kohana and tries to flee with her, but it ends tragically.
– William and James Delos visiting the Westworld park is a scene that takes place right after the events of season 1 involving William and Logan’s “vacation” to the park. Jimmi Simpson is convincing his father-in-law to invest in the park after Logan’s blunder because William sees a data-mining operation fortune to be had.
– There is yet another flashback of younger William introducing, in every creepy sense, Dolores to his daughter Emily and wife Juliet during a party for James Delos. This is technically its own timeline that is some years later, as Emily appears to be six-years-old or so when William wasn’t even married during season 1.
– William visits Dolores at the park again some time later (as she is back at the park instead of Big Jim’s house) and he shows her a “weapon.” A weapon we have not yet seen.
– Akecheta and Kohana do not actually reach the Valley Beyond facility until this point, and that is when Kohana is taken from him.
– Obviously the first two times we see James Delos experience a fidelity test is some time later, as he is quite dead if that test is to matter.
– Akecheta probably after the first several fidelity tests (as the earliest one we learn he’s been dead for seven eyars), Akecheta finally allows himself to “die” and be taken by those beneath Westworld. We know a long stretch of time passed, as it had been a full decade since his last update.
– Akecheta spends years waking up fellow hosts, including arguably Maeve and her daughter. This culminates not too far from the end of the series when Ake accidentally stumbles upon Robert Ford as he is designing “Journey Into Night” his phony pretext narrative to lure the whole board to Westworld for the season 1 finale slaughter.
– The last time we see William outside the park, it is the night he is given an award for philanthropy… and drives his wife to suicide. As it turns out, his daughter Emily loved him quite a bit, but his wife Juliet saw through William’s deceptions. She confronted him about this while also induldging in her own vice of liquor, and William confessed he never loved her… he only loves to torture machines. He and his daughter stopped talking after this.
– The final time we see James Delos in flashback is right before the main events of season 1. We can deduce this because Old Man William (Ed Harris) visits him and gives him a rather snide verbal beat down before telling personnel there to leave James alive for another week, supposedly for observation. Considering that Delos is still “alive” when Bernard and Elsie find him, this is not that long ago. It must have been William’s last official act of business before going to “visit” Dolores. Plus…
– We can deduce that Bernard visited that facility and slaughtered the whole staff off-screen in season 1. At the time, Bernard was clearly following the commands of Robert Ford, who told him to attack and imprison Elsie right outside this facility. Given that none of the staff found her, he must have executed both commands simultaneously. It also would help explain Robert Ford’s “Journey Into Night” narrative, as Bernard was required to retrieve an unknown personality pod in the room. He later tells Elsie in the sixth episode that he’s been in the Cradle room recently but cannot recall the details. I suspect he took Robert Ford’s personality from that lab and uploaded it into the Cradle during season 1, which is how Ford is “everywhere” in season 2 after his death.
So those are all the timelines in Westworld Season 2… we think. Did we miss any? Let us know in the comment section below!