It’s good to be back in the saddle. That’s the feeling I at least get while watching the beautifully ludicrous Westworld season 2 trailer. It has everything, including tigers, dead humans lyin’ in the streets, and of course killer robots. But there are some intriguing little hints about what’s to come, narratively and thematically, from Jonah Nolan and Lisa Joy’s sprawling series about identity and awareness in a future filled with artificial intelligence. The park might not be open for new visitors anymore, but it’s never look more inviting. Thus without further ado, lets dive into the trailer for season 2!
The first image is appropriate enough since the player piano has stood as a metaphor for the hosts all through season 1. And seeing the blood splattered on the paper is particularly appropriate since that red stuff is actually real for once. Plus, that exact same effect was used on a player piano at the San Diego Comic-Con Westworld experience that we attended. That too had violent delights, albeit not-so-violent ends.
And here is our first real image of season 2, and it’s a striking one. Bernard stands before a dead tiger that has wandered into the park to be slaughtered. Where does the tiger come from as it is not indigenous to the Old West? Well if you recall the Westworld season finale last year, we got a brief glimpse of what many assume is called “SamuraiWorld,” a theme park like Westworld except with feudal Japan aesthetics. A tiger would fit right at home in such a Western idealization of the exotic east. This also implicitly promises a cross-pollination of the parks. I suppose this is inevitable if you believe in Michael Crichton’s Ian Malcolm and his beloved rants on chaos theory. So it looks like we’re going to SamuraiWorld next year…. Or it’s at least coming to us.
(Also a fun thought is that maybe it is a reference to Logan too since in that not-so-distant future, one character says tigers are now completely extinct. Hence like in Blade Runner, people can only see the animals at a pricey theme parks for the filthy rich.)
And here is our first shot of Maeve and Lee Sizemore, apparently in a scene not long after the season 1 finale. Judging by the image, they have made an unlikely alliance, and I assume it’s mostly out of survival. Maeve will need a human who understands the park to help her find the host she recalls as her daughter, and Lee just doesn’t want to get slaughtered in the robot revolution. Robert Ford’s “Journey Into Night” might be fine and peachy for Dolores (and we’ll get to that in a moment), but Maeve has much more practical aspirations. She doesn’t want to be a cog in the robot revolution from servitude. She wants out, period. For at least a brief episode, it is easy to imagine that she will side with Sizemore, particularly since we don’t know how the zombie-hosts will interact with other hosts now that they’ve awakened from cold storage. There is a decent chance they could be as hostile to Maeve as they are to Lee.
So many dead guests. So, so many dead guests. And park technicians. Oh, and one who is hanging from dear life in a game just sadistic enough to imagine the Man in Black had a hand in it. Probably sitting off-screen right now waiting to shoot him if he that palm ever touches metal…
Speaking of bodies, let’s talk about this striking image. In fact, it’s the most powerful visual of the entire trailer: both Teddy and Dolores gleefully hunt down guests like they’re playing Red Dead Redemption without any concern of being deemed bad men. It is intriguing to see Teddy’s silhouette here given that he didn’t necessarily appear eager to start slaughtering random people in season 1, and it raises questions as to why we didn’t see his face. One reason might be that it’s a stunt double and they haven’t filmed James Marsden’s close-ups yet from this sequence, but I’d wager he might be less excited and jubilant from doing this.
But let’s forget about Teddy a moment. This is Dolores’ moment, and Evan Rachel Wood owns it. To see such a face of cathartic joy as she cruelly murders strangers in cold blood is both chilling and admirable. Not admirable for the homicidal part—murder’s not cool, y’all, like for realsies—but because she is the series’ main character. Despite that detail, here she is killing innocent people. You might think that this is irredeemable, and narratively you might have a point. It will be a real challenge to keep her the sympathetic star after this. But imagine it from her perspective too. These creatures have been raping and killing her for decades, and took just as much pleasure while doing it as she is now experiencing. It doesn’t feel so hot with the shoe on the other foot, eh?
This is a startling image and one that proves Evan Rachel Wood has a point about the uniqueness of the character and series.
And yet another curiosity is seeing Bernard riding along in these cars while apparently doing paperwork. Generally speaking, I get the sense these are not fellow hosts like himself; they’re humans. I’m basing this speculation on the fact that they have motor vehicles at their disposal. If they were robots, they would never have known about such technology or driven it with such nonchalant precision. Frankly, the image could be right out of almost any Jurassic Park movie. Here is Robert Muldoon galloping into the park to set things right and put all the animals, as it were, back into their cages.
If that is the case, why on Robert Ford’s green earth is Bernard riding with them? Honestly, I don’t know the answer, but it’s worth wondering if he may side with the guests over the hosts. After all, he has long identified as human and viewed the hosts as others. If he really has free will now in a supposedly Ford-less world (I still think Ford’s coming back in the season 2 finale), who’s to say he doesn’t choose to place a value on human life over an artificially intelligent one? Ford might be disappointed, but Bernard could see the value in morality—he does seem genuinely shattered at the realization that he murdered Theresa.
The politics this could unpack, historic, racial, modern, or all of the above, is thick… and I’m curious to see how it unfolds.
And here is the other startling image of the episode. Ed Harris’ William—who we will all likely still call the Man in Black—puts on his hat. His face is smeared in possibly real blood, yet he looks happy. Like truly and deeply happy. This is just confirming what we all speculated after his fleeting bow in last year’s finale. Even though he literally got shot with an actual bullet, he was finally home. At last a game with real stakes. He no longer is playing Red Dead Redemption; he’s living in it. And the game is just getting started.
Judging by this final image, perfectly paired with the trailer’s song hitting its high note of “I gotta’ be me,” we now see that like his long lost love, Dolores, he has found his true self. In this case, it is a man who has so obsessed over his fantasies and dreams that he’s ecstatic to be consumed by their transition into true reality. As long as the park is in disarray, I imagine he’d rather die than ever leave. Other guests may run in terror, trapped with all the dinosaurs hosts loose and coming to get them. But William? Hell yes, he will be running toward it. I imagine an almost Mad Max-esque fate for him where he turns a huge swath of the park into his domain, ruling over humans and hosts alike. A king at last with his desired kingdom.
And that’s it! According to Jonah Nolan during the Westworld SDCC panel, this sizzle reel was put together after only a week of shooting. If that’s true, then hot damn, pilgrim! We’re in for one visually stunning season that will likely only get weirder the more of it we see. Hence, 2018 cannot come fast enough!
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