This article contains light spoilers for Westworld season 1.
Life as a host in Westworld is no longer one continuous loop. An AI-led coup brought an explosive end to the first season of HBO’s prestige drama, opening the world for its synthetic beings beyond their sprawling Western-themed box. At the forefront of the host uprising stood the women of Westworld. By the finale’s end, Dolores, Maeve, and Clementine were putting fear into the eyes of any human working in Robert Ford’s fantasy factory.
To get to that point, these characters endured the unspeakable. In a park without consequences, graphic violence and the show’s clear implication of rape became a near constant byproduct of guests losing all inhibitions. From the gray area of consent with robots to gratuitous orgies and debates about morality amongst the artificially intelligent, Westworld at times was as uncomfortable as it was gripping. The show’s stars also found purpose in channeling the darker moments into a cultural commentary. Star Evan Rachel Wood, who plays Dolores, testified before Congress earlier this year, advocating in favor of the Sexual Assault Survivors’ Bill of Rights Act to be enacted in all 50 states. A survivor of multiple sexual assaults, Wood told Rolling Stone that her demons never fully left her: “When you’re using them to create something, it almost gives them a purpose. Westworld? I left so much in that first season and never looked back.”
Through Westworld, the cast wants the narrative surrounding these sensitive topics to be reprogrammed. The wounded, oppressed, and abused can speak up and fight back. With a new sense of authority, particularly amongst the female hosts, season 2 is going to bravely push forward.
“I think the show, in a strange way, has women as the leading characters,” said Angela Sarafyan, who plays Clementine. “Women are the heroes. We’re the ones starting a revolution. I think that with that diversity intact, with also our cast and everyone that works on the show, there is growth. And season 2 continues that same conversation, but even further.”
Character details are kept under a tight shroud of secrecy, both on set and in the press roundtables. Sarafyan teased a continued evolution of Clementine as hosts all around her grapple with agency over their reality. In approaching Clementine, Sarafyan looked to the history of the old West where prostitution was dangerous–death from childbirth and venereal diseases were common–but the working girl had wealth and autonomy that other women at the time did not.
“Being a feminist doesn’t mean hiding your femininity. Actually, it means really taking that space and saying, ‘Yes, I’ve got curves. I’ve got boobs and an ass, and I like it.’ And it’s saying that I will enjoy what was given to me,” she said. “What’s great about this season is I got to play different parts of her and kind of discover all of the facets of Clementine. She’s not just defined by being a saloon girl. She’s more than that.”
To Sarafyan, the series has a greater responsibility in its second season to speak for those who might not have a voice, or who think they are trapped in a bad situation.
“I think Clementine found her strength as a woman, even though she was set up in that laboratory,” she said. “I think she literally fought back. With what’s happening with the Women’s March, and this unity with women, I find that very moving. It’s for the women who can’t walk.”