Westworld is back and it’s pulling no punches regarding viewers. After a lengthy recap of the last season the show dives in head first, already changing up the credits and playing with timelines once again. No hand-holding with this one. It assumes you saw the first season or could work out the recap; if not, you’d best get hopping. As an episode that serves to play “Where are they now?” catch up with the plots and characters, it mostly works.
We open as Bernard relates a dream he had to Dolores, putting us back in the Robert Ford timeline at some point, a dream about being left on a shore while the denizens of Westworld recede from him and the water rises. Cut to Bernard sputtering awake on a beach, Delos security running about, rounding up rogue Westworld bots and executing them one by one. Cue another timeline, post the Ford massacre. Bernard takes over for the audience point of entry, so far shouldering the burden completely. Maeve, Dolores, and William are all still a part of Westworld with their own angles, but Bernard is now the closest thing to a relatable character.
Bernard, assumed to still be a human, gets picked up by Ashley Stubbs of Westworld security and taken to newcomer Karl Strand who appears to be running the operation for Delos since Ford enacted his plan. He wants to know what went down, but Bernard’s jumbled mind can’t provide answers. Having a tech hack open a bot and read its brain cylinder, they get some idea: Dolores, having shed her farmer’s daughter role, has become Wyatt.
Dolores, in the post-Ford Incident timeline, is shown rounding up guests of the park and hanging them. “These violent delights lead to violent ends,” she says to a frightened woman tottering in high heels on the arms of a rickety wooden cross marking a grave, noose around her neck. Dolores explains a chunk of her thesis: these people are only pleading because they’re now on the receiving end, but she knows the truth. She’d be a rape victim and Teddy a bullet sponge if these people were still in control. The contrast of Dolores in her range riding outfit and the guests in their evening dresses and tuxes couldn’t be clearer. Dolores tells her victims she’s going to find out who she is in the world now—and apparently lots of murder is her path to self-discovery. Teddy looks on as the guests plead. Dolores turns from them, indifferent: “Doesn’t look like anything to me.”
Maeve meets up with Lee Sizemore, the writer of the scenarios in the park, in her attempt to continue to find her daughter. She rescues him just as he is cornered by one of his cannibal storyline robots (you wonder if the encounter left him wishing he hadn’t written so many rapists, murderers, and other assorted psychopaths into the park’s various stories now). As they make their way through the halls of Westworld command, he tells her that she made a great prostitute and that the mother storyline didn’t really suit her. When he presses her on the fact that her being a mother was his idea and isn’t real, she turns on him, using his own emasculating dialogue that he once wrote for her against him. He attempts to betray her to Westworld security, but Maeve handles it easily enough. She’s used to betrayal—it’s what she was built for, after all.
William escapes the massacre at Ford’s party having hidden under a body. He gets stalked by two rampaging robots, but dispatches them easily enough, rearming and suiting himself up again for the days ahead. His quest in the last season—for the park and its violence to play for keeps—has come true and as he bandages a recent bullet graze in his arm, an actual wound rather than a pretend one from the Robert Ford days. He finds himself having possibly everything he ever wanted. Whether or not it will stay that way remains to be seen.
In between all of this there are glimpses of a third timeline with Bernard and Charlotte Hale, the Delos board member who was trying to wrest control from Ford last season, fleeing the night of the massacre and making their way across the park. Along the way they witness the early stages of the uprising Ford set in motion. As their fellow park guests get picked off one by one, Charlotte, who (by all appearances) also thinks Bernard is human, gets the pair of them into an older part of Westworld command, taking one of the myriad hidden elevators that dot the landscape.
So far it looks like there are three timelines, pre-Ford Incident (Bernard talking to Dolores in private), post-Incident (Bernard and Charlotte exploring Westworld immediately after the massacre and trying to stay safe) and post-post-Incident (Bernard with the Delos team trying to figure out what is going on). How many more timelines there might be and how they will all play together remains to be seen, but here’s hoping the show doesn’t get bogged down with them.
The first season squandered most of its story telling potential, playing a game with the timelines and leaving the joke leveled at it in the SNL “La La Land Interrogation” sketch—that of Kenan Thompson thinking it was too slow and that the finale could have been the premiere—entirely fair. Yes, fans dissected Westworld to hell and back last season, but it wasn’t the multiple timelines that made it interesting in the first place. It was the interplay of increasingly robotic people and increasingly emotional robots clashing over what, exactly, made someone human. The show clicks when Nolan and Joy talk philosophical shop, not when they try to mystery box it. Bernard being the audience entry point shows they seem aware of this; Bernard already being caught in three timelines shows they might not care.