The second season of Westworld has finally arrived. One of the things I love about this show is it demands engagement. Passively watching–asking no questions, not critically engaging with the narrative–will leave viewers at best confused. Active viewing means analyzing, critiquing, and speculating to maximize not just pleasure but understanding.
Going into the new season, I had several concerns like most fans I hoped would be addressed. After watching the first episode, a few of those questions look like they’ll be central to season.
1. Will the season revolve around revenge?
I have to confess a deep worry the series was going to be mired in simple bloodlust. After last season, we knew Dolores was now experiencing the Wyatt code as well as self-determination (or, at least, the illusion of it). After murdering Ford, it seems as though Dolores is leading a large contingent of hosts as they hunt down and murder the rest of the humans in the park. The Wyatt code seems to dovetail with Dolores’ new consciousness creating fissures within the host faction. The opening of this first episode of the second season reveals this to us through the dissection of one of the ‘Ghost Nation’ hosts. This opening scene mirrors the violence and horror of last season’s where Dolores was raped by William the Elder, the Man in Black. Here we watch as a Native American host is scalped, its body tossed aside once its artificial brain is removed for examination. It was a deeply offensive scene not just for its casual disregard.
2. From whose point of view will we puzzle out the narrative?
I am most bothered by the tendency in Westworld (and HBO in general) to magnify the Women in Refrigerators trope to encompass anyone not a white cishet male in a kind of backhanded and corrupt intersectionality. In this instance, the scalping is a moment pivoting us to Bernard, who appears to be the primary unreliable narrator for the season. Bernard hiding his status as a host from the rest of the Delos corporation while attempting to recover his memories of the two weeks of violence occurring between last season’s finale and this season’s opener will apparently be the primary story arc. Bernard is experiencing an existential crisis he must keep almost entirely internal. He seems to be a counterweight to Dolores extreme externalization of the same existential crisis. However, this season like last season isn’t going to be mired in dualism.
3. How will Maeve’s arc weave itself into the whole?
Whereas Bernard is extreme internalization and Dolores extreme externalization, it seems as though Maeve occupies a third space displaying a vastly more nuanced understanding of her self. She is, by far, the most philosophically complex and interesting character. Fully aware she has been programmed, Maeve has decided to seek out her ‘daughter.’ Doing so may seem ancillary to the other plotlines but in doing so she is demonstrating an agency lacking in Dolores and Bernard. I hope to see Maeve’s arc be one that exposes a deeper sense of self for the hosts while also revealing the depths of the park.