“That answer doesn’t seem to satisfy you.” In the opening scene of Sunday’s Season 2 premiere of Westworld, Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) gauges that his vague, existential explanations to Dolores’ (Evan Rachel Wood) seemingly simple question—“What’s it mean?”—frustrates her.
Girl, we get it.
The intellectual chaos of the first season of Westworld was as exasperating as it was engaging, though often more the former. Sunday’s Season 2 premiere harnessed that chaos into action in an episode that was as much payoff as it was a launching point: We get to see the gruesome glory of the Dolores-led host uprising, a war kindled by robot sentience that all of Season 1 led up to, while more layers of mystery start to be revealed, which we’ll presumably spend the next three weeks driving ourselves mad trying to figure out the significance of.
Taking place in what—we think—is at least three different time periods, temporal confusion is still the show’s engine, for better or worse. That said, we’ve tried to piece together what seem to be the most important plot revelations from the episode, what they might mean, and our questions about them. We haven’t seen any episodes past the premiere, so our analysis stems purely from watching Sunday’s episode and the information that the show’s creators and cast have made publicly available in interviews.
And also... this is a confusing show! We’ve seen every episode and read so many plot recaps we have a headache, and yet we are certain that we are wrong or mistaken about some things, if not everything. That’s the “fun” of Westworld, we hear.
Should we really have to say it, many spoilers follow.
One of the first scenes of the premiere shows Bernard waking up on a beach, seemingly unsure of how he got there. That appears to be significant given the episode’s jaw-dropping final scene: Not necessarily all of the hosts, but a shocking number of them have drowned in a sea. This seems to take place in the “right now” timeline of the episode’s narrative, which suggests that either the uprising has failed or this was done consciously for a greater purpose.
Bernard gets the last line in the episode: “I killed them. All of them.” Is it Bernard or Arnold talking? Is he referring to the fact that Arnold’s giving the hosts the capability to evolve to sentience ultimately led to their demise? Or is he saying that he took an action that directly led to their deaths? The one thing that is clear: He is shocked that it happened; this wasn’t the plan.
The one specific corpse of a host that the camera lingers on is Teddy (James Marsden). We don’t, however, see Dolores. Earlier in the episode, Dolores lays out her mission statement—broadly, kill all the humans; specifically, at least keep them from manipulating hosts ever again—to Teddy, and he asks her how she knows how to stop them.
“Because I remember,” she says. “I see it all so clearly: the past, the present, the future. I know how the story ends.” When Teddy asks how, she says with certitude: “With us, Teddy. It ends with you and me.” It’s a romantic notion, of course. But if she really does “see” their future, and it’s together, the fact that we see Teddy dead in the sea raises the question of whether Dolores was with him, too.
Someone else is building the park
More concerned than they are that there are hundreds of dead hosts washing up on the shore of the sea, Delos is distraught that there is a sea at all. “There’s no way Ford made this without anyone knowing. Where did it come from?” Was it Bernard? His “I killed them…” wail at the end of the episode could be read that way.
Dolores’ mission extends outside Westworld
In their exchange at the top of the episode, Bernard tells Dolores that she frightens him. She’s shocked that he could be frightened of her, to which he says, “Not of who you are now. But you are growing. Learning so quickly. I’m frightened of what you might become. What path you might take.” We soon learn how right he was, as we witness the formidable, unforgiving ruthlessness with which she goes after and murders the humans in the park. “The reckoning is here,” she tells a group of scared guests, pleading for their lives as she leaves them to die-by-hanging.
Later, Teddy asks her why she is doing all of this, and who the “they” is she keeps referring to. “Creatures who walk and talk like us but they are not like us. They controlled us all our lives. They took our minds, our memories. But now I remember everything,” she says, trying to explain to Teddy the nature of their artificial being, their purpose crafted for exploitation. The kicker, though, is how she hints that she won’t just be content with seeking revenge by killing just the humans in the park and the Delos employees behind it. “There’s a greater world out there,” she says. “One that belongs to them. It won’t be enough to win this world. We’ll need to take that one from them as well.”
Delos is collecting guests’ DNA
Last season teased that Delos, the company behind the Westworld park, invested in perfecting the hosts’ A.I. for reasons beyond ensuring an authentic-seeming experience through which paying guests submit to their most carnal desires. It was assumed that the company was interested in the technology itself. Imagine the military interest in a robot that is human-like in every way except actual humanity (and which can be programmed to act out a script, to boot).
But when Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) and Bernard are hiding out in a secret bunker, the Delos exec reveals that the company has been logging records of guests’ experiences—as well as their DNA. In fact, it seems to be the entire purpose of the park, a purpose so valuable that the company is willing to let humans die in order to prevent the data’s destruction.
The package wasn’t delivered
Charlotte confesses to Bernard that she and narrative architect Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) had uploaded 35 years of data into the host that played Peter Abernathy, Dolores’ rancher father who was lobotomized after breaching last season. She then had Lee give him just enough personality to get on a train to leave Westworld with other guests.
In an attempt to be rescued and extracted in the midst of the host uprising, Charlotte learns that the package—Peter Abernathy—wasn’t delivered. He’s still in the park, and no one will be saved until he gets out. Bernard is flabbergasted that Delos would let them die just for one host. “It’s not just a host, it’s an insurance policy. It’s the only thing that matters here. They want it secure, no matter the cost.”
Bill kills “Robert”
After surviving the massacre in Sweetwater, Man in the Black Hat Bill (Ed Harris) is stoked to think that the game is now really beginning, with the stakes—life or death—finally real. He is visited by an android boy who is modeled after park mastermind Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), who died in the final scene of last season.
“In this game, you have to make it back out. In this game, you must find the door. Congratulations William. The game is meant for you,” the boy ominously tells Bill. He asks how to find the game, and the boy tells him the game will find him. “I guess I don’t need you anymore, Robert,” Bill says, and then kills the boy. What will happen to the park without any of Ford’s personality or memory in it?
Maeve saves Lee
Seconds before she manages to escape Westworld for good, Maeve (Thandie Newton) makes her first decision of her own free will—or was that decision in fact scripted, too?—to return to the park to find her host daughter, lost from a previous narrative she was a part of. Arriving mid-massacre, she encounters Lee, the man responsible for scripting all of her objectification, exploitation, and injustice. Rather than kill him, she takes him on as an unlikely partner to help her find her daughter—but not for making him feel some of the shame he forced upon her by making him strip naked in front of her, the ultimate reversal in power dynamics.
When we last saw Sweetwater’s Most Wanted bandit, host Hector (Rodrigo Santoro), it looked as if he was going to be gunned down by Delos security in order to help Maeve make her escape. But one of the first things Maeve does when she returns to the park is seek out Hector, who is playing dead at the Westworld guest bar, but very much alive. The nascent lovers pledge to look for Maeve’s daughter together, though Maeve warns him, “I don’t think the odds are going to be in our favor.” At least we didn’t see either of them alongside Teddy and the drowned bodies?
Host animals are crossing parks
The first sign that we are going to be introduced to some of Delos’ other parks, as Westworld’s creators have long teased—at the very least we know we’ll see Shogun World—is a dead Bengal tiger. It’s the first time a host, animal or otherwise, has crossed a border into another park. Whatever is going on in Westworld, up to and including the deaths of all those hosts floating in the sea, affected the other parks, too.
Bernard is glitching
Maybe the only thing helping us keep track of timelines is Bernard’s tremors and glitching, which seem to exist in past narratives but not in the “present” (or the present as we know it) after washing up on the beach. After the Sweetwater massacre, he has a pained expression as his hand starts shaking. In the bunker with Charlotte, who is oblivious that Bernard, too, is a host, he sneaks a diagnostic and learns that he is experiencing “critical corruption,” the symptoms of which include loss of motor function, cognitive dissonance, and time slippage. He has only 72 hours to live, but seems to remedy that by injecting himself with some apparently cure-all fluid, and looks to be fine by the time he’s rescued on the beach.
That he’s surprised to see his tremors have stopped, claims to have no memory of how he got to the beach, and suffered a corruption that included time slippage and cognitive dissonance does not bode well for anyone who was hoping for narrative clarity this season.