Taking big risks this season leads to both rewards and pitfalls in equal measure. Go big or go home.
Season Two of HBO’s sci-fi/western series ‘Westworld‘ is a tantalizing exploration into artificial intelligence, humanity, and the space between. If you thought the debut season was a mind twister, be prepared. This isn’t a show for casual viewing; it’s deep dive or stay out of the pool.
Season One introduced this all fantasies fulfilled, A.I. fueled, Old West themed “Westworld”. A place where synthetic “hosts” relive scripted loops for the often savage amusement of the paying visitors. While, going against the corporate stooges seeking to replace him, the park’s chief mad scientist Dr. Ford (a playfully stoic Anthony Hopkins) pulls the strings of a few selected hosts, unleashing a violent rebellion by season’s end.
Season Two begins post-rebellion as these now self-aware hosts seek to not only claim Westworld as their own, but, perhaps, even the real world beyond.
Once again, parallel alternate timelines weave some sense out the chaos left behind this bloody undertaking. It’s enticing, dramatic, and tense as hell. And, not surprisingly, there’s plenty we didn’t know about the how and the why this park was built.
At times, Season Two feels like an entirely different show. Expanding this universe beyond the borders of Westworld and unleashing the A.I. hosts of their prescripted ways breaks established status quos, both in good and bad ways.
Doubling down on the action, this season is set amidst a war between the corporate mercenaries sent in to mop up and the surviving superhuman playthings still seeking freedom and some justice for what they’ve endured while fulfilling the unrestrained desires of humanity. Suitably Shakespearean settings for this grand cautionary tale.
However, ‘Westworld‘ works best while weaving grey-area complexity into its characters and their stories. And although certain key characters gain depth and purpose, many are simply performing a role on someone else’s stage. Making the inevitable sacrifices feel hollow in contrast to the more impactful losses suffered last season.
Added flashback-enhanced intrigue combined with the nontraditional narrative keep us guessing as to what’s going to happen next and what it all means. But, it also leads us down plenty of dead ends and an unnecessarily high level of WTF?s. Showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy do a better job designing the maze than in finding a sensible way out of it.
Don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed this sophomore season. There’s a number of stand out episodes and holy-sh*t revelations. Yet, introductions to sister fantasy lands, Colonial World and Shogun World, and segues into the histories of irrelevant side-characters offer little except unwelcomed bloat for an already tightly packed 10 episodes.
Nods to the unparalleled cast: especially Evan Rachel Wood (“Dorothy“), Jeffery Wright (“Bernard“), Thandie Newton (“Maeve“), and Ed Harris (“Man in Black“) who all knock it out of the
With stellar production, grand Old-West period specific designs and settings, epic performances, larger than life characters confronting moral quandaries that feel uncomfortably prophetic, abundant action, and loads of sci-fi cool Season Two of ‘Westworld‘ is impressive television. Just hoping for more cohesion in Season Three.