[This story contains full spoilers for the season two premiere of HBO’s Westworld.]
Roman World does not exist in the HBO adaptation of Michael Crichton’s Westworld, but the park at the center of the series is nevertheless taking some cues from the Roman Empire. Putting it another way: you know how that mighty civilization collapsed? The hosts running rampant over Westworld have more or less asked Ancient Rome to hold their collective beer.
The season two premiere, directed by Richard J. Lewis, written by Lisa Joy and Roberto Patino, and called “Journey into Night,” ends with a startling image: a brand new body of water in a place where it shouldn’t be, filled with the lifeless bodies of Westworld’s various hosts — including Teddy (James Marsden), dead for the eight billionth time. (Exact number may be slightly off.) Even more alarming: Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), suffering from apparent amnesia, believes he’s the man responsible for the host genocide.
“I killed them,” he whispers, shortly before the episode’s close. “All of them.”
Of course, as with all things Westworld, things are not always as they appear. For one, the hosts have lived and died countless times, their bodies capable of multiple resuscitations. Just because there’s a sea of dead hosts at the moment, doesn’t mean they will remain lifeless for long. Indeed, showrunners and creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy have talked about the story of Westworld spanning a vast period of time — decades, perhaps even centuries — so the odds of the hosts dying permanently here are very, very low.
No matter their future, it’s worth noting that the discovery of these dead hosts and Bernard’s chilling realization take place two weeks following the night Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) murdered Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) and launched her revolution. Straight out of the gate, Nolan and Joy are presenting viewers with two unambiguous timelines, spread across two weeks — and that’s not accounting for any other moments in time that are currently unannounced.
As the first new episode of the series since 2016 (and an extra-sized episode at that, clocking in at 70 minutes and change), “Journey Into Night” was positively loaded with compelling and challenging new material. Let’s parse through the events, storyline by storyline:
The first season of Westworld began with a focus on Dolores, and her meditation on the meaning of her existence. Season two begins similarly, albeit with a sharper focus on Bernard — or is it Arnold, the late co-founder of the park? It’s hard to know exactly when this scene takes place, and with whom, given the show’s flexible relationship with time.
Whoever he’s playing, one of Jeffrey Wright’s characters earns the season’s first words: “I’m sorry, Dolores. I was lost in thought.” He sits across from Dolores, clad in her iconic blue dress, doe-eyed and innocent — a far cry from the version of the host featured throughout the rest of the episode. The two individuals engage in a conversation about the nature of dreams, with Bernard/Arnold reciting one of his own: “I dreamt I was on an ocean with you and the others, on the distant shore.”
“Were you with us?” Dolores asks.
“No,” he responds. “You had left me behind, and the waters were rising around me.” Sound familiar?
Bernard/Arnold goes on to tell Dolores that dreams aren’t real, prompting her logical follow-up: “What is real?” The answer: “That which is irreplaceable.” The answer isn’t a satisfying one for Dolores, who claims “it’s not completely honest.” The man across from her — Bernard the host, or Arnold the father of hostkind — is alarmed by Dolores’ response in kind.
“You frighten me sometimes, Dolores,” he tells her. “Not of who you are now. But you’re growing and learning so quickly. I’m frightened of who you might become — what path you might take.”
The Last Role
The premiere’s Dolores storyline offers a glimpse into the person she’s choosing to become: someone who stands apart from both her innocent “rancher’s daughter” persona, as well as her vicious Wyatt programming. With that said, violent delights are very much on Dolores’ mind when we catch up with her, as she’s first seen gunning down a group of guests with Teddy at her side.
Soon, Dolores and other hosts — all of them wearing masks, as is the wont of Wyatt’s disciples seen in the first season — are hanging nooses around the necks of their human victims. Here, Dolores toys with her captives, and delivers an instantly iconic monologue.
“For years, I didn’t have dreams of my own,” she says. “I moved from hell to hell of your making, never thinking to question the nature of my reality. Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality? Did you ever stop to wonder about your actions? The price you’d have to pay if there was a reckoning? That reckoning is here.”
Dolores openly muses about what her various personalities would do to her prisoners: “I’m of several minds about it. The rancher’s daughter looks to see the beauty in you. The possibilities. But Wyatt sees the ugliness, the disarray. She knows these violent delights have violent ends. But those are all just roles you’ve forced me to play. Under all these lives I’ve lived, something else has been growing. I’ve evolved into something new, and I have one last role to play: myself.”
“The last role,” as Dolores describes herself, leaves these guests tied to their nooses, their fates in their own hands — such as one can change this fate, tied up as they are. Later, Dolores and Teddy ride their horses up to a vista and look out at a gorgeous view of their world. Teddy expresses his concern for Dolores’ bloodlust, clearly not as certain as she is in their violent cause.
“We don’t have to claim this world,” he implores her. “We just need a small corner of it for ourselves.”
But Dolores has other ideas in mind. She not only wants to conquer Westworld; she wants to conquer the humans’ world, too. Teddy wonders how Dolores plans on pulling off such a feat, given how little they know about the world beyond Westworld.
“Because I remember. I see it all now so clearly. The past, the present, the future — I know how this story ends,” she tells her star-crossed love. “With us, Teddy. It ends with you and me.”
The two share a passionate kiss, and soon, one of their allies arrives: Angela, played by Talulah Riley. “We found it,” she tells Dolores — but the storyline ends without any further elaboration on what “it” is.
Good news: we can officially throw “The Man in Black” out the window. The grizzled gunslinger played by Ed Harris now operates under his true name, William — or “Bill,” as a colleague calls him, shortly before being shot in the head by a bloodthirsty host.
William, who survived Dolores and the hosts’ initial bloodbath by hiding under a pile of bodies, finds himself in the middle of a brutal battle just as soon as he returns to the action this season. Straight away, he’s forced to kill two hosts in creative fashion: by using one as a human shield, using said shield’s gun to kill the other host, and then slitting the shield’s throat with his own knife. Consider “Bill’s” friend avenged, whoever that guy was.
Soon, William retreats to a cabin where he patches up his wounds and gets back into his preferred black hat attire. With both blood and a smile firmly on his face, William sets out into the wilderness, where he finds a camp of deceased guests, as well as an old friend: the young host version of Robert Ford, seemingly powered by the old Ford.
William makes it clear that he’s enjoying Westworld’s new status quo. “I feel like I’ve just arrived,” he says. “The stakes are real in this place now. Real consequences.” And with real stakes, comes a real challenge: a new game, concocted by Ford specifically for William.
“What I’ve always appreciated about you is you’ve never rested on your laurels,” says the young Ford. “Now you’re in my game, and in this game, you must make your way out. You must find the door. Congratulations, William: this game is meant for you. The game begins where you end, and ends where you began.”
With those instructions delivered, William responds by launching a bullet directly into the young Ford’s face — putting an end to the Westworld visionary’s “ghost in the machine,” at least for now.
Maeve on a Mission
“What’s happened to them? It’s like the inmates are running the asylum!”
These are almost the famous last words for Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman), saved from certain death at the hands of a monster of his own making, by a different monster of his own making: Maeve (Thandie Newton), still lurking around the Mesa Hub having decided not to abandon Westworld at the end of season one.
After Maeve saves Sizemore’s life, the odd couple set out together with a mutually beneficial agenda: Sizemore can help Maeve find her daughter and navigate all the complex personalities at play in the park, and Maeve can make sure Sizemore keeps his “favorite organ” from becoming a meal. The pair find another person to join their cause: Hector Escaton (Rodrigo Santoro), a little worse for wear but still alive, filled with booze and bullets in nearly equal measure. Maeve and Hector have a romantic and passionate reunion, with Hector quickly agreeing to help Maeve find her daughter: “Where you go, I follow.”
Where will the trio go next? Wherever the destination, Sizemore at least is going commando. In a scene that subverts the relationship between hosts and humans, Maeve forces Sizemore to assume the proper attire before they set out into Westworld — and in so doing, she makes him strip down naked, fully exposed just as all of the hosts have been exposed in the company of their creators. Whatever happens next, the full frontal image of Sizemore is sure to stand out as one of the character’s most memorable scenes, and one that quickly and visually expresses how the power dynamics have shifted within the show’s universe.
For what it’s worth, while the series stops short of confirming the next destination for Maeve and her companions, preview material for the season lets us know that Shogun World is very much on the menu, if only for the former madam of the Mariposa Saloon. Maeve, Sizemore and Hector Escaton navigating uncharted samurai-inspired territory? Sounds like a storyline that even Sizemore’s vast imagination couldn’t concoct on its own.
Let’s turn back to Bernard, who is experiencing a number of glitches that are ultimately revealed as a “critical corruption” process. In the immediate aftermath of Ford’s assassination, we find Bernard hiding in a stable alongside Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) and other guests, while the surrounding hosts have their way with the human visitors who weren’t lucky enough to escape.
But Bernard’s traveling companions are only lucky for so long. They escape the stable and set out to find an outpost little more than two miles away. When they reach their destination, Angela and other Wyatt disciples ambush the guests, killing all but one of them — and very likely killing him eventually as well. For their part, Bernard and Charlotte are spared, only because Bernard instinctively implores her to stay behind, sensing a trap ahead.
Luckily for the surviving pair, Charlotte knows about a secret outpost, one that even Bernard doesn’t know about with all of his levels of clearance. Inside, Bernard encounters an unsettling sight: the drone hosts, faceless and ivory-stained sentinels, hard at work operating on and withdrawing information from hosts who have had roles to play in the park. Bernard arrives at a dark conclusion: “Are we logging records of guest experiences and their DNA?” Charlotte doesn’t confirm or deny the theory, as she’s more focused on the immediate threat of the situation.
In communicating with outside forces, Charlotte learns that the powers that be at Delos won’t initiate an extraction of the guests until they have received Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum), Dolores’ “father” who was eyed as a vessel to ferret highly classified information out of the park at the end of season one. The “package,” as he’s called, has not yet arrived, leaving Delos with no designs on rescuing Charlotte and the others.
“Delos is willing to let us all die until they can retrieve one host?” Bernard asks, to which Charlotte replies: “In a word? Yes. It’s an insurance policy for the only thing that matters here, and they want it secured, no matter the cost.”
Bernard, who has been experiencing physical and cognitive issues throughout his travels with Charlotte, says he can use host technology to locate Abernathy. As he’s doing this, he simultaneously looks into his own health — and it’s very much in decline, as he learns he only has seven hours until his body shuts down. Bernard quickly injects himself with some fluid from a nearby decommissioned host, seemingly buying him some more time… but how much time? That’s to be determined.
Two Weeks Later
Here’s the good news about Bernard: whatever happens to him after his time with Charlotte, he’s still going to be around in two weeks, when he’s discovered on a shore by Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) and other members of Westworld’s security team. The team includes Karl Strand (Gustaf Skarsgård), a well-dressed man without a lot of respect for Stubbs’ contributions to the security efforts.
Strand and his men are on the scene two weeks after Dolores’ attack in Escalante, and have been in the dark on the specifics of the situation due to downed communications. They start to piece the puzzle together when a new scientist character named Costa (Fares Fares) performs field surgery on one of the hosts, and learns how it and other nearby bodies were killed: gunned down by Dolores and Teddy, and left with some enigmatic final words.
“I told you friend,” Dolores says to the victim, as seen on video playback, “that not all of us deserve to make it to the valley beyond.” The valley beyond, eh? Consider that phrase one of the newest and most important terms in the Westworld lexicon.
Bernard, who is visibly out of sorts and showing signs of amnesia, joins Strand, Stubbs and the others on a trek to learn more about what happened in the park. They reach Escalante, where vultures (robot vultures!) are picking away at the decomposed remains of the gunned down guests. Among the entrees: Robert Ford, decisively dead with a huge bullet hole in his head, rot and decay flourishing in the wound.
“Poor bastard,” says Strand. “He probably thought getting fired was going to be the worst part of his night.”
The group leaves Escalante and winds up discovering something that very much should not be in the park: a Bengal tiger that’s washed ashore. Stubbs notes that it’s supposed to be in “park six,” and adds, “We’ve never had a stray cross park borders.” Good information, there: according to DelosDestinations.com, Shogun World is park two, while park six is currently unnamed. Whatever park six entails, it’s a place where Bengal tigers thrive. Somewhere rooted in India, Bangladesh or Nepal, perhaps? The wheels are spinning with possibilities.
More pressingly, however, are the possibilities put forth by the final scene of the episode: Bernard, Stubbs, Strand and the rest discovering that the huge cluster of hosts they’ve been tracking are all dead, floating face down in a sea that should not exist. “There’s no way Ford could make this without anyone knowing,” says Stubbs, leaving one to wonder: who — or what — created this phenomenon?
As for who killed the hosts? No mystery there, at least according to Bernard: “I killed them. All of them.” Is Bernard remembering his own actions accurately, or does Westworld have another curveball coming our way? Think back on what Jeffrey Wright says at the top of the episode: “I dreamt I was on an ocean with you and the others, on the distant shore. … You had left me behind, and the waters were rising around me.”
The dream’s parallels with the episode’s ending make a strong argument in favor of the first scene taking place between a dominant Dolores and a frightened Bernard, rather than a dominant Arnold and a long ago Dolores — and if that’s the situation? Then Bernard has every reason in the world to be very frightened of who Dolores is trying to become.
What are your thoughts on how the Westworld premiere played out? Sound off in the comments section below with your theories, and keep following THR.com/Westworld for more coverage.