WARNING: Spoilers and graphic content ahead
Westworld returned to the air Sunday evening on HBO with the first episode of its second season, more than a year since the sci-fi Western’s initial season debuted to critical acclaim and and commercial success.
Sunday’s edition of the program – developed by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy – picked up in the wake of the massive cliffhanger season one ended on, with the beginning of a deadly rebellion at the futuristic amusement park (ran by a company named Delos) where humans, known as guests, can do whatever they like to the lifelike robots on hand, called hosts.
After Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) fired a fatal shot into the head of the park’s co-creator Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) to trigger a robot rebellion to end season one, season two’s episode opened with behavioral director Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) talking to Dolores about her dreams.
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They’re back: Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton) and Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) were prominently featured in Sunday’s season premiere of Westworld on HBO
A distressed Bernard told Dolores he had dreamed he was on an ocean with her and the others: ‘You’d left me behind and the waters were rising around me,’ he told her. ‘Dreams don’t mean anything Dolores – they’re just noise, they’re not real.’
‘What is real?’ Dolores asked Bernard, who replied, ‘That which is irreplaceable.’
After Dolores questioned the truth in his statement, Bernard told her, ‘You frighten me sometimes Dolores … I’m frightened of what you might become … the path you might take.’
The scene cut to a flash of scenes from the show’s first season, as Bernard recalled his exchanges with the park’s creator, Dr. Ford; and how Dolores shot him in the back of the head.
Conflicted: Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) was the focal point of the episode, as he dealt with the jaw-dropping aftermath of the host rebellion that ended season one
Introducing: Delos head of operations Karl Strand (Gustaf Skarsgård) (R) quickly established himself as a ruthless, controlling businessman
Revelation: A chat with a military man from China revealed that at least part of the park is set on an island
In the next scene, Bernard- who was revealed last season to be a host – was seen in the aftermath of the party, washed up on a shore with a champagne glass at his side and sand stuck to his face.
A phalanx of armed Delos troops dispatched to quell the problem of the host rebellion held Bernard at gunpoint when Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) called them off, noting Bernard’s top status in the organization in the wake of Ford’s death.
Stubbs told Bernard, ‘Bet you’re pretty f***ing out of sorts right now, let’s get you back to base, Delos brass are gonna wanna talk to you.’
A Delos trooper was seen flipping through sim cards illustrating the danger levels involved in each stray droid, with Bernard assessed as a high priority to contain.
The camera panned out to reveal that troopers have set up a campsite following the deadly party, complete with a holographic command center, ships and rafts.
Bernard stared intently watching troopers mercilessly executing the stray hosts, while a new character was introduced in Delos head of operations, Karl Strand (Gustaf Skarsgård), who quickly established himself as a ruthless, controlling businessman.
Strand was seen telling Chinese military officials about how the company has total jurisdiction over the island they’re on, and demanded they remain silent after laying their eyes on the shocking scene.
Taking precautions: A phalanx of heavily-armed guards patrolled the area looking for and executing stray hosts
Uh-oh: Delos troops possessed a sim card revealing Bernard as a robotic host
‘Have them sign an NDA and then please escort them off my f***ing island!’ he said.
Strand called the party the ‘single biggest loss of life on a Delos property,’ as it was established that Westworld communications have been down for two weeks amid the search and rescue operation at the park.
They made their way through the seaside, which was the first of many areas at the park that was littered with dead bodies, either those of hosts or guests.
At Strand’s urging, his subordinate Antoine Costa (Fares Fares) cut open the head of a deceased Ghost Nation warrior at the scene, exposing his brain, and the pattern of the maze emblazoned on the inside of his scalp. Costa inserted a mechanical device inside his brain and said, ‘With a bit of luck, the file is uncorrupted.’
The dead warrior’s memories revealed Dolores fatally shooting him, telling him, ‘I told you friend – not all of us deserve to make it to the valley beyond.’
Strand cracked, ‘Must have been a hell of a party, Bernard’ who had another series of flashbacks to the party.
The next scene showed Bernard hiding in a barn with a group of guests who escaped the bash and Delos exec Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson), who tried to make sense of the carnage at the party.
Picking up the pieces: Bernard and Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) sought to find a getaway from the dangerous surroundings
Not playing: A bloodthirsty Dolores menaced one guest with her rifle
‘Tell me this is some sick trick,’ Charlotte told Bernard, who theorized to her that Ford must have altered the system and guided the hosts to read everyone as fellow hosts, overriding past safety measures at the park that dictated no human would be hurt so bad as to leave a mark.
Outside of the barn, Rebus (Steven Ogg) and his gang took shooting practice at a glass of wine placed on the head of a crying female guest, eventually killing her.
The shaken guests inside the park plotted among themselves to devise an escape, at which point a young male stablehand host came in the barn offering to help. The distrustful guests ganged up on the host, eventually killing him by stabbing him with a pitchfork. Again, a disturbed Bernard – perhaps aware of his true nature as a host – started to hear voices.
To kick off the next scene, the show’s trademark player piano began to play, but not a contemporary song as usual, but rather the turn-of-the-century sounds of The Entertainer.
The saloon was shown full of dead hosts, while a ferocious Dolores and Teddy gunned down guests while riding on horseback.
Dolores was then seen telling prone guests that they’re in her dream, as nooses were tied around their necks.
Search party: Maeve enlisted the help of Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) to find her daughter
On the hunt: Dolores was seen shooting at guests while on horseback
He’s back: The Man in Black pet his horse as he awoke after the deadly party
Reformed: Dolores showed an aggressive streak in the season opener previously unseen in season one
‘Did you ever question the nature of your reality?’ Dolores said, lecturing the guests at gunpoint. ‘The price you’d have to pay if there was a reckoning? That reckoning is here.’
Dolores said that while the rancher’s daughter side of herself would be forgiving, Wyatt – the bloodthirsty villain referenced in season one – only sees the bad in people.
‘I have one last role to play: myself,’ she said, leaving the guests precariously standing on wooden posts with nooses around their necks.
The next scene marked the first appearance of the season of the Man in Black (Ed Harris), the park owner who had immersed himself in the game created by one of the park’s late founders named Arnold.
The Man in Black awakened to the carnage of the aftermath of party, looking around at the heaps of bloodied lifeless bodies all over the place.
A guest came out complaining and threatening legal action over the botched bash when he was shot dead by a pair of hosts obliterating the area with gunfire.
The Man in Black, experienced in killing hosts, hid before wrestling one to ground, grabbing his gun and shooting one host, while slitting the throat of the other. Now drenched in blood, the Man in Black headed into an empty home and cleaned out a gunshot wound on his arm with alcohol.
He then opened a nearby chest, and grabbed his trademark black hat out of it and put it on, smiling in satisfaction that the game has grown completely out-of-control.
Dead bodies riddled the Delos development headquarters, as story writer Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) was menaced by a murderous cannibal host he’d previously worked on.
He was saved as madam-turned-rebel host Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton) – clad in a short black skirt and armed with a massive firearm – called off the robotic attacker.
Carnage: Bodies were scattered about in the wake of the robot rebellion
Ready to go: The Man in Black seemed upbeat at the unpredictable new nature of the park
Maeve told Sizemore, ‘Your commands don’t work on me – or the others,’ at which point Sizemore told her he can help her cause by providing her with an updated map of the park.
She said, ‘I suppose you couple be useful,’ while walking with him at gunpoint, as more dead bodies were scattered all over the place in the mission control, including the corpse of a dead bear.
‘No one’s in control,’ Sizemore said as the power shut down.
Maeve showed Sizemore a paper she had stashed away of a special section of the park; Sizemore said she was a homesteader with a kid, at which point she had flashbacks to a traumatic incident illustrated in the previous season, in which the Man in Black killed her and her daughter.
Sizemore stressed to Maeve that her child is not real, to which she said she is real and stuck the gun to his neck.
‘F*** your directions – you’re going to take me to my daughter,’ Maeve told Sizemore.
The next scene depicted Bernard and Charlotte as they walked with the guests to try and access the outposts of the park, where safety presumably awaited.
Charlotte – apparently unaware that Bernard is a host – asked him questions about the deadly party, claiming she thinks Ford programmed his own execution, and the hosts still ‘do what we tell them to do.’
Guests approach a set dead of park workers in hazmat suits – positioned to look like they were still alive – while Wyatt’s henchmen, led by Angela (Talulah Riley), surrounded them. She let one run away and shot another in the head, point blank.
Unlikely pair: Sizemore and Maeve worked toward mutual interests in the season debut
Surprise! The droid incarnation of a young Dr. Ford had a chat with the Man in Black
Bernard was uncontrollably shaking while Charlotte suggested they flee to another secret location she knew about.
Upstairs at Delos headquarters, Maeve and Sizemore surveyed the carnage. Sizemore revealed to her the corporation’s ulterior motive in creating the hosts, telling her, ‘Your minds are worth billions in IP.’
Troopers and cowboys battled upstairs with Maeve joining in and manipulating the cowboy hosts to settle down. She held Simon at gunpoint and threatened to mutilate him if he turned on her.
More dead bodies were scattered at the luxe resort bar at the top of the headquarters, where Maeve followed blood streams up a staircase to finds Hector Escator (Rodrigo Santoro) in a blood-stained hazmat suit. Simon started swilling alcohol, while Maeve told Hector, ‘Hector I need you, I’m going to find my daughter;’ Hector replied, ‘Where you go, I follow.’
Bernard and Charlotte happened upon a pile of rocks that revealed a hidden Delos lab that rose up from the ground. They boarded an elevator and made their way through access doors to wind up in a room packed with computers and hosts – some of a futuristic robotic variety known as ‘Drone Hosts’ – one of which menacingly approached Bernard from behind, but did not attack.
Bernard watched on as the drone hosts performed a medical procedure on a dead human, extracting his blood and a device from his brain. He asked Charlotte: ‘Are we logging records of guests’ experiences and their DNA?’
Charlotte replied, ‘We’re not having that conversation Bernard.’
She informed him that Delos wouldn’t send any help until they received a host that was smuggled out containing vital information – Dolores’s father Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum).
‘It’s an insurance policy, it’s the only thing that matters here, they want it secured, no matter the cost,’ Charlotte said of the data.
More dead bodies were scattered amid the wilderness as the Man in Black grabbed a canteen off one of them, took a swig, and grabbed a piece of jerky they were roasting. At that point, a young incarnation of Dr. Ford – made before his death – approached him, and asked him in a semi-robotic voice, ‘Are you lost?’
Intimidating: Bernard stared down a drone host hoping not to be sussed out as a host himself
Stripped: Sizemore got a taste of his own medicine as he was forced to stand naked, as the hosts are
The Man in Black told the child Dr. Ford, ‘The stakes are real in this place now – real consequences.’
The child replied: ‘You’re in my game. In this game, you must make it back out – in this game, you have to find the door. Congratulations … this game is meant for you.’
The Man in Black turned his gun on the child Dr. Ford and said, ‘Guess I don’t need you anymore,’ and fired. The child host was felled, smoking and making robotic noises.
Maeve was seen helping operate on Hector, at which point Sizemore returned. She threw him a western costume and forced him to strip naked, giving viewers a glimpse of male nudity.
Outside, Dolores and Teddy were standing at the edge of an idyllic cliff, with Teddy asking her, ‘We’ve ridden 10 miles and all we’ve seen is blood, Dolores – this really what you want?’
Dolores said of humans, ‘They’ve controlled us all out lives and they’ve took our minds, memories.’
Dolores said that while she remembers everything – beautiful and terrible things – Teddy is the only constant in her memories.
‘I see it all now so clearly – the past, the present, the future – I know how this story ends, it ends with us, Teddy – with you and me,’ said Dolores, who embraced and kissed Teddy. Angela soon found them on horseback.
Armed and dangerous: Angela (Talulah Riley) was brutal in carrying out Wyatt’s wishes
A bit of romance: Dolores and Teddy embraced and kissed as they looked to the future
Roar: A dead tiger’s remains led to the revelation that Delos runs other neighboring parks
Bernard told Charlotte he’ll need to tap into the network of drone hosts looking for decommissioned host Peter Abernathy. Bernard’s hands were shaking as he pulled out a knife and cuts into skin of host and inserted a metal rod inside. Bernard began to pass out as he reads a tablet that read ‘critical corruption;’ he extracted fluid out of the host and injected it into himself.
In the next scene, Strand and Bernard were seen flanked by scores of guards headed to the saloon, where the robot rebellion began at the end of season one as Dr. Ford prepared to unveil his new narrative, titled ‘Journey Into Night.’
They turned over the corpse of Dr. Ford who was badly decomposed.
Jeeps were seen rumbling toward the shore, where a dead tiger was seen.
Strand and Costa searched with Ford for the remaining hosts, which were shown to be clustered together in the western valley of the park. The computer led to a large sea they hadn’t expected to be there, littered with the lifeless bodies.
A captivated Bernard said, ‘I killed them … all of them,’ to cap off the thrilling episode.
Westworld airs on HBO Sunday at 9/8c.