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Season one of Westworld managed to tell a unique and one-of-a-kind story that left us with far more questions than answers. Season two took those many questions and divided them into even more smaller questions that felt like would never be answered over its more recent 10-episode run. While many fans balked at the notion of having to patiently wait for the potential of a resolution that might not be quite what they expected, the show ultimately rewarded patience by delivering some of the most powerful episodes of the series in the latter half of the season. Still, the second season will more than likely be seen by many as a step backward from the positive momentum that it set forth two years ago.
One of the most important things that season two did well was provide answers early on within the season. Through the first pitch meeting to Delos Destinations, the reveal of Westworld’s true nature towards its guests and the fidelity testing and the glimpse of an entirely new park in The Raj, the show’s second season was able to hurdle fairly nimbly over many questions that most viewers didn’t even know to ask until they were seeing the scene with the answer play out in front of them, all within the first four episodes.
At first, it felt as if we were becoming spoiled by having something revealed to us in each episode, however, it wasn’t until the season was completed that we could see the show clearing the table for an entirely new set of problems much larger than most of us ever could imagine. And while these early episodes did their best to continue moving the main narrative forward, it also made a noted effort to get more ancillary characters involved in the story which was a refreshing change of pace to just seeing the usual suspects continue their loops of destruction and chaos.
This maneuver enabled characters such as Lee Sizemore, Akane (Rinko Kikuchi), Lawrence, Akecheta, Elsie and Charlotte Hale more screen time which in turn helped the show pull its focus at times to more important and deeper conflicts than just a park of robots gone wrong. While great, this shift also exposed the many weaknesses of some of the main cast and their futile struggles accompanied by canned dialogue with the most notable of these being from Dolores.
This issue with the main cast was glaringly obvious and slightly disappointing because after such a strong first season featuring Dolores, Maeve, Hector, MiB, this season would provide a continuation of their character growth but instead many were pushed to the margins of the narrative which felt like a greatly missed opportunity. The other part of the season could have been better outlined was Bernard’s spastic journey through his various memories. All was made right by the season’s end, however, during the course of his journey the manic time jumps without any foundation as to what was occurring became tiresome and at times off-putting. As mentioned earlier, patience was rewarded for seeing Bernard’s story through til the end because choosing him to be the true focal point and deciding factor (quite literally) was a risk that ultimately paid off though took too long to get there.
For a season full of mistakes, “Kiksuya” and “The Passenger” stood out. Both episodes took place at the end of the season and both offered some of the most compelling storytelling that this series has experienced to date. Kiksuya served as a masterclass for just how true love and emotions can be felt across time and almost felt entirely removed from the existence of the park itself which was a nice change of pace in the latter half of the season. The Passenger served as a sober reminder of the true capabilities within a show like Westworld if it is operating at its highest level. Time after time, The Passenger continued to wow as it brought us back to the show’s glory days. Of course, coming in at a runtime of an hour and a half didn’t hurt either but this one episode managed to make up for the past mistakes of earlier episodes because it was able to build off a very strong second half.
In the end, many could easily accuse the second season of Westworld as not pushing the boundaries it worked so tirelessly to create in its first season but this season was successful at telling a story that stretched far beyond the park itself and helped prepare its audience to venture into places that it might not be ready to go in the future. In many ways, the show stayed grounded by continuing to draw closer towards the main cast as they continued to navigate their issues but also took risks on showcasing several new cast members that ultimately stole the show from the likes of Dolores, Maeve or Teddy.
Westworld continues to provide questions while giving tiny morsels of resolutions with the past but does so in a way where you are able to enjoy the chase for knowledge within the world that it has built. With many timelines, many deaths and many new places to look forward to, season two of Westworld did its job successfully of taking us deeper into a place that is constantly proving it’s not as it seems. Personally, I can only have one show at a time that fits this category and while on hiatus I will be hard-pressed to find a suitable replacement.