Spoilers for Westworld Season 2 Episode 1 below!
Westworld Season 2 is finally here, and based on the premiere episode, it seems like it’s taking a very different approach than Season 1 did. Think back to the show’s very first episode: Remember how much time it spent just on Dolores and Teddy’s story? In contrast, Season 2, Episode 1, “Journey Into Night,” is a runaway train that can’t be stopped.
Besides the opening chat between BernArnold and Dolores, Westworld’s Season 2 premiere was a direct continuation of the Season 1 finale. The party is over, and Delos has brought in the big guns to clean up Ford’s mess. The episode flits between the immediate aftermath of the Season 1 finale’s cocktail party, including the following day, and events that take place around two weeks later, after Bernard wakes up on the beach. And boy, does it cover a lot of ground.
Stubbs is alive. Delos is taking control back. Dolores and Maeve are on the warpath. The Man in Black (AKA Bill) has a new game to play. The hosts are all dead. Wait, the hosts are all dead? What in the worlds is going on?
“Journey Into Night” covered more ground in its hour and 10 minutes than any two episodes of Season 1, or so it seemed tonight–especially if you haven’t watched the first season in a while. Just look at all the new things we learned in the Season 2 premiere–was there a single episode during Season 1 that threw this much new information at us? Season 1 was all atmosphere and worldbuilding for long stretches, and this premiere seemed far more concerned with plot and set-up for the rest of Season 2. Catching up with all these characters again was fun, but it would have been nice if the episode gave us a little more breathing room.
There’s one moment in this premiere that exemplified that change of pace better than any other: When some random Delos guy accosts the Man in Black and casually calls him “Bill.” All of Westworld Season 1 was spent deliberately, conspicuously not calling Ed Harris’s character by his name. Westworld in a post-first season era has no time for that level of subtlety–at least not yet. The Man in Black is William is Bill. Try to keep up.
Famously, Westworld Season 2 was always going to be about “chaos.” When Sizemore, the writer from last season who this time around is even more simpering and pathetic, entered the control room, he was shocked: “No one’s in control.” It seems that will indeed be the theme in Westworld Season 2. Even Gustaf Skarsgård’s new character, Karl Strand, is struggling to regain control. This is the Delos big gun they sent in after nearly two weeks of non-communication with the park, and he spends the whole episode playing catch-up. He knows about as much as we do: The rancher’s daughter is on the warpath, tigers and who knows what else are wandering between parks, and s*** is f***ed up.
But “Journey Into Night” felt more like a mid-season episode than a premiere. It mostly just moved the plot forward; Bill has a new game to play, Maeve is searching for her daughter with Hector and Sizemore in tow, Dolores and Teddy are seeking an exit, Bernard and Charlotte need to find Abernathy, and eventually, everyone’s going to wind up dead in a lake. The episode moved those pieces into place, but it didn’t really feel like the soft reset that it could have been.
Maybe it’s better to jump straight to it after so long away–Season 1 aired in 2016, after all–but then again, we still haven’t seen the much-teased Shogun World. How cool would it have been if Season 2 had started fresh with a new setting and characters, then tied it all back to the main plot next week?
There are, of course, some brand new mysteries for Season 2, such as Bill’s new game, finding “the Door.” And given everything going wrong with Bernard–the “critical failure” causing him to suffer time displacement, face blindness, loss of motor function, etc.–our boy is clearly not going to be a reliable narrator this time around (not that he ever was).
That, more than anything, seems like a tool Westworld Season 2 will gleefully use to keep us guessing–and to deny us any real ability to predict the full picture in advance. What have we already glimpsed in “Journey Into Night” that, by the end of the season, we’ll look back on in a new light?
Of course we’re going to continue theorizing, sleuthing, and combing through every frame of each new episode. But with its new breakneck speed and the show’s increased potential for obfuscation thanks to Bernard’s robo-dementia, for once the cadence of Westworld’s reveals might actually outpace us. Season 2 is stampeding to the beat of its own drum, and we’re just going to have to try and keep up.