Westworld (S02E01) "Journey Into Night"

WARNING: FULL SPOILERS

After a very long and arduous wait, those violent delights have made their return.

While Westworld’s first season’s finale wrapped up quite a bit, it did leave some tantalizing threads for the second season to explore. Where exactly will the Host revolution lead? What kind of leader would the eerily charismatic Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) be? What was Ford’s (Anthony Hopkins) plan? Were the hosts truly becoming aware, or simply following new programming?

Given Westworld’s penchant for mystery, it should come as no surprise that Journey Into Night does little to resolve these issues. In fact, it brings up some new and intriguing mysteries: What did Bernard mean when he said he “killed them all” at the end? Can Dolores get to the “Valley Beyond?” Will Maeve (Thandie Newton) find her daughter…and why is she doing it? What is the new “game” that Will (Ed Harris) is pursuing? And did we really need to see Sizemore (Simon Quatermain) completely nude? We did, but more on that later.

I have never been a fan of too much set up in both television and film, but Journey Into Night is a riveting experience due to a compelling evolution of the previous season’s “game” and excellent performances from the cast.

“I Have One Last Role to Play: Myself”

source: Warner Bros. Television/IMDB

By far, the highlight of the second season premiere was Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores. Her performance was riveting…you can’t take your eyes off of her whether she was flashing that slightly off kilter, but charming smile or hunting humans to their deaths. Every moment feels scary, yet Wood continues to infuse a certain charisma into Dolores. We are seeing the cult of personality developing…she can inspire both awe and fear.

Her standout scene: The hanging of some former guests of the park. Wood effortlessly (And rather sadistically) careens from that “girl next door” farm girl to the cold killer willing to cut a bloody swath through Westworld just before hanging the terrified guest. I could watch that sequence over and over. And I loved how Dolores referred to humans as “creatures” who stole the hosts minds. It gave the character, as well as the other hosts, a righteous anger and reason for vengeance.

Dolores and Teddy’s scene together on that hill was another stand out scene. Their romance screams “tragedy,” especially with Teddy expressing some doubts about Dolores’ methods…something I called in the first season’s finale (*Pats self on back*). Internal conflict is inevitable in any revolution, and the two actors do a great job sowing the seeds here. And that last shot of Teddy floating in the sea along with hundreds of other hosts? That can’t be a good sign for their relationship.

source: Warner Bros. Television Distribution/IMDB

Memory and dreams continued to play an important role in Westworld’s story and the episode explored it in a great way with Maeve and Sizemore. The former took the latter hostage in her search for her daughter. They found the park’s control center in ruins and Sizemore agreed to help as long as Maeve could save his skin…for the moment. Maeve’s description of what is “real” to her and to Sizemore encapsulates the conflict. Sizemore wrote those dreams and memories, yet Maeve felt them…they are real for her. Her rage at Sizemore’s questions is very similar to Dolores’ cause.

The two had a great dynamic and I hope it lasts for the season. Newton’s cool charm contrasted well with Quartermain’s weaselly sarcasm. It’s an excellent change in dynamic that reflects the show…a flipping of the balance of power. The creator (Sizemore) was at the mercy of his “creation.” So while that nudity scene may have seemed gratuitous and heavy handed (Well, it is slightly), it’s actually pitch perfect. Maeve, Dolores and several other female hosts have suffered the same indignities at their creators’ hands…it’s justice.

“I Killed Them…”

source: Warner Bros. Television Distribution/IMDB

Bernard’s journey served as the bookends of the episode, introducing us to the possible season long mystery that will form the center of the show. How did those Hosts end up in a sea nobody knew about? How did Bernard kill them? And why?
Jeffrey Wright is great in this episode as a sort of surrogate for the audience. He is just as mystified by what happened as we are. He brought some genuine emotion as a man literally caught between two worlds. Bernard was sympathetic to both the humans and the Hosts, though he did seem to lean more towards the latter…he is one of them after all.

It should be interesting to see what happens to Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) as she was nowhere to be found when the other Delos rescue teams find him. Another slightly more annoying mystery? Stubbs was fine without any explanation. That was a bit jarring to say the least, especially since we never learn the fate of Elsie (Shannon Woodward), Bernard’s assistant. Will she just show up like Stubbs? I hope not…Westworld is better than that.

source: Warner Bros. Television Distribution/IMDB

The mystery behind the dead sea of hosts probably ties into the game that Ford sets up for Will. Does it tie into the Valley Beyond that Dolores is so interested in? What is this door that he has to find? Will complains that Ford could never be straight forward…but where’s the fun in that?

While Ed Harris didn’t have a whole lot to do in this episode, it’s good to see he is just as dangerous as before as he took down those two hosts single handed. The Man in Black had to be a real threat once again, and this scene established that.
Will gunning down the young Ford felt like a “passing of the torch” between antagonists. While Ford ended up being more of a “hero” (At least for the Hosts), for most of season one, he felt like a real threat. Will was always a threat, but he felt even more dangerous here, as he wanted a real challenge.

A Doomed Revolution?

Westworld’s first season did a great job establishing humanity’s terrible nature in this world. When Dolores finally led the Hosts against them, there was a real catharsis. You felt for these “creations,” because they seemed to be more human than the actual people they served. But revolutions can have tragic ends.

A sea full of dead Hosts does not bode well for the “revolution.” Granted, we only see Teddy among those bodies. Did he run afoul of Dolores? What about Maeve? It would be truly tragic to see more bodies revealed in that sea as the season wears on…and this episode did a great job of introducing an addictive new mystery.

SCORE: 9 OUT OF 10

Westworld airs Sundays at 9pm on HBO

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