Westworld Season Two: The Door Review
Wild, Wild, Westworld
The impressive HBO mystery western sci-fi TV series, Westworld, enters its second season posing even more questions and offering even fewer answers.This review assumes you have seen season one with some light spoilers.
Although the slow-build story of the first season, dubbed The Maze, was almost more interested in misdirection than direction, Westworld is certainly one of the finest shows on TV, living up to the HBO brand and yet striking out as a rather unusual blend of sci-fi ideas and often Western action, rolled up inside a mystery which would give the makers of Lost a headache. Of course, the lack of immediate answers may frustrate some - much like Lost - with Westworld more than happy to shake things up and throw you a curve-ball just as you get a handle on what is going on, but the Nolan-brother crafted series deserves your faith and fortitude.The show is loosely based on the 1973 film of the same name; the directorial debut of one Michael Crichton, who also wrote the story, and whose loose framework for the story can be seen in a number of his productions (not least the other big park that went wrong, Jurassic Park), here re-introducing us to an impossibly expansive project which allows rich businessmen to travel to another world where they can experience life as a cowboy or a rebel bandit, good or bad, or just abuse the population with a random killing spree. Because the population of these worlds is comprised of advanced androids.
After introducing us to a number of different characters, some of whom turned out to be androids themselves, the first season of Westworld slowly started to show the cracks forming around the edges of this amusement park, as its Howard Hughes-esque creator Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) became more and more elusive in his eccentric behaviour, whilst larger corporations tried to get their greedy hands on the project, smuggling out the park's closely kept secrets, and whilst seemingly random inconsistencies in the actions of the android patrons of the world soon turned into something much more malevolent as their fever dreams about past mistreatment by their human customers bring their worlds crashing down.
Season 1, subtitled The Maze, had many of the main characters searching for this elusive 'maze' at the centre of the Park, a symbol tattooed into the scalps of some of the androids, but actually spent more time with the characters discovering their own identities. Primary amongst these are Evan Rachel Wood's rancher's daughter Dolores, and Thandie Newton's prostitute Maeve, who start to remember the horrors of being repeatedly abused by their human customers and rebel, turning the tables on those who have oppressed them for so long, assisted somewhat by creator Ford, who switches off the android restrictions on not killing humans.
The expertly engineered show has but one flaw: you'll have to wait a whole week for the next instalment.
Season 2 kick-starts with a feature-length 70 minute episode that throws your straight into the maelstrom, flashing back to the events after Dolores' shocking rebellion at the gala ball, as Jeffrey Wright's Bernard finds himself washed up on a beach, surrounded by tactical teams who are trying to get a handle on what is happening at the Park. Of course Bernard is more confused than most following on from his own personal discoveries, finding the unpleasant mass execution of the androids particularly conflicting. Meanwhile Ed Harris' mysterious Man in Black, one of the few survivors of the rebellion, bloodies his hands, pleasantly surprised to find that death in the Park is finally real, and Newton's Maeve wanders the halls of the Park's headquarters looking for a way to find her daughter.
Created by Christopher Nolan's brother, Jonathan, in collaboration with wife Lisa Joy, Westworld is a striking accomplishment, and it doesn't disappoint in its extended second season opener, maintaining the show's distinctive style but adding an air of tense near-horror (the score borrows cleverly from the original Westworld movie's memorable, oppressive accompaniment, probably more recently comparable to that of Sicario). Even in the opener it racks up the bodycount on both sides, seeing the narrative spinning off in unpredictable trajectories. It's staggeringly compelling - even when (or perhaps because) you have almost no handle on what could happen next. Maeve's quest to find her daughter may be straightforward, but her path will clearly not be straight; Dolores' intentions - beyond finding her own inner justice - are unclear; and Bernard? Well, he might just have a surprise or two in store for his human companions. Unmissable, outstanding viewing, the expertly engineered show has but one flaw: you'll have to wait a whole week for the next instalment.
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