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‘Westworld’ Season 2 preview

Death, consciousness, and humanity loom large in 'Westworld's daring return

The first season of Westworld provided some of the best television of 2016, exploring the nature of consciousness and morality in a surprisingly efficient story arc full of mind-bending mysteries and shocking twists. It accomplished all of this with an all-star cast, and was rewarded with 22 nominations for Primetime Emmy Awards (among other accolades) and a ten-episode second season order from HBO.

Season 2 of Westworld premieres April 22, and the lead-up to the season premiere has been filled with creative viral marketing campaigns and rampant speculation about what the future holds for the hosts, humans, heroes, and villains of the futuristic theme park and its parent company, Delos Incorporated.

Digital Trends got an early look at the first five episodes of the second season ahead of its premiere later this month. Here’s a spoiler-free preview of what you can expect from the first half of Westworld season 2.

New beginnings

The title sequence for the first season of Westworld was an impressive — and impressively creepy — visualization of the creative process behind the human-like “hosts” and synthetic wildlife that populate the theme park.

Westworld Season 1 Opening Credits | HBO

Where the first season’s opening hinted at the recurring themes of sex and violence and the relationship between these two elements in shaping characters’ actions, the second season’s title sequence hints at some new themes in the show’s sophomore story arc. Hosts’ relationships with each other, and the nature of family (both manufactured and blood relations) are two themes well-represented in the second season’s sequence, and they play a similarly important role in the narrative running through the first half of the season.

R.I.P.?

If there’s one thing the first season of Westworld made abundantly clear, it’s that death isn’t the end for many of the show’s characters — even the human characters (or those believed to be human).

Jeffrey Wright | 'Westworld' (2016)
Jeffrey Wright | 'Westworld' (2016)

While some characters who seemingly passed on during the show’s first season appear to have definitively met their maker (after five episodes, at least) in one way or another, some characters make unexpected returns in the first half of the new season. The return of some of the characters is expected, particularly for anyone who’s been paying attention to the promotional campaign for season 2, but a few of the familiar faces who survived the season 1 carnage will come as a bit of a surprise to even the most speculation-prone fans. Life and death are fluid in Westworld, and season 2 is no exception to that rule.

The past makes the future

Although the narrative timelines don’t appear to be as rigidly defined as the parallel story arcs that ran through Westworld season 1, the second season of the show does spend quite a bit of time in the park’s past at various points in its history.

westworld
HBO / John P. Johnson

Anyone wondering about the early days of the park and how such a massive endeavor not only got started but also remained financially viable across multiple decades will get a heaping helping of enlightenment in just the first few episodes of the new season. The same can be said for anyone with questions about Delos Incorporated, the mysterious company that owns the park, as the new season offers some explanation as to why the early experiences of Delos heirs Logan (Ben Barnes) and William (Jimmi Simpson) were so integral to events playing out as they did in the first season.

Delos discovered

Much like the Dharma Initiative in Lost, Delos Incorporated was established early on as a shadowy organization pulling the strings in Westworld, and the first five episodes of the second season go all-in on establishing Delos as more than just the owner and operator of a futuristic theme park.

Delos Destinations

The company’s reasons for supporting Westworld and even the identities of the true puppet masters within Delos were surrounded by a cloud of ominous uncertainty at the end of the first season, and that cloud grows denser in the first half of season 2, even when it pulls back enough to shed some light on major plot points. There are answers to be found in the first five episodes, but they’re accompanied by even more questions.

Bigger parts to play

Some of the most popular characters in season 1 of Westworld played supporting roles in the series’ first story arc, only appearing in a few episodes and rarely getting much screen time. Still, they became fan-favorite players in the dangerous game that played out across that first story arc, and in many cases, they play even bigger roles in the second season.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Fans of the series will likely be thrilled by the more expanded roles played by several characters. The eternally worried, former body technician Felix Lutz, played by Leonardo Nam, is one such character who has his screen time increased dramatically in the second season, and for good reason, given how well he held his own opposite immensely talented actress Thandie Newton’s awakened host, Maeve Millay, throughout much of the first season.

Samurai, tigers, and ninjas … oh my!

The introduction of Shogun World in season 2 of Westworld does more than just present a new park to the chaotic, deadly world of Delos’ formerly fun destinations.

Image used with permission by copyright holder

Along with exploring the cultural clash between the Western-themed characters and the shogun-era elements, the introduction of Shogun World also helps to establish the overarching relationship between the parks under Delos’ stewardship and provides some insight regarding the new dynamic between humans and hosts after the latter were “awakened” in the first season. Discovering how closely connected the parks were — geographically, technologically, and narratively — throws open the door for some fascinating storytelling opportunities in the second half of the season and beyond.

Season 2 of Westworld premieres April 22 on HBO.

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Rick Marshall
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