Westworld is here, and so is our reckoning. Showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy reset the board Sunday night by changing the show’s ground rules: Now chaos is the controlling force of the show, and humans, not hosts, will be the vulnerable (and, sometimes, fully nude) party. Anarchy is fun, but it can also be confusing, so let’s dive into the biggest questions after the premiere.
How Many Timelines Are There?
At least three, and there’s likely a fourth on the way.
The episode begins with Dolores talking to Arnold—or is it Bernard? Based on Dolores’s interviews throughout Season 1, it’s heavily implied that this conversation is happening with Arnold three decades ago. That sets up the possibility of a twist where the conversation is actually between Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and a fully conscious Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) in the future. We know this discussion is in a different time from the rest of the episode, but we don’t know when, and we likely won’t find out for a while.
That conversation cuts to Bernard waking up in Inception limbo—I mean, on the beach in Westworld. We learn that it’s been two weeks since Dolores’s massacre at the end of the Season 1 finale, punctuated by the flies and vultures circling the rotting corpses of the dead partygoers. The Delos security team “mistakes” Bernard for a host before Westworld security chief and lesser Hemsworth brother Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) “corrects” them. The head of the Delos’s security team, Karl Strand (Gustaf Skarsgard), asks Bernard—I’m paraphrasing here—”What the fuck is going on?”
Bernard can’t remember, but he begins having flashbacks to the immediate aftermath of Dolores’s massacre. He and Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) survived by hiding in a barn before crossing the Westworld countryside and eventually descending into the hidden satellite lab. While there, the creepy faceless robots deem Bernard “harmless.” Then Bernard, crashing like a virus-ridden computer, saves himself by covertly taking a syringe straight from the host lying on the table before Charlotte can figure out that he’s a host.
So that’s three timelines: (1) Dolores’s and Bernard’s conversation, (2) Bernard with Delos two weeks after the massacre, and (3) Bernard’s flashbacks to the immediate aftermath of the end of Season 1.
Based on all that, it seems that much of the season will be trying to piece together how we went from the end of Season 1 to dozens of hosts—including Teddy (James Marsden)—floating in a lake in the middle of the park two weeks later. Before we go forward, however, we might have to go back. The trailers for this season showed us that we’re going to see young William (Jimmi Simpson) again, likely at the point where Delos decided to invest in Westworld to save the park after Arnold’s death. That would mean we’re in line for a fourth timeline.
Who Is the Villain?
In Season 1, the Man in Black (Ed Harris) seemed to relish being the devil, but now that he’s flirting with death in every scene, he no longer feels so villain-y, even after popping the host version of kid Ford.
Strand, the Delos version of Erik Prince, is the corporate muscle we’re supposed to immediately distrust. From their first encounter, Strand and Stubbs seem destined for a showdown. (Where has Stubbs been during all of this???) Strand is a good villain to begin the season, but he’s too new and too obvious to be the main antagonist long term.
Somewhere else in the Delos organizational chart is Hale, who is trying to smuggle her Peter Abernathy–shaped USB drive out of the park while frantically communicating with some powerful person over Westworld AIM—perhaps a yet-to-be-revealed Delos executive akin to Lost’s Charles Widmore. Bernard asks whether collecting the DNA of every guest without their knowledge is a privacy concern, and Hale tells him to chill (she really could have helped Mark Zuckerberg last week).
Yet if none of those options particularly strike you as villainous, perhaps it’s because the answer is staring us straight in the face.
In the opening scene of the episode, Bernard/Arnold says he is fearful of what Dolores might become. “Why on earth would you be afraid of me?” Dolores responds with a Southern belle twang and a serial-killer smile.
You can almost see the thought bubble above her head with the words, “I’m going to kill everyone you’ve ever loved.” Maybe it’s the joy she finds in murder, or her promise to go beyond Westworld and conquer entire cities, or the “I am become death, the destroyer of worlds,” vibe she gives off in a show that has already quoted Robert Oppenheimer, but Dolores certainly seems primed to be a supervillain. Teddy expressed reluctance at following her down this path, and her response came from the wistful Dolores side of her personality. When we eventually meet the Wyatt side (who was designed to be the scariest person in Westworld) we may come to fear her just as much as Bernard/Arnold did in the episode’s opening scene.
WHEN ARE WE GETTING SHOGUN WORLD???
With all due respect to literally every other part of the show, the only thing that matters is getting to the samurais. Us viewers are the annoying little kid in the back of the car asking, “Are we there yet?” and we will kick and scream until we see samurai sword fights. For now, all we have is this lousy photo of a dead robot tiger.
The question isn’t whether we’re going to Shogun World, but when, and with who. A look at the trailer for the season suggests that the host who will take us there might be Maeve, currently on a quest with Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) to retrieve her daughter from inside the park. By wrecking the Westworld HQ and dressing down Sizemore (literally and metaphorically), Maeve established herself as the leading protagonist. If she is the one to take us to Shogun World, she will be a hero.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.