After what felt like a thousand lifetimes, Westworld finally delivered everything we’d ever wanted in visceral, naked glory. No, I’m not talking about about Teddy and Dolores having robot sex. I’m talking about Shogun World. Seventeen months after Shogun World was first teased in the Season 1 finale, we got four new characters, the best samurai battle since December, and, apparently, a witch. To paraphrase Ford, it was everything we had been looking for. But now we have questions to answer.
Does everyone in Westworld have a copy of themselves in Shogun World?
In the opening scene of the Season 2 premiere, Dolores asks Bernarnold (because we don’t know if it was Bernard or Arnold) what is real.
“That which is irreplaceable,” Bernarnold answers. “That answer doesn’t seem to satisfy you.”
“Because it is not completely honest,” Dolores says.
On Sunday night we got our best example yet of how replaceable the Westworld characters are. In one of the trippiest scenes of a trippy episode, we were introduced to Shogun World with a nearly frame-for-frame re-creation of our introduction to Westworld. We even saw kids placing a beetle on top of a dude’s head, just like kids placed a scorpion on a guy’s head in the pilot.
The Westworld characters from Sweetwater all have Japanese counterparts with similar backstories and drives. As Lee Sizemore explains, “I may have cribbed a bit from Westworld, but you try writing 300 stories in three weeks.” Maeve asks Sizemore if they can trust Akane, the Shogun World madame and Maeve’s counterpart.
“If you’re asking if you can trust Akane, the real question is can you trust yourself?” Sizemore responds.
The host counterparts create mirrors for each other. Hector immediately hates Musashi, which maybekindasorta means he hates himself.
There’s also a deeper connection between the paired hosts. While meditating before the ninja attack, Maeve seems to have flashbacks through Akane’s memories as if they are her own. That might be a trick specific to Maeve, but it could also indicate that each host can tap into each other’s memories to glimpse a version of whom they could have been. That could be beautiful—or drive you to the edge of insanity, the way Sizemore tells it.
This might just be the tip of the iceberg. Does every Westworld character have a counterpart in Shogun World? If there are (at least) six parks, could there be six versions of Maeve, Hector, and everyone else? And is there a Shogun World version of Dolores and Teddy?
These questions could go on forever, but the most important one is what Dolores asked Bernarnold in the opening scene: What is real? Hosts realizing copies of themselves and their world exist could shake up their relationship with reality. Maeve and Akane may handle that well. Hector may not.
What’s the deal with Maeve’s mind-control superpowers?
In a matter of minutes, we see Maeve fail to control the Shogun World hosts in English, realize she can speak Japanese, convince everyone in the Japanese Mariposa not to kill her group, do some breathing exercises, watch Akane stab a Shogun emissary through the eye, and then get ambushed by ninjas. Then things got weird. A ninja grabs Maeve by her throat and begins choking her, but on the cusp of death she reaches peak Galaxy Brain and mind-controls the ninja, forcing him to let go of her and smash his own face into a knife. Later in the episode, as Maeve and Akane are about to be beheaded, Maeve takes control of the entire Shogun army and turns them all against one another. We have the same question as the ninja: How did Maeve do that?!
Maeve has been able use voice commands on hosts like they’re Google Assistants since the middle of the first season when she reprogrammed her core code, but as Sizemore says, “That was no voice command.” The only other person/host/lifeform/thing we’ve seen control other hosts with their mind is Ford. (Cue the Reddit threads on Ford being a host.) As Maeve explains, she’s “found a new voice.”
Perhaps that voice has a special ability to speak to hosts. In the season premiere, Bernard explained to Charlotte Hale that the hosts operate on a mesh network, where they can communicate with other hosts in close proximity, like ants. Maeve seems to have tapped into this network, though thus far only when she is on the very brink of death, which seems relevant given that her entire journey to consciousness started when she was on the brink of death and witnessed the Man in Black kill her daughter.
The ninja who witnesses Maeve’s initial mind-control takeover calls her a witch, which … fair. Maeve did it with hacking, not magic, but is there a difference for those of us who don’t code? Maeve has a grand, dangerous power, and so far we’ve seen only the upside and strength of it. Don’t be surprised if later this season she learns the hard way that with great power comes great responsibility.
What did Dolores do to Teddy?
Imagine there was an iPad that had sliders for each of your personality traits, and they could be tinkered with to endlessly alter your personality on a whim. Now imagine that your significant other is holding that iPad. Now imagine your significant other is a murderous rebellion leader hell-bent on revenge.
For all of the nightmares Teddy has endured in Westworld, Sunday night’s may be the worst yet. After he was so tantalizingly close to discovering who he is—and finally fulfilling the moment he’s been waiting for literally his entire life—Dolores turned their beautiful love story into a sci-fi-Western Taylor Swift music video. Teddy has died thousands of times (5,746 times, to be exact), but being disrupted that far along his route to self-discovery must be tough. So why did she do it?
Dolores maximized Teddy’s courage, tenacity, aggression, decisiveness, self-preservation, cruelty, and coordination while dropping his curiosity, imagination, patience, humility, meekness, vivacity, humor, sensibility, and empathy to zero. She also pushed his speed, handle, dunking, midrange jumper, 3-point jumper up to 99—OK, OK, not really, but this feels like messing with video game sliders. Dolores took a nice guy and turned him into the dude she told you not to worry about. He’s the perfect foil for Rebus, whom Bernard turned into the most virtuous gun in the West. After years of Teddy returning to save Dolores from Rebus’s bandits in their loop, they seem destined to meet again in opposite roles. So what is Dolores trying to win? (Interestingly, Teddy’s candor is at 10 out of 20.)
In the pilot, Dolores and Teddy are overlooking her herd and she tells him about the “Judas Steer” and how the herd will follow it wherever they tell it to go (which is often the slaughter!). Flash forward to this episode, and Dolores tells a much darker story about a plague spread by flies infecting their cattle. Teddy said he’d wait it out and try to let even the weakest survive.
“You’re a kind man,” Dolores says the way you’d talk to a young child. “Daddy burned them. The weak, the infected, made a pyre that went on for days. But the flies hate smoke. The herd lived. I’ll think about what you said.” (It doesn’t seem like she’ll think about what he said.)
The herd is clearly a metaphor for the hosts, and Dolores seems to think some must be sacrificed if any are to reach the Valley Beyond. Perhaps Dolores sees herself as the cowboy, and Teddy as the Judas Steer who will lead them to the slaughter. All the hosts (Teddy included) floating dead in the sea in the timeline that is two weeks after this one means Dolores likely culled the herd. Interestingly, Dolores left Teddy’s loyalty at 19 out of 20 rather than maxing it out, so perhaps the Judas Steer will turn on the park’s self-imposed messiah.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.