If the Westworld premiere intrigued you — and “intrigued” was the word I saw most often among tweeted reactions last Sunday — I suspect the second episode hooked you. So often we watch a splashy drama series pilot and then week 2 feels like a clear step down — slower, less expensive, sloppier writing. Months or even years can go into making a pilot, after all, but the second episode sometimes has to be turned around in just a month or two. Yet tonight’s Westworld, titled “Chestnut,” threw even more mysteries into our laps, polished the characters, and added a pair of promising newcomers. If anything, the pace quickened. So let’s step into analysis and break down episode 2:
Dolores hears a voice: “Do you remember?” I assume this is Bernard’s voice (outside chance, Stubbs’?). Either way, that’s the big question, isn’t it? How much does Dolores remember from last week’s events now that her core programming — which is supposed to prevent her from accessing the memories of her previous lives — is no longer intact? Dolores steps outside and digs up a gun. Was this planted here for her to find? First the fly, and now she’s armed.
We go to a pair of visitors stepping off some fancy future-train: Logan (played by Ben “Prince Caspian” Barnes) and William (Jimmi Simpson). They’re the TV show’s versions of the protagonists of the Westworld feature film. We understand them immediately, or at least think we do: Logan is the arrogant jerk, and William is the passive nice guy. You could say they’re a bit one-dimensional, but given the flurry of multi-dimensional crypto-mystery figures we met last week, it actually comes as a relief to focus our brains on two archetypal guys (they’re very black hat / white hat, if you will). We pick up little expositional clues from their conversation that William is married to Logan’s sister and that they also work at the same company (we assume Logan is the boss).
Perhaps the most interesting thing about their arrival is that we get to see Westworld’s orientation process (or rather, it’s disorientation process). William is greeted by a Scarlett Johansson-esque hostess bot who takes him into a private set of changing rooms. She informs William that there are no formal guidebooks or instructions and that “figuring out how it works is half the fun.” Apparently Westworld has revolutionized theme parks in one of the ways that Steve Jobs did with personal electronics — no instruction manuals, just let the user figure out their iPods and iPhones and robo-brothels all on their own (though nobody would ever describe trying to import your music files into iTunes as “half the fun”).
“Are you real?” William asks her.
“If you can’t tell, does it matter?” she replies.
That’s a stunning line — the show’s central conflict wrapped up in one zinger comeback.
She presents him with an array of clothes and weapons, all fitted to his size. She’s oozing seductive allure this whole time, and we’re wondering what’s going to happen next. “I can help you [change] or, if you prefer, I can step outside,” she says. He asks what most people do, and she assures him he doesn’t have to worry about that — throw out your social norms, you’re in Westworld now!
This moment is William’s first choice: the initial A-or-B option in his Choose Your Own Westworld Adventure. Does he fool around with this host? We think he’s married to Logan’s sister, but Logan has noted that his sister, surely, slept with a few cowboys during her visit to Westworld. To paraphrase the host: If they’re not human, is it really cheating?
NEXT: So, what would YOU do here?