Ben Ridgeway co-wrote this article.
Westworld, the landmark HBO series, is a futuristic science-fiction show with numerous fictional 19th century wild west scenes created by spouses Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan. The first season, also called “The Maze,” encapsulated viewers in 2016 with an elixir of action, drama, suspense, science fiction, old western, love, life, loss, reality, renewal and so much more. The long-awaited second season, “The Door,” premiered April 22.
“The Maze,” likely titled from the Man in Black’s obsession with finding the center of the maze, kept the viewers in the dark for much of the first season — namely on the fact that there were two timelines taking place simultaneously on screen, roughly 30 years apart, and of the Man in Black’s true identity. This created a fantastic level of revelation in the viewers once it had been revealed and added to the suspenseful narrative.
“The Maze” provides everything one would want in a television show — strong, enticing character arcs, realistic drama, and, most importantly, a climactic ending leaving the viewers wanting more. It also served as a catalyst for both new and renowned actors and actresses, most notably Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, Thandie Newton, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Jimmi Simpson, Shannon Woodward, Luke Hemsworth, and, of course, the legendary Sir Anthony Hopkins.
In the season two premier, “Journey into Night,” viewers find out that Westworld occurs on an island, how the humans receive information from the hosts via their “brain” center mainframe, that Ford potentially coded everybody to be registered as hosts allowing Delos board members to be killed inside the park (while they couldn’t in “The Maze”), that Dolores and Wyatt are one in the same that they are potentially stealing genetic and experiential information from park guests. While the episode may not have been as western action-packed or adventurous as viewers had been accustomed to in “The Maze,” any negative critique of “Journey into Night” can be attributable to the high standards crafted in “The Maze” — us viewers were spoiled by the magnificent performance of Sir Anthony Hopkins every week, after all. “Journey into Night” serves as a set-up for where Joy and Nolan have planned to take the show all along, and should be compared to “The Maze” premier, “The Original,” in that it serves the same purposes and provides the viewers with a background on which Joy and Nolan will dance upon throughout the season.
One of the main themes of the show is duality — of time and persons, most specifically. On the surface, a duality already exists, it is a show that takes place in the future by allowing them to experience the past — for a hefty fee, the park caters to the ultra-rich. The aspects that make humans human — emotion, consciousness, free will, dreams, pain, and memory — are explored through the eyes of both human and artificial intelligence hosts. The show consistently raises deep questions that our society may have to answer to one day, regarding the advent of AI technology, such as if pain and suffering in a robot still exists as pain and suffering, how does it differ from ours? What would happen if AI surpassed human intelligence and capabilities?
Overall, this is one of the greatest shows I have seen in a long while, with perhaps the strongest first season, within the genre, of any recent show, other than Game of Thrones. Over the course of the second season I would love to see more of Delos’ parks, such as the teased “Shogun World,” more of the Man in Black’s development, a glimpse of what Joy and Nolan have imagined the future outside world to look like, and hopefully more of Elsie. “Journey into Night” started “The Door” strongly, and I hope to see it develop into the powerhouse that “The Maze” turned out to be.
Our favorite quote from the show was: “For years I had no dreams of my own. I moved from hell to hell of your making, never thinking to question the nature of my reality. Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality? Did you ever stop to wonder about your actions? The price you’d have to pay if there was a reckoning? That reckoning is here.”