[SPOILERS ahead for those not caught up on Westworld.]
HBO’s sci-fi/western TV series Westworld – itself, loosely based on Jurassic Park creator Michael Crichton’s 1973 genre-blending movie of the same name – has thus far taken the “mystery box” storytelling approach that you would expect, from a show produced by Lost co-creator J.J. Abrams and co-created by Jonathan Nolan (creator of Person of Interest and co-writer of Interstellar). Nearly every episode of Nolan and co-creator Lisa Joy’s newfound critical darling TV series has left its viewers with more questions than they had going in; at least, that’s been the case throughout the first half of season 1.
Westworld season 1 reached its half-way point with ‘Contrapasso’. The second half of the show’s freshman season promises to answer (or, if nothing else, address) a few of the most tantalizing questions that have been raised over the course of the series’ initial batch of episodes. Perhaps the two biggest questions that the next five episodes are poised to shed light on are 1) Exactly who is the Westworld park’s co-creator “Arnold” and what influence does he hold over the hosts in the show’s present-day and 2) Just what is “The Maze” that The Man in Black (Ed Harris) is seeking… and which Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) is also searching for, even if she doesn’t fully realize it yet?
HBO has now released a promo for the second half of Westworld season 1 – one that opens with Teddy (James Marsden) telling The Man in Black matter-of-factly that The Maze is the “sum of a man’s live,” before dismissing it as an Native American myth. The episode ‘Dissonance Theory’ established that the park’s hosts chalk up a number of the inexplicable things that happen around them (including, the rare sightings of the park’s clean-up crews) to being either dreams, superstitions, or folklore from local natives. Still, the fact that Westworld’s co-architect Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) was compelled to actually meet The Man in Black in-park and discuss his quest to find The Maze, coupled with the frequent appearances of The Maze symbol around the park, suggests there’s something much more interesting behind this particular Westworld “fairy tale” than more of the park’s janitorial staff members.
The Maze may be “all that matters now” for The Man in Black, but Dolores’ efforts to break out of her own “modest little loop” (as Ford calls it) – one seemingly compelled by the ghostly(?) voice of “Arnold” – is about something much bigger, as the new Westworld promo highlights. Similarly, “Contrapresso” concluded with a seemingly full-aware Maeve (Thandie Newton) sitting up while in one of Westworld’s “repair shops” and giving the technician Felix quite a fright, suggesting her own existential quest is just getting started. But is she acting on her own… or is there someone else (or some organization) pulling Maeve’s figurative strings?
It’s now clear that there are multiple shadowy individuals and/or companies seeking to wrestle control of Westworld away from Ford (something that Ben Barnes’ Logan casually mentions to Jimmi Simpson’s increasingly-wary William in ‘Contrapresso’) – and clearly, one of them has gotten much further in their attempt than everyone else. The answer to the question of who that is may be the same one to the question of who Ford is addressing in the above trailer – be it “Arnold”, a treacherous park employee, or someone else altogether – when he asks if they really thought he would let them “take” the park away from him so easily.
Whatever the answers to these questions (and others) are, this is all further proof that Westworld is aiming to be much more than yet another twist on the well-trod narrative “loop” of artificial intelligence gone-rogue. It remains to be seen just how successful the show and/or its hosts ultimately are in their efforts to break out of their respective “loops” – but the journey along the way to the show delivering those payoffs continues to prove worthy of the price of admission, so to speak, as season 1 keeps rolling along.
Westworld continues next Sunday with ‘The Adversary’ @9pm on HBO.