This is a Westworld Season 2 review. I’m a little late catching up on Westworld, but I’ve been binging through it. Last week I put out my Westworld season 1 review, and this week it’s time for the Westworld Season 2 review. Compared to season 1, Westworld season 2 feels like a very different show.
Overview – Westworld Season 2 Review
While Westworld season 2 still has its own fair share of mystery, it’s much more action oriented and it gets into the plot straight away with little setup. It follows four disconnected crews of characters as the deal with the aftermath of the season 1 finale. You have Dolores, who’s accumulating an army and leaving a pile of dead bodies in her wake; Maeve, who’s on a quest to rescue her daughter; William, who’s trying to find the end of Ford’s game; and Bernard, whose memories are scrambled.
The show reuses season 1’s skipping timeline narrative, but here it’s not played off as a twist. It’s explicit that there’s a future timeline and a past timeline, whereas in the first season, the show led viewers to believe it was all happening at once and then revealed it had been showing two different timeline all along.
One of the core plot elements worth mentioning in the Westworld season 2 review is that it’s revealed early on that William has been trying to revive Mr. Delos, his predecessor and that the Delos corporation is more interested in securing its proprietary technology rather than rescuing the waylaid Westworld board members and employees.
Season 2 vs Season 1 – Westworld Season 2 Review
In a way, season 2 feels a lot more refined. As you might recall, my main criticisms of season 1 were that it didn’t reveal any answers to its mysteries until the very end and that the Wild West was not a terribly compelling setting.
Westworld season 2 does begin with a hefty mystery; it starts in the future, showing that Bernard has purportedly killed all the hosts somehow. However, unlike season 1, season 2 drips reveals throughout the season while also guarding the mystery of its first episode until the very end. As I mentioned, the central mysteries in season 2 are how Bernard killed all the hosts and what the Delos Corporation’s plans for the park’s technology ultimately are. Like season 1, these seemingly disconnected mysteries connect together in a satisfying way during the finale, but unlike season 1, reliable, new information about each mystery is delivered regularly throughout the show.
As for the second criticism, Westworld season 2 does expand the world considerably by introducing Shogun World, another park based in feudal Japan, and The Raj, a world based around the era of British-Indian colonialism. It also gives us some very vague glimpses into the real, modern world outside the park. These new worlds are a welcome expansion, although Shogun World contains some dismemberment and gore which is beyond my comfort zone. I’m all on board with violence in TV, but on-screen dismemberment is sort of where I draw the line.
While season 2 does feel more refined, it also feels somewhat less special. Where season 1 felt like a breath of fresh air, season 2 feels like a sci-fi action thriller. It’s satisfying, but it lacks the atmosphere and unease that season 1 excelled at, replacing it with much more forward momentum.
Where Westworld season 1 feels like Blade Runner in terms of its atmosphere and vibe, Westworld season 2 feels like Jurassic Park. And that’s not a bad thing — Blade Runner and Jurassic Park are both fantastic, but in terms of writing a Westworld season 2 review, it creates a bit of an apples and oranges comparison.
Worth Watching? – Westworld Season 2 Review
Is Westworld season 2 a compelling, well executed show? Yes it is. But, ultimately it’s a very different show from what we got in season 1. Anthony Hopkins, who carried the first season with his exceptional acting, is relegated to flashbacks and hallucinations. In his place, we get Bernard, Dolores and James Marsden as the characters with the most screen time, all of whom were excellent in supporting roles in the first season, but who just absolutely undeniably can’t captivate audiences in the same way that Anthony Hopkins can.
The mystery of season 2 is interesting and thought-provoking, but it doesn’t have the same impact as the mystery of season 1. The whole season feels much more like an extended epilogue to season 2 than a self-contained narrative in its own right. That said, the ending of Westworld season 2 was fantastic, and the season itself had a lot of great character moments.
Where season 1 did an excellent job juxtaposing the naive and colorful park with the grey and mysterious Westworld corporation, but here, while there are new mysteries to be solved, neither the park nor the corporation are the enigma they once were. The show is self-aware enough to realize this, so it pivots away from mystery and toward action. But a sci-fi action adventure starring Dolores and Bernard is just not the same show as a sci-fi mystery thriller starring Anthony Hopkins. That’s probably the key point I want to make in this Westworld season 2 review.
That said, when writing a Westworld season 2 review, I have to mention that season 2 brings a lot to the table in its own right. It does a fantastic job of expanding the setting and spreading more characterization around to its various cast members. There are several somewhat self-contained character-centric episodes that are simply enjoyable in their own right; in a way, it feels more like a collection of interconnected short films than a single long narrative.
William is confronted by his daughter and we learn a tremendous amount about his backstory and motivations. We’re introduced to a new character, and Indian named Akecheta, who was a background character in season 1, and we learn about his tragic backstory. We’re introduced to new characters in Shogun World who have a brief arc that tells about their adventure. I have to point out in my Westworld season 2 review that I found that I wanted more of this and a little less of Dolores/Teddy and the Delos Corporation mercenaries.
So, even though season 2 is quite a different beast from season 1, when push comes to shove for a Westworld season 2 review, it’s still a fantastic show. The new settings, Shogun World and the Raj are an especially welcome change, not only because they expand on the lore of the show, but also because they’re simply cool settings in their own right — much cooler than the Wild West setting, in my opinion. Wild West becomes a much more compelling setting as part of an ensemble than having to carry the whole show on its back.
I wish we had spent just a little more time in The Raj; it’s only showcased for a small part of one episode in order to introduce William’s daughter, Emily, and I feel like the show would’ve been better served if they gave at least another half episode of the show to Emily’s experiences in The Raj, perhaps at the expense of some of the more tedious Westworld backtracking, some of the Dolores/Teddy scenes that felt unnecessary, and some of the focus on the Delos Corporation cleanup crew that felt unnecessary.
I really enjoyed Shogun world, though I wish it had focused slightly more on the new characters as, aside from newcomer Akane, the characterization of the rest of the Shogun World ensemble was a little thin. The character who ultimately joins Maeve’s team permanently doesn’t even, as far as I know, have a name. She’s more of a set piece than a character.
Final Verdict – Westworld Season 2 Review
Am I recommending Westworld Season 2 in my Westworld Season 2 review? I am.
I think, while Westworld Season 1 was probably a 4.5, Westworld Season 2 is a 4.1. Still a very strong, solid outing. It just doesn’t feel quite as unique as the first season, but what it lacks in intrigue it makes up for by expanding the lore