The 15 biggest questions going into Westworld's second season
I found Westworld's first season equal parts stunning and frustrating. The acting was superb, the world-building was exquisite, and the cinematography was world-class. And yet — as exciting as it is to read about the new directions the second season seems to be moving in (including Shogun World), I'm more interested in figuring out answers to some of the first season's loose ends. Here are a few of those lingering questions:
1. What happened to Elsie Hughes, the programmer who uncovers corporate espionage in the park and is later shown being strangled by Bernard in one of his memories ? I still don't believe she's dead.
2. What consequential differences are there between the 3-D printed hosts and the older, mechanical models?
3. Why does that distinction matter so much to the Man in Black (a.k.a Billy) in particular? He seemed singularly unimpressed with the park's co-creator Robert Ford (who arguably master-minded the shift toward more "anatomical" 3-D printed bodies) when they meet, and makes a particularly odd crack about "opening him up" — a phrase he also used in his speech to Teddy about once slicing a mechanical host open to see its insides. Whether that referred to Maeve or Logan's vivisection of Dolores is unclear. What is clear — and hard to reconcile with the nested Billy-Dolores love story — is Old Billy's appreciation of the old hosts' mechanical beauty. Is there more to this tension between the old and new robots than Billy's aesthetic preference? If so, where is it going? It's repeatedly asserted that Dolores was the oldest host in the park — she's experienced both kinds of bodies. Will this matter?
4. This is minor, but: Young Billy seemed surprised when he got shot by a host and it hurt. Old Billy doesn't react to being shot at all. Has the fake-bullet technology changed to the point that current guests really feel almost nothing when hosts shoot at them? If so — and if Billy minds this as much as he seems to, given how happy he is to be shot for real in the finale — why wouldn't he have rolled back this rule to increase the stakes? He's a VIP in desperate search of a challenge. Why is he playing the game on what seems like its easiest setting? Why isn't he insisting that the park create stakes where currently there aren't any?
5. Was Dolores based on a real person? Bernard was obviously based on Ford's dead partner Arnold. Ford also created a boy version of himself. And the glass case in Ford's office showing a kind of evolutionary formation of her head from skull to perfect face suggests that Dolores meant an awful lot to both creators. Why?
6. What are different models of memory doing in the show? We know that the "reveries" — which seem to bear some relationship to the fuzziness of "human" memory — were partially responsible for jump-starting the hosts' climb toward sentience. But we also know that the hosts remember things, not as humans do, but with a vividness that makes the memory indistinguishable from the present. "Somewhere under all those updates, he's still there, perfectly preserved," Ford said to Dolores of Arnold. "Your mind is a walled garden. Even death cannot touch the flowers blooming there."
7. Relatedly, is there in fact a line between implanted trauma via fake backstory (like Bernard losing his pretend son) vs. a "lived" experience (like Bernard remembering he murdered Theresa)? If so, why? Shouldn't these experiences have the exact same status?
8. What are the odds that Jimmi Simpson will grow up into Ed Harris?
9. What exactly happened with Ford's arc? His hostility toward Dolores in that early interview is a little hard to reconcile with his redemptive planned suicide at her hand. I wrote about the peculiar contradictions his personality undergoes in the finale and also after "The Well-Tempered Clavier," which made it clear that Ford was becoming a little bit schizoid. It's tempting to chalk this up to a mid-season change in direction, but I hope not: After all, the subtle differences in Jeffrey Wright's various encounters with Dolores turned out to mark the difference between Arnold and Bernard!
10. Along similar lines: Why did Ford seem surprised to find the maze at that dominoes table? Why did he seem startled when the young version of him killed? Throughout the season, it felt like Ford was getting caught off-guard — and it didn't seem like an act since he was alone and unobserved. That doesn't seem compatible with the solution in the finale, which suggests that he meticulously planned every single effect.
11. What happened to the depraved playboy Logan?
12. Why did that rogue host have a carving of Orion's belt but with four stars instead of three?
13. What exactly happened to Dolores' first father, Peter Abernathy? Early on, Ford mentioned that he'd played "the professor" in some kind of cannibal storyline, and that his recitations of Shakespeare (and Stein) stemmed from there. He was patient zero for the "these violent delights have violent ends" code-trigger and he was legitimately terrifying when he threatened Ford. Yes, he was lobotomized, but those lobotomies appear to be reversible. He's also carrying an enormous amount of Delos IP. Why didn't he get to participate in the finale? Where is he?
14. Are we going to examine the "suffering causes sentience" paradigm? Because these robots are built to suffer and have suffered endlessly at the hands of relentless, amoral guests. So by that logic, they all ought to have reached sentience ages ago, right? Doesn't it seem a little arbitrary that some particular form of suffering (like killing Maeve's daughter) would spark a specific transformation? Doesn't it seem like that must have happened to her dozens of times?
15. Why did Walter need more milk?