The second season begins with a conversation between Arnold and Dolores that took place decades ago, a reprise of season one’s opening voice-over. Although she was far from self-aware then, Dolores’s perceptivity and critical thinking upset Arnold. He says he is frightened of what she might become. There are dramatic ironies here: We the audience know that Dolores will eventually become sapient (twice) and massacre the park’s human owners and guests; Unbeknownst to him, Arnold’s own future doppelganger will have that same potential.
This show takes advantage of the audience’s assumptions about chronology. Although there are subtle clues throughout the narrative, Westworld eschews the formal chronological cues familiar to TV- and movie-watchers (tinted color, cross-fades, titles). This episode’s action takes place in two time periods: immediately after Dolores killed Ford, and two weeks later when Strand and the Delos commandos arrive. I believe only Bernard appears in both periods; everything else happened the night of the gala and the next day. The clues are his change in attire (dark shirt with Charlotte, light shirt with Delos) and the decomposition of the bodies at the gala massacre. He had his glasses when he was with Charlotte, but loses them to the tides as he wakes up on the beach, and is without spectacles in all the scenes with Delos.
Most of this episode shows us the characters’ goals, a fitting way to begin. Dolores wants a reckoning for the guests’ cruelty. (Teddy just wants to be with her.) Maeve searches for her daughter, intent on rescue and escape. Charlotte would like to GTFO, please and thank you, but she has to find Peter Abernathy before Delos will send an extraction team. The new suit from Delos, Karl Strand, is trying to regain control of the park. William in Black intends to complete the final quest, the deepest level of Ford’s game. (And he is psyched. It was a nice touch playing the arriving-to-Westworld theme as William gets his gear and dons the black hat.)
Bernard’s motivations are complicated. He’s the only character with torn allegiance: He’s a host, but the humans believe he’s one of them. So far, all I can say with certainty is that he wants to survive and to figure out what has happened to him, the hosts, and the park. What will he do when he learns those things?
And while we’re on the subject, why did Ford do what he did? By most indications, he was a control-freak with a god complex. How much of what has happened was part of his plan, versus Dolores’s and Maeve’s free will? Frankly, I don’t have a good answer.
There’s a solid chunk of world-building in this episode. The parks are on an island in the territory of an east Asian nation (was that Korean?). We see that hosts are not entirely flesh and blood: they have CPU cores, or perhaps more accurately, neural-network cores. There’s a mesh network that connects the hosts, allowing them to “subconsciously share information,” according to Bernard. Delos has secret facilities in the park where drone hosts collect guests’ DNA and collate the hosts’ recordings of guests’ experiences. And passage between parks is now possible, as evidenced by the tiger from Samurai World found in Westworld.
It seems the second season’s puzzle elements will focus on Bernard, just as Dolores was the focal point of season one. We know from Karl Strand’s dialog that the park has been out of communication with the outside world for two weeks when the Delos security team finds Bernard on the beach. He sees quick flashes of the lost time: he witnessed the hosts’ murderous rampage but did not participate. Is his memory loss psychological or physiological? (Perhaps due to the robo-concussion that made him leak cerebral fluid.) Too early to tell.
At the end of the episode, when Strand’s group finds hundreds of hosts dead in a new sea, Bernard says, “I killed them. All of them.” Teddy is among the drowned (his last name is Flood, perhaps a little joke). How could Bernard have killed them all? Is his declaration of guilt reliable? I doubt it, y’all! Let’s find out together.