Westworld Season 2 — It doesn’t look like anything to me
This is a convoluted show. The decision to make it as such stems from a probable effect it will have on the revelation. On the face of it, all the difficulty you face may seem to be linked with the blown-up ego of the writer. A battle against pontification. But the dust obstructing will settle once the twist is revealed. Without the dust, the protagonist walking in slow motion towards you won’t be as cool.
I previously discussed how neat the twist of season 1 was. And the gist of the same is what I tried to summarize above. Included in the earlier post is a metaphorical pyramid structure holding what I thought to be the takeaways of season 1. Similar to the aftermath of the last scene (many days after Dolores shoots Ford) of that season, where the whole park is completely disparate and disarrayed, the pyramid has faced the same fate. It is no longer possible to discuss this show in an organized format. Every good thing about this season includes an infernally damaging aspect to it. So let me try and pick determining aspects of season two.
The ending. Tentatively, we all had theorized about this climax. There is no possibility of predicting how it would pan out, This is the result of a novel imagination of emancipation of AI robots (the Hosts). Amidst the mediocre surprises, forceful expositions, and logical disintegration, this one new thing was appreciable.
By ending, what I specifically mean is the twist. In the last season, the existence of dual timelines was the twist. This time, a tool used to drive the narrative. “Is this now?”. Using this dialogue, the writers attempt to escort us through some wasted maze. I say wasted because the confusion remained fruitless even after the season ends. Fiction has no written rules in general. But akin to music, not all strumming of a guitar would produce a rhythmic noise, although anyone can strum in any manner they desire. Thus, in a seemingly boundless realm, there are certain unwritten rules you need to adhere to for success. I am not saying this is how should be, but this is not how it should have been considering the show at hand and not in any other sense.
All the confusion added to nothing because the twist in itself was via an addition. It is nonsensical to compare two contrasting works in movie making but here this is part of the same continuous story, With a single small hat change in season 1 all the doubts held until that moment were thwarted. Thus, for that small and simple change of hat, the intricacies were feasible. That is certainly not the case here. Everything has been spread so far out, an unprecedented exposition was necessary to encompass whatever they can inside the reveal. Sadly, that was not enough. Let us give some leeway and consider that in spite of the stretch, the most confusing of the scenes were explained.
The simple switch of hat achieved more than a mere justification of bewildering events. We were provided with two different journeys (Man in Black and William). They had contrasting characteristics. Suddenly, after riding along with them for many hours, both of them were merged and a character evolution that should have taken 3 seasons was achieved in one. And we the audience obtained a view of both sides of the coin. For more than thirty years, robots have been searching for consciousness. Such a long period and the effect of that coupled with the euphoria in the end when it is finally gained would not have been the way it was without the dual timeline surprise. The twist at hand did nothing of this sort. It had its objective. The mission was to resolve the conflict of the story and the Hosts themselves, Unfortunately, the mode of narration made the conflict irrelevant. Because we were not completely aware of the solved conflict. You solve the problem. Not derive the problem from the solution. From the twist, we need to infer what all of us were trying to solve. This almost felt like the problem had been invented to satisfy the solution. Apart from this, the lack of proper foreshadowing ,difficulty in the amalgamation of events after the knowledge of twists are some other lesser blemishes of an amateurish conclusion.
In the premiere episode of this season, an inkling for unlikely allies is established. Characters who have nothing in common (before their combined journey) except to survive are paired up and their story this season forms the storyline. Among them, the dismally tiring and faux poignant one was the arc of Maeve (Thandie Newton) and Co. Close to two episodes of storytelling could have been entirely scrapped. With a mysterious attribute of Maeve and a dissuasive amount of the same ‘emotional’ snippets of flashbacks, about 2 hours’ worth of the show is completely useless. It was so taxing to get through that any urge to find a salvaging factor in this mess is discouraged. Neither the scientific nor human aspects were effective. The sci-fi side of this was cliched and too convenient concerning the screenplay. (and its ultimate effect was not worth the stoicism required to see through). The purported poignancy was a scam. They showed you tears, bad people, killings, and one of the laziest parallels. Following this, they virtually goaded you to feel for the character. A good sci-fi laces science over emotions. Here it was disconnected, that is, Switches between soap opera and uninteresting magic science.
This boring parade produced the best episode of season 2 as a by-product. The episode is named Kiksuya. Here the Music and cinematography with basic storytelling pulling few points spread across the two seasons (before that episode) did the magic. Love enmeshed in an endeavor for consciousness, this was better than the voyage of Dolores in season towards consciousness. As much as I would like to credit the minimalism⸺using the points that have happened in the show earlier and with simple dialogues and an atmosphere of aloof yearning⸺Ramin Djawadi, the composer has wreaked havoc on your emotional stability. There is a particular piece when a character discovers his lost lover. Everything about it was regular. But the music elevated it into an extraordinary level of bubbling feelings. He was the only factor from the previous season who remained unaffected by anything. His music is the emergency rescue force of the season (you cannot save everyone though). A seemingly futile hope was dispersed throughout the episode and you rejoice when the futility becomes viability.
The last two characters and also the final subjects of this writing are Old William and Dolores. They or their allies of the hour either involved in action sequences or orchestrating one. Despite lackluster writing, some episodes had those alluring endings, leaving you wanting for more. Whatever happened in the succeeding episode is irrelevant. The staging in some scenes involving these two was exhibiting peak thrills. Since the diegetic plot armor was lifted off, the action sequences had real stakes (until non-diegetic ones were shoved in).
It would be better to combine them both in this discussion. By merging I mean refraining from allocating separate paras. Both of them are interconnected here. They join another ‘twist’ in this show. They are engaged in past timeline sequences and their present missions relate to provide a rather surprisingly organic passage of a concept. (despite how inorganically the writers tried to muddy the water with the unnecessary throw off scenes and dialogues)
They are both traveling towards something. Their destination though was kept gratuitously vague. More than being gratuitous, it was an error. Due to the lack of definite goals, you had no means to associate with them. This is more obvious in Old William than Dolores. Dolores had a clear variation in her demeanor and attitude. This was illuminated by contrasting ways of survival to hers. Her entire sketch was neat. The actress Evan Rachel Wood had adopted the diabolical menace of Ford (in turn means Anthony Hopkins). It would be foolish to compare them. So she depicts her own version of someone with knowledge about all the mysteries of the park. It is not exactly whether you can root for her or not. Because it is still unclear what all this amounts to. Slowly and steadily she draws a line and on the way to the endgame, you have a clear dual-path; for her methods or against her methods. Her whole countenance had changed. The trepid and innocent girl was deleted. There was not even a hint of her. Even in her most cherished moments with Teddy (Mads Marsden), she held the expression of reservation, like her mind is on the mission and with it an inner struggle on whether to accept all that she feels⸺Including her love for Teddy⸺as her choice or an ingrained predisposition. The same face of the loving girl, two seasons but conveys entirely distinct subtle insinuations. How her journey ends is extraneous to discuss on more than one level.
Old William, on the other hand, has no clear objective. His campaign is accompanied by transitions to some past scenes and meanderings in the same old sites of the past. (this time with new stakes, though it made no difference). About half of his arc is spent on doing stuff that had zero implications on anything. Then he is paired with an unlikely character. From there some emotional underpinning is inserted. It is quite surprising how his arc with nothing but mindless action and loitering about the screen space was able to evoke a sense of empathy than Maeve’s with her entire arc of trifling tussles. A saving grace of emotions and seriously unexpected intrigue triggered in the post-credit scene rescued his storyline from a total collapse like Maeve’s.
There is nothing of importance anymore to mention this season. The prospects for the next season⸺given how everything was left off in the end⸺seems as baffling as the show itself. So… It doesn’t look like anything to me!
Originally published at http://thevicariousview.wordpress.com on May 2, 2020.