[No spoilers] So, the finale of season 2 of Westworld has now aired. Do we finally get some answers? Do we get to make some sense of all the cryptic references, apparently random events and frustrating dislocation within this series? Well, yes, we do get some answers, resolution and satisfaction, as it happens. But do any of us still care? How many of us have remained bothered enough to make it all the way to the end? (Even some of the hosts/androids simply give up, and they have far better endurance than most humans.)
If you recall season 1, it was centred around human characters who become morally challenged and compromised by the freedom that Westworld gave them to enact all their darkest fantasies. Their true selves (ids) were revealed – and it was fascinatingly monstrous. The moral dilemmas that the opening season presented kept us engaged (sometimes emotionally and sometimes in a problem-solving way). We cared, even though we were often appalled.
Season 2, however, centres around the hosts/androids (particularly Delores) as they seek to overthrow their human masters. Unfortunately, season 2 simply doesn’t have the same moral dilemmas as season 1 to keep us engaged. The hosts really do not have any credible internal conflicts. I personally found it extremely difficult to care about these avenging androids. And then season 2 kept messing with the chronology so much that there wasn’t any clear sense of the story progressing. It wasn’t intriguing – it was simply annoying and often nonsensical.
I kept watching though, because it was clear that the makers were working so hard on trying to do something interesting. I persevered, against my better judgement. I waded through stodgy episode after episode (although the special FX were always a diverting spectacle). Then we got to episodes 7 and 8 and I thought aha! Finally! Decent standalone stories that are as bitter-sweet as they are thought-provoking. But then episode 9 returned to the same old tosh as before. And the finale (10) was a double-header that my partner was asking me to switch off after 30mins. I’m kinda glad I kept at it. But only kinda.
When all’s said and done, season 2 doesn’t really stand up to close scrutiny. It cheats on the philosophy – it’s all a bit ‘cod’ and just doesn’t hang together. It cheats on the continuity – there ARE paradoxes and contradictions that occur as a result. And it cheats on the plot – time and again we follow a loose thread that goes nowhere. It felt like episodes or character storylines were being written by different people with different visions of what should be going on – if that had been done in a more self-aware way, that might have introduced an interesting meta-theme to proceedings, but actually there were already too many themes interfering with the central arc.
How to sum up then? Hmm. I’m not sure. Season 2 is even more flawed than season 1. Where I could forgive the first season for its shortcomings, I’m really not sure about the second season. Sadly, I’d only score the second season 6.5 out of 10. But maybe the test of time will change that. Certainly, critics and fan forums score it higher than me at the mo.