Get all caught up before we had back to Sweetwater for Season 2.
HBO’s twisty sci-fi hit Westworld returns this weekend, bringing with it all the mind-bending, fan-theorizing, and deep philosophical discussions anyone could hope for. When Season 1 ended, series star Evan Rachel Woodteased that those first 10 episodes were “an amazing prequel and a good setup for the actual show.” That means what we watched was essentially prologue for a series that will, in theory, be about sentient robots gleefully slaughtering, or gently protecting, humanity in the various parks owned by Delos. Will they make their way out into the wider world? Perhaps. But first, there are a few more urgent questions we need to get to.
In order to guide you through this brave new world, Vanity Fair is launching the second installment of its Still Watching podcast, with chief critic Richard Lawsonand senior writer Joanna Robinson back behind the microphones to break down every episode of the second season. You can subscribe to the podcast here, and listen to a preview episode including early predictions and pre-season anticipation here:
In addition, here’s a rundown of some of the most pressing questions still lingering from Season 1. Hopefully they can provide you with a much-needed refresher before Season 2 begins Sunday, April 22, at 9 P.M. Eastern on HBO.
Was That Really Ford Who Died?
The most hotly contested question among the Westworld fandom in the long wait between Season 1 and Season 2: did we actually watch original flavor, human Ford (Anthony Hopkins) get shot by Dolores in the finale? Or did she shoot a convincing replica? I’m not sure anyone can blame Westworld fans for going down this particular rabbit hole; after Season 1’s Bernard/Arnold game changer, we would probably be wise to be on the lookout for even more secret robots. And who wouldn’twant Anthony Hopkins back on this show?
That being said, this death really feels like it needs to be a permanent one in order for Ford’s big rebellion to actually matter. To quote Ford’s old friend Arnold, who also committed suicide by Dolores:
Never mind the fact that Anthony Hopkins himself has used the past tense when talking about his work on the show.
But hey, man: if you want to hold out hope for some miraculous resurrection, who am I to stop you?
Why Did the Man in Black Smile?
Ed Harris’s character, the Man in Black—a.k.a. Old William—cracks a queer smile in the Season 1 finale as he faces down a line of murderous robots who, hey, just shot a hole in his upper arm. What is that about? You don’t really have to wait until the Season 2 premiere to find out; we can take our best guess based on information from the first season. Fully twisted by his heartbreaking experience with Dolores, the modern-day version of William is looking for “real stakes,” and a way to change the “game” so the hosts can fight back. “I bought this world,” he tells Dolores. “The only world that matters.”
William might still harbor some feelings for his old companion; after all, he implores her to help him make Westworld even more real. “We can make it true,” he tells her. “One true thing.” That’s also how he references Dolores in the final William flashback. The Man in Black may not have gotten the girl—but, lucky him, by the end of the episode, he got his other wish. But what will he do in Season 2, with a world full of robots that can make their own murderous decisions? Will he make a beeline for Dolores once again?
O.K., But What Happened to William to Get Him Here?
How did the heartbroken and only kinda twisted Young William, played by Jimmi Simpson, turn into the heartbroken and most definitely twisted Old William over the course of several decades? How did he go from romantic hero to reviled villain?
Once again, the context clues were kind of there for you in Season 1. Young William was already kind of a murderous prick by the time of the Season 1 finale—and as Old William told Dolores, somewhere along the way, he found he had a taste for violence. The bigger question might be how Young William managed to take over Delos Incorporated and ensure that his brother-in-law, Logan (Ben Barnes), was further humiliated. If footage from the Season 2 trailer is any indication, we may wind up seeing exactly this, via some corporate maneuvering and twisted mind games.
What Does Delos Really Want?
This might be the most fascinating question bumping around the edges of Westworld Season 1. While a lot of other pressing mysteries occupied our time (where are we? when are we??), the Westworld writers seeded in the idea that Delos Incorporated has a secret ulterior motive behind their pleasure park from the very first episode. In a rooftop exchange in the pilot, the park’s writer, Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman), and upper management Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen) allude to Delos’s bigger plans. Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) doubles down on that allusion in Episode 7 (a.k.a. the one where Theresa buys it), when she calls it “our little research project.” In other words, simply providing a safe haven for the rich to fuck, shoot, and kill themselves into oblivion is not all Delos is up to.
The show itself hasn’t revealed much more than that—but some very invested fans have found curious language in the Delos Terms of Service contracts that HBO posted online back in Season 1. See if anything there sets off alarm bells for you.
Where is Peter Abernathy?
Given that Charlotte was so focused on smuggling “35 years of vitally important data” out of the park, the location of the robot she embedded that information in will be pretty damn important. So, uh, where is Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum), a.k.a. Dolores’s glitching dad?
The plan was to get him on a train headed out to the real world—but according to Jonathan Nolan, Abernathy did not get on that train. Sizemore was going down to cold storage to retrieve him and instead found . . . well, it doesn’t look like anything to me.
Presumably, Abernathy’s out there in the park, shooting holes in Ed Harris with Angela (Talulah Riley), Clementine (Angela Sarafyan), and the rest of the liberated robots. But technically, we haven’t seen him since Episode 8, when Charlotte and Sizemore uploaded that code into his brain. Herthum has been upgraded to series regular this year, so where, oh where can he be?
Is Maeve Really Awake?
Maeve (Thandie Newton) spent most of Season 1 thinking she had woken up all on her own, and was making her own decisions to rebel against her human overlords. We found out toward the end of the season, however, that she had actually been programmed to rebel. (Ford needed her to cause mayhem in headquarters so Dolores could kick things off in the park.) So, was it really her choice to get off that train to the outside world and head back into the park to look for her robot daughter—or is this lingering code? Newton has since confirmed that Maeve’s decision to go after her child “was the first conscious decision that she made.” That means Maeve is awake now. So is Dolores. So, it seems, is Bernard. The real question may be this: what will this unholy trinity do with all that free will?
What About Elsie, Armistice, Stubbs, etc.?
A few characters were left dangling in life or death situations last season. Elsie (Shannon Woodward) was last seen being choked unconscious by Bernard. Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) was seen under attack from Ghost Nation and Armistice (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal)—though as we know from a Season 1 post-credits stinger, she’s quite literally living up to her name. (“Armistice” means stoppage (stitium) of arms (arma), as in weapons.)
Hemsworth, Woodward, and Berdal are all back for Season 2, indicating that they all escaped death . . . somehow.
What About These Other Worlds?
A lot of hints have been dropped in the off-season about the various new worlds we’ll see in Season 2. Though I’ve not seen them for myself, I’ve heard that there are even a few more that haven’t been revealed in interviews yet. So hold on to your butts. But the big one, of course, is Shogun World, which was teased in the Season 1 finale. Nolan has, however, cautioned against fans getting too excited about spending much time in ancient Japan. He told Entertainment Weekly:
We want to try and gently temper expectations. Most of our season is spent in Westworld—the eponymous Westworld. But we do get a chance to glimpse some of the other worlds. And we have a couple of episodes that are spent in Shogun World with one of our story lines, while our other story lines continue elsewhere. So I say we’re trying to temper expectations, except to say that I think the stuff we did for Shogun World is spectacular.
Indeed, Westworld has stocked its samurai and geisha world with a murderers’ row of talented Japanese actors, including Oscar nominee Rinko Kikuchi.
So get ready for another 10 episodes of twists and turns. Still Watching: Westworldwill be with you every step of the way—don’t forget to subscribe here:
And tune in for the Season 2 premiere of Westworld Sunday, April 22, on HBO.