I rarely enjoy Presidential Debates, but Sunday night’s debate was great for one reason…it caused HBO to release episode two of Westworld a day early! Coming off a great premiere, Westworld continued to peel back some layers of what is quickly becoming a complex and multifaceted story. Episode two, “Chestnut” shifts focus from the primary leads in the first episode to a Maeve (Thandie Newton) and two new character, William (Jimmi Simpson) and Logan (Ben Barnes). In addition to the new focus on these characters, episode two also furthers the journey of Ed Harris’ Man in Black as he looks to go unlock the secrets of Westworld while the programming team behind the fantasy world continues looking into the glitch from episode one.
Though “Chestnut” was a little toned down from the premiere it still packed a solid punch. The best part of the episode was the Man in Black’s hunt through Westworld for the entrance to “the maze”. We don’t have any idea what the maze is but it’s obviously a vital part to solving the mysteries behind Westworld and I’m looking forward to finding out more. The Man in Black’s method for finding out about the maze was pretty good too. After shooting most of Lawerance’s (his captive) cousins, the Man in Black gets to the heart of finding out who people are, by getting them down to their most basic emotion. Through this method he uncovers the location of the maze and sets off to find it.
Finding out who someone is was a prominent theme in “Chestnut”. Whereas the primary robot in episode one was Delores, episode two focused more on Maeve, the robot woman who runs the prostitution business out of the saloon. Throughout the episode Maeve experiences several memories, or leftover information from previous iterations, much like Delores did. The programming techs are concerned that these memories are interfering with her ability to function properly, which prompts a recall. During her repair session, though, she comes out of sleep mode and we see her wonder around the Westworld complex outside of the fantasy world. During this she comes across a room where many of the robot units are being worked on and fixed. If this is a memory she retains then that would be two robots, her and Delores, which show signs of sentience and self-awareness.
Speaking of Delores, her private meetings with the lead programmer, Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), indicate that there is probably some tinkering going on at the programming level. This interaction along with Dr. Ford’s loner romps through Sugartown lend to the idea that the new issues with the robots may not be merely glitches, but part of a different plan altogether. Late in the episode the smarmy story creator Lee Sizemore pitches a new story idea to Ford and other Westworld executives. The story is complete with mystery, acts of heroism, and self-cannibalism but is ultimately rejected by Ford. His reason was that the story didn’t address what the visitors were most looking for, and that it in fact was more indicative of the type of person Sizemore was. There was a pretty clear schism in the company in episode one, but now the battle lines are looking more clear.
While all of the intrigue plays out in and around the fantasy world, the two newcomers provide another perception at how the park works. Last week we got a high level overview of what Westworld was and how visitors participated in it. This week viewers are able to experience through the lens of first time visitor William. You get to see everything from how to enter the park to what it’s like the first you go from the real world to being in a saloon where it’s ok for you to just stab somebody in the hand if they’re annoying you. There is a definite assimilation curve for first time visitors that wasn’t evident in the first episode, but is more prevalent through William’s experience. When they first view the western landscape from the train, Logan explains to William that Westworld is the place where you discover “who you really are.”
Overall “Chestnut” kept the momentum going from the premiere. Despite not having a signature moment like the shootout in the first episode, Westworld continues to develop multiple intriguing plotlines without falling into a convoluted mess. At least so far.