The second season of the HBO show, Westworld, has answered many of the questions raised in season one. Of course, it’s also raised a whole crop of new questions! And, sadly, that crop seems to contain more WTF questions than last season.
The big WTF in the first season was The Maze, and there were some smaller ones, mostly to do with Ford’s astonishing foresight into what people would do. (Smacks a bit of Hari Seldon’s Psychohistory.) But this season has a number of choices that strike me as working backwards from a cool image or as style over substance.
More important are the actual questions raised, and hopefully there are far more of those. Let’s find out (serious spoilers, obviously)…
WTF: Why are copied human minds (Delos, Ford) stable inside the VR but not in a host body?
What is different between simulated reality and the real thing? (This is a big question. I wrote a whole post about it. See: How Host Brains Work.)
WTF: Why is security so awful at their jobs?
The attack on the fort was tactical idiocy, and those guys generally get mowed down even easier than Star Trek red-shirts. Notice how easily Dolores and the MiB dispatch the team at the entrance to the Forge.
Are they hosts? The show seems to suggest not, but, damn, they be stupid!
OTOH, even Coughlin’s team, seemingly hardened combat vets, went down pretty easily against Dolores and her team. This may literally be a case of red-shirts or storm-troopers — cardboard clowns whose sole purpose is to be mowed down.
The larger question is:
Are nearly all the workers hosts?
As with security, the show seems to suggest they are human, but they are, forgive me, pretty shit humans. There are so many reasons why they come off as hosts:
- No initiative or skill.
- Lifeless affect.
- Ignoring things around them.
- Stupid attack on fort.
- Don’t notice Maze on scalps.
- They do it with greeters.
- And Stubbs!
- Makes major economic sense.
- Makes sense from a security standpoint.
- They absolutely have the capability!
In particular, what about Felix and Sylvester? Hosts? Humans?
When Logan/OS, Bernard, and Dolores, are walking through the Forge, I think I saw multiple copies of a tech that looked a lot like Felix. There were definitely techs there in that virtual world.
So either the Forge has copies of real techs that it uses, or this is a clue that, yes, the techs are, indeed, hosts. (As I’ve always believed.)
OTOH, neither Felix nor Sylvester could see “The Door” which is a very strong suggestion they are human. The only alternative is that The Sublime wasn’t for them.
I do think there’s a strong case to be made for a series of hosts, worker and technician hosts, who don’t appear as hosts to “normal” hosts (the ones in the park, even the greeters, like Angela). Maybe they lack the mesh network; maybe their programming is slightly different.
Are the glass cubicles in the Mesa Hub opaque to the hosts?
Note how, from James Delos’ point of view, he lived in a room with white walls, but from the humans’ point of view, they were glass. Are the Mesa Hub cubicles the same way?
It would explain a lot about workers seeming to be oblivious to what’s going on around them.
Alternately, was James Delos programmed to not see through the glass? If techs are hosts are they, too, programmed to not see through Mesa Hub “walls”?
WTF: What’s with the encryption key?
It’s what Maurice the Woodcutter tried to beam to a Delos satellite. It’s what Charlotte Hale uploaded into poor Peter Abernathy. (At the time she referred to it as “30 years of Delos data.” Later she told Stubbs it was a “fail-safe.”) It’s what Bernard saw when he hacked Peter (“Oh, my God!” he said.). It’s the “package” Delos was so insistent about getting.
Apparently it was just an encryption key that gave access to… what, exactly? To the human consciousness database? To the Forge VR? To The Sublime?
But the Forge is William’s project! It’s not under Ford’s control (or isn’t supposed to be, per their agreement). So why sneak the key out of the park? That key is totally the property of Delos.
And if the key was already in the Mesa Hub servers, from whence Charlotte uploaded it to Peter Abernathy, and if the key was used in the Forge, why did Delos want it exported to the mainland?
The encryption key makes no sense!
WTF: What was the intended purpose of the giant scanner device in the ceiling of the cavern holding the Forge?
Akecheta sees it when the Forge is being built, so it’s been there from day one. William is responsible for it being there; what was its intended use?
Was there some original plan involving the hosts walking through “The Door” at some point? That’s hard to believe. Why did William put it there?
Would “The Door” work on humans? They apparently can’t see it.
WTF: What was the point of flooding the Valley Beyond?
It didn’t seem to affect Dolores’ body in the Forge control room, nor did it seem to harm the hosts in The Sublime.
Dolores manually deleted the human minds stored (or started to; Bernard completed the task), so what was the point of the flood?
WTF: Why is the Forge facility able to flood the whole valley?
Especially when it doesn’t actually seem to harm anything. Charlotte Hale referred to it as the “fail-safe” (which she also called the Peter Abernathy key). It involves pumping in sea water — a lot of sea water — to flood the valley.
The irony is that, after a season of build up, there wasn’t much of a Flood Show Finale. Some rising water in the Forge control room, a bit of water outside… and that was it!
Where did Dolores send the hosts that made it into The Sublime?
We have it from Lisa Joy that, because that VR is encrypted, it is effectively gone from our universe, and those hosts will live undisturbed in peace. It seems unlikely we’ll ever see them again.
Think “gone to heaven.”
One consideration: The coordinates we see Dolores set are in terms of Azimuth and Elevation — they are a location in the sky, presumably the location of a satellite that can receive a laser light signal. (Or a location on the moon?)
A satellite might beam the data elsewhere, but there are two crucial points:
- Whatever received the data needed to be expecting it!
- Servers are necessary to “run” The Sublime.
Which implies someone had to set up Dolores’ secret destination ahead of time, and that wherever that is, it requires some serious Forge-level servers. It also needs to be able to “run” The Sublime in its encrypted form.
(I’m not persuaded Nolan and Joy have thought this out. I have half a suspicion they’ve gone and just “sent it out to the ether” and let it go.)
What five pearls did Dolores take with her from Westworld?
She uploaded Teddy to The Sublime, but did she also copy an original version of him, the old him, from the Forge? Does she have an original copy of Peter Abernathy? Angela? Clementine? Maeve??
(Some believe the hosts in the Forge were just NPCs from the memories of James Delos and not actual hosts.)
She read some number of library books (such as Carl Strand’s). She recreated Bernard from memory, might she create new hosts from her memories of books she read?
If she disposed of Strand’s body, and recreated him, she could have another Delos employee on Team Dolores.
Where did Dolores get her five pearls?
Bernard shoots her and recreates her as Halores. Are the pearls ones she picked up along the way? Or did she obtain them as Hale in her second visit to the Forge? If so, were they taken off Dolores’ body or downloaded from the Forge?
Who is in the Charlotte Hale shell now?
I believe it’s confirmed that it’s one of the five pearls. And equally confirmed that it is only five pearls (none we didn’t see).
Is there a host who crosses their arms like “Charlotte” is doing in that final scene (with the new Bernard)?
She was holding the gun correctly, finger off the trigger, extended along the frame of the gun. Is that a clue that the ghost in her shell has gun-handling experience?
How did Dolores change Bernard?
When Dolores helped Ford re-create Arnold in Bernard, she changed him, but we never learn the details of exactly what she did. How did Dolores make Bernard different from Arnold? Did she make Bernard.2 different from Bernard.1?
Why do the “books” in the Forge “library” all look different?
Can we judge human mind books by their cover? (I loved how the books are printed in what looks like player piano roll code.)
Will Bernard recreate hosts to be on his team?
Might he recreate Elsie Hughes? He saw her murdered and might miss her. Remember what he said about her strong will! He certainly values her, and it would be great to have Shannon Woodward back again!
It seems unlikely he’d recreate Robert Ford. Might he recreate Theresa Cullen?
Why did Bernard take Dolores’ pearl?
He left the Peter Abernathy pearl in its place.
But it’s not until later, when he sees Charlotte murder Elsie, that he determines to make a Charlotte host for Dolores’ pearl. Was he planning on making some other host for her?
Ford is deleted from his mind, so he’s not under Ford’s geas.
When did Stubbs realize Charlotte was a host?
Immediately or not until she goes to leave at the extraction point? Bonus: We have it pretty confirmed that Ashley Stubbs has been a host all along, and apparently one who knows he is a host. (Somewhat like Greeter Angela does.)
When did Stubbs realize Bernard was a host?
Only when he saw all the old Bernard hosts? He did seem shocked. You’d almost think Ford would have told one of them about the other.
The thing is, it seems Jonathan Nolan gave him the dialog that let us know Stubbs is a host the night before the scene was shot. I don’t know whether Nolan knew all along and kept it secret, or if it was a new idea. I sure hope it was the former!
WTF: How was Akecheta able to wander the Mesa Hub?
He found his way to Cold Storage, got into Cold Storage to see Kohana, and then made it all the way back without anyone noticing. It seems Ford must have had a hand in Akecheta’s wandering, but was Ford even that aware of Akecheta at this point (about nine years after the park opened)?
Is there no security in the Mesa Hub? (Yet Delos spies on its employees constantly, so…?)
(That said, it was nicely scored and performed. And very symbolic: Akecheta’s descent through the circles of hell. Very stylish.)
How did Kohana get to The Sublime?
Akecheta only sees her after he enters The Sublime. How did she pass him without him noticing? Where was she after Ford freed the hosts from Cold Storage?
(Was she maybe one of his band of Ghost Nation? But then why was he so happy to see her? Like he hadn’t in a while.)
What exactly was Ford’s final game for William?
What was the point of the game? What was the playoff of the game? Did William fail the game? What door was he supposed to find? Was Emily (real or host) part of it?
Ford tells William the game, “Starts where you begin, and ends where you started.” How did that play out? Just that he ended up with Dolores at the end?
Ford also said, “If you’re looking forward, you’re looking the wrong way.” Meaning what, exactly? Just to look to his past? Awful lot of portent for what is ultimately a basic idea.
What “Question no one asked” does William mean?
He says that to Dolores when he shows her the Forge being made. What question did he mean? ‘How to live forever?’ Humans have been asking that ever since we noticed death. ‘Can humans be robots?’ Also a question that has been much asked.
WTF: How does the MiB survive all that damage?
He has gun shots to both arms, one leg, and his gut. He manages to crawl to the river, where Akecheta finds him. He’d already been shot in the right arm when he rescued Lawrence. And it looks like he gets a glancing shot to the neck from Maj. Craddock’s men in Las Mudas.
And after all that, he can still travel, walk around, and dig a knife into his arm. Tough old bastard! Is he partially bionic? It’s confirmed that he is human, at least up to seeing him on the beach at the end.
Was Emily a host?
Made by Ford to mess with William, or did William really shoot and kill his daughter? On Father’s Day, no less.
If so, that’s almost too dark for my taste. I hope she’s a host. Maybe the one Ford was making in his secret lab where Bernard killed Theresa. Maybe Emily was nowhere near the park (having genuinely told Charlotte Hale to shove it).
At the end, we see her body next to other bodies, all uncovered. Since the human dead are usually shrouded, does this mean she’s a host?
Did Maeve not think the daughter thing through?
Did she think the little girl was just hanging out alone waiting for her? Maeve is supposed to be really smart now, but she seems at sea on this. She seems not to have the same experience as William did upon seeing reset Dolores again.
What happened to Akane and Musashi?
It sort of seems like the diversion to Shōgun World was kind of pointless in terms of developing the plot (or, really, any of the characters). It was cool and fun to see Sweetwater East, but ultimately pointless.
At least Armistice got a new girl-friend in Hanaryo.
What about the hosts in the other parks?
Were they part of Ford’s plan? Are they awake? Did they get the Reveries update? Were they all supposed to walk to The Door?
What have the humans been eating during this time?
Were they collected and cared for by the Ghost Nation natives? What about Lee Sizemore; did he lay in a supply of food? Did Elsie bring some protein bars?
How are the hosts powered?
Akecheta was on his own in the park for nine years without a recharge (that we know of). A related question is…
Do the Indians eat the animals they hunt?
The Ghost Nation hunts prey and trades with the peaceful tribe for corn. The peaceful tribe may also hunt. We’ve seen them with fresh skins. They may well process the animals for bowstrings and such.
Do they go so far as to eat the animal “flesh”? Guests might be watching, so we should probably assume so! Does the flesh have any food value? How is it processed internally?
I realized the hosts may actually “eat” the corn as a fuel source (think ethanol). Maybe they even made corn bread for the guests. I suppose they might even use meat as fuel.
Are the vultures real?
We’re told the only real animals in Westworld are the flies. So the vultures must be hosts. (Apparently so, given the season’s logo.)
So the robot vultures are pretending to eat robot flesh? Do they ignore dead humans?
What about that damn wolf?
Or white dog that we’ve seen three times now? In season one, seen by Dolores and Teddy, so maybe a hallucination, but in season two seen by the MiB when he digs out from under the gala bodies.
It seems always associated with the scene of a massacre. (I thought the giant Maeve Maze was symbolic, but it turned out to be concrete. That casts doubt on the wolf being symbolic.
I’ve wondered if it was Arnold’s avatar in the system, but that hasn’t turned up. Maybe it’s just an observer.
What about the photo?
Still no explanation about why the photo of Juliet affected Peter Abernathy so profoundly. And it’s the starting point for the entire robot uprising, so it would be nice to know the details.
Who was Dolores’ mom?
Still no indication of who Dolores’ mom is (or was). It’s just odd that she seems to exist (we see her body in episode one of season one), but we’ve never seen her. Ever. Looks like we never will.
Did Dolores’ shoulder wound disappear after a while?
Her dress is damaged and bloody there, but glimpses of her skin seem whole. Did Phil the tech fix her?
Bernard’s scar disappears at one point (I think when Elsie fixed him up). The fans were scrutinizing that carefully, but nothing really came of it.
How did Dolores extract Teddy’s brain muffin without tools?
(I suppose she might have pulled it off with a big knife.)
Why did Dolores need the MiB to get to the Valley Beyond?
We saw no indication she needed his help at any point.
Why did the MiB need an army to get to the Valley Beyond?
We never saw much need for that, either.
WTF: How is Bernard unharmed when he’s in the Mesa Control room during the battle between Coughlin’s team and Dolores’ team?
He’s really there, because he uses a control panel once the battle dies out.
WTF: Why “waterboard” Bernard?
(Especially now that we know it was actually Dolores in a Charlotte host.) Was it just to convince Carl Strand and the others? Was Dolores pissed that Bernard shot her and getting a little payback? Is there some value torturing a robot?
WTF: Why torture Maeve?
Why did the Evil Tech turn Maeve’s pain threshold off before starting to kill her? That’s some pretty over-the-top sheer sadism. I get that the humans are supposed to be worse than the hosts, but wow.
WTF: Why nail Peter Abernathy to the table?
Christian symbolism, obviously, but is that really a way to handle expensive hosts? Why do they even have that giant nail gun?
What is the MiB’s last name?
William ________? Maybe he took his wife’s name!
What is Maeve’s daughter’s name?
In the finale credits she’s just listed as Maeve’s Daughter.
And finally: What’s going on in that post-credits scene in the finale?
We’re told it takes place in the far future and that the “hosts” (hmmm!) are looping William to try to find out something. At a guess, maybe the hosts now rule the world and are trying to figure out or bring back humans for some reason.
We’ll apparently only see a little of that future timeline in season three.
And there’s one last question:
What did Bernard whisper to Peter Abernathy when he put him in Cold Storage?
Way back in episode one of season one. I’ve always wondered.
In any event, now the wait begins…
It seems the third season won’t come around on HBO until 2020. They don’t even start filming until next June.
We have another two-year wait.