Westworld season 2 is very nearly here and we still know surprisingly little about what we’ll be getting when it arrives. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing - the success of the first season is mainly down to the fact that you don’t know what’s going on, even while you’re watching it - but for Westworld fans/groupies/obsessives [delete as appropriate] everywhere, it’s mildly frustrating. If you’re desperate for just a little bit of information about the return of one of the best shows around, I sat down with the cast to chat about the upcoming season.
Fair warning, the cast are committed to keeping any spoilers off the internet (they did good HBO, don’t punish them!), so details are thin on the ground, but if you pay attention and know the show, there’s a fair amount you can work out by reading between the lines. Hopefully you can see how I’ve come to certain conclusions about the new season from the interviews, but if you feel like I’ve missed something, drop me a message in the comments below. It’s definitely an experience interviewing someone about something as secret as Westworld! As Jeffrey Wright, AKA Bernard, said at the beginning of my interview: “It’s so crazy. It’s like, talking with a group of people about something they have not seen and about which you cannot talk about.” Enough said really.
Season 2 will be a lot darker than the first
Westworld season 2 is set to be a lot darker than the first season if Evan Rachel Wood is to be believed. Dolores herself told me that season 2 was a lot more challenging for her, saying: “[Season 1] was very cathartic getting to play those pure emotions that were full of love and trying so hard, and [season 2] was just darker!” It also sounds like Dolores will have to do some questionable things to survive in Westworld’s new world order, as Wood revealed that she now knows “why certain people are warned before they play the Joker”.
“To play this character that is at the forefront of this revolution and this war on humanity for her freedom, knowing what she has to do - not necessarily liking it, but having to do it… it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.” Says Wood. “It wasn’t as fun as I thought it was going to be, putting yourself in that mindset that there’s no hope. (Laughs) Obviously, it was heavy, yeah. Heavy.” Sounds intense.
Dolores and the Man in Black will probably cross paths again
“It would be weird if they never crossed paths [again],” Wood replied when I asked her if Dolores will come face-to-face with the Man in Black (aka, William) in season 2. As to how Dolores will react to him now that she remembers who he really is, Wood stops short of confirming anything, but says: “It would be interesting to see her dynamic interacting with him knowing and remembering... because I think he’s always been the Man in Black to her, but we might actually see what it’s like when it is William... but it’s not.” Confused? Me too, but Wood makes a valid point. From Dolores’ perspective in season 2 the Man in Black is William, but also not because he’s changed so much from her memories of him. How she’ll handle those dual identities remains to be seen.
Bernard is questioning his allegiances...
As a Host who, up until recently, believed he was human and helped to run Westworld from behind-the-scenes, you’d be correct in thinking that Bernard has a lot to sort out in season 2. Jeffrey Wright said as much when I talked to him about Bernard’s role in the upcoming robot revolution: “His place within this chaos is unique in that he does have allegiances and experiences with both sides. With feeling a part of both sides of that world, and so yeah, that’s a question for him going forward. It’s a question that he asks himself, I think, at the beginning of this... ‘Where am I in all of this?’”
He won’t be the only one questioning his allegiances though as audiences will also feel torn between the Hosts and the humans in season 2. “I think we’ll be trying to figure out our allegiances... Bernard certainly is.” Says Wright. “And I think Bernard, in the first season, in some ways plays the eyes of the audience to some extent in that he’s in charge of figuring out the mystery… And so Bernard is, at the beginning [of season 2], struggling with his allegiances, and I think perhaps he might represent, again, a different type of window for the audience…”
It’s interesting that both times Wright talks about Bernard struggling with his allegiances, he says “at the beginning” - it sounds like no matter how difficult Bernard finds picking a side, that struggle will be short lived and by the end of season 2 he’ll definitely know which team he’s batting for. I’ll give you one guess...
And he’s suffered some damage
In some not so good news, it also sounds like Bernard might find himself in a spot of bother health-wise in season 2. “Having shot himself in the head towards the end of the last season… he’s not all well, you know? As you might expect… after putting a bullet into your robot brain,” says Wright. “He’s got some challenges, his faculties aren’t what they might want to be, so he’s literally asking himself ‘Where am I?’ too in that he’s a… damaged machine.” Doesn’t sound too good does it? This might be why Bernard finds himself lost in the Park as we saw in the first teaser trailer for Westworld season 2, but what I want to know is how his human colleagues react to finding out that he’s a Host?
DELOS brings new character Karl Strand in to fix things (and he has a secret)
A new season also means new characters and Vikings star Gustaf Skarsgård will be playing series regular Karl Strand in season 2. When asked to give a few details on his character, his allegiances became very clear. “I’m playing the sort of problem solving guy who brings the muscle when you need them, when shit has really hit the fan.” He says. “So after... what we see at the end of season 1 with what’s happened and the repercussions of that… they kind of call me in to fix this mess. They meaning the DELOS corporation, I’m working for them.”
And that’s not all. “One of my first instructions about the character - because they [the showrunners] couldn’t tell me anything, background or whatnot - [was] ‘Well, he’s kind of a coiled snake waiting to strike at any moment’” Skarsgård says. “And I’m like ‘Oh ok, that’s… playable.’ And there’s also, ‘He knows a secret, but we can’t tell you what it is, but just know that you know a secret…’ (Laughs) That was an actual instruction!” Intriguing…
We’ll find out who owns the park and what they really want to do with it
Theresa Cullen pretty much said in the first season that there was something else going on with the park and that DELOS wanted it for more than just giving rich holidaymakers the time of their lives - and it looks like we’ll finally find out what that ulterior motive is in season 2, according to Wright. “[Season 2] has more to do with questions about who owns the technology and what that intent is,” he says. “We know what the park is, but not why? We think we do... but there may be more to the story than what was revealed in the first season.” Co-star and newcomer Skarsgård agrees adding: “The genesis of DELOS will be further explored in this season.”
Teddy is trying to find himself
Poor old Teddy. He spent much of season 1 dying repeatedly and it doesn’t sound like season 2 is going to be much better as he’s a bit behind the other Hosts in terms of self-discovery. “With Teddy specifically, he was late to the game.” James Marsden tells me. “His awakening came much later than Dolores and Maeve’s awakening, which was slowly peeling back these layers, and now he’s seeing the world with a new set of eyes. But it just so happens to be against the backdrop of chaos and revolution and bloodshed, and so it’s an interesting, conflicting time for him.”
It also sounds like he’ll be struggling to work out who he really is vs which parts of him are programmed: “I think he still has a lot of his coding from before, a lot of which has his allegiances and loyalty and his love and affection for Dolores [in it]. But even that dynamic has turned upside down. And the questions he’s asking himself are ‘Who do I want to be?’ ‘What is my identity now that I get to choose what that is and it’s not scripted for me?’”
Some Hosts will go bad. Really bad
Understandably, the cast can’t say too much about what’s going to happen in season 2 - not knowing is half the fun, right? - but they did play fair with me and found ways to answer my questions without giving too much away. Sometimes they even used parables (yes, really) to explain what’s going to happen, like Marsden did when asked about what path his character would be taking in season 2...
“There’s a great parable - not to get too corny but - it’s about a grandfather talking to his grandson saying that there’s two wolves inside of us that are always at war with each other. And he says one represents hatred and greed and bad things, and the other wolf represents kindness and love and goodness and they’re constantly at war. And the grandson asks ‘Which wolf wins?’ and the grandfather says ‘The one you feed…’ and it’s like hmmm… that’s perfect for this show, and where we’re going this season.”
In case you’re struggling to read between the lines here (don’t worry, I had to read it a few times myself) it sounds like Marsden is hinting that the Hosts are going to have to choose between acceptance and revenge when dealing with what’s happened to them and how they continue to fight for their survival. Some might even become villains... but which path will Teddy choose? Marsden doesn’t give away too much, saying: “Maybe there’s some of that in store for me, for other cast members involved in this season, choices.”
This is backed up by creator and showrunner Lisa Joy who told me: “Freedom is just the first step, right? You still have to choose who you’re going to be and what you’re going to do. How you react to an imperfect and often cruel world, there are many, many different paths for reacting to that and our characters will take a few different paths.”
Dolores and Teddy’s relationship will develop (and become more complicated)
So what about Westworld’s two love birds, Dolores and Teddy? It’s safe to say that their relationship has been anything but straightforward in season 1, but it’s about to get a lot more complicated if Wood and Marsden are to be believed. “Like any relationship that goes through changes, you fall in love when you’re a certain person, and then you stay together for a long time and you change and the question always is ‘Can our love survive our changes?’” Wood tells me. “And for Dolores and Teddy I think that’s just on a massive scale! But it’s the same feeling and the same question of ‘Can our love survive this?’ and ‘Will you still love me even if I’m not the girl that I was yesterday?’ So… that’ll be part of their journey.”
Marsden adds: “Their relationship grows complicated… well, not grows complicated, but there’s growth to it. It becomes more complicated because we’re trying to survive, to move forward and to create this dawn of this new species and now the leashes are off. We don’t have to be with one another - do we choose to still? Do we choose to still want to be together while we’re trying to survive and do whatever we’re trying to do?” I guess that’s the big question...
Dolores’s memory will play a big part in season 2 (again) but in a different way
A lot of season 1 is based on Dolores’s memories and their lack of context, which allowed for the Two Timeline theory to take hold, but even though she’s now figured out the order of her memories, they’ll still play an integral role in season 2, according to creator and showrunner Jonathan Nolan. “One of the fun things of the second season is she’s [Dolores] remembered things that other people haven’t, she’s a little ahead of the game.” He tells me. It seems like Dolores is well and truly ditching her damsel in distress identity in the second season and leading the charge for the robot revolution and she’s using her near-perfect memory to do that.
We’ll find out where Elsie has been all this time
One of the big questions we had after the end of season 1 was what happened to Elsie Hughes. Last we saw her she was being attacked by Bernard on the orders of Ford, but Ford insisted that she was unharmed and she appeared alive and well in the first teaser trailer for season 2. So where has she been? Well, we don’t know… but the good news is that we will be finding out in season 2. “You’ll see where she’s been and what’s been going on,” says Shannon Woodward. “And the new struggles that she then faces like, who does that make her after what’s happened to her?” It sounds like she’s been through the ringer and isn’t the same person she was before the attack. Where she’s been stashed away is anyone’s guess, but it doesn’t sound good.
Hector is back but in an “interesting condition”
In case you didn’t already know, Hector is back in season 2 - yay! This was pretty much a given, but what isn’t as clear is what state he’ll be in and where. When we left him in season 1 he was about to take on a mini army of Westworld employees to give Maeve a chance to escape, so did he win? “Hector is back, we just don’t know what condition he’s in.” Rodrigo Santoro tells me. “That’s all I can say but yes - he’s back… and in a very interesting condition, and there’s a lot of adventures…” Hmmm.
Everything will be bigger and more complicated
If you thought the first season of Westworld was complicated - and who didn’t? - be prepared for even more in season 2! “Yeah, I would probably say [it’s] more complicated.” Revealed Marsden. “I think it’s bigger, however you want to define that… the cast has grown, the sets have grown… we have sometimes a couple of different crews working at the same time, whereas in the first season there was just one. So it feels like… it’s multiplied, thematically and then physically as well with just the amount of people involved in the sets and everything.” Are you scared? I’m scared.