Question: Is it possible to follow one of the most outstanding pilots in a long time with a second episode that sustains the pace, mystique, and detail of the first? Answer: Well, not really, but Westworld episode 2, Chestnut, still has plenty going for it. As you will remember, the Hosts have been glitching, and behind the scenes efforts are still being made to fix things without disrupting the smooth running of the park, but that isn’t the main focus of this episode.
Most importantly, we’re introduced to a load of new guests, including Jimmi Simpson’s William - a reserved young chap (Billy… the kid) who’s entirely unsure if this park and its hedonistic delights are for him. While he blows off the sexual advances of his welcome Host, his good-time future bro-in-law Logan, played by Ben Barnes, doesn't even make it out of the dressing room without sampling the delights of a ‘sexbot’. Sidenote, William chooses a white hat - good choice, Billy boy - while Logan dons a black one.
While the first episode wowed us with the delights of the park and intrigued us with the behind the scenes business, one of the joys of this episode is seeing Westworld through the eyes of the human guests. For the first time we see what it’s like to visit this incredible park from their point of view and even have a couple of questions answered about how the guests are transported from their modern, everyday lives to the Wild West.
Dolores takes a bit of a back seat in this episode - although we do discover that she’s started to remember her past ‘stories’ - but that’s no loss as it gives Thandie Newton’s charismatic saloon prostitute Maeve a chance to shine. Honestly, the best thing about this episode is that it’s a simply brilliant showcase of her talents.
Maeve’s failure to seduce a young guest leads her programmers to up her aggression - a glimpse into the ease in which Host personalities are altered - and we discover that Hosts are judged based on the number of ‘successful’ interactions they have with guests. We also find out that Maeve is remembering some of her past stories as we watch her experience flashbacks of herself with a young girl living in a cabin a million miles away from the saloon. Could this be a sign that Abernathy’s glitch is spreading?
This isn’t all Maeve has to worry about though as she’s also in ‘physical pain’ and after being referred for a physical wakes up on an operating table listening to a couple of Westworld employees diagnose her with MRSA (yes, robots can get that too apparently). She runs away, like any normal ‘person’ would, and happens across other Hosts being worked on before being subdued. Whether she’ll remember and how it will affect her, remains to be seen.
Elsewhere, The Man in Black is still searching for the next level of the park. Ed Harris’ unstoppable cowboy remains pitch perfect and still the most inhuman character, despite the likelihood that he’s not a Host. He ‘saves’ a Host from being hanged - but only to further his own mysterious search for a deeper level - and it’s revealed that he’s looking for the entrance to a maze (the one etched on that scalp) that leads… somewhere.
Other revelations from this episode include the fact that head programmer Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) is sleeping with park manager Theresa (Sidse Babett Knudsen), but more interestingly, Bernard is having secret meetings with Dolores. It’s apparent these meetings have been happening for some time so it’s not to do with the glitches - instead Bernard says he thinks Dolores is interesting… that she’s different from the other Hosts. No doubt we’ll get more specifics later on in the season, but he’s keeping it quiet for now.
Chestnut toes the line between giving us answers and maintaining our curiosity perfectly, and it’s this ability which will make or break Westworld. If it steps too quickly away from the joy of the park, and into the murky shadows of questionable ethics then it risks losing its audience. And as much as I like the mythos of this new show, I also love the light moments and the colourful cliché the same way the guests do.
The final few minutes, once again, are fantastic - the irritating and, let’s be honest, overly caricatured, narrative director Sizemore presents his big new storyline and is humiliatingly shot down by Ford. The creator of Westworld has decided he’s going to write his own story for the Hosts and the announcement reeks of anticipation from both his colleagues and the audience. With the promise of more exciting revelations to come, you’re left wondering what he’s got up his sleeve and counting down the days to episode 3.
Westworld airs on HBO on Sundays at 9pm in the US, and on Sky Atlantic on Tuesdays at 9pm in the UK. You can also catch up via Sky On demand or via NOWTV.
Want to know more about the mysteries of Westworld? Here's 6 questions we want answering after watching Westworld episode 2 and the best Westworld Easter eggs so far.
Westworld Extra Bits
“No orientation. No guide books. Figuring out how it works is half the fun.” This is our kind of adventure. We’re just hoping we are tall enough to get on this ride...
Nods to the movie
The original Westworld movie revolves around a pair of guests - one of which is a little reluctant to throw himself into the delights of the park, while the other is a natural born gunslinger. William and Logan are definitely a nod to this pairing, although both are more reserved/obsessed than their counterparts.
Just like the arrival into DELOS in the Westworld film, the guests in the show arrive into Westworld aboard a train. This apparent steam train takes them from the futuristic surroundings of the main entrance right into the centre of the park and Sweetwater.
“Are you real?” William asks Angela: “Well if you can’t tell, does it matter?” Yes. Yes it does.