A Defense Of Westworld Season 2
I enjoyed your podcast during the last couple of weeks.
I think the show is the best thing on TV and wanted to write a response to the most common points of critizism I heard all over the internet. Namely that the characters are not relatable enough, that the story is too confusing and that the stakes are not real.
There were some weak points in this season but I would argue that those were not related to those 3 criticisms at all. In my opinion the show rather suffered from attempts to add some more action and mainstream appeal to the show.
1) INSUFFICIENT EMOTIONAL BOND BETWEEN AUDIENCE AND MAIN CHARACTERS
The main focus of this criticism has been the low likeability factor of Dolores in the 2nd season. This almost points to the opposite. Viewers were able to identify with her struggle during the first season so much that they are not getting to terms with her new Wyatt leaning personality. There was a long build up already during the first season to the fact that the hyper-accomodating heroine transforms into the villain. When stop looking for the likeability factor (and ignoring the terrible Fort Forelone Hope episode) her story arch stroughout the season was great. Her revenge monologues in the pilot or the blue-tongue allegory being some of the highlights.
Also Bernards emotional arch was believable. Fighting for his independence from his abusive benefactor Ford was as relateable as his choice between humans and hosts triggered by Elsies betrayal and death. Not only was she his compagnion throughout the season but has been his close colleague for years during the time he believed he was human. She embodied the loyalty he felt for the human side.
Mave is a fan favorite annyways, motivated by empathy and the love to those close to her, surrounded by a group of bad-asses and comic relieve characters.
All in all I think the show rather goes too far during the second season trying to mobilize more of a Game of Thrones like following by showing more likeable characters doing bad-ass stuff. More action and tear jerking and relateability. While there is some great storytelling in those storylines, the conflicted characters like Bernard or Dolores are what makes the show unique for me.
2) TOO CONFUSING, INSUFFICIENT LINEAR STORYTELLING
One of the most commonly voiced grievances is that the show is allegedly almost undecipherable. I would personally sway all the way to the other side and argue that the second season had way more spoonfeeding than the first one.
When rewatching I was eager to double-check the Hale-lores scenes and ended up realizing that there are only a few of those timejumps to the Hale-lores future timelines to be found. All easily identifiable by the different response team present and mostly introduced by Bernards flickering memory. On top of that some Dolores, Bernarnold Interview scenes are sprinkled of which the audience is not aware at the begining at what ooint in time they take place.
Aside from Bernard the storylines of most characters are mostly linear. Williams, Akechetas or Maves memories are all clearly identifiable as backstory from the past. If the show seems complicated it would probably be more helpful for viewers to recap the stroryline of each main character one by one instead of recaping the entirety of the show in a chronological order.
Newly introduced concepts like virtual reality, attempted immortality etc are all being explained over and over again and even being given trial runs before the finale. The Forge is easy to digest after learning about the cradle. The millions of fidelity tests in the huge Forge are easier to stomache after learning about the hundred attempts in Delos small incineration chamber. Dolores motivation to destroy the hosts virtual heaven is easier to digest after she explained her reason to destroy the cradle. Etc.
Unlike most shows that stretch reveals over seasons on end we received reveals about something interesting almost every episode. Some mysteries were introduced just to already be answered in the succeding episode. (Which control unit did Bernard print?)
With all the expository monologue and spoonfeeding the show did a great job in saving many reveals by using misdirects. For the longest time I thought were dealing with multiple Bernards who we saw in a trailer early on just to find out that they are safely locked in a closet. We saw Dolores meeting William in the trailer for the finale misdirecting us to speculate that he could get to play a major role in the end which he was denied. I did not get frustrated by any of these misdirects at all. Which TV show takes this effort to preserve some unpredictability.
3) NO REAL STAKES, REAL GUNS AND REAL HATS
One thing I like about the show is the metalevel of pondering the quirks of TV writing via characters in the show. If self depricating via Sizemore or via the guests of the park who voice common TV audience complaints. “The stakes are not real” is the Mantra repeated by the Man in Black echoing the complaints of the viewers. There is not enough finality in the death of the main characters.
In my opinion this seems to tie in more elegantly for a cast of immortal Robots than for most TV casts. Teddy has to die a thousand deaths for the amusement of the guests/audience while the main characters of other shows walk unharmed through hails of bullets, dragonfire or hords of zombies in order to regularly reapear on the screen for seasons on end.
Also the stakes dont seem super low. Once shot and dragged underground the whole progress made toward sentience might be wiped. Lets see who resurrects in what condition from the slaughter at the valley beyond.
I akso like some of the other tip-of-the-hats that the show makes to common nitpicking. In a sci-fi future where organic host bodies can be printed in one day, the unrealistic mechanics of the intelligent guns have been a hot topic. The show takes its time to present us with an antique revolver that already had multiple chambers for different sorts of ammunition centuries ago. So why not one which shoots blanks at humans.
When William explains that the secret of scanning human cognition was all in the hats all along, Emilly just puts her hat back on. She knows this must have been a silly Dad-Joke-Tip-of-the-hat again.
Lookinging at the storylines of the main characters separatly we find interesting arches that mostly pay off satisfactory at the end. Only the whole scene in front of the robot heaven of the green pastures seems like a very corny residual category to throw in characters of which the showrunners are not sure how to dispose of or if they will return or not. The flood would have been sufficient for that.
The strength of the second season seems to be the variety it creates. The szenes in the outside world during the pitch, the Radjh, Shogun world, Delos chamber, Akechetas journey, Williams family in the real world are all great and marked by innovative storytelling. The response teams in their buggys or in the Mesa are weak points.
I hope in the next season we will get more timejumps, mysteries, misirections, great backstories of conflicted characters and easter eggs and less concerns about likeability of fan favorites, less park security, less forts of forelone hope, battles and less spoonfeeding.
Thanks a lot for taking the time to read this
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