There are many ways we can describe Westworld‘s second season. It’s certainly bloody, especially given that humans are no longer immune to host attacks. It’s ruthless, particularly when it comes to Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and her determination to fulfill her mission by any means necessary. And, like its first season counterpart, this season is definitely smart, given how it expertly weaves past and present storylines together, demanding that the audience pay attention and keep up.
All that being said, one of the most profound ways this season has come to define itself is through its expansion into and representation of different cultures and worlds. We first got a glimpse of this during the third episode, “Virtù e Fortuna,” as we met the then-named Grace (Katja Herbers), who at the time was exploring the India-inspired park, The Raj. A couple episodes later, we dove into the long-teased park, Shogun World, and were immersed in Japanese Edo-era culture (and awesome samurai battles).
This past Sunday, during the season’s eighth episode, “Kiksuya,” we make our way back into Westworld, but instead of joining up with the usual gang of players, the entire episode is dedicated to telling the heartbreaking love story of Ghost Nation leader Akecheta, masterfully played by Zahn McClarnon. Though familiar in surroundings, the episode dives into an entirely new storyline, one that beautifully explores the park’s Native American tribe, and comes to redefine the intentions of Akecheta and his group of Ghost Nation men, who, up to this point, were viewed more as bloodthirsty savages than as host protectors.
With some time now between us and the episode, let’s dive into some cast and crew interviews, as well as a few interesting updates to the various Westworld websites!
We begin with the co-writer of the episode, Carly Wray (who also wrote this season’s second episode, “Reunion”). The writer spoke with The Hollywood Reporter, opening up about how the idea of dedicating an entire episode to Ghost Nation came to fruition, and how she relied on Zahn McClarnon’s Native American knowledge to help shape the characters, and particularly Akecheta.
Wray explains that, after being given a directive from co-creators and showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, she was the one to pitch the idea of creating an entire episode around Ghost Nation:
“There was a wish in the room that came from Jonah and Lisa early on that we find a way to address and involve and deepen our Ghost Nation characters in season two […] I brought in the pitch that we do an entire episode from the perspective of one of those characters. That was early on. We weren’t sure exactly where it would fall in the rotation. It was my personal desire that not only should we feather these characters in, but it would be really exciting to do kind of a bottle episode.”
Thankfully, Nolan and Joy loved the idea, and allowed Wray and co-writer Dan Dietz to run with the script. However, when it came time to shoot the episode, Wray relied on McClarnon’s knowledge of Native American culture to help shape the character interactions. “Very early on, he was talking about these first emotional moments with Kohana [Julia Jones], and even being able to tell us about gestures and a sort of physicality that represents a Native mindset that would be different from a Western connection,” says the writer. “He really brought everything, from the actual physicality and actions of the role, to the colors of the tragedy that I wouldn’t have even known how to put on the page.”
Check out Wray’s full interview here.
Next up is Simon Quarterman, who plays Head of Narrative and Design-turned Maeve (Thandie Newton) sidekick and advocate Lee Sizemore. The actor recently sat down with GoldDerby to discuss Lee’s humbling transition this season, the difficulties surrounding the expository dialogue he was tasked with in “Akane no Mai,” and when he thinks season 3 filming will begin.
Throughout the first season, Lee is very much removed from the results (both good and bad) of the narratives he crafts for the parks, staying within the comfy confines of the Mesa while the action takes place outside. This season, however, he is very quickly forced into the worlds he helped create, and even though his knowledge of the parks and narratives is quite immense, he still must rely on the courage and skill of Maeve and her troupe of hosts to maneuver through dangerous situations. Quarterman says that this change in scenery is certainly difficult for his character, but serves a greater purpose for Lee’s overall arc. “He’s certainly going through a transition this season and it’s just become a very humbling process, being put into a position that he finds incredibly difficult,” says Quarterman, adding, “[he’s] a bit of a black sheep.”
During this season’s Shogun World-centric episode, Sizemore acts in an expository manner for the hosts and the viewers, providing key information about the new park that help orient the newcomers to their surroundings. Quarterman admits that delivering this dialogue in an interesting and engaging manner was difficult for him to do, at least at first:
“I was bashing my head against the wall…trying to get it to make it feel as comfortable and as natural as possible because all of it was exposition — every last word, so it took me a minute just to navigate that, but it was a lot of fun too.”
Even though there are still a couple episodes of the second season yet to air, fans like myself are already keen to know all the season 3 details we can get our hands on. Quarterman speaks to when he thinks filming may begin on the show’s third go, but his thoughts aren’t exactly promising: “I can’t imagine it being this year.” If Quarterman is right, and if the third season follows a similar filming and post-production schedule to its sophomore counterpart, that would mean the earliest Westworld will be returning is in Fall 2019, and only if the show begins filming right at the beginning of the year. Slightly depressed? Yeah, me too. Here’s to hoping they kick off filming as soon as possible!
Check out Quarterman’s full video interview here.
One of the most striking images from episode 7, “Les Écorchés,” is when we see multiple dormant Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) bodies in storage. Bernard himself, along with Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson), Karl Strand (Gustaf Skarsgård), and Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth), stumble upon these physical host copies as they explore Dr. Ford’s (Anthony Hopkins) off-the-grid lab, prompting the realization from the human explorers that Bernard is actually a host.
Along with this realization, the scene also helped to fuel the fire for the fan theory that there are multiple Bernards among the park. Wright recently chatted with Elite Daily to comment on this theory, and to provide his two cents on fan theories in general.
According to the actor, the theory of mutliple Bernards is….not true. “There is only one Bernard,” claims Wright. “Despite what you saw last week, there’s only one Bernard.” Okay, fine. Perhaps Wright is indeed telling the truth and spoiling our dreams. Or, perhaps there may be some credibility to the theory, and the actor is just trying to throw us off the scent? Given the top-level secrecy that Nolan and Joy demand from their cast and crew, do you really think Wright or anyone else associated with the show would validate a spoilery theory, even if it does eventually prove true? Unlikely. So I say, let’s keep theories like these alive!
Luckily, I’m not the only one encouraging theorizers to keep doing what they’re doing as the season pushes forward to its final 2 episodes. Wright himself is a big proponent, even though he claims most of the theories he’s read online are wrong:
“This year, what’s been cool is to discover that the ways in which people are using the technology that the storytelling is founded upon, and also some of the narrative constructs that are born out of that, to try to piece together where we’re heading […] Most of the theories, if not everything that I’ve read, is completely off the mark. But I will say that it’s really, it’s really exciting to see people clue in, or I should say, bite on, to the proper bait in the proper way, but not entirely so.”
Check out Wright’s entire interview with Elite Daily here.
You may have noticed during the teaser for next week’s episode (video below) that there’s a new face on the show, one that turns and smiles at The Man in Black (Ed Harris), or William as he’ll probably be referred to in this episode, while the two look to be at a cocktail party. That face is none other than veteran television actress Sela Ward, who Variety has confirmed will be playing William’s wife, Juliet, on the next episode.
Ward has had quite the television career, appearing in such shows as House, CSI:NY, and, most recently, Graves. It will be interesting to see how the actress portrays the powerful woman who ultimately decides to end her own life, and given the amount of talent between her and Harris, their interactions will most likely be nothing less than incredible to watch.
Check out Variety‘s entire article about the actress here.
We end our interview portion of this week’s post mortem with something a little different, and a lot awesome. Turkish illustrator and graphic designer Berkay Dağlar is a big fan of Westworld, so much so that he’s created a “Host Portraits” series, where he creates beautiful portraits of the show’s “main players.” HBO.com chatted with the artist about what inspired him to create this series, and what he aims to depict in each of his portraits.
According to Dağlar, the show’s creators and cast is what initially hooked him to the show:
“I was really excited to see how Jonathan Nolan, Lisa Joy and J.J. Abrams would handle the concept of the 1973 film of the same name — and how they would create a whole new story. The cast also had me hooked from the beginning, especially Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Ford. The thing that inspired me most is the contrast between the two worlds: the modern, technological side, and the Wild West. So I tried to explore that particular duality in my illustrations.”
The artist aims to capture the essence of the hosts in a similar way to how the show has managed to do so – by highlighting the duality of their beings. “I aim to show both the innocence of the hosts and also the wild instincts towards violence and uprising,” says Dağlar.
Over in the show’s digital world, there are a couple updates to the various Westworld websites that we’ve found!
The first is on the Delos Destinations site. If you click this link, you’ll be directed to a screen prompting you to select either ‘Mesh Network’ or ‘Backup B.’ Selecting the first choice brings you to a screen that we’ve seen before, with Bernard’s android brain, and a selection of clickable plus signs:
Clicking on each plus sign brings up a brief memory from Bernard’s mind, which you can use to populate the empty log squares in the timeline at the bottom of the page.
Over on the Discover Westworld site, the map at the bottom of the page is now labeled with names Akecheta uses throughout the last episode. Instead of tracking Dolores and Maeve’s progress, the map now show’s the locations of ‘The Deathbringer’ (aka Dolores), ‘The Ones Below,’ ‘The Maze,’ and ‘The Door.’ Could this just be the Westworld digital team inserting some new terms onto the map, or does this perhaps have a deeper significance? Could Akecheta and his awakened state have more control over the park than we think?
In this week’s behind-the-scenes video, Akecheta’s story and motivations are further explored:
Next up, Angela Sarafyan (Clementine) responds to some “absurd” fan theories (courtesy of Elle):
And, in case you missed it, here’s the teaser for Westworld‘s penultimate season 2 episode, “Vanishing Point:”