Evan Minniti staff writer
HBO really outdid themselves. The second season of “Westworld”’s opening episode could not have been more perfect. Blood, murder and mayhem fill “Journey into Night,” along with some clever character development. While it must be said that more questions were raised than answered, a lot of fascinating new concepts were introduced to get the ball rolling. Most importantly, this episode suggests that the old rules are dead and buried with the first season, and that chaos reigns in the second.
“Night” starts just a few days after the end of the last season, with Bernard, played by Jeffrey Wright, awakening with severe memory loss on a beach. He slowly pieces together what led him there, along with the fact that the seemingly innocent host Dolores, played by Evan Rachel Wood, is leading a revanchist robot uprising that can only end in the destruction of the human race. Meanwhile, Maeve, played by Thandie Newton, continues to be willing to use all sorts of machiavellian methods to find her missing daughter.
With Anthony Hopkins’s departure from the show, some might have felt worried that rest of the cast would be bland in his absence, something that fortunately hasn’t transpired. Despite not being the showpiece of the first episode, Wood really shines in this episode. She has the opportunity to show a lot more emotional range than she did in the first season, and she turns Dolores into an undeniably sinister, if not partly justified, monster. James Marsden continues to bring a surprisingly vulnerable side to Teddy, who clearly is having second thoughts about Dolores’s atrocities. Ed Harris returns to form in a role he was born to play, as the sociopathic William, whose character seems to be having a lot less fun and is finally understanding that he should have been more careful about what he wished for.
Wright is probably the most interesting to watch. He carries out a performance as subtle, complex and pained as Bernard’s attempts to survive in a hostile world where neither side completely trusts him.
It can be plainly seen that the new season benefits from an increased budget, and a conscious desire to trim some of the fat that led to a number of tedious storylines in an otherwise stellar first season. Lisa Joy and Roberto Patino’s script brings a real feeling of uneasiness that pervades the entirety of the episode, reflecting the feelings of the human (and a few robot) characters.
In short, “Night” opens the new season with both barrels shooting. Great performances and nuanced writing keep the audience on the edge of their seat all the way to its extremely unsettling ending.