8/10 The first season of “Westworld” is an absolute masterpiece. I would say it is tied with the first seasons of “True Detective” and “Homeland” as the single best season of a TV show drama that I have ever seen. I rewatched it before diving into the second season and it holds up incredibly well. This sophomore season doesn’t live up to the incredibly high bar that the first season set, but it is overall still great and worth continuing to watch. Before I tell you why this season falls short of the first, let’s look at the continued greatness that carried over from the debut season. I will start by saying that the production design, costume design, sets and props are the most visually impressive and detailed I have ever seen on a TV show before. The futuristic tech and world building are both believable and stunning sights to behold. The score throughout the entire season is also fantastic and I would go so far as to say that the soundtrack is worth purchasing on its own. The scope has been expanded, giving us an even more epic feel than the first season. The ensemble cast continues to put in Emmy worthy work without a weak link in the chain. The visual effects look polished and fantastic. I also just love and admire how deep the show is. Addressing questions about free will, determinism, fate, destiny, the similarities and differences between humans and AI, etc. There are many Biblical allegories I found fascinating as well and it is very rare to have a mainstream TV show delve into deeper philosophical topics, while not coming off as pretentious at all. When it comes to the timeline, I had some mixed thoughts. On one hand, jumping around in time and not following a chronological path is a Nolan family staple and often worked well. However, watching this through for the first time often left me confused as to when I was, since hosts never age, which left me less engaged with what was happening in the plot and more so just trying to figure out when the unfolding events were taking place. The biggest problem the show had however was where it took certain characters through their arcs. Dolores and Maeve have both fully woken up and achieved consciousness but have issues this season. Dolores went from a likeable protagonist in season one to a cold, emotionless character who we now root against. What does it say when your protagonist is far more likeable as an enslaved host vs when they have the freedom to forge their own path? Maeve, also conscious, actually had a pretty satisfying character arc but they inexplicably gave her the superpower of controlling other hosts, which took any danger away from situations she found herself in and acted as a lazy ex machina device that I wasn’t a fan of. William, who easily killed foes with direct headshots suddenly has terrible aim when firing at more important characters and finds himself pretty neutered this season, after being such a force to be reckoned with in the previous season. Surprisingly and sadly, the season finale ended up being the worst episode of the season as the plot went a little bit off the rails and the character Lee I felt had an out of character moment in the final episode. The episode that took place in Samurai World also felt disappointing and even though a single standalone episode with some Native American characters was enjoyable and unique, it still felt like a filler episode to fulfill the ten episode season count. Overall, I still really enjoy watching this show as there is nothing else quite like it on TV and perhaps rewatching it down the line will be beneficial since my initial confusion will have hopefully dissipated. I’m hearing some not so great buzz around season three, but at this point in the series, this park is still very much worth entering.
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