'Westworld': Every Episode, Ranked

7:15 AM 6/27/2018

by Josh Wigler

From "The Original" through "The Passenger," here's how the HBO drama shakes out over two seasons.

John P. Johnson/HBO

[This story contains full spoilers from HBO's Westworld, from the pilot episode "The Original," through the season two finale, "The Passenger."]

Creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy have unleashed 20 episodes of Westworld upon the world, serving up enough violent delights to send viewers into a cortical meltdown. On the heels of "The Passenger," the 90-minute season two finale, fans have never had a better sense of what to expect from the HBO drama's future, thanks to a clear sense of its past.

Every loyal Westworld watcher walks away from the genre-bending series with their own sets of favorite characters, whether that's empathizing more with the plight of the hosts, or finding some measure of sympathy in the devil known as the Man in Black (Ed Harris). Likewise, each fan will have their own preferences when it comes to the individual episodes themselves. Consider this one fan's take, in that regard. Agree or disagree by providing your own episode rankings in the comments section below, and make sure to keep checking THR.com/Westworld for continuing coverage of the series.

  1. 20
    20

    "Trace Decay"

    Season 1, Episode 8

    John P. Johnson/HBO

    The big Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) reveal in episode seven is a tough act to follow. The series' eighth installment does its best to move pieces into place for the final hours of the season, but short of Maeve (Thandie Newton) enacting momentary vengeance against scummy Sylvester (Ptolemy Slocum), there's not much that makes this hour stand apart from the rest.

  2. 19
    20

    "Contrapasso"

    Season 1, Episode 5

    Courtesy of HBO

    The episode sees Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) make major strides toward her ultimate transformation. As she ditches the Alice in Wonderland aesthetic, the oldest host in Westworld simultaneously busts out some shocking moments of violence, proving that there's much more bubbling beneath the surface.

  3. 18
    20

    "The Stray"

    Season 1, Episode 3

    Courtesy of HBO

    Showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy have discussed how the show explores the tension between abhorring real-life violence and enjoying television violence. "The Stray" offers an example that falls firmly in the second category, as a stray host repeatedly bashes its own head in due to a glitch — one of the most absurd and unforgettable images of the series to date. The episode also features Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) filling in both Bernard and the audience on the Arnold backstory for the first time, a key piece of the show's mythology.

  4. 17
    20

    "Phase Space"

    Season 2, Episode 6

    Courtesy of HBO

    Season two struggled in its midpoint, building to the reveal that Ford was miraculously still alive, albeit in digital form. "Hello, old friend" are without a doubt among the three most haunting words in season two. While the reveal itself was a jaw-dropping moment, it's one of few scenes that stand out — the Shogun World street-level showdown notwithstanding.

  5. 16
    20

    "Les Écorchés"

    Season 2, Episode 7

    Courtesy of HBO

    Frankly, it's tempting to rank "Phase Space" higher than "Les Écorchés," given how shoddily the raid on the Mesa was constructed and presented. But any episode that features so much Anthony Hopkins, especially after an incredibly long absence and with so much Hannibal-esque danger about him, is sure to score bonus points.

  6. 15
    20

    "Virtù e Fortuna"

    Season 2, Episode 3

    Courtesy of HBO

    The third hour of season three opened on a jarring note: Emily (Katja Herbers) wandering through "The Raj," the third park introduced in the series. Mesmerizing as the cold open was, the remainder of the episode fades somewhat in memory, despite the fact that it included a big war scene at Fort Forlorn Hope.

  7. 14
    20

    "Chestnut"

    Season 1, Episode 2

    Courtesy of HBO

    The second episode of Westworld introduces two human faces into a sea of hosts: William (Jimmi Simpson) and Logan (Ben Barnes), current colleagues and future brothers-in-law embarking on a wild West bachelor party excursion. It's the start of one of the season's biggest twisting-and-turning journeys, truly pulling the curtain back on the guest experience for the first time.

  8. 13
    20

    "Dissonance Theory"

    Season 1, Episode 4

    Courtesy of HBO

    The Man in Black (Ed Harris) stands at the center of some of the show's most breathtaking action scenes, and this episode is no different. The enigmatic gunslinger gets himself thrown into prison, with the express purpose of busting out Hector Escaton (Rodrigo Santoro). The Man scores extraordinary style points for using explosive cigars in his prison break, proving through action just how much power and influence he has within the park.

  9. 12
    20

    "The Well-Tempered Clavier"

    Season 1, Episode 9

    John P. Johnson/HBO

    The first season's penultimate installment comes packed with a serious game-changer. After wondering all season long about the park's mysterious co-founder Arnold, who died many years before the present events of the series, viewers discovered that the man was staring them in the face all this time (Wright, pulling double duty as both Bernard and Arnold).

  10. 11
    20

    "Vanishing Point"

    Season 2, Episode 9

    John P. Johnson/HBO

    William's past stands revealed in this haunting hour, as viewers finally come to see how his wife died. What's more, we see a new family tragedy: William executing his daughter in cold blood, thinking she's a host. It's one of the show's very best examples of how absolutely the park corrupts its inhabitants, as masterfully rendered by Harris' Man in Black.

  11. 10
    20

    "Journey Into Night"

    Season 2, Episode 1

    Courtesy of HBO

    It was the first new episode of Westworld in almost a year and a half, and it came with all the signature mayhem and confusion the show is known for — exactly as fans like it. A table-setter of the highest order, "Journey Into Night" not only establishes the new status quo for the park and its inhabitants, but also sets the stage for the season's narrative framing device: an amnesiac Bernard, lost in his memories, somehow the key to unlocking a great mystery.

  12. 9
    20

    "Reunion"

    Season 2, Episode 2

    Courtesy of HBO

    Season two's second episode cleverly hops across time, beginning with the very first cold open of the series, as Arnold and Dolores are seen together in the outside world for the first time. The scene takes on special resonance upon further review, once the season's final moments make themselves known. Also, any episode in which Giancarlo Esposito makes a surprise cameo can't possibly be bad.

  13. 8
    20

    "The Passenger"

    Season 2, Episode 10

    John P. Johnson/HBO

    Was it too confusing, or not confusing enough? That depends on how you like your Westworld, doesn't it? There's no question that the season two finale was positively epic, a game-changer in the truest sense. But some of the twists, while exciting, were downright perplexing in their execution, especially in regards to the post-credits Man in Black reveal. The grand scale of the season ender is worthy of all the praise in the world, but the creative minds behind the series would be wise to acknowledge the copious amounts of cortical fluid leaking from many fans' ears. With "The Passenger," perhaps Westworld has finally hit the bottom in terms of how far to push the narrative form.

  14. 7
    20

    "The Adversary"

    Season 2, Episode 9

    John P. Johnson/HBO

    In an ocean of all-star actors, Thandie Newton rose to the top in season one through her compelling narrative as a host learning about her true nature for the very first time. The season features countless magical Maeve moments, but none better than her first tour through the underbelly of Westworld, scored to a strings version of Radiohead's "Motion Picture Soundtrack." Not a dry eye in the house on that particular Sunday night.

  15. 6
    20

    "Akane No Mai"

    Season 2, Episode 5

    Courtesy of HBO

    For some viewers' tastes, "Akane No Mai" ranks too high on this list. There's a vocal contingent within the Westworld fandom that felt let down by the show's sojourn into Shogun World. This writer does not count himself among that crowd. The sheer pleasure of seeing Hiroyuki Sanada as an AI sword-swinging warrior, not to mention Newton's masterful performance, wins out over the argument of Shogun World's relatively repetitive nature. In the final balance of Westworld, one suspects that the more self-contained installments of the series will appreciate in value.

  16. 5
    20

    "The Original"

    Season 1, Episode 1

    Courtesy of John P. Johnson/HBO

    This is the one that started it all. As the first-ever episode of Westworld, "The Original" established the look and feel of everything that followed. It even established the show's method of twisting-and-turning storytelling, by leading viewers to believe that Teddy (James Marsden) was a guest, not a host, in its opening sequence. The final image of Dolores crushing a fly becomes more harrowing in retrospect, given the season's final act.

  17. 4
    20

    "Trompe L'Oeil"

    Season 1, Episode 7

    Courtesy of HBO

    As much as the subsequent Arnold reveal clarifies the show's mythology, it pales in comparison to the first big Bernard bombshell: Not only is this host-studying scientist actually a host himself, he also follows the discovery of his true nature by being ordered by Ford to murder Theresa (Sidse Babett Knudsen), Bernard's lover. The final scene of the episode is among the more haunting sequences in recent memory, sickening and claustrophobic as the noose on Theresa tightens.

  18. 3
    20

    "The Bicameral Mind"

    Season 1, Episode 10

    John P. Johnson/HBO

    Westworld viewers who studied the show closely and followed along with internet commentary saw some twists coming: Bernard as a host, Bernard as Arnold, and the Man in Black and William being the same entity. But few anticipated that Ford's final plan was actually in concert, not conflict, with his old partner Arnold. The revelation that Ford was pushing his creations toward consciousness all along adds tremendous clarity and context to all that's come before, with Dolores' final deliberate act of violence paving the way for everything that's going to come next. In many ways, season one was prologue — and through its finale, the door is wide open for the true heart of the matter.

  19. 2
    20

    "The Riddle of the Sphinx"

    Season 2, Episode 4

    Courtesy of HBO

    When it comes to an episode that manages to push the show's mythology while also maintaining its own identity, it's hard to top the Lisa Joy-directed "Riddle of the Sphinx," what with its exploration of digital immortality, its brutal Man in Black gun battle and the singularly spectacular performance from Peter Mullan as James Delos. Hard to top...but not impossible.

  20. 1
    20

    "Kiksuya"

    Season 2, Episode 8

    Courtesy of HBO

    This is the very best episode of Westworld through two seasons — and it's really not close. As with "Riddle of the Sphinx," "Kiksuya" manages to push the show's mythology while maintaining its own sense of mythology. In Lost terms, "Kiksuya" is the Westworld equivalent of "The Constant," a sweepingly romantic hour focused on a then-new fan-favorite: Zahn McClarnon as Akecheta, the soulful crusader of consciousness, leader of Ghost Nation. Score, setting and scope all swirl together behind McClarnon's masterful performance to create the most elegant episode of the series to date — one that took viewers' hearts with it as it went off the air.