6:45am PT by Josh Wigler
'Westworld' Season 2 Trailer Decoded: Shogun World, Civil War and Nirvana Unchained
The first interaction in the official trailer for Westworld season two, premiering April 22 on HBO, begins with a revealing conversation between two of the Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy drama's most important characters: Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), both of them hosts, both of them recently woke to their true nature and both of them on apparent opposite ends of the philosophical spectrum. Their dialogue:
Bernard: "I dreamt I was on an ocean. You and the others in the distant shore."
Dolores: "Were you with us?"
Dolores: "What does it mean?"
Bernard: "Dreams don't mean anything, Dolores. That answer doesn't seem to satisfy you."
Dolores: "Because it's not completely honest."
At first glance, one assumes this conversation is taking place in the here and now, sometime after Dolores has gunned down Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) and several other guests in cold blood in the first season finale. Another possibility in play: Dolores is speaking not with Bernard, but with Arnold, the park's co-founder, also played by Wright.
In both cases, the result is likely similar: Arnold was skeptical about the future for his creations, so much so that he embarked on a suicide mission to end their suffering before it truly began. The case for Wright appearing as Arnold in this scene lies in Wood's turn as Dolores, clad in the same Alice in Wonderland dress that visually embodies her youthful ignorance. Likewise, now that he's aware of his own consciousness, there's bound to be similar levels of skepticism from Bernard toward Dolores' shoot-every-human-that-moves ethos, given how much time he's spent not only believing himself to be a human being, but a human who studies hosts as a profession and passion.
Whether it's Dolores speaking with Arnold or Dolores speaking with Bernard, the conversation speaks to the wider theme that seems to be at play this season: the hosts going to war against humanity, sure, but the hosts also going to war within their own ranks.
Some other highlights from the new trailer:
• At last, we have our first glimpse into Shogun World, the location formerly nicknamed "Samurai World." Multiple characters from the most recently revealed park outside of Westworld proper appear in the trailer, but the most intriguing element is the familiar face walking within this world: Maeve (Thandie Newton). It was previously teased that the former proprietor of the Mariposa Saloon would be on a journey of her own this season, and now we know it's going to involve the park she briefly glimpsed in the season one finale. Is Maeve's daughter somewhere within Shogun World — and if so, what's she doing there? Season two, hustle up!
• The Man in Black (Ed Harris) wanted stakes? Well, he's got them in spades. The nefarious gunslinger appears in the trailer at multiple points, talking to an unseen host: "Up until now, the stakes were never real. But now? You and your kind are free." It's hard to tell if the most violent man in the park is expressing empathy toward the hosts or if he's still opposed against the hosts he's spent so much time torturing over the decades. However it plays, there's one scene in which he holds a gun against his own head; a jarring image, and one that should be taken seriously, considering how the show's other heaviest-hitting actor (Hopkins as Ford) left the stage in season one.
• There's more from the Man in Black in the trailer, albeit not a version of the character played by Harris. The trailer confirms the return of Jimmi Simpson as William, who was revealed to be a younger version of the gunslinger at the end of season one. Here, we see a little bit more of what the show has in store for the character: William, dressed in dark tones, stands within a Westworld laboratory, towering over Dolores in her Alice in Wonderland blues. Given the way he's treated her as the Man in Black, one shudders at the thought of what he's about to do with her in this scene.
• It's not a realistic expectation that Robert Ford somehow survived Dolores' attack at the end of the first season, though the park's co-founder still has a way of living on in season two: as the host version of his childhood self, played in the first season by Oliver Bell. He may still have a big role to play in season two, but it doesn't look like it will be a happy journey: halfway through the trailer, we see a figure on horseback (the Man in Black?) riding away from the fallen body of the young Robert, his face shattered, as if by a gunshot. How many times can Robert Ford sustain a bullet to the brain? Season two looks like it has the answer: twice, at the very least.
• Ghost Nation! Not much to add here, except we now know a little more about the character Fargo veteran Zahn McClarnon is playing in season two: a member of the Ghost Nation tribe, a fictional group of indigenous people created by the Westworld overlords. Season one established that the members of Ghost Nation have theories about the mythology surrounding their world, to the point that they may have some passing awareness of their true existence. One wonders if McClarnon's new character will bring some of that mythical wisdom to bear upon Dolores and the other hosts.
• The second season of Westworld comes equipped with a title, according to Nolan and Joy: "The Door." The new trailer seemingly gives us our first look at this curious place, toward the end, as the Man in Black walks toward an opening in the ground with knife in hand. "I'm going to burn this place to the ground," he growls. Sounds like the last person we want to see walking through the so-called door — but much like the maze, the door is almost certainly not meant for the Man in Black.
• One final note: the trailer is scored with a cover of Nirvana's "Heart-Shaped Box." Consult the lyrics of that song for hidden meanings about season two if you wish; from where I'm sitting, the fact that the song hails from Nirvana in the first place is the more interesting idea to drill down into. The band's name owes roots to the final goal of Buddhism, in which practitioners achieve transcendence — a state where they are outside of themselves and are free from suffering. Sounds like the ultimate goal not just of humankind, but of host-kind as well. Dolores may have discovered consciousness, but given her bloodlust against her human oppressors, she has quite a way to go between now and achieving nirvana. Its very existence in the season two trailer, however, offers some hope for transcendence before the series' end.
What are your takes on the Westworld season two trailer? Sound off in the comments section below and keep checking in on our coverage at THR.com/Westworld all season long.