10:15am PT by Josh Wigler
'Westworld' Podcast: A Deeper Dive Into Season 2's Dizzying First Scene
"I dreamt I was on an ocean with you and the others, on the distant shore."
These are among the first words uttered in the new season of Westworld, spoken by Jeffrey Wright, who stars in the series as host-studying host Bernard. He also occasionally embodies the role of Arnold Weber, the park's co-founder who became so disillusioned with the nature of his creations that he tried to euthanize them en masse — a long ago act of violence that ended in his death.
The first scene of the season features Wright as one of those two characters, though it's unclear which one. (Let's not drift down the rabbit hole of trying to pin down a third character played by Wright; if such an occasion comes to pass, we'll all leak cortical fluid from our ears together.) At first glance, one would think Wright is playing Arnold, given his scene partner: Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores, dressed in her rancher's daughter blues, seemingly in analysis mode, at the start of her journey toward consciousness.
"You frighten me sometimes, Dolores," says the man who might be Arnold. "Not of who you are, but you're growing and learning so quickly. I'm frightened of what you might become… what path you might take."
The observation certainly lines up with Arnold's philosophy in the time shortly before his death, and most other signs indicate this is the version of the actor we're seeing. But given the way the series plays with time, and how it often confuses memories for reality, one can't help have a nagging suspicion that all isn't as it seems here. Allow the possibility that this is not Arnold in control, speaking with Dolores in analysis mode. Allow for a moment that it's Dolores in control, speaking with Bernard in a position of submissiveness. Such a power shift, and a shift in roles for Wright, gives the scene an even grimmer undertone — the possibility that Dolores, fully conscious and in control, is not only dominant over the regularly befuddled Bernard, but is also toying with the recently awakened host.
Another reason why it's worth suspecting that this is Bernard, and not Arnold: the dream he outlines for Dolores, about being on an ocean and being left behind by Dolores "and the others," while waters rise all around him. Not an unfamiliar story, is it? The very next scene sees Bernard waking up two weeks after Dolores murdered Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), coming on line at the edge of an ocean, far away from the other hosts, seemingly abandoned. It leaves one to wonder if the first scene of the season is not only Bernard speaking with Dolores, but Bernard speaking with Dolores at some unknown point in the future — well after whatever's about to come to pass… well, passes.
It's among the reasons why it's worth suspecting that Bernard's claim about the drowned hosts at the end of the episode ("I killed them, all of them") shouldn't be taken at face value; he may not be remembering his actions accurately or he may have somehow been lured into committing a terrible act by Dolores, for some as-yet unrevealed plan.
Finally, one last key moment in the conversation between Bernard/Arnold (henceforth "Bernarnold") and Dolores: the debate about the nature of dreams and reality. After sharing the details of his dream, the following conversation ensues:
Dolores: "What does it mean?"
Bernarnold: "Dreams don't mean anything, Dolores. They're just noise. They're not real."
Dolores: "What is real?"
Bernarnold: "That which is irreplaceable."
Dolores: (She's silent in response.)
Bernarnold: "That answer doesn't seem to satisfy you."
Dolores: "Because it's not completely honest."
With that, let's come full circle and once again interpret the scene as Dolores speaking with Arnold. In the premiere, she tells a group of imprisoned guests that underneath the characters she was forced to play, someone different was developing: herself. If that's true — if she's absorbed her past experiences, subconsciously building them into her personality — then it's not far-fetched to assume Dolores recalls this conversation with her oldest "friend," Arnold, and is somehow launching Bernard on a future mission that emulates her creator's old dream.
"Dreams don't mean anything," Arnold? Watch Dolores turn a dream into reality, and perhaps an honest answer will manifest.
The opening is just one of many scenes we're sifting through in the first episode of our weekly Westworld podcast collaboration with Post Show Recaps, hosted by Josh Wigler (THR's Westworld beat reporter) and Jo Garfein (founder of the non-profit Cancer Gets LOST). This week, they discuss:
• The flexible timeline of season two;
• A wild theory about Maeve (Thandie Newton) and her daughter;
• A closer look at Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) and her secret underground bunker;
• The unsettling dynamic between Dolores and Teddy (James Marsden);
• An inappropriate number of Lost references;
• And more!
Listen to the podcast in the player below:
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"Welcome to Westworld," and welcome to our handy guide collecting every episode of the podcast: