12:30pm PT by Josh Wigler
'Westworld' Season 2: All the Details (So Far)
Westworld fans, prepare to journey into night.
The second season of the genre-bending HBO drama from creators Jonah Nolan and Lisa Joy is officially looking down the barrel of a premiere date: April 22. As with the first season, the next iteration of Westworld will clock in at 10 episodes total, with several returning series regulars from season one, including Evan Rachel Wood (Dolores), Thandie Newton (Maeve), Jeffrey Wright (Bernard), Ed Harris (the Man in Black) and more. Following the violent season one finale, the sophomore drama stands ready to push the sci-fi Western into bold new territory, ushering an era of chaos into a world that was once deemed a safe (or "safe enough," at least) fantasy realm for human guests.
With season two's premiere officially close at hand, here's everything we know about what's next for Westworld, so far. (This page will be updated as more details come to light.)
What's Taken So Long?
For a show that's so deeply rooted in maze-like levels of mystery, it's perhaps the biggest question of them all: Where in the world has Westworld been since it went off the air in 2016? Perhaps not a shock for those currently in the midst of the long wait for Game of Thrones' final season, creators Nolan and Joy previously revealed to The Hollywood Reporter as recently as the days after the Westworld season one finale their intentions to take their time diving into season two.
"We said to the network very early that this was a different kind of show, having gone through the experience of making the pilot," Nolan told THR in a December 2016 interview. "We said very early on that we wouldn't be able to turn this around every year, and knowing full well that that's been a time-honored tradition in television. But in film, my other life, on the [Dark Knight trilogy of] Batman movies, the best we could do is turn another one around in three years. I really feel like we're splitting the difference here."
Months before the official start of production on Westworld season two, which began last July, Nolan and Joy provided guests at PaleyFest with an update on their progress. The married duo revealed their intention to write the entire season before cameras started to roll in a bid to avoid the production delays that plagued the first season.
What's Next for Westworld?
As is often the case with Nolan and Joy's approach to the show, the creators of Westworld have remained tight-lipped about the next steps for the storyline. Rather than tease much about the future, the producing and writing partners prefer to let the show speak for itself. Luckily, the show's castmembers aren't always as cagey, and what's more, two visually arresting trailers provide plenty of information about the future direction of the story.
Both the Comic-Con teaser and the Super Bowl trailer depict a Westworld submerged in utter chaos, an expected outcome of the first season finale's violent climax: Dolores achieving full consciousness, and launching a violent revolution against the park's human guests. Season two will follow Dolores and the other hosts deeper down that rabbit hole toward self-awareness and self-preservation, while simultaneously tracking the stories of the human survivors still trapped inside the park.
As for the park itself, the wild West landscape will remain the beating heart of the series, even as its scope expands, according to Nolan: "This series is called Westworld. So Westworld the place and the idea of it remains central to our story as we go forward. But the hosts are going to become more curious about what else there is in this world for them to understand and explore. That's where we want our show to go as well."
"I've worked in television for years and I love all of the different ways you can build a show. But for the most part, you get through the pilot, you build your sets, you hire your cast, and it's working, and you just want to hang out in that moment and enjoy that moment with that iteration of the story you're telling," Nolan told THR in 2016. "For Lisa and myself, with this show, we never had any intention of staying in one place. We don't want to shoot on the same sets for 10 years. We want to blow the sets up and move onto another piece of the story. So we said when we started working on the series that we wanted to be ambitious. We wanted each season to increase in that ambition and in the scope of the show. It also follows the story of our hosts. Their lives begin in loops, and then expand and change and grow. It's an origin of a new species. We want to follow that story all the way to the bitter end."
What's Next for Samurai World?
The first season offered one major tease at what's waiting for the hosts of Westworld beyond the limits of their present physical space: "Samurai World," the fan-given name of another theme park hinted at in the tenth episode of the series, when Newton's Maeve encounters hosts outfitted in armor and swords. At the time of the episode's airing, Nolan and Joy were limited in their comments about the newly revealed world, and how it will impact future narratives, while simultaneously offering a few key details about why they chose to bring in a samurai-inspired storyline.
"It's wonderful to work with actors we haven't worked with before," Joy has said about the existence of this new world. "This allows us a lot of access to Asian actors and the Asian community, which is very important to me as part Asian myself."
"The reason we went with the shogun, Imperial Japanese motif for that world is in large part because of the beautiful relationship you had between the golden age Westerns and the golden age samurai films," added Nolan. "As soon as Akira Kurosawa would make a film, it would get remade with cowboys. The idea that those stories worked in two very distinct genres and languages, and the relationship between those genres, to me was irresistible as an homage to how Kurosawa was responsible for some of the greatest Westerns of all time."
Will "Samurai World" make itself fully known in season two? The casting of Hiroyuki Sanada in season two certainly suggests the world's important role in the show's second season, as does the prominent inclusion of a "Samurai World" tease at Comic-Con in 2017.
— Josh Wigler (@roundhoward) July 20, 2017
In addition to "Samurai World," it appears there are four other parks in the world of Westworld, as revealed in a viral website, DelosDestinations.com. In the Michael Crichton film on which Westworld is based, there are two additional parks beyond the main Western-themed attraction: Roman World and Medieval World. As of now, there's no confirmation that Roman World and Medieval World will make it onto the show, but the existence of six parks total certainly increases the odds.
Who's Coming Next?
In addition to Hiroyuki Sanada, several other new actors have joined the cast of Westworld for its second season. Peter Mullan has joined the series as James Delos, founder of the Delos company serving as a major force behind the show's theme parks. Additionally, HBO has confirmed the casting of Katja Herbers, Gustaf Skarsgard and Fares Fares as new series regulars for season two.
First reported in July 2017, Herbers (already a known quantity within the HBO family due to her recurring role in the final season of The Leftovers) will play a seasoned guest to Westworld whose latest visit comes at the park's darkest hour.
For his part, Vikings actor Skarsgard will play Karl Strand, a white-collar guy comfortable in the field, while Tyrant veteran Fares takes on the role of Antoine Costa, a tech expert with an objective perspective. Additionally, Betty Gabriel (Good Girls Revolt) will recur in season two as Maling, who is trying to restore order on the ground.
Zahn McClarnon has also joined the cast of Westworld for its second season, though details on his role are currently under wraps. The Longmire and Fargo actor sustained an off-set injury last fall, impacting production on season two. In a statement released on Nov. 3, HBO said: "Actor Zahn McClarnon was hospitalized Wednesday night after sustaining an injury at home. He is on the mend and looking forward to getting back to work. Westworld will resume filming on both units next week."
What's Next for Our Heroes and Villains?
Enough about the newcomers. How about the established fan favorites?
When it comes to Dolores, perhaps it's best to stop thinking about Wood's character with that name. Speaking with THR shortly after the first season finale, the actress expressed her belief that the character she's now playing isn't Dolores at all, and is instead "Wyatt," the violent alter ego teased throughout season one. In the first-season finale, Dolores became fully aware of her past as Wyatt, and chose to embody the personality's vicious outlook toward mankind.
"The way I interpret it, when she finds the center of the maze and is talking to herself at the end, consciousness is a conversation with yourself," said Wood. "It represents to me that Dolores is fully conscious. When she realizes who she has to become and it becomes her choice, Ford [Anthony Hopkins] has just gotten through telling her that the divine lives in our minds. She unlocks Wyatt and allows him to take over and Dolores disappears. So that was very bittersweet."
Trailers for season two make it clear that Wood's Wyatt ways will make up a large part of this next iteration of Westworld, though the actress has also stressed her desire to explore even more versions of her character in the future: "I'm hoping that over the years, I'll get to play many, many different characters. That would be my hope. I think that's a lot of the actors' hopes, the ones who are playing hosts at least. Technically, we could be anybody or anything. That leaves the possibilities wide open. I'm really excited to see the many incarnations of Dolores, if that is in fact true; I really don't know.
"There's something about Dolores not really being a man or a woman," Wood added. "She's a machine. She kind of transcends gender and stereotypes. There's something very cool and inspiring about that."
Another pivotal player in the world of Westworld: Maeve, played by Newton. In season one, Maeve was one of the first hosts to gain something resembling full consciousness. In the finale, she made what Nolan and Joy have described as Maeve's first fully conscious decision, opting to stay in the park in order to find the young host who was once considered her daughter. Trailers for season two showcase Maeve still walking among the behind-the-scenes aspects of the park, and it appears as though she has unleashed mechanical bulls against human aggressors at one point; at the very least, she seems to be taking advantage of their attack.
"I think that Westworld already pushed the limits of what we can expect from television," Newton previously told THR about her hopes for season two. "Some people describe it as 'film as television,' in the sense that each episode is like a movie. So I know I'm going to love it, whatever it is. There's also this anticipation, because I know it's going to be hard work. Maeve is not a wallflower."
One main character from Westworld season one who likely won't appear in the show's second season is Hopkins' Robert Ford, at least not in his traditional form. The legendary actor brought Ford to life in the first season, but the visionary behind the theme park was executed in the final moments of the season. Death does not necessarily mean the end for the characters of Westworld, however, and Nolan has expressed a desire to continue working with Hopkins in the future of the show.
"I think with this show, you want to assume nothing," Nolan told THR about working with Hopkins. "We had a wonderful experience. It was one of the greatest privileges of my career so far, getting to work with Anthony for the first season. It was an incredible experience."
Meanwhile, Harris' Man in Black will remain an integral part of the Westworld universe when the show returns. The gunslinging black hat has been featured in both trailers released thus far, with blood and smiles splatted all over his face in equal measure. In terms of his hopes for season two, Harris has made one thing clear: He wants nothing to do with "Samurai World," such as it exists.
"I don't want to wear a samurai suit … and I'm saying that publicly," the actor revealed at PaleyFest last March. "I'm a Man in Black, not a Man in a samurai suit! Samurais don't wear hats!"
Even if Harris gets his wish, perhaps there's another way for the Man in Black to wind up in "Samurai World," in the form of William, the younger version of the character played by Jimmi Simpson. While it would seem season one wrapped up Simpson's work on the series, the actor appeared at the show's 2017 Comic-Con panel, as did Ben Barnes, who plays William's frenemy Logan in the time-displaced storyline.
Rumors persist that both Simpson and Barnes will have roles to play in season two, and it's anyone's guess as to how they'll factor into the narrative. More flashbacks, perhaps? Is it possible that Ford designed hosts based on William and Logan's likeness for the Man in Black to encounter in the present? Impossible to say at the moment, though even as recently as the immediate aftermath of the season one finale, Nolan offered some hope for fans wanting to see more from Simpson as William: "I would say assume nothing with this show."
"Nothing's permanent. I'm not contracted to go back, but I'm sure there's a possibility," Simpson told THR about his future with the series, shortly following the Man in Black reveal. "There are certainly stories they could tell. Based on these writers' skills, if it was their intention for young William to return, I know that he would be there for solid and interesting reasons. But I think this story is told, the story of William and Dolores' love affair. I think that story, tragically, has been told."
What's Next for the Theories?
Whatever comes next in the story of Westworld, it's very likely the eagle-eyed fans who post on social media platforms such as Reddit will crack the code before the show's reveals. Such was the case for many of the big twists in season one, most notably the shared connection between Simpson and Harris' different versions of the Man in Black. The detective work conducted within the Westworld fandom won't have an impact on how Nolan and Joy plan to tell their future stories, however, as Nolan curtly told THR in 2016: "We're not going to change the way we make the show."
He continued: "I love the community on Reddit who spends their time picking the show apart. I've been a part of that site for a long time and it's a great site. It represents a very small portion of the audience that wants to engage very aggressively with the story that's being told, because it's part of the enjoyment for them, and that's awesome. And for the general audience, I hope next season people will be careful to avoid spoilers, and maybe in writing about the show, understanding the difference between a theory and a spoiler, which is complicated itself. But it's incredibly gratifying to see this many people engaging with what we're making."
What are your hopes for Westworld season two? Sound off in the comments section below, and keep checking THR.com/Westworld for more coverage of the series.