We never did get around to reviewing the second season of Westworld (The Door) so we’re offering it as a Weekend Review.

I was concerned the show might break stride or hobble a bit in its second season. It heads out a full gallop, and drops some of the best episodes in the history of SF television.

Scroll down a bit to find the review. The cast is very large.

Cast and Crew

Directors: Richard J. Lewis, Lisa Joy, Craig Zobel, Tarik Saleh, Nicole Kassell, Uta Briesewitz, Frederick E.O. Toye
Writers: Jonathan Nolan, Lisa Joy, Roberto Patino, Carly Wray, Ron Fitzgerald, Gina Atwater, Dan Dietz, Jordan Goldberg, et al.
Inspired by the screenplay by Michael Crichton

Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores Abernathy
Jeffrey Wright as Bernard Lowe
Thandie Newton as Maeve Millay
Ed Harris as Man in Black
Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Robert Ford
Jimmi Simpson as William
Ben Barnes as Logan
Zahn McClarnon as Akecheta
Peter Mullan as James Delos
Jonathan Tucker as Major Craddock
Talulah Riley as Angela
Ingrid Bolsø Berdal as Armistice
Clifton Collins Jr. as Lawrence
Simon Quarterman as Lee Sizemore
Rodrigo Santoro as Hector Escaton
James Marsden as Teddy Flood
Louis Herthum as Peter Abernathy I
Luke Hemsworth as Ashley Stubbs
Angela Sarafyan as Clementine
Shannon Woodward as Elsie Hughes
Sidse Babett Knudsen as Theresa Cullen
Jasmyn Rae as Maeve’s Daughter
Angela Sarafyan as Clementine Pennyfeather
Rinko Kikuchi as Akane
Betty Gabriel as Maling
Hiroyuki Sanada as Musashi
Tao Okamoto as Hanaryo
Kiki Sukezane as Sakura
Masayoshi Haneda as Tanaka
Masaru Shinozuka as Shogun
Leonardo Nam as Lutz
Julia Jones as Kohana I
Martin Sensmeier as Wanahton
Irene Bedard as Wichapi
Booboo Stewart as Etu
Sarah Alami as Kohana II
Shin Shimizu as Doshin
Aaron Fili as Roland
Sonny Saito as Emissary
Avery Wada as Daimyo
Gustaf Skarsgård as Karl Strand
Tantoo Cardinal as Ehawee
Currie Graham as Craig
Lena Georgas as Lori
Taishi Mizuno as Koda
Price Carson as Border Barkeep
Izabella Alvarez as Lawrence’s Daughter
Olga Aguilar as Lawrence’s Wife
Adel Telesia as Assistant
Andy Taylor Kim as New Assistant
Ptolemy Slocum as Sylvester
Tessa Thompson as Charlotte Hale
Bradley Fisher as Mariposa Bartender
Rodrigo Santoro as Hector Escaton
Steven Ogg as Rebus
Sorin Brouwers as Wyatt
Patrick Cage II as Phil
Demetrius Grosse as Deputy Foss
Jeff Daniel Phillips as Tenderloin
Evan Holtzman, Summer Spiro, Nikhil Pai, John D. Hickman, Trisha LaFache, Damon O’Daniel as various techies, many of whom will die
Hiroyuki Sanada as Musashi
Alexander Ward as Lead Drone

Premise

The android hosts in a future recreational park achieve sentience—and that isn’t even Westworld’s darkest secret.

High Points

This season boasts an extraordinary and twisted arc that encompasses many fine episodes.
“Akane no Mai,” for example, brings us a strong story involving a feudal Japanese segment of the park.

“Kiksuya,” however, stands as the best episode of the season, and one of the finest hours of programming in the history of SF. It takes minor characters who have moved as ghosts on the fringes of the narrative and gives them an episode replete with an heroic quest to the underworld and a highly personal exploration on the show’s major themes. Along the way, it solves several series mysteries. While not free of the show’s violence, it demonstrates that intelligent depictions of very real human conflicts is far more interesting. Akecheta goes from being a token Native for guests to encounter to a central figure in his own story and the season’s greater narrative. The Matrix and even current Discovery address some of the same concerns, but not half so poignantly.

The other nearly self-contained episode, “The Riddle of the Sphinx” stands as a close second in its narrative power, separate of the larger arc it serves.

Low Point

I am more than willing to suspend disbelief, given how great the second season proved to be. Still, despite the billions poured into the fictional park and its actual purposes, it starts to challenge the suspension belief that it covers quite so much territory as we see here.

The Scores:

Originality: 4/6 I’ll repeat what I wrote for the first season: The show takes its inspiration from the cult 1973 cult film (set in 1983!) and it raises questions both ancient and contemporary, with echoes of Frankenstein and every artificial intelligence story since. Nevertheless, it answers some of those questions in original and provocative ways, and it transcends its source material. The second season even strikes out in new and unexpected directions.

Effects: 6/6

Acting: 6/6 The standout acting of the first season continues, with actors such as Evan Rachel Wood and Jeffrey Right putting in stunning performances. Still, Zahn McClarnon deserves an Emmy.

Emotional Response: 6/6

Story: 6/6 The overall story can be difficult to follow, but this season features a brilliant underlying arc. Individual episodes are extraordinary, including the enigmatic, disturbing “Riddle of the Sphinx.”

Production: 6/6 I sometimes wish anything I watched as a kid had even a measurable fraction of the budget and effects available to prestige shows in the present.

Overall: 6/6 What is sentience? What does it mean to be human? What will it mean if AI becomes a reality? Can we achieve immortality, and at what cost? What are the implications of the media we consume and the tropes that shape our perceptions of the world? Why do we search for a Higher Truth? What is the inevitable result of a society where 1% exploit everything and everyone for their own gain? The measure of good, thoughtful SF is the ability to raise so many thought-provoking and difficult question without breaking narrative stride or spoon-feeding simplistic answers.

In total, the second season of Westworld receives 40/42