After a week of Reddit-baiting and RIckrolling, it's now time to head back to Westworld.
The HBO series quickly became a huge hit back in 2016, with the cable outfit positioning it as the successor to Game of Thrones, a show it matched in terms of debut season numbers, if not quite its quality.
The show became known for its dazzling production values and, even more so, its plot twists, which sent the show's online community into a frenzy every week and where many reveals were figured out ahead of time. Season 2, then, needs to not just repeat the formula, but do so in a way that pushes things forward and ensures not everything is spoiled before it's actually happened, while adding more to its characters.
The robots are now working of their own accord, the game has been changed, and with everything on the table, Westworld is, much like its hosts, free.
After viewing the first five episodes of the season, it's safe to say that Westworld has been taken to new heights in Season 2 (which can often be a tricky proposition). The robot uprising that started at the end of Season 1 is now in full swing, giving the series a much faster, more action-packed pace where the stakes feel even higher than before, but also where it's more earned too.
Better, though, is its character work and approach to storytelling. The hosts, no longer trapped in programmed narrative loops, are in control of their own destiny, which makes them far more fascinating - and, in answer to one of the series' biggest questions - more human. There's more joy and pain to be found in someone having to make a choice for themselves, rather than because that's what a line of code says they'll do, and it works to really flesh out the characters in a way Season 1 couldn't. The arcs of the three main hosts - Dolores, Maeve, Bernard - are stronger, with more pathos and depth to them now.
It's storytelling, too, feels less designed to trick us: it no longer plays out like one of Ford's narratives, but instead something much more organic, which allows for different kinds of surprises and even less predictability. It better uses its non-linear storytelling as well, with more shading between the various timelines to make them serve as parts of one complete whole, rather than disparate strands we're meant to piece together ourselves.
It feels every bit as confident as Season 1 did, but with a number of the issues addressed and some interest choices in these early instalments, the stage is set for Westworld to become even bigger and a whole lot better, and after five episodes I can't wait to see what its violent end will be.