Westworld, for all its unpredictability, is following a regular structure in season 2. While episodes two and four provided backstory regarding Delos and the foundation of the park, episodes one and three have introduced new parts of the world itself. This means that no one episode so far has simply been a walk in the park — instead providing new elements that deepen the show’s mythology. In an odd-numbered episode once again, Westworld finally gives us glimpses of the infamous ShogunWorld. It looks…familiar.
The main arc, and by far the most interesting one, of the episode, concerns Maeve and her entourage stumbling upon ShogunWorld, where they uncover a town that looks uncannily similar to Sweetwater. Here the gang discover Japanese counterparts to themselves. When Meave asks Lee why he made everything so similar — he responds that sometimes its hard to come up with new scenarios when working on a deadline and it was just easier to copy and paste and hope nobody noticed.
Delos is hardly the only company that does this. For example, when companies provide content for foreign markets, they can simply duplicate what they have in a different language. Therefore, while the sets and people in the park may look different, the characters and quests can be built upon the exact same narrative building blocks.
Therefore the park becomes a representation of globalisation. The representation of Japanese culture here is more or less skin-deep, more an aesthetic more than a fully realised world. Yet, with the main motivation being the pursuit of money, true understanding of a culture can be elided in favour of Hollywood cliché. (Additionally, the meta-relationship between Westworld and ShogunWorld speaks a lot to the rich relationship between the Western and Samurai movies). The question remains whether the guests here are from Japan itself, or Westerners playing cultural appropriation dress-up.
It shows the scalability of a company like Delos. With ShogunWorld and RajWorld already existing, it seems that there is no limit to the number of different maps they have created. Will we see MedievalWorld and PharaohWorld next?
Is Maeve The Chosen One?
Meave is by far the most interesting character in a show which is rather thin on genuine motivation. A host who has become fully aware of how she has been controlled, she has manipulated the system in order to grow further in power. Previously looking out only for herself, she decides to help Madame Akane (Rinko Kikuchi) from losing her geisha Sakura (Kiki Sukezane) with whom she has a somewhat maternal connection. This choice stems from the fact that her predicament is so similar to her own. Hitherto able to control other hosts using voice commands, Maeve suddenly finds herself able to take down her adversaries with only the power of her mind.
This has serious ramifications for the rest of the show, the end of the episode showing her mentally command the Samurai who took them captive to murder one another. By extension, this makes her by far the most powerful person in the entire park. This poses problems for the show’s narrative purposes; if Maeve can take down anyone with merely the power of her mind, it robs every scene of remotely any tension. Westworld will have to find a different way to keep this interesting.
The real question remains if her quest for her daughter is as straightforward as it looks. Like anything else in this show, don’t expect it to progress in a conventional way. In fact her daughter may be her only weakness — without this vulnerability, she could easily conquer everyone in no time.
Bye Bye Teddy
Teddy has been something of a dead weight upon the show. While usually, the un-woke robots have only really carried on as supporting players, Teddy, who still doesn’t understand what’s going on, has a main role in the host revolution. Therefore, even as he supports Dolores on her mission, his arc is far less intriguing than anyone else’s.
Dolores, on the other hand, has a much stronger understanding of the way this world works, and is fearful for the future. In an anecdote from her childhood, she mentions a disease that infected all of her father’s cows. While Teddy proposes a peaceful solution to sorting out the disease, Dolores, in brutal fashion, tells her that her father simply killed off all of the cows that were infected. Its a monologue reminiscent of Game Of Thrones — an anecdote doubling up as justification, foreshadowing Teddy’s own mind being wiped by Dolores’ kidnapped men. While it seems that Teddy isn’t really gone for good; when he does come back, he will be quite a different man.
Dolores has come a long way. Her character in the first season wanted to live with Teddy and start a new life together. Yet, now with bigger aims of leading a revolution, she is willing to sacrifice anything in the name of a bigger cause. This directly contrasts her with Meave, who is conversely getting more sentimental as the season goes on. Is this setting up a final confrontation between the two where we are supposed to root for Meave against Dolores? Its hard to tell. This is Westworld after all.