Why Westworld has lost me

Westworld season 2, Episode 6. Photo acquired via HBO Media Relations.
Westworld season 2, Episode 6. Photo acquired via HBO Media Relations. /

I enjoyed the first season of Westworld HBO’s sci-fi tv show. However, three key mistakes that the second made have lost me as a fan.

(This article contains huge, massive spoilers for Westworld season 2, and possibly one. Proceed at your peril.)

So, robot uprisings became a major theme for me this year.

Back in April, I was looking for dramas that with my wife hadn’t seen before. So I thought I’d show her the mid 00’s Battlestar Galactica. You know, the show about a group of formerly enslaved robots destroying nearly all of humanity. The leftovers of humanity try to survive and hold the vestiges of their civilization together. The robots (called Cylons) try to fight them to protect their own safety, and ponder the nature of reality.

Then we immediately dived into Westworld season two. You know, the TV show where robot slaves become self aware and fight to protect their own safety, while pondering the nature of…

More from HBO

The thematic parallels to Galactica were fairly obvious to me even when watching Westworld’s first season. I enjoyed it, as a new angle on the same themes.

However, Westworld second season has lost me. Why? Because I feel that the show’s creators made three key mistakes in the second half of the season that have removed it from my personal list of good shows.

Mistake One: There Are Now No (Good) Human Characters

I’m not just talking about heroes. I’m talking about characters who are compelling.

As of the end of season two, Westworld has neither humans I can admire, or people I can truly hiss at. Ellie got killed by Charlotte Hale. Charlotte gets killed by the host duplicate of her Bernard builds. Narrative writer Lee Sizemore sacrifices himself to buy time for Maeve’s group. So how many good human characters does that leave us? None. All of this shows’ remaining compelling characters are the Hosts.

This was something Battlestar Galactica actually did significantly better than Westworld has so far. Both the humans and the Cylons had heroes several characters I could cheer and jeer for.

In Westworld, there are no longer humans worth cheering or jeering for. While there is juice in the conflict between Delores and Bernard, Westworld’s current version of human vs. robot conflict is boring.

Episode 20 (season 2, episode 10), debut 6/24/18: Evan Rachel Wood.photo: John P. Johnson/HBO Media Relations /

Mistake Two: Gimmicky Nonlinear Obfuscation

Or “Why can’t you just tell the story in the order that it happened?!!”

I don’t think all stories need to be told in order. In Westworld’s first season, I like the jumbled storytelling because I felt it mirrored the jumbled perspective of the hosts. I argue the second season abused the storytelling conceit to mask repetitive story beats to meet a 10 episode order.

Take episode 3. We see a battle in which Hale’s private defense contractors manage to kidnap Delores former host father. It’s momentarily thrilling, because I knew this shootout didn’t matter.

From future flashbacks in episode one and two, I knew Delos Corp lose him.  In fact, Delos Corp lose him two more times throughout the season!

In the second season, the jumbled timelines seemed like a crutch to try and distract people from stalling tactics like this. Further, the post-credit sequence implies that the third season will continue to indulge in non-linear storytelling without a compelling reason.

Silicon Valley and Westworld
Episode 11 (season 2, episode 1), debut 4/22/18: Evan Rachel Wood.photo: John P. Johnson/HBO /

 Mistake Three: Post Credit Sequence Sapped Tragedy

The Man in Black (William) was the only human villain in Westworld I still enjoyed. It was absolutely tragic when he kills his daughter Emily (1).

William murdering Emily  is the moment the character cannot possibly be redeemed. A key thing feeding his obsession with Westworld is his belief that he could be a host. It’s only a point of no return moment for William if his beliefs are false.

Yet in the post-credit scene, they show him meeting a version of Emily (whom I will call NEm for clarity). At the end, NEm says she is testing him for fidelity. Which is the exact same thing William used when testing versions of James Delos.

Now, you could make a host duplicate of the Man in Black later in the chronology. However, he’s got an even more extreme version of the right hand injury that he got earlier in The Passenger. Why would you create a host duplicate with hand injury that will make it less tough?

Next: 4 Westworld spin-off mini-series HBO needs to develop

No, we’re meant to believe this is the same version of William that killed Emily (1). William was right about his true nature, and that saps much of the tragedy from his infantcide. Battlestar Galactica waited 58 episodes before flying off the rails that badly. Westworld couldn’t wait 20.

I might still watch it in the future. I’m a culture writer, and I might still cover it as part of writing about culture. It will no longer be from the point of view of a fan.

What’s your take? Are you a fan of Westworld on HBO?