AFTER what seems like forever (in reality about 16 months), Westworld will return for its second season next week.
The sci-fi western that captured audiences in late 2016 with its twisty story about artificial intelligence had us all obsessed - obsessively trying to figure out the real deal behind all those murky alliances, even murkier timelines and mysterious characters. People weren't who we thought they were - some of them weren't even people!
Westworld was perfect for the age of fan theories (and boy, were there some outlandish theories that turned out to be right), so to prepare your plunge back into that mind-bending labyrinth, here's a Westworld refresher for everything you'd forgotten since 2016, and a primer of what we know so far about season two.
(Spoilers for season one follow.)
By the season's end, all of Westworld's separate but not separate storylines intersected with a stunning climax.
We found out the Man in Black (Ed Harris) and William (Jimmi Simpson) are indeed the same person and that host robot Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) existed in both timelines. Dolores was also Wyatt, the bad guy who killed all the hosts the first time she "gained" consciousness.
Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) was discovered to be a host, but not any host - a host version of Arnold, Ford's (Anthony Hopkins) Westworld co-founder who died all those years ago.
Ford's "new narrative" turned out to be that he was staging a robot uprising, helping the hosts gain consciousness though not necessarily sentience. In the bloody rebellion scene at the Delos party, Dolores shoots Ford in the head, though some have speculated that this may be a Ford host clone and not the real man.
Outside the park, Maeve (Thandie Newton) raised hell in the Delos labs, massacring scores of scientists and security personnel, but ended up defying her programming by returning to the park to find her daughter instead of escaping into the real world.
One of the most tantalising hints dropped in the season one finale was the existence of other worlds in potentially evil corporation Delos' theme park. We saw a door with a logo that clearly read "SW" for Shogun World, which also existed in the original 1973 film written and directed by Michael Crichton.
A Shogun World seems confirmed at this point with Maeve donning a kimono, plus flashes of scenes with a Japanese-themed production design in a recently released trailer for season two.
In the 1973 film, there were also medieval-themed and Roman-themed worlds - when asked at the SXSW festival about other worlds, the cast cheekily deflected the questions.
A website created for the show lists six parks that are either active or in development, two of which are Westworld and Shogun World.
From what has been announced and what can be gleaned in the trailers and promotional materials, we know the following actors are returning: Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright, Thandie Newton, Ed Harris, Jimmi Simpson, James Marsden as host Teddy, Tessa Thompson as Delos exec Charlotte Hale, Talulah Riley as host Angela, Rodrigo Santoro as Hector, Luke Hemsworth as security head Stubbs, Simon Quaterman as writer Lee, Ben Barnes as Logan, Shannon Woodward as Elsie and Angela Sarafyan as Clementine.
Of course, at least some of the characters - William and Logan among them - will only feature in flashbacks.
It's also a fair bet Louis Herthum's Peter Abernathy is back as there has been some clever marketing around the character.
But there's been no sighting of Anthony Hopkins, who previously said he had only signed up for one season. If he is returning, you can bet the Westworld crew are keeping it under wraps for maximum shock value.
Season two will introduce a new class of characters called drone hosts. They appear as white, almost-humanoid form with no face. In one of the trailers, you can see one sneaking up, or walking behind, Bernard, while another violently throws someone up against something.
Nolan continued: "As Bernard is making his way through the wreckage of the fallout from the first season, he's discovering things about the park that even he doesn't know and coming upon creatures like the drone host." Jeepers.
THE DELOS CONUNDRUM
What is Westworld overlord Delos' real agenda? The character of Charlotte certainly suggests there's a lot more going on than even Ford knew and Delos' shady corporate agenda may be a plot point this season.
Nolan told Esquire: "We know […] that the theme park aspect of it is not the central moneymaker for them. Which, for us, mapped onto the slightly cynical moment we have in this age in which most of the services we avail ourselves online are free because the companies that are providing them are monetising what we're doing in other ways that are less transparent." Sounds ominous.
In the trailer, there are several scenes of seemingly human armed security guards going into Westworld, presumably sent in by Delos to shut down the host uprising - though it's never safe to assume anything with this show.
BEST OF THE REST
Half the fun of a show like Westworld is in the creators not giving everything away, but from what we've gleaned from the trailer, these extra bits may mean something, everything or nothing (mild spoilers):
• Dolores and Bernard engaged in one of their "meaning of life" conversations - these could be new interactions or it could be flashbacks
• Maeve and Lee standing inside Delos offices as she demands he take her to her daughter
• Stubbs survived his attack by hosts, he seems to be in the group of humans coming in to deal with the host threat
• Charlotte survived the host massacre started by Dolores
• Dolores in modern-day clothes against a city backdrop - has she made it out of the park or is she in a different park?
• A different Dolores in modern-day clothes scene that also features a young William
• There's a room full of spare Bernard hosts.
Go forth and theorise. We know you can't help yourself.
Westworld season two premieres on Showcase on Foxtel on Monday, April 23 at 8.30pm.
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