At the end of Westworld’s first season, the show upended what audiences thought they knew, spinning things off in unexpected new directions. In the season 1 finale, Dolores launched a host uprising, Dr. Robert Ford and the members of the Delos board were slaughtered, and Maeve was upgraded, improved, and headed back into the park to find her daughter. The scope of the series also began to expand with the tease of something audiences would later discover was Shogun World. Where things could go from there was anyone’s guess.
The season 2 premiere, “Journey Into Night,” picks things up almost immediately thereafter. (Technically, it picks up immediately thereafter, and also two weeks later, and then some 30-plus years beforehand. The creators still love their multiple timelines, after all.) But the episode is a breathtakingly efficient exercise in setting up the various characters and arcs that will no doubt make up the bulk of the second season. Maeve enlists the help of Delos story architect Lee Sizemore and bad-boy host Hector in her quest to find her daughter. Dolores goes on a systematic killing spree as part of her larger plan to take Westworld back then conquer the outside world as well. Bernard pings between multiple timeliness, dealing with his potentially fatal injuries in the aftermath of the host uprising, and then, two weeks later, trying to remember what caused the mass execution of dozens of hosts.
The Man in Black, however, is at the center of a brand-new riddle: “What is The Door?” That question isn’t just an echo of the debut season’s focus on “the maze.” It also serves as the first big reveal of the show’s new season — and, like most great Westworld mysteries, that reveal leads to more questions than answers.
The big reveal?
About two-thirds of the way through “Journey Into Night,” the Man in Black is making his way across the post-massacre landscape when he meets “Young Ford,” a host that Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) created to represent his childhood self. But Young Ford doesn’t seem to just be a docile, clueless host anymore. He seems to know things about the Man in Black. He calls him by his proper name, William, and references the older man’s hunt for the center of the maze throughout the first season. Young Ford suggests that a new round has started and that the Man in Black has to find something called The Door. “Congratulations, William,” Young Ford says. “This game is meant for you.”
Dolores may have killed Dr. Ford at the end of season 1, but that doesn’t mean he’s gone forever. The scene makes it very clear that some version of him still exists in the park, in the guise of Young Ford. Actor Oliver Bell plays the child host, but as he talks, his voice frequently glitches out with what sounds like Hopkins’ voice layered underneath it. Of course, the revelation that Dr. Ford still has clues to share doesn’t stop the Man in Black from shooting the child host in the face.
What does it mean?
It’s early in the season, but the revelation that there is at least one Fordbot alive and well — the Man in Black even calls him “Robert” before gunning him down — opens up a number of possibilities. One potential explanation is that Ford set up this new game for the Man in Black before dying and programmed this host to dole out the information to him whenever they happened to cross paths. But that’s not really how the show presents it. If Young Ford were simply doling out information as part of a new narrative (and the host uprising does seem to be part of Ford’s final tale, “Journey Into Night”), it would follow that he’d speak in his own voice, just like every other host has been doing.
But the voice glitching implies something different is happening. It gives the sense that the Young Ford host has been “taken over” by its creator in some way. But exactly how is up in the air, and that will likely be the most important question to answer moving forward on this particular storyline. Is the voice glitching just a bit of inconsistent, stylistic narrative flair? Did Ford program some of himself into the child host for posterity? Or did he somehow leave his own consciousness in the computer systems of Delos, Inc., turning him into a literal deus ex machina?
Another explanation could be that Ford himself is actually still alive. Viewers have speculated that Ford wasn’t killed in the first season’s finale — that what died was a host replicant — but that doesn’t seem to thematically fit with the show’s idea that Dolores’ decision to strike back against her creators was key to her achieving sentience. And just to make it abundantly clear, Bernard and the Delos security team discover Ford’s body in the season 2 premiere. They find his face riddled with maggots. Given what else the episode reveals about the anatomy of hosts’ heads, the discovery leaves little room for doubt: the real Dr. Ford is dead.
Changing the game
But what impact does Ford’s death have on the story? In the first season, the Man in Black was peerless in the park, as a majority shareholder in Delos, Inc., and a 30-year veteran of the park’s adventures. Ford, however, was the one person who seemed to be able to push back. He knew what the Man in Black was capable of, and he was aware of the power he wielded, but he also knew what made him tick, deftly deflecting his inquiries about the maze when they chatted over whiskey back in the first season.
Their strange relationship, and the idea that Ford left behind a new game to challenge William, appears to be at the core of what The Door is. But the vague language Young Ford uses — “The game begins where you end, and it ends where you began” — gives the impression that there’s more than trickery or gamesmanship in play. Audiences already learned last season that a young William visited the park, fell in love with Dolores, and became his darkest, worst self as a result of the revelations that followed. In a way, Westworld itself ruined William and sent him down the path to become the Man in Black. With The Door, the ghost of Ford appears to be saying that the key to victory isn’t to go even deeper down the rabbit hole in pursuit of more violent delights; it’s to get out, much as the hosts themselves are trying to do.
Whether that’s a one-off, posthumous challenge or something greater and more all-encompassing will no doubt be explored in the episodes ahead. But given that show creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy have unofficially titled this season “The Door,” it would certainly seem that the revelation about the game — and Ford’s continued presence — is just the beginning.