In the build-up to Westworld’s second season, HBO and the show’s creators were extraordinarily precise about what information they shared ahead of time, and when. Surprises are part of what makes the show tick on a week-to-week basis, so the promotional dance is about much more than just hyping big moments. It’s about setting the stage and priming the audience’s expectations — even if that is in and of itself a misdirect.
One of the things teased at the end of the first season was the existence of a second park, with the initials “SW” revealed as its logo. Earlier this year, the show’s viral marketing revealed the name of that new park: Shogun World. With promotional clips offering quick glimpses of Maeve (Thandie Newton) wearing a kimono, it seemed all but certain that Westworld wouldn’t just be bringing audiences to this new destination, but that Shogun World might actually play a significant role in the new season.
It turns out it wouldn’t even be the first new park audiences would get to see.
The big reveal?
The season’s third episode, “Virtù e Fortuna,” opens with an image unlike anything else in the series: two peacocks. The birds, the surrounding architecture, and particularly the music choice — a sitar-heavy cover of The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army” from composer Ramin Djawadi — quickly make it clear that this isn’t some undiscovered corner of Westworld, and it’s not part of Shogun World, either. It’s a different park altogether, one that seems focused on recreating the experience of hunting in India sometime around the turn of the 19th century when the country was under British rule. It goes unnamed in the episode, but according to the show’s websites the park is simply called The Raj. (Credit to Westworld’s tireless Reddit fans, one of whom predicted this very reveal two months ago after finding some strange evidence buried deep within the show’s websites.)
An unnamed man (Neil Jackson, listed as “Nicholas” on the episode’s IMDB page), strikes up a flirtatious conversation with a disinterested woman (Katja Herbers; “Grace” on IMDB). After an odd bit of foreplay (more on that later), the two spend the night together, and the next day head out on safari to hunt bengal tigers.
When they reach their first stop, Grace immediately notices something’s awry. There are no new hosts waiting to tend to their every need, and soon she and Nicholas discover two murdered guests in a nearby tent. Nicholas thinks it’s simply some new twist in the park’s adventure, but Grace knows better. That’s when one of their guides mutters “These violent delights have violent ends,” and swiftly kills Nicholas with a rifle.
Grace is able to kill the host and make a run for it, but soon she’s being stalked by one of the Bengal tigers her safari had set out to hunt. She makes her way past the outer perimeter of the park, across some sort of laser fencing that it seems should stop the pursuing tiger in its tracks. But the synthetic beast crosses the barrier without hesitation, cornering Grace on a cliff with a vast body of water waiting beneath her. She tries to get her gun loaded in time to take a shot at the creature — and that’s when the tiger charges.
What does it mean?
The opening scenes bring a lot of threads together very quickly. The first episode of the season, mentioned that “Park 6” was the Delos destination with Bengal tigers, so the talk of tiger-hunting establishes right away which park The Raj actually is. (For reference, Westworld is Park 1, while Shogun World is Park 2.) The scenes also seem to be set during a very specific timeframe. When Nicholas and Grace first meet, the hosts are helpful and all is peaceful. But when The Raj’s hosts are able to kill guests the next day, it suggests that the safari attack takes place the morning after Dolores killed Dr. Ford and the robot revolution began — and that the uprising extends across all Delos properties.
The Bengal tiger attack, and the creature’s ability to cross the perimeter laser fencing, also seems to indicate that whatever agency hosts have attained as part of their grand awakening also extends to synthetic animals. It’s a quick pay-off to the mystery of the dead bengal tiger found in the season premiere — and it turns out the tiger wasn’t the only thing that washed ashore in Westworld, either. Toward the end of “Virtù e Fortuna,” Grace ends up on the beach, where she is swiftly captured by a member of Ghost Nation.
Changing the game
In the final moments of “Virtù e Fortuna,” Maeve, Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman), and the rest of their traveling companions do finally come across Shogun World. It’s a clever reveal, with the episode’s earlier detour into The Raj turning the anticipated appearance of Shogun World back into a surprise. But in terms of actual narrative ramifications, the implications of Park 6 appear straightforward: Delos’ parks cover all kinds of different eras, and the robot uprising is affecting the hosts and animals in each and every one.
What seems more important is the woman who survives the tiger attack and ends up in Westworld: Grace. Early in the episode, the show dives into some rather particular aspects of her character. When Nicholas is seducing her, she expresses clear disdain for hosts, which seems odd at first because she’s clearly quite familiar with the park. Her enmity toward hosts is so intense that she won’t continue kissing Nicholas until he’s proven he’s human — by letting her shoot him.
Since they’re in a Delos park, and it’s before the “Journey Into Night” narrative sent everything to hell, the gun can’t fatally wound him. But it does hurt and leave a mark, but that seems to be part of the point for Grace. She doesn’t want to sleep with something that is programmed to want her; she wants to sleep with somebody who authentically does, of their own free will. She doesn’t seem interested in the fictional allure of the robotic hosts at all; she seems to want — as another familiar character would put it — something true. Couple that with a fleeting revelation about what she seems to be looking for in The Raj, and it appears there is quite a bit to be explored with the mysterious Grace.
Before she and Nicholas discover the murdered guests in their camp, Grace consults a hand-drawn map in a book that she carries. It details the park’s topography: mountains, lakes, and trees. But the map also has several marks that look like doors — or, perhaps, the hidden elevators that technicians use to easily pop in and out of the underground Delos tunnel system. There’s also a large symbol on the map, two interlocking hexagons that look almost identical to the symbol found in the secret drone host facility that Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) visited earlier this season.
Grace doesn’t just seem to be a frequent visitor to Delos parks. She seems to know about the company’s best-guarded secrets — and if the map is any indication, she’s on a mission to see them for herself.
Update May 7th, 9:26AM ET: Included the proper name of Park 6.