Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores and Ed Harris as William in HBO's Westworld

“The Passenger”, Westworld’s season two finale, was a powerful close to an inconsistent season.  The acting was exemplary and the conclusion simultaneously satisfied and left one pondering the possibilities for the next season.  A more in-depth look at the finale and season as a whole will follow later this week, so I’ve tried to avoid SPOILERS in this review, but if you haven’t seen it yet (maybe you work from home and don’t have to worry about overheard discussions at water coolers?), I’d recommend watching it first.  We’ll be here waiting for you.

Writing:

Show creators Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan delivered an ending to the season that was satisfying and powerful.  “The Passenger” was a long episode (actually slightly longer than the 1973 film that inspired the show), but each scene felt necessary and few seconds were wasted.  There were some missteps (how exactly did Teddy’s body get to the valley?) but overall the script did a great job of tying together the various story threads in a way that was very clear, considering how confusing the various plotlines and timelines can be.

Acting:

The whole cast shined in “The Passenger”, but Evan Rachel Wood towered above them all.  As Dolores she erases the line between human and machine so completely that the (presumably all-human) audience of the show is left with no choice but to root for a character that would destroy them all if given the chance.

Jeffrey Wright’s Bernard has never been better.  Is he a pawn or is he a King?  Watching him decide is the opposite of Existential despair.  Tessa Thompson proves not only can she play a variety of fan-favorite characters, she can do it in a single episode of television.  All I will say about Ed Harris as William is don’t turn your TV off when the credits roll.

Ed Harris as William in Westworld The Passenger

Directing:

The action sequences were solid, with the “running of the bulls” being the highlight, even if it felt a little forced. There’s only so many ways to film gun-fighting, so watching partially-constructed android bulls charge security guards was a fun change of pace.

Probably the most ambitious and impressive sequence was the battle at the door to the Valley Beyond.  Director Frederick E. O. Toye shows us ‘fight or flight’ played out by a column of host refugees on either side of a weaponized Clementine.

Not all battles are fought on such a grand scale, though.  Dolores/William, Dolores/Bernard, Bernard/Bernard, these more personal conflicts make up the core of the episode.  The pacing of the episode keeps the audience on their toes.  Without rushing anything, Toye lets the twists and turns of the plot hit us without giving us too much time to pause.

Cinematography:

Visually, “The Passenger” hits the very high bar Westworld has established.  The twisting, overhead shot of Teddy in Dolores’s arms is one that will stick with you.  Cinematographer John Grillo makes the most out of the spectacular interior sets and landscapes that make up Westworld.

Overall:

The finale was fantastic, tying things together and resolving enough to be satisfying without precluding a third season.  Tragedy, triumph, philosophy, action, and “natural” splendor, all in one super-sized episode.

Itching for more coverage of Westworld’s second season?  Listen to Kieran McLean’s review

of season two below:

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFZ15CTqJYc[/embedyt]

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Josh is a writer and a lover of The Simpsons, Monty Python, The State, Breaking Bad, Arrested Development, and Preacher. He spends probably too much time reading and has lately been attempting to eat the occasional vegetable, with limited success.

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