Spoilers for Westworld Season 1 follow.
A Season 2 of HBOs hit science-fiction drama, #Westworld? It shouldn’t happen.
If showrunners Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan are reading this, I’m sincerely asking them to reconsider. Rather than continuing the bittersweet story of Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) and Teddy Flood (James Marsden), please throw your hands up in the air, wave a white flag, shout “Ollie, ollie oxen free,” and go out on top.
I'm not saying this because I disliked the first season, a reimagining of the 1973 Michael Crichton film, but rather because it is perfect.
Just Say 'No' To Season 2
When the curtain drops, loose ends are tied up and we are left with just enough ambiguity to allow our creative minds to flourish with "what ifs" and "how abouts" for the rest of our lives.
Plus, how can you possibly recapture the same intimate atmosphere of Season 1? And I’m not just talking about all the nudity. Though I am talking about the nudity.
Because there was a reason for all that nudity, right? (Besides, well, HBO.) Viewers were meant to feel as uncomfortable, exposed and vulnerable as the hosts. Plus, Adam and Eve, the Garden (the Maze) and all of that.
Now there’s an android war on the horizon? It feels a lot like we’re about to shift from Ray Bradbury to Michael Bay. And I gotta admit, that’s got me worried.
There's (Almost) Nowhere To Go But Down
I fear the sophomore slump. You know, that second album, big sequel and follow-up novel that doesn’t quite capture the excitement of the original.
Statisticians call the sophomore slump the regression towards the mean. Put simply, if something is totally awesome to begin with, the second effort is more likely to be average. And when something is awesome to begin with, average will seem a lot worse than it actually is.
Fans of #Heroes know what I’m talking about. Same for those who enjoyed #Lost and #TrueDetective and #TwinPeaks. Season 2 of #TheWalkingDead had zombie fans worried. And those who enjoyed the short, first season of #SleepyHollow still pray the show can return to its crisp, creepy roots.
Luckily, there are a few things Joy and Nolan can do to avoid the sophomore slump and make Westworld’s second season as amazing as the first.
If You Must Make Season 2, Avoid A Drastic Shift In Tone And Pace
Fans cried foul when The Walking Dead entered its second season and slowed its pace way down. Rick and the gang traded the frenzied streets of Atlanta for Hershel’s serene farm — and no one was happy about that. Friday Night Lights, a show about high-stakes high school sports decided to host a murder mystery in its second season. Fans didn’t like the #DesperateHousewives mash-up.
Westworld’s first season felt like a novel. Each episode peeled off another layer in what became an epic story about what it means to be human. While it included moments of action and adventure, at its heart, it was a character-driven story about breaking the shackles of slavery — or, more metaphysically, predestination — to achieve free will.
Season 2, it seems (and by the creators’ own words) is shaping up to be all-out war. And that’s a totally different tone than searching for the meaning of life. Will fans embrace this new direction?
Joy and Nolan should remember how the slow pace and psychological intrigue lifted the show above its sci-fi ancestor. Playing small in a big world made all of the difference. Keep peeling layers. Don’t blow up the whole onion at once.
Don’t Introduce Too Many New Characters
Remember when Lost introduced us to the Tailies in Season 2? Remember how often you said, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, Ana Lucia and Mr. Eko. Cool. Can we just get back to Jack, Sawyer, Locke and Kate?”
Too many new characters too soon. I get why it happens. After a successful first season, creators want to explore more of the world they’re building. This uncontrollable desire only distracts from the path the story was already following.
Tim Kring, creator of #Heroes, even apologized publicly for turning his attention away from established superheroes in that series’ second season. It was enough to drive viewers away and ultimately kill the show.
Let’s hope our Westworld second season sticks with the characters we already know and love. After all, Dolores, Teddy, Maeve and Bernard have so much story left to tell. And we all want to see Elsie and Stubbs fight their way back to the command center.
(Though, I admit I want a glimpse of Samurai World. Let’s not make it a thing, though.)
Answer More Questions Than You Pose
Speaking of Lost, I was a huge fan. Like so many, I posted theory after theory about the Smoke Monster, the Others and whether Locke was dead or just pretending. I listened to creators Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse’s podcast, as well as actor Jorge Garcia’s weekly recap. I trusted a promised plan that would answer every mystery.
Then the series ended, and I felt, well, lost. Maybe even a little conned. Over the course of six seasons, the show created so many mysteries, there was no way it could answer them all. I mean, what was that ancient bathtub stopper supposed to be anyway?!
There’s hope for Westworld. Season 1 got it right. We learned who the Man in Black is and the specifics about his relationship with Dolores. We found out who Arnold was, Bernard’s special relationship to him, and their shared connection to Ford. We didn’t have to wait to see what Maeve’s decision would be about her daughter.
And we got the right kind of cliffhanger. With Maeve racing to find her daughter and the hosts on the warpath, it’s not a matter of “What was that all about?” but rather “What will happen next?”
As we gallop toward Westworld Season 2, let’s hope Joy and Nolan take this into account.
Make Sure You Have Enough Story To Tell
This is my biggest fear. Season 1 was so well-crafted, I worry that Joy and Nolan shared all of the story already.
Ever watch Twin Peaks? The first season of that otherworldly murder mystery is a masterpiece. But as soon as the series answers the question “Who killed Laura Palmer?” it is effectively over. The same thing happened to #Homeland. When the show told you whether Nicholas Brody was or wasn’t a terrorist, the narrative thrust petered out.
Now that we know what we know about Dolores, the Man in Black and Bernard, is our story over? So many character arcs came to a close, it’s hard to imagine what Season 2 could have in store. Will we care enough about Dolores now? Will the Man in Black become a one-note antihero? How long can we endure knowing that Bernard is a host when everyone else has no idea? Won’t that grow real old, real quick?
I’m going to trust Joy and Nolan have a plan. But I’m going to remind them Lost had a Man in Black, too.
Will 'Westworld' suffer from the sophomore slump?
Did you love Westworld? Tell us why in the comments below!