Spoilers for Westworld ahead.
The first season of Westworld ended with a remarkable reveal – we had been watching two timelines all along. The cruel and driven Man in Black, played by Ed Harris, was actually the same character as the sweet, naive William (Jimmi Simpson), just thirty years more jaded. The man who had been reluctant to come to the park and engage in the violent, sexist fantasies had matured into a man who had mastered them all, and who was looking for something more meaningful beyond the gunplay and brothels.
Showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy apparently decided that this was the most interesting part of their first season, not the deep philosophical debate about consciousness, or the investigation of the gameification of culture or questions about deeply ingrained misogyny in even the nicest of men. That seems to be why Westworld season two has taken that conceit and doubled down on it; three episodes into the new season it appears that every point of view character is operating in their own timeline, with some of them separated by decades while others appear to be only days or hours apart. The result? So far it’s a jumbled structure that has consistently kept me disengaged from the emotional arcs of the characters. (Vulture counts five timelines, but I suspect they’re right when they guess that the fourth timeline itself features myriad mini-timeline jumps back and forth)