Westworld: Season 2 Episode 2 (Television Review) – More Timelines, More Mystery

You can never judge the overall quality of a season of television until it has finished. This is certainly true for a show like Westworld. In its first season, each episode deepened the mystery of the story and the season had multiple timelines within it. This meant that it would be unfair to judge the season until the stories in those timelines had come to some sort of resolution and connected in some way. Season 2 is absolutely continuing what Season 1 established in this regard.

Arnold and Dolores

In ‘Journey Into Night’, we saw that stories were being told in two different timelines. Now, after the second episode, titled ‘Reunion’, more timelines have now been re-introduced. Indeed, the distant past was a big focus in Season 1 of Westworld and it provided some interesting backstory to characters such as the Man in Black, or William as he was known back then. This also continues in Season 2. However, before going back to continue William’s story from where that ended in Season 1, we went even further back in time to when Arnold was still alive and before the park had been built.

Indeed, Arnold was setting up a showcase for Logan to convince him to invest in Westworld with the help of Robert Ford and it was awesome to hear a younger version of Ford. I do not know if Anthony Hopkins came back to do the voice for the younger Ford but it sounded exactly like him. So, either Hopkins did come back or they got a tremendous voice actor who can imitate a voice on the same pitch-perfect level as, for instance, Stephen Stanton did for Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars Rebels episode ‘Twin Suns’. I also liked how the relationship between Arnold and Dolores, who was meant to be a part of the showcase to Logan, was developed in this timeline.

Jeffrey Wright as Arnold and Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores in Westworld Season 2 Episode 2 Reunion

William

We get to see Logan again in the other timeline that takes place in the distant past. As I said earlier, we follow William after the events of Season 1. Logan is out of the picture and William now has access to Logan’s father and he shows him how the parks can be used to spy on guests and collect data on them. As William says, the parks are where people show who they really are and this whole conversation between William and Logan’s father was very timely when you consider the revelations that have come out about Facebook recently.

William takes control of Delos and Dolores, at a party celebrating this, finds a despondent Logan who believes that humanity in now doomed. He may turn out to be right and all of what we saw in the distant past in ‘Reunion’ continued to provide some fascinating backstory which I am sure will connect to what is going on in the present timelines.

The Present

The other storylines that were continued from ‘Journey Into Night’ were the ones which focus on Dolores and the Man in Black. When it comes to Dolores, she is continuing to expose Teddy to more of the truth about what they truly are. She also runs into Maeve and they have an intriguing discussion about their newfound “freedom” which is an important theme of Westworld. Dolores also tries to recruit more Hosts to her cause of finding the “valley beyond” which houses a weapon she intends to use against the humans.

Ed Harris as the Man in Black/William in Westworld Season 2 Episode 2 Reunion

This goal and her whole arc in ‘Reunion’ was intrinsically linked to the past timelines as well as the Man in Black who reunites with Lawrence. He also tries to recruit Hosts, loyal to the new El Lazo, to aid him with his game and reach the “pearly gates”. On a side note, it was awesome to see Giancarlo Esposito, Gus from Breaking Bad, portray the new El Lazo. It was a cool cameo. However, the Man in Black’s plans were foiled. Robert Ford was not allowing any of this to happen and he kills his recruits.

Even though Ford is dead, his spirit still lives on and it raises some questions over how dead he really is. Despite this setback, the Man in Black goes forward with his quest to destroy what he sees as his greatest mistake. This may be the park itself or perhaps the weapon Dolores is seeking and, in the distant past, we saw William take Dolores to this special project he was constructing which may well be the weapon. Both the Man in Black and Dolores seems to be heading towards the same destination with different ambitions in mind.

My Final Thoughts on ‘Reunion’

I really liked ‘Reunion’. It provided us with more interesting backstory, it deepened the mystery of the story being told and the episode was quite different from what I believed we would get based on where we left off in ‘Journey Into Night’. Certainly, more periods of time will be focused on than I originally thought and while all of these convoluted timelines could have been confusing, the way they linked together in ‘Reunion’ was well executed in my opinion.

Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores and James Marsden as Teddy in Westworld Season 2 Episode 2 Reunion

Because of Season 1, it is much easier to follow what is going on in these different timelines. I cannot wait to see how everything established so far in Season 2 of Westworld will all link together in the end, especially when it comes to finding out what the weapon actually is.

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Love, Simon (Film Review) – A Movie With A Huge Heart

Love, Simon is a romantic comedy-drama directed by Greg Berlanti that is based on the novel Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. The film stars Miles Heizer, Alexandra Shipp, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., Katherine Langford, Jennifer Garner, Josh Duhamel and Nick Robinson. The story of the film focuses on Simon (Nick Robinson), a closeted gay teenager who has to balance high school, friends, family, protecting his secret as well as trying to discover the identity of an anonymous classmate he has developed an online relationship with.

My Expectations For Love, Simon

We are almost halfway into 2018 and we have already had the pleasure of seeing some amazing films. Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity WarReady Player One and Lady Bird are just a few of the films which, for me, rank amongst the best of the year so far. In fact, Lady Bird is one of the best coming-of-age films I have seen in recent years and Love, Simon looked like it could be on the same level of quality as Lady Bird. While Love, Simon is labelled as a rom-com, it had a lot of coming-of-age vibes from the trailers.

Nick Robinson as Simon in Love Simon

Indeed, a lot of comparisons have been made to John Hughes with this film which is a huge complement when you consider that John Hughes directed Planes, Trains and Automobiles, The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off which are all classics. I had high hopes for Love, Simon and I was expecting, at the very least, a heart-warming story that would entertain me from start to finish.

My Thoughts On Love, Simon

Love, Simon is really good. It is the most heartfelt film I have seen this year and a big reason why this was the case was because of the cast. The performances given by everyone in this film were great, especially from the young cast members whose chemistry was so natural that it felt like they had known each other forever.

Katherine Langford as Leah and Nick Robinson as Simon in Love Simon

The only thing I have seen in recent years that made me feel the exact same way when it came to young cast chemistry was the first season of 13 Reasons Why. It is therefore apt to see that stars of 13 Reasons Why such as Katherine Langford and Miles Heizer are also in Love, Simon. Additionally, this is the best thing I have ever seen Josh Duhamel in. He was fantastic in every scene he was in and he did a wonderful job playing Simon’s father, especially in the more serious, dramatic moments of the film.

Serious Subject Matter

Indeed, while Love, Simon has a lot of heart thanks to its young cast and humorous moments are aplenty, it is also a film that showcases some extremely important issues and themes and it does this with tenderness and care. This meant that the dramatic elements of the story were incredibly effective when they needed to be. All of the best coming-of-age films have a good balance of comedic and dramatic moments and Love, Simon is no exception.

Simon's Family in Love Simon

Still, another thing which can also be expected to be found in any coming-of-age film is a couple of annoying characters who make for some cringe-worthy moments. The majority of these moments in Love, Simon happen in the first half of its running time and they did not bother me to a huge extent, especially as the humour in this film outweighed any scenes which were excruciating to get through.

Overall, Love, Simon is a film with a huge heart that will lift your spirits if you are feeling down and provide you with a great blend of comedic and dramatic beats. Moreover, the film uses the right type of music (I mean, you cannot go wrong with Bleachers) and I could absolutely see why so many had made comparisons to John Hughes with Love, Simon. It truly is a John Hughes type of film for a modern generation which is a wonderful thing.

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Avengers: Infinity War (Film Review) – A Phenomenal Cinematic Achievement

Avengers: Infinity War is a superhero film directed by Joe and Anthony Russo and it is the nineteenth instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The film boasts a huge ensemble cast which includes Dave Bautista, Zoe Saldana, Chris Pratt, Danai Gurira, Letitia Wright, Anthony Mackie, Sebastian Stan, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Chadwick Boseman, Don Cheadle, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Holland, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans and Josh Brolin.

The story of Avengers: Infinity War takes place two years after the events of Captain America: Civil War which tore the Avengers apart. Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) has given up the mantle of being Captain America and Thanos (Josh Brolin) has come to Earth to acquire the remaining Infinity Stones and attain access to the full power of the Infinity Gauntlet. This will give Thanos the ability to bend reality to his will and he can accomplish his goal of destroying half of the universe’s population to, in his view, achieve balance. The Avengers must unite once again and join forces with the Guardians of the Galaxy to stop Thanos.

My Expectations For Avengers: Infinity War

When the MCU began with Iron Man in 2008, no one could conceivably imagine what was to follow over the next ten years. Comic book fans marvelled (hehe) at how the MCU progressed to a stage where the possibility of seeing films such as The Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: Civil War actually became a reality. With the benefit of hindsight, it is clear to see that the MCU has been laying the groundwork for a culmination of the franchise as we currently know it.

Benedict Cumberbatch as Doctor Strange, Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark, Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner and and Benedict Wong as Wong in Avengers Infinity War

I contest that the untitled Avengers 4 will be that culmination seeing as this will end Phase 3 of the MCU and usher in Phase 4 which, from all accounts, is going to be radically different than anything we have seen so far in this franchise. Still, I can see why Avengers: Infinity War is being classed as this type of film. Never in the history of the MCU have we seen all of our heroes unite in one film to face a common enemy that has been teased since The Avengers.

Thanos Needed To Deliver For Avengers: Infinity War To Succeed

I am, of course, talking about Thanos. Until the most recent MCU instalments, this franchise has, for me, been incapable of producing amazing villains on a consistent basis. Thankfully, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Black Panther provided fantastic antagonists in the form of Vulture and Killmonger respectively. Because of the build-up Thanos has had since The Avengers, a lot of pressure was on Avengers: Infinity War to deliver on his villainous potential.

Indeed, he has been marketed as the main character of Avengers: Infinity War. Hence, if he succeeded as a compelling character, then the film would succeed too. I was going into this film pretty confident that it would be both good and, at the same time, subvert expectations when it comes to events. I would have no problem with this because I go into every film with an open mind about how the events on-screen will transpire.

Josh Brolin as Thanos in Avengers Infinity War

Moreover, it seemed like we, the audience, would not be prepared for what was to unfold in Avengers: Infinity War. Nothing was off the table when it came to this film. I could not wait to experience what I hoped would be an amazing, unique theatrical event as well as an MCU film that had the potential to rank amongst the best in this remarkable accomplishment of a franchise.

My Thoughts On Avengers: Infinity War

Avengers: Infinity War has supplanted Guardians of the Galaxy as my favourite MCU film. It is a phenomenal cinematic achievement that works on every major level. It succeeded beyond my wildest dreams when it came to its story, humour, themes and its villain. Certainly, Thanos is one of the best villains I have had the pleasure to watch in the MCU. While his aims are abhorrent, I completely understood his motivations. I related to him in the film when it came to his belief that what he was doing was right based on his past experiences.

Thanos had a lot of depth and, to be honest, Avengers: Infinity War was his film. He was well fleshed out as a character and I also thought that his relationship with Gamora (Zoe Saldana), his adopted daughter, was really enhanced with this film. Their relationship has been referenced in previous MCU films but not explored and developed in the way it was in Avengers: Infinity War.

The Guardians of the Galaxy in Avengers Infinity War

The scenes between these two characters were amongst the best in this film, particularly when it came to an incredible sacrifice Thanos had to make in order for his mission to succeed. It was a heart-breaking thing to witness and it weighs heavily on Thanos which helped to increase my sympathy towards him in the process.

For a film to make me care and relate to the struggles of a vllain in the way Avengers: Infinity War did with Thanos is an incredible feat. He is absolutely alongside the Vulture, Ultron and Killmonger as being one of the best MCU villains. For the most part, I have been really impressed with the most recent villains the MCU has given us and I hope this streak continues for as long as possible.

A Compelling Story With A Great Blend Of Comedy, Action + Drama

As I previously stated, Thanos would be key to the success of Avengers: Infinity War as a film and he absolutely worked as a villain. It was then fantastic to see that everything else in the film worked just as well as Thanos did. Indeed, from the very beginning, the story in this film is compelling and leaves you reeling at just how ruthless Thanos is. Because of this, I had no idea what was going to happen as Avengers: Infinity War progressed from its gut-punch of a beginning and the film never lets up from that point.

Josh Brolin as Thanos using the Infinity Gauntlet in Avengers Infinity War

For one, the stunning cinematography kept me engaged from a visual perspective and the story had a superb mix of comedy, drama and action which kept me invested throughout. A big part of the success in this blend was down to the ensemble cast. The interactions between our heroes were the best I have ever seen in an MCU film. Whether it was comedy, action or drama, all of them shone in at least one of those aspects and, in some cases, all three.

For me, the MVP’s of Avengers: Infinity War were, besides Thanos, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch). I loved the arcs that Thor and Doctor Strange went through in this film and they were well developed as characters to a much larger extent than they already had been. While I would have loved for Captain America to have had a larger role than he did because he is my favourite character in the whole franchise, I can accept him not being the focus in Avengers: Infinity War.

A “Part 1” Film With A Definitive, Crushing End

This is because he, as well as Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), will have a larger role to play in Avengers 4 given what we saw at the end of this film. Indeed, Avengers: Infinity War is, in my opinion, a “Part 1” film that, remarkably, has a devastating, definitive ending. So, without further ado, let us get into some major spoiler territory. Both Iron Man and Captain America survive the events of Avengers: Infinity War. While this was a relief given how much I like them as characters, it also signifies that their roles in this story are not finished just yet.

Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther, Chris Evans as Captain America, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow and Sebastian Stan as the Winter Soldier in Avengers Infinity War

However, that is about the only positive outcome that came out of an absolutely crushing ending to Avengers: Infinity War. Indeed, in this film, Thanos went on a journey to complete his mission of obtaining the Infinity Stones and wipe out half of all life in the universe and he succeeds. Despite the best efforts of our heroes, Thanos wins and it gives us an ending which, in isolation, was incredibly ballsy. I was speechless during the credits as a result of what happened in the final moments of this film.

Because Thanos succeeded, a lot of our heroes perished. They literally turned to ash and I was shocked to see that characters such as T’Challa/Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Peter Quill/Star-Lord (Chris Pratt), Drax (Dave Bautista) and Peter Parker/Spider-Man (Tom Holland) among many others all perished. Important characters in the MCU such as Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and Gamora had also died well before the ending of Avengers: Infinity War which was also shocking to see.

A Great Ending Undermined

As I said, this film is quite ballsy in the way it killed a lot of important characters and its ending left me speechless but this was only the case in isolation. Sadly, the announcement of future MCU films in Phase 4 such as the sequel to Spider-Man: Homecoming, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and Black Panther 2 undermines the impact of a lot of the deaths in Avengers: Infinity War. This is because some, if not all, of those who turned to ash in the final moments of this film are very likely to be resurrected in Avengers 4. Certainly, I would be amazed if Black Panther or Spider-Man stay dead.

Tom Holland as Spider-Man in Avengers Infinity War

It is not the fault of the film that the impact of the ending is undermined. Instead, it is the known slate of Phase 4 that unfortunately does this. Still, this only dawned on me some time after I saw Avengers: Infinity War. It does not take away from what was an incredible cinematic experience in addition to a film which, like Star Wars: The Last Jedi, I have no huge issues with. It succeeded on every major level it needed to succeed in and it became my No. 1 MCU film in the process. I cannot wait to see what will happen next in the MCU and to see Thanos and our remaining heroes return in Avengers 4.

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Westworld: Season 2 Episode 1 (Television Review) – A Superb Start

The first season of Westworld was superb television to watch. The technical quality of it was undeniable and the themes that were explored in the mysterious narrative really made the entire season an enjoyable watch, even in its more slower moments. As you can imagine, the hype for Season 2 of Westworld was quite high and I was excited to come back to this show, especially as we have had to wait some time for it to return.

However, the wait is now over and ‘Journey Into Night’ was the episode which kicked off this second season of a television series that HBO is really pushing to become one of its leading lights. This is particularly the case when you consider that Game of Thrones is coming to the end and the void left by its end needs to be filled by one or more shows on the scale of Westworld.

My Thoughts On ‘Journey Into Night’

Sometimes, the first episode in a new season of television can be the weakest episode of that season. If this is the case with ‘Journey Into Night’, then we are in store for a phenomenal season of Westworld. I loved this episode. From its very first scene, it was compelling. Certainly, an episode of Westworld which begins with a past conversation between Bernard/Arnold and Dolores is a fantastic way to start this second season.

Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores in Westworld Season 2 Episode 1 Journey Into Night

I say Bernard/Arnold because I am not sure whether that conversation took place in the distant past when Arnold was still alive or, more likely, with Bernard in the more recent past. Either way, it was a fascinating scene which showcased how Westworld is a cut above the overwhelming majority of TV shows currently airing. The acting and dialogue between Jeffrey Wright and Evan Rachel Wood in this scene alone was mesmerising and, for me, it foreshadowed what is to come in Season 2.

Indeed, Bernard/Arnold stated that he was frightened about what Dolores might become and what path she will take. Obviously, we have seen already what Dolores is capable of and this scene may have indicated that much worse is in store. Another subtle element of this scene that I appreciated was how the framing was different compared to the rest of ‘Journey Into Night’.

Two Timelines

After this scene, we saw flash scenes of both Bernard and Dolores. Now, I did not have the opportunity to watch the first season of Westworld again before Season 2 began. I was able to recognise that some of these flash scenes were from Season 1 but others were not as recognisable which make me believe that we got glimpses of the future. However, I understand that I may be completely wrong about this.

Jeffrey Wright as Bernard in Westworld Season 2 Episode 1 Journey Into Night

Still, what was completely apparent about ‘Journey Into Night’ is that, at least for now, we are following two timelines in Season 2 of Westworld. One of them takes place in the immediate aftermath of the death of Robert Ford at the end of Season 1 and the other is set around two weeks later where the humans are trying to regain control of the park. What we saw in the latter timeline was at the beginning and the end of ‘Journey Into Night’ so the real meat of this episode took place right after Ford’s death.

The Hosts Take Control After Ford’s Death

In this time period, the Hosts are in total control of the park and they have wiped out almost all the Delos board members with only a few surviving the massacre that began with Robert Ford’s death. As expected, the Man in Black/William is having a great time with this new reality. It was what he wanted all along as we saw in Season 1 of Westworld and, in ‘Journey Into Night’, he had a great discussion with the young Robert Ford Host where he learns that an entirely new game solely for him has just begun.

Bernard and Charlotte are together and they try to deal with the repercussions of Ford’s death. They eventually find safety and learn that they have to find Peter Abernathy, the Host who played Dolores’ father in Season 1, and give him to Delos to secure help and extraction from the park. Maeve has to go on a journey of her own to find her daughter and Dolores, with the bemused help of Teddy, is charting her own course and wishes to go beyond the park and take control of the human world.

Young Robert Ford Host and Ed Harris as the Man in Black/William in Westworld Season 2 Episode 1 Journey Into Night

Clearly, a lot of things are about to go down in Season 2 of Westworld given what has been set up in ‘Journey Into Night’ and I loved where our characters are at in this timeline. It has established some exciting narratives and I am fascinated to see what unravels in this timeline going forward.

Bernard + The Military Team

In the time period that takes place two weeks after Ford’s death, Bernard wakes up on a beach with water rising around him which establishes a good amount of mystery about how and why this happened, especially when one thinks about where he was in the other timeline with Charlotte. Additionally, it was a visual which linked back to the very first scene of the episode where he described a dream he had to Dolores that was exactly like the situation he found himself in at that moment.

He encounters a human military team from Delos who, as I said earlier, are attempting to take back control of the park from the Hosts. Bernard eventually leads them to a lake of dead Hosts who he claims to have killed. To see where Bernard starts in one timeline and then get to the place where he was in the other is going to be fascinating to experience.

Dead Hosts in Westworld Season 2 Episode 1 Journey Into Night

My Final Thoughts On ‘Journey Into Night’

In both timelines, the outstanding quality of this show is still clear to see from a technical perspective. From a storytelling viewpoint, Westworld continues to explore themes such as existence, consciousness and meaning in a deep and layered way. ‘Journey Into Night’ did a tremendous job at reintroducing us to these themes as well as providing a great platform for the characters, and the story they are in, to flourish as Season 2 progresses from episode to episode.

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