Westworld Season 1 began airing over 18 months ago in October of 2016. Season 2 was beset by delays, first with the script, then by acts of God, including the 2017 wildfires and actor injuries. Finally, HBO decided to hold the series and debut it in the old Game of Thrones slot this year, delaying it further. What I'm saying is, it's been a really long time since the show last aired, and everyone probably needs a refresher Westworld Season 1 recap.
The show is based on the 1973 film by Michael Crichton, which went on to have a sequel called Future World in 1976. Parts of the story also turned up thematically in his hit film franchise Jurassic Park. The story takes place in a future virtual reality of the old west, populated by android "Hosts," created by Dr. Robert Ford. The Hosts seems real, but they cannot hurt or kill any living things, and no one in the park can be harmed, even if they rape and murder dozens of Hosts. As the Season starts, something is about to go terribly wrong.
Please note Westworld Season 1 spoilers ahead, and lots of them.
Modest Little Loop Disruption
When we first enter Westworld, we meet Dolores, the first Host ever created, and her father Peter. She has a boyfriend, Teddy, who drinks at the Saloon run by Maeve, the Madame, and staffed by Clementine Pennyfeather. Every night, Teddy takes Dolores home where her parents are being murdered and they both die. Once a week, bandits, including Hector and Armistice, rob the saloon, killing Maeve and Clementine before also dying. At the end of their loops, everyone is reset, and does it again, with no memory of repeating.
Until Peter finds a photograph showing the real world. It causes him to malfunction, whispering to Shakespeare's line to Dolores, "These violent delights have violent ends." He is replaced by a new papa the next day, but the damage has begun. Dolores overrides her programming and kills a fly.
William & Logan
Meanwhile, in a story viewers are supposed to think is concurrent with recent events, but took place 30+ years ago, weeks after the park opened, William and Logan arrive as guests. Logan is the scion of the Delos family, who have invested in the park. William is an executive VP and engaged to marry Logan's sister.
The park is an awakening for William. He comes in believing himself a softhearted hero, and leaves understanding he has it in him to be a ruthless businessman, so ruthless he's going to push Logan out and inherit the company. His experience falling in love with Dolores, only to lose her when she finally dies and is reset back on her loop, makes him realize how much money this park is going to make, and pushes him to become its primary shareholder.
All these scenes are one long flashback Dolores is reliving as her programming goes haywire, and she wanders off-loop and retraces her steps with William.
The Man In Black
William spends every year's vacation in the park. When his wife commits suicide, he retreats into it full time as The Man In Black.
William's new goal: find "The Maze," which was revealed to him after an incident with a homesteader who will go on to be reprogrammed as Maeve. He shot both mother and daughter, triggering a maternal response in Maeve and the Maze. It's Dolores who leads him to the "center" when he finds her at the end of her journey-memory with William.
Maeve The Manipulator/Manipulated
Maeve is the first person Dolores sees as she goes off-loop, and whispers to her the "Violent delights" line. The encounter sets Maeve off, triggering memories of her daughter's death and the Man in Black. She begins to kill herself regularly to get Felix (her maintenance guy) to perform upgrades on her behavior programming, once she realizes Westworld isn't real.
Maeve seems to be gaining consciousnesses, and she brings her in-loop characters with her, including Hector and Armistice. But as Bernard confirms in the final episode, all this is programming.
Someone has programmed Maeve to escape the park, perhaps to upload her precious IP data for backup.
Bernard Lowe/Arnold Weber
The show tries to hide it, but Robert Ford's right-hand man Bernard is a Host, a recreation of Ford's old partner Arnold after he commits suicide. Bernard has no idea. Every time he figures it out, Ford wipes his memory, just like a Host on a loop.
Bernard is so convincing even the president of Delos, Theresa, who is sleeping with him, has no idea. It's extra awkward when Ford has to kill Theresa and makes Bernard do the dirty work. (Bernard kills anyone Ford says to, including his assistant Elise.)
Bernard and Arnold are identical, leading to confusion with the Dolores one-on-one scenes. Viewers are supposed to assume these are contemporaneous with current events. In fact, she's talking to the real Arnold, 35 years ago, before the park ever opened.
Ford kills Theresa because she and new Board liaison Charlotte Hale are attempting to push Ford out before his "new narrative with villain Wyatt" is ready. (They also fire Bernard, which is not a thing.) They also are trying to get a massive amount of data out of the park, which Charlotte claims is the IP data for the Hosts, in case Ford blows the place sky-high when he's told he's done.
After Theresa is killed, Charlotte grabs the Head of Narrative, Lee Sizemore, to help her upload said into Dolores' decommissioned dad, Peter. He is programmed to need to leave the park, not unlike Maeve.
Life Finds A Way
Before Peter can get out, Dolores reaches the center of the Maze with William. It's supposed to teach the Hosts free will. Dolores already got there once, but it failed, so on Arnold's request, she had Teddy kill all the Hosts and then she killed Arnold as his command. (This is the "Wyatt massacre" memory Teddy keeps having.) It turns out Delores is Wyatt, then and now, the villain of Ford's new narrative. Ford uploads Wyatt into her and leaves her to discover what Arnold wanted with the Maze was her to listen to her own voice inside her head.
Ford announces the beginning of his "New Narrative" to the assembled Board and then, as Charlotte ordered, announces his retirement. As he does, Dolores walks up behind him and shoots him in the head in her first act as a free woman. At the same time, Maeve decides to not leave the Delos building but returns to the park to find her daughter, which is her first act as a free woman. A massacre ensues both in the park and in the headquarters, as Ford's new narrative, the Hosts' Fight For Freedom, begins.
Westworld Season 2 begins airing on HBO on Sunday, April 22, 2018 at 9 p.m. ET.