'Westworld' Has a Lot to Learn from 'American Horror Story'
Making the show an anthology means the second time around fans might actually connect to the characters.
Season 1 of Westworld ended with a bang, and fans are now left to speculate about what could lie ahead in Season 2. Will it be set in Samurai World, as the finale seemed to hint? Will the narrative still jump around in time? Will Logan ride through the background of every frame naked on horseback, or is he gone forever? But all of these musings have yet to take into account what could be the best course of action for Westworld Season 2: the American Horror Story route, as in, the anthology.
American Horror Story is admittedly messy, but its unique anthology formula recycles the same actors in different roles and settings in a fascinating television case study. It enables each season to be standalone; each world ranges from carnival freak shows to haunted hotels, and yet the universe is shared — especially now that the most recent season has definitively established a link.
If any show was tailor-made for this approach, it’s Westworld. Even more so than AHS, it would makes sense for the same actors to return in different roles. Perhaps James Marsden’s stalwart cowboy Teddy is reprogrammed to be a villain in Samurai World, or Armistice returns as demure, as Dolores once was.
Probably not that last one. But by their very nature, the hosts’ stories and personalities are malleable in a way that stands apart from other television characters. It doesn’t always make sense why AHS’s Evan Peters is a cheerful boy with lobster hands one season and is a serial killer the next — but it would be a missed opportunity if Westworld didn’t dive into its cast’s potential for alternate personalities.
Characters aside, by Westworld’s very nature, it has an endless array of settings and time periods at its disposal. Season 2 could be set in Samurai World, and it could dip into the past by following Logan’s sister and William’s wife as she takes her own ill-fated visit to the park. Or it could focus on the Delos board more, and feature a dual narrative of the present-day with Elsie and a past with the board in its early days. It could even introduce a whole new world populated by new faces.
American Horror Story has always had the potential to be an excellent, gloriously pulpy yet thoughtful show, and yet it squanders it on dead-end plotlines and pointlessly lurid scenes like monster-rape. Westworld can now be the show AHS has not managed to be. “The Bicameral Mind” showed a willingness to stray towards over-the-top pulp with Armistice and Hector’s scenes and an inclination towards the theatrical in the form of Ford’s final narrative reveal, and yet, it all cohered in a story filled with meaning.
Westworld has the opportunity to use the American Horror Story model in reverse. AHS told seemingly disparate stories and took several seasons to establish links. Westworld has already laid the groundwork and can now spiral out into disparate stories. The Leftovers did a similar soft-reboot in Season 2, and it worked wonders.
Whatever the creators decide, there is plenty of time, as the show won’t resume until 2018. Until then, only one thing is certain: Logan is still out there riding naked on a horse. May he find the lady with the white shoes.