Ralph Potts reviews Westworld: Season 2 , the HBO sci-fi drama about a world without limits where every human appetite can be indulged. Starring Evan Rachel Wood, Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Wright, James Marsden, Thandie Newton, and Ed Harris, this dark odyssey follows the dawn of artificial consciousness and the evolution of sin.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:
Extras:
Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

90
Details:

Studio and Year: Warner - 2018
MPAA Rating: NR
Feature running time: 636 minutes
Genre: TV Drama

Disc Format: BD-100
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 1.78:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): ] English Dolby Atmos, Dolby TrueHD 7.1, English, French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Czech Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:English SDH, , French, Dutch, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, Czech
Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Ed Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Ben Barnes, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Luke Hemsworth, Clifton Collins Jr.,Tessa Thompson, Katja Herbers, Shannon Woodward,James Marsden, Rodrigo Santoro, Simon Quarterman
Directed by: Various
Music by: Ramin Djawadi
Written by: Various
Region Code: A

Release Date: December 4, 2018
"Chaos Takes Control"
My Take:

Based on the 1973 film written/directed by Michael Crichton, Westworld is set at the intersection of the near future and a reimagined past, the series explores a world in which every human appetite, no matter how noble or depraved, can be experienced.

In Season Two, viewers are welcomed back to Westworld, where the puppet show is over and the newly liberated “hosts” are coming for humankind. Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) takes charge, Maeve (Thandie Newton) is on a mission and the Man in Black (Ed Harris) is back. Chaos takes control in this season’s dark odyssey that asks, what becomes of humanity when people are put in a theme park with virtually no rules or consequences? What becomes of the android “hosts” when they begin to realize, though programming and/or experience, what’s being done to them?

With the hosts now free of the systemic control of the park’s administration they are now free to take matters into their own hands. Whereas season one focused on the innerworkings of Westworld, it’s behind the curtain peek at those behind it and the beginnings of the ramifications of creating such a place, this season contains a plethora of subplots, featuring key narrative threads, some of which began in season one.

This season’s 10 episodes follows Dolores, Maeve, Bernard, and William (The Man in Black) as they continue their quests to unravel, playout, or seek redemption based upon the paths they have been set upon. We learn a great deal about the beginnings that set everything in motion as well as who, what, where, and finally, why, things have evolved into utter chaos. Filled with inner monologues, shaped by the roles that memories play, offset by subtext surrounding the hosts, as the past present and future collide, the season plays out in layer peeling fashion.

As with the first season, I found this season of Westworld to be conceptually interesting, as it delves deeper into the backstory of key characters while unfolding the ramifications of playing God, juxtaposed to the ensuing violence, drama, subtext and narrative strings that continue to playout. There are complimentary elements of mystery that play out over the course of the season that add a necessary and tangible element that conjoins events throughout, as they build toward the finale.

The casts mainstays return, while several guest stars add an enriching element that underscores the shows thematic impact.

The second season of Westworld has earned 21 Emmy® Nominations* including: Outstanding Drama Series, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series (Ed Harris and Jeffrey Wright), Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series (Evan Rachel Wood), Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series (Thandie Newton) and Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series (Jimmi Simpson).

Westworld Season Two: The Door as reviewed here is available in a Limited-Edition release, that includes 2 all-new Exclusive Special Features and comes housed in an attractive book style keep case with a sturdy slipcover.

10 ONE-HOUR EPISODES
1. Journey Into Night
2. Reunion
3. Virtu e Fortuna
4. The Riddle of the Sphinx
5. Akane No Mai
6. Phase Space
7. Les Écorchés
8. Kiksuya
9. Vanishing Point
10. The Passenger

Replay Value:

Parental Guide:

AUDIO/VIDEO - By The Numbers:REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

UHD Presentation(HDR-10): 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
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UHD Presentation (Dolby Vision): 90
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

    • HDR: Dark Highlights: 
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    Dolby Atmos Rating: 90
    (Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
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    Westworld Season Two comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound.

    For its presentation in Ultra HD Westworld Season Two was rendered from a 2K DI and up-converted to 4K.

    Westworld is a sci-fi drama that adheres to relatively cooler chromatic schemes, with the exception of sequences that call for richer color to provide thematic emphasis, which doesn't make for especially eye- catching levels of color, but this Ultra HD rendering makes the most of its elements. With a noticeable increase in detail the image appears sharper when compared to the 1080p version. The plethora of close up camera shots reveal plenty of subtle refinement and textures within the image. Primary colors like blue and red are pleasingly rich while whites appear bright and punchy.

    The added dimension in the grays, blacks, and shadows gives the image excellent depth. The exterior sequences with their sun splashed, sepia aesthetic and razor sharpness looked terrific. The film has a variety of sequences that take advantage of high dynamic range. The contrast between the shadow details, bright lights and glistening metal objects gives the image lots of visual pop.

    The 1080p rendering of Westworld Season Two is excellent so the difference between the two isn't night and day, but overall, I was very pleased with this presentation.

    Dolby Vision vs HDR-10:

    I utilize the TCL 55P607 UHD Dolby Vision HDR flat panel in my review system to enable me to compare the visual quality of titles that contained the Dolby Vision metadata versus its HDR-10 counterpart on the same disc. All titles are first watched via my JVC front projector. I then select specific scenes which are watched on the TCL, first via HDR-10 then via Dolby Vision. The TCL isn’t among the top tier flat panels with DV, however it came recommended by AVS Senior Editor Mark Henninger, and calibrates/performs extremely well for a set at its price point.

    * The cumulative A/V score will still be based upon the HDR-10 rating, with the DV rating serving as informational only for now.*

    Comparing the DV and HDR-10 presentations for Westworld Season Two, I found the HDR rendering to essentially be the same. As I alluded to earlier, this show’s elements aren’t lent to overt levels of vivid color or vibrant highlights, however the subtleties that are present lie in the warm accents and reproduction of earth tones. Switching back and forth between the DV and HDR-10 renderings yielded minute differences that are probably more subjective and not enough to warrant a rating difference. If pushed to make a decision on which presentation I preferred I would give the nod to DV.

    Dolby Atmos:

    In listening to the Dolby Atmos surround mix I found it to be of the moderately active variety, which was a pleasant surprise. Its use of audio objects placed above is comprised of a mix of atmospherics, panning fills and discrete sounds. This is done to good effect when implemented and creates an enriching level of immersion that coincides with the onscreen events nicely. Nearfield sound placement is noteworthy, providing an involving listening experience that emboldens the "being there" effect when applied.

    During the various sequences that take place in the large venues, the track brims with environmental cues and discrete sound effects. The music is mixed over the platform so as to add natural depth to its orchestrated elements without drawing attention away from the thematic details of what is transpiring onscreen. While this mix doesn’t make constant use of attention-grabbing audio object placement, I found myself completely involved when it mattered and found this to be an enjoyable audio presentation that absolutely complimented the source material.

    For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

    Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

    Blu-ray Video:

    Video: 92
    (Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
    • Resolution/Clarity: 
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    Audio: 90
    (Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)
    • Dynamics: 
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    • DSU/DTS Neural:X Rating * (non-rated element): NA
    Westworld Season Two comes to Blu-ray Disc from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video and lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio sound.

    This is an excellent high definition rendering that sports plenty of fine detail and crisp definition that provides discerning dimensional perspective. Colors range from warm and vivid to cool, reserved and almost tonally neutral. This is obviously a creative decision that draws definitive visual boundaries and works quite well. Contrast is strong and blacks are deep without compromise to delineation. Shadowy areas exhibit excellent depth of field and visible gradational stages. The various wide-angle shots of the shooting locations look terrific. Other than some innate softening, I didn’t see any signs of video degrading artifacts or extraneous compression related noise. Westworld Season Two looks great on Blu-ray.

    The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio sound keeps pace with the video and is quite good. Dynamics are robust and highs are crisp without being strident or edgy. Dialogue is rendered with defining tonal expression and room penetrating depth through the center channel. The front soundstage is diffused with excellent separation and clearly articulated detail. The presentation makes ample use of the entire surround platform. At times it opens up quite nicely to create an involving surround mix containing a mix of directional and ambient sounds. Bass response doesn’t reach subterranean levels however it appropriately supports the source elements and provides an appreciably tight, and punchy low end.

    Bonus Features:
    • Discs 1-3: Westworld Season Two – “The Door” Ultra HD Blu-ray
    • Discs 1-3: Westworld Season Two – “The Door” Blu-ray
      DIGITAL SPECIAL FEATURES**
      • Bring Yourself Back Online (New)
       Reflections on Season Two – Dolores, Teddy and Bernard
       Of Love and Shogun – Maeve, Hector and Lee
       Journeys and Technology – Stubbs, Logan and Clementine
      • The Buzz: On the Red Carpet
      • Return To Westworld
      • Creating Westworld’s Reality
       Creating Westworld's Reality: An Evocative Location
       Creating Westworld's Reality: Fort Forlorn Hope
       Creating Westworld's Reality: The Delos Experiment
       Creating Westworld's Reality: Shogun World
       Creating Westworld’s Reality: Inside the Cradle
       Creating Westworld’s Reality: Chaos In The Mesa
       Creating Westworld’s Reality: Ghost Nation
       Creating Westworld’s Reality: Deconstructing Maeve
       Creating Westworld's Reality: The Valley Beyond
       Creating Westworld's Reality: The Drone Hosts4K ULTRA HD, BLU-RAY AND DVD SPECIAL FEATURES**
      Includes all digital special features plus:
      • The Truth Behind Delos (New)
      • These Violent Delights Have Violent Ends (New)
    • Digital Copy
    Final Thoughts:

    Based on the 1973 film written/directed by Michael Crichton, Westworld Season Two is an engaging TV drama that features well shaped characters, compelling drama, and a thought-provoking spin. It comes to Blu-ray from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment in this Limited-Edition Ultra HD Combo Pack that features excellent overall video quality, involving lossless sound, including a complimentary Dolby Atmos immersive mix (Ultra HD version only), and a fan friendly assortment of extras that a worth exploring. Westworld Season Two proved to be every bit as good as its inaugural season. I look forward to seeing what lies ahead.
    Ralph Potts
    AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews


    Reference Review System:
    JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
    (Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from  Spectracal )
    Stewart Filmscreen - Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16x9 Screen
    Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
    Marantz AV7704 Audio/Video Processor
    Emotiva XPA-7 Gen 3 Seven Channel Amplifier
    Emotiva XPA-11 Gen 3 Amplifier
    Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
    System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
    Canton "Ergo" and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
    SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
    Dual SVS PC4000 Cylinder Subwoofers
    Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
    Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) - Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
    AC Infinity Aircom T8 Component Cooling Systems