Spoilers for the April 29 episode of Westworld. HBO's sci-fi/Western series can often function as a meta commentary on the nature of television itself, with showrunners and writers and designers behind-the-scenes crafting narratives for "actors" to play out to satiate their "audience's" desires. Occasionally, those "actors" are recast — as is the case with the new El Lazo in Westworld Season 2. Sometimes shows have to replace their stars for a variety of reasons (like when Game Of Thrones had Michiel Huisman fill in for the departing Ed Skrein as Daario Naharis), and viewers have seen that play out on Westworld several times: Dolores' father was replaced after the original model starting glitching, and Maeve was joined by a new Clementine after the original was decommissioned. But this newest change in casting is likely to rile up many TV fans, as El Lazo is now played by a familiar face from a recent acclaimed series; Breaking Bad's Giancarlo Esposito joined Westworld in "Reunion."
The reveal comes as quite a shock, as the Man In Black (who I suppose we should now refer to by his actual name, William) traveled through the town of Pariah in his newfound quest to locate "the Door." But given that Lawrence, who you may remember as Season 1's El Lazo, was with William at the time, viewers probably didn't expect them to run into the town's infamous outlaw leader. But there he was, sitting at his table just like the first viewers met him, only this time with the distinctive vocal patterns and recognizable face of The Chicken Man himself, Breaking Bad's Gus Fring.
So what gives? Did Ford's improvisational algorithm adjust to insert a new El Lazo into the narrative in time for William to pass through Pariah, given that Lawrence as so far off his loop? Or is there something else going on here? It can be hard to keep all the storylines straight, given the multiple time periods that were woven together seamlessly throughout Season 1 — but, even though viewers have never seen Esposito in the role before, El Lazo's recasting probably isn't a recent development in the world of Westworld itself.
When fans first met Lawrence, he was saved from execution by the Man In Black, who thought the outlaw would be useful in his pursuit of "the Maze." Eventually, the pair came upon a severely wounded Teddy, and the Man In Black decided Lawrence's ultimate purpose was to save the cowboy… so he drained him of blood and used them to revive Dolores' sweetheart. Immediately after, Lawrence popped up in Pariah, introduced to Dolores, young William, and Logan as El Lazo.
At the time, viewers likely assumed that, after his death at the hands of the Man In Black, Lawrence was simply cleaned up and reset at the beginning of his loop — a loop that would eventually lead to his capture and end in his execution, like the one the Man In Black interrupted. But, as fans learned in the Season 1 finale, the stories of young William and the Man In Black (aka old William) were actually happening 30 years apart. While Lawrence used to play the role of El Lazo, he was apparently replaced sometime during the intervening decades by the host who currently plays El Lazo, who had never been seen during the present-day timeline… until now.
Unfortunately for those fans excited to see Esposito on Westworld, it seems like his role may have been more of a stunt cameo than a new major player. At the end of his one scene, the new El Lazo put a bullet through his brain rather than help William find "the Door" — and with chaos reigning behind-the-scenes and most of the techs murdered at the hands of rebelling robots, it seems unlikely anyone will be coming along to repair and revive El Lazo anytime soon.
Still, Esposito's presence raises the tantalizing possibility of more fun Easter egg cameos to come. What other familiar faces might our heroes encounter as they journey through the perilous park? Viewers will have to stay tuned to find out what other surprises the show might have in store for Season 2.