Westworld: a place where science fiction meets western thriller, where cowboys meet robots, and nothing (and for that matter, no one) is what it seems.
This week, the premiere season of Westworld came to a close with its season finale, “The Bicameral Mind”, and we saw some of the season’s storylines come to a climax. Here are my thoughts on where we stand, as we begin the long wait for season 2.
The Man in Black/William
Us internet-users love our theories. This meant that a lot of us had already latched onto the idea that William and the Man in Black might be one and the same. Even though I was almost certain of this fact by the final episode, I still felt the emotional impact when I heard the Man in Black tell his story out loud. It was at once sad and horrifying learning of how the romantic outsider, William, had found a taste for killing whilst searching for Dolores, and that now he was just as bad as (if not worse than) any one of the park’s thrill-seeking guests.
It was also heartbreaking to see Dolores realise that the man she thought was going to save her was actually the one she was scared of. This actually made it surprisingly touching when Teddy came to save Dolores – although less so when we remembered that Teddy’s speech was scripted, all part of Ford’s “new narrative”, and that an audience was watching. This in itself raises a pretty big question: how did Ford know that William was going to stab Dolores, and that she would ask Teddy to take her to the beach? Was this all part of his script, too? Exactly which of Dolores’ actions are her own?
Dolores and The Maze
“The maze wasn’t meant for you”
Throughout the season, the Man in Black has searched for the elusive centre of the maze, unswayed by the comments from various hosts and Ford, that the maze wasn’t meant for him. Not being one to back down, William sped on towards this prize at the centre of the maze that he was never supposed to have. This episode, he learnt that Ford was right: the maze really wasn’t for him. Instead, the maze is a metaphor for the steps a host must take to gain consciousness, revealing a prize that the Man in Black already possesses. This doesn’t stop his fascination however, as William admits that what he really wants is for the hosts to “fight back”, to change the stakes of the game, so that it is no longer rigged in favour of the humans. (Be careful what you wish for…)
At the end of the episode, the centre of the maze finally revealed itself to Dolores, as she learns that the guiding voice she has been hearing in her head was her own. She was unable to reach the centre of the maze before, including when she had travelled with William, always falling just short, and being “rolled back” to forget her quest. Now, she seems to have made it, and it’s all because of Arnold and Ford…
Dolores Has Now Killed Arnold and Ford
“It begins in a time of war, with a villain named Wyatt and a killing. This time by choice.”
After her awakening, Dolores’ first move was to use the gun that he had left her to shoot Ford as he gave his retirement speech. My theory is that Ford knew this was coming, as he suggests with the above line.
It seems that Ford might not have been working against Arnold after all – at least not anymore, 35 years after the park’s opening. His own death, the hosts’ rebellion, Dolores’ awakening, it all seems to be part of a plan Ford has set into motion. Perhaps this is why he has been so unconcerned by the “errors” in the hosts throughout the series: he wanted their evolution to continue, to continue Arnold’s work, and lead them to the centre of the maze.
But still, there’s an ambiguity about the scene. Is the killing really by choice? How did Dolores know to do it? And how did Ford know that she would? Was Ford’s death really Dolores’ choice, or was it of Ford’s own design? More importantly, why did he need to be killed?
Another host who has unkowingly been searching for the centre of the maze is Maeve. Earlier in the series, we have seen how troubled Maeve is by the idea that all her actions are pre-determined, and programmed into her. Now, in the finale, after reviving the host Bernard, Maeve learnt that even the actions she was taking to escape seemed to be part of her programming. We saw her plan to gather allies, to escape the park, and to “infiltrate” the mainland all embedded into her code. But by who? Who planned Maeve’s escape? Arnold? Ford? And why? Was she another subject of the maze’s testing? Destined to attempt to escape the park, failing each time, until she finally found consciousness?
Maeve refused to accept the evidence, pushing on with her allies to escape the facility, until the very end, when she realised there was one thing she couldn’t leave without, and returned to find her “daughter”. Was this pre-programmed too? Or was this Maeve finally breaking her loop? If this is Maeve breaking her loop, then this suggests that she might have finally found her way to the centre of the maze, and that her love for her daughter is “real”, rather than programmed. As Ford told Bernard this episode, the key to the maze is through suffering, something Maeve has definitely experienced.
And finally, what can we expect from next season?
We know that season two will be defined by “chaos”, whereas this season has been all about “control”. This could mean we see what happens when the park falls apart, when the hosts are free to take revenge on their guests, subjecting them to the same horrors they have suffered through for the past 35 years. It could also mean that we see the park’s descent into chaos with no-one in control of the hosts, or for that matter, the humans.
Eagle-eyed viewers might have noticed that the location Maeve was given for her daughter specified a park number. This, coupled with the samurai warriors we glimpsed as she escaped the facility, indicates that Westworld isn’t the only park owned by Delos. There could be multiple parks, each with different themes, different stories. If this is the case, there’s a good chance we’ll be seeing at least one of these other parks in the next season.
We can also hope that we will be introduced to more hosts, and that more might find their way to consciousness. We can also expect to see more of the characters we’ve started to get to know this season, including William, Armistice, and Hector, all three of whom may not be dead yet. And maybe even Elsie, I might dare to hope.
It would be interesting to see how other hosts react to the way they have been treated in the park. So far, the “aware” (but not necessarily fully autonomous) hosts we have seen have reacted violently to their surroundings. Armistice bit off a man’s finger when she awoke, and Hector and Maeve were immediately slitting throats as soon as they were able to. Maybe sometime soon, we’ll be introduced to a host who sees a different way to “repay” the humans for what they’ve done.
I guess we’ll have to wait until 2018 to find out.