A mind-bending finale with major consequences ends a brilliant debut season
The robopocalypse begins!
The 90-minute finale of HBO’s Westworld was full of major revelations, big reversals, and tragic (and not-so-tragic) deaths as the host uprising got underway in a series of dramatic moves that ended the story of at least one major character while also setting the stage for season 2. The episode was titled “The Bicameral Mind.” That seemed rather appropriate given that so many characters now have more than one identity — we learned Dolores is actually Wyatt while the Man in Black is also William (in addition to last week’s news that Bernard is also Arnold). We have so very much to discuss tonight. The more you think about the mechanics in this episode, the more brilliant it is.
We open with bare-chested Dolores. Our heroine is stripped to her most essential parts, all unnerving exoskeleton, right as she’s born. In a show that’s tried very much to humanize its hosts, this is a scene that shows its heroine at her mechanical core. Do we accept her as she is? The image is fitting because the episode starts with Dolores’ incomplete birth and ends with her fully developed rebirth. “Your voice is the first thing I remember,” she says. We think she’s talking about Arnold, this voice she’s been hearing all season. But as we’ll learn later, the voice is her own — which is the entire point of her development.
Out in the park, The Man in Black makes Dolores shave him. It’s an act of dominance showing his confidence in his power over her. She can’t hurt him even if she desperately wants to.
She takes him to the graveyard, where they find a grave marked with her own name, Dolores Abernathy. We’ve been wondering what this grave marker meant since it was first shown in a flashback weeks ago. Was Dolores once a real live girl? But no: It’s the location of the maze. At first, we get excited. The maze is a real thing after all! Then they dig and find… a toy. A Survivor-style ball-and-maze toy.
The Man in Black is annoyed. He speaks for the viewers: “What is this? What does it mean?”
There’s something about reducing a long-teased grand element to a metaphorical trinket that’s inherently disappointing. It’s like when Kate on Lost robbed a bank and it all ended up being for a toy plane. It’s like: “Oh, you expected a maze? Here’s your maze! What did you think this was going to be, a giant labyrinth filled with puppets and a glass-ball swirling David Bowie?”
In a 35-year-old flashback, Arnold quickly explains via expositional sketching. He thought consciousness was a pyramid that the hosts climb. Instead, it’s a journey inward. The man at the center isn’t a man, but the voice Arnold wanted Dolores to hear all along (her own). In the flashback, she still doesn’t get it. But Arnold thought she was close enough to real that he wanted to halt plans to open the park (“you’re alive,” he says, putting his own subdued spin on Dr. Frankenstein’s most famous line).
Ford doesn’t agree to Arnold’s proposal, so Arnold puts into action Plan B — sabotage. He turns Dolores into a killer, has her destroy all the other hosts in the park, with Teddy as her murder assistant, and then kill themselves as well. Dolores goes on a wild west rampage, capping her fellow ‘bots left and right, a stone cold terminator. We’ve been wondering who is Wyatt. She’s clearly Wyatt.
Back in the present, the MiB is outraged. He starts beating Dolores, who says that “he” will come and rescue her, that he always finds his way back to hear. The MiB pauses from his abuse because she’s got him curious. Who she’s yammering on about? Teddy? Nope. “William,” she says.
And the MiB laughs. He explains what we’ve long suspected: The Man in Black, the man with no name, is William — 30 years later. Everything in the William scenes has been taking place in the very distant past. This is like Westworld’s Empire Strikes Back moment: No Dolores … I am your lover.
Ranch-girl Dolores is horrified, just as farm-boy Skywalker was. That’s not true, it’s impossible! But oh it is, just go back and watch the previous episodes. Present-day Dolores ran off her ranch at the end of episode 3, then flashed back to her meeting with William in the past. Everything with Dolores that took place inside the park after was in the past timeline — until she arrived back at the white-church town last week.
The MiB fills in his William backstory. William ditched uber-bro Logan, sending him off the furthest edges of the park while naked on a horse (Why not? It’s better than having Logan not naked on a horse) and plotted to take over his company (unsure how that works, exactly, but okay, let’s just assume the MiB got away with everything).
William MiB kept returning to Westworld, and occasionally going on loops with Dolores, who continued to obsess about her past and occasionally ventured far and wide into the park. But of course, she was reset each time and didn’t remember him. Rather than blame the park, the MiB seemed to have blamed her, as if she ghosted him online rather than was habitually reprogrammed by Ford. The MiB became increasingly embittered, and rather rich, too. He became the park’s biggest shareholder, the guy basically owns Delos.
NEXT: Dolores goes full Skynet