A mind-bending finale with major consequences ends a brilliant debut season

By James Hibberd
December 06, 2016 at 12:08 AM EST
HBO
S1 E10
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  • TV Show
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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 

Dolores puts it all together. She tells the MiB she feels sorry for him because he’s mortal and his time will soon be over. She references a line that’s long been attributed to Wyatt. Remember when Teddy told us Wyatt “claimed this land didn’t belong to the natives or the new settlers. That it belonged to something that had yet to come. That it belonged to him … He’s not a man, but he is not a devil either.” That’s Dolores and the hosts. She’s not a man and not the devil either; the hosts are the “something that had yet to come,” a new species of life on this planet that’s going to take over.

She grabs the MiB by the collar and drags him across the church, just like he dragged her into the barn in the premiere (well, the MiB dragged Dolores by her hair, but the MiB doesn’t have much to offer there). She then proceeds to beat the hell out of him. This is the stand-up and cheer moment that actress Evan Rachel Wood teased fans last week; the young enlightened robo-feminist beating her older human patriarchal abuser while inside a symbol of systemic repression (a Catholic church). Not hugely subtle, perhaps, but it’s some violent-delights fun. 

The MiB has a trick of his own, however. He stabs her in the gut with his knife. It’s just like what Logan did to Dolores all those years ago that horrified William/young MiB so much. The MiB is about to finish her off when loyal Teddy arrives, just in time to not get killed (for once). He rescues Dolores and carries her off. 

Backstage we get a couple quick beats with Charlotte Hale.

First, she informs Dr. Ford he’s being pushed out. She says this sexily. Charlotte seems to do everything vaguely sexily, including firing people. Ford is unsurprised. “Aren’t you concerned I’ll smash my toys?” he asks. She’s not because she backed up the data with her scheme with Lee, and thinks she knows he won’t do it. And he won’t. His take-this-job-and-shove-it exit plan is much a grander f-you than merely wiping data. 

Later, Charlotte meets with Lee. She promises he can take over for Ford once he’s gone. But she wants him to make the hosts a bit simpler, easier to control. “This place is complicated enough as it is,” she says. Oh, Charlotte, you don’t know the half of it! Then she utters the famous last words of every human in a robot uprising story: “Everything is under control.”   

Then we switch to Maeve, who’s going to give us some of the fun stuff we’ve been waiting for. She makes some changes to the park’s security system and ramps up Hector and Armistice’s aggression while dialing down their pain thresholds. 

The body shop’s “necro-perv” prepares to rape Hector while another mechanic does some ill-timed mouth-prodding work on Armistice. We can’t wait for them to spring to life, and we’re given exactly what we want. In a scene that reminded me of a bit from The Terminator (where Arnold was pummeling Sarah Connor’s roommate’s boyfriend while she was on her headphones unaware of the mayhem in the next room), a naked Armistice, looking rather spectacular in her snake tats, tosses around the body shop guy while the oblivious necro perv listens to a rare example of contemporary music used backstage. I would probably watch a whole episode of nothing but sexy naked vengeful murder-bots, especially Armistice, she’s having way more fun than anybody else here. 

Maeve and her renegade bots find Bernard and repair him. I like the moment where Felix suddenly wonders if he’s even real. Maeve wants her hurtful memories of her daughter destroyed, but Bernard says it’s not possible. “How can you learn from your mistakes if you can’t remember them?” Bernard asks in a neat line. 

Bernard then makes a huge discovery: Maeve’s entire rebellion has been scripted. She’s not really gaining consciousness, she’s still on a loop — a brand new loop, mind you, but programmed by somebody else nonetheless (Dolores, it seems, has been the only host truly gaining independent consciousness in our story up until this point). Bernard teases us by giving some foreshadowing: “You make your way to the train, and then when you reach the mainland—” and she cuts him off as he gets very excited to reveal some big plot twist. 

“I’m leaving,” she declares. “I’m in control.”

Notice that Maeve is making the same faulty assumption as Charlotte; they’re just on opposite sides of Dr. Ford’s chess board. 

And: The use of the term “mainland.” This could be the biggest hint we’ve gotten yet about the park’s location. Is the park on an island? 

Back in the park, Dr. Ford collects the MiB for his black-tie reception and ribs him about finding the maze toy. “I wanted the hosts to stop playing by your rules,” the MiB says. “I wanted them to be free, free to fight back. I should have known you’d never let them.”

“I think you’ll find my new narrative more satisfying,” Ford teases. 

NEXT: Dr. Ford’s new narrative shatters the fourth wall 

Teddy takes fatally wounded Dolores to the edge of the park on the beach. It’s a beautiful and romantic setting. “We’re trapped Teddy, the purpose is to keep us here, the beautiful trap is inside of us,” she says. 

Then Dolores perishes, once again. 

And Ford pulls back the curtain on his heroes — and on the Westworld viewers. 

The lights come up. The park’s board of directors and VIPs are all watching this scene. Whoa. Wait. Hold on. How much of what we’ve been seeing is Ford’s new narrative? Is the entire present-day story line this season, up until this point, Ford’s new story line? It seems that way. Ford’s new narrative takes our already meta TV show Westworld and goes ultra-meta. Italicized program Westworld and theme park Westworld are one. Ford’s “Journey Into Night” is a story of the hosts seeming to realize their predicament and trying to escape. So was the Man in Black unwittingly part of the new narrative all along; the maze both a metaphor for Dolores finding consciousness and also a red herring distraction? 

Backstage, the control room figures out that hell is breaking loose. Sirens. Red alerts. Doors closing. An armed response team. We get some action. Armistice discovers the glory of terrorizing a building of trapped bad guys with an automatic weapon — Ho-ho-ho, now she has a machine gun. “The gods are pussies,” she declares. Seriously, where has this character been all season? 

They run into an area we haven’t seen before. “SW” on the doors. We see hosts dressed like they’re in feudal Japan and wielding swords. “It’s complicated,” Felix says. No, it’s not. There’s a Samurai World! Along with that note that Maeve gets revealing her daughter’s location (“Park 1…” it begins), we now have confirmation of what we’ve long suspected. To paraphrase another meta-fantasy tale: There are other worlds than these, gunslingers. But what’s down inside the Samurai World hatch? Are they eating Dharma-brand food? 

Maeve ditches Hector and he goes out in a blaze of bullets. Armistice gets her arm trapped by a door and is seemingly doomed (thankfully there’s a credits scene showing she escapes).  

Back in Ford’s lab, the good doctor repairs Dolores one last time. He points out her favorite painting — Michaelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam.” He notes it took a century or so for people to realize the pro-science Easter Egg hidden in plain sight in the image — God’s background was in the shape of a human brain. The message: “The divine gift does not come from a higher power but our own minds.” 

We get another flashback. A broken Arnold, shattered by the loss of his son, committed suicide-by-host by having Dolores kill him. Ford explains that he gradually realized that Arnold’s original mission of host consciousness was the right idea, but that it took a whole lot of time to bring it about. He leaves for her a gun that she used to kill Arnold (it’s a real gun, not one that fires mere pellets at humans). “Do you understand who you will need to become if you ever want to leave this place?” he asks. “Arnold didn’t know how to save you. I do. You needed time. Time to understand your enemy, to become stronger than them.”

Ford also shakes Bernard’s hand. The shot lingers a bit. Is he transferring his power to him, somehow? 

On the train, Maeve is set to leave the park. We want this badly because we’re awfully curious where the park is located (or I am, anyway). Instead, she decides to embrace her past and gets off the train to go search for her daughter. So Maeve, too, is now breaking her loop since Bernard noted in her storyline she got to the mainland. And yet, she’s also honoring a past — a love of a daughter — that was scripted by Ford. It’s hard to know how to feel about this. 

At the gala, Ford takes the stage to give one final speech. The Man in Black goes off for a stroll rather than listen to Ford lecture. Dolores is there and reassures worried Teddy that everything is going to be all right.

Ford declares the park “a prison of our own sins” and notes that humans “don’t want to change or cannot change,” and then throws a reference to a certain robot-themed French DJ duo our way: “Your only human, after all.”

Ford says this will be his final story. Charlotte smiles because she thinks Ford means he’s announcing his retirement. But his meta-narrative is about to break the fourth wall even more than before and come spilling into his VIP audience. His new narrative has only just begun. They’re all sacrificial goats for his Dolores T-Rex and host velociraptors. “I hope you will enjoy this last piece very much,” and then Dolores blows his head off with a downright snarl. She then just starts firing indiscriminately into the crowd.

The Man in Black sees an army of hosts coming for him. One shoots him — really shoots him, wounds his arm — and he looks pretty thrilled. Bring it! 

FINALLY: Questions, comments, concerns 

This is going to take awhile to sink in and process. I feel like Westworld showrunners Jonathan Nolan (who directed the episode) and Lisa Joy just downloaded 90-minutes of explanations, action, philosophy, character developments, Easter Eggs, twists and references into my brain, The Matrix style, and I’m now overloaded and glitching like a malfunctioning recap robot. 

Overall, the episode was hugely satisfying. We got robo-rebellion mayhem. Big mystery answers. Serious twists. I think I’m most surprised that Ford’s narrative — something I wasn’t particularly curious about going into the episode — ended up paying off so successfully. I’m still trying to wrap my head around how much of what we’ve seen was part of his narrative. Same with the Wyatt thread — I figured Dolores was Wyatt in the past, but not how that would impact her in the present; that our heroine would become death, the destroyer of humanity’s world in the park. 

That revelation that Maeve’s movements were being scripted helps sell some of her scenes in the previous episodes that viewers really struggled with. Mainly: How could get away with all those rebellious hijinks backstage without Ford being aware of any of it? It doesn’t explain why Felix and Sylvester were so dim-witted and complacent, but presumably Ford arranged it so that Maeve was paired with body techs she could manipulate. 

Other elements felt more uneven. Ford’s shift from power-mad enslaver of hosts to their savior leading them to freedom was one that I’d have to go back and rewatch every episode to see if that was earned; but it played in the moment like a rather abrupt shift. The maze, too, felt like something that might have evolved in the show’s planning along the way this season — there were so many references to that cryptic pattern in so many places, and it was just a metaphor for an inward journey? And were Elsie and Stubbs benched from the final episode because they didn’t fit? It feels like Stubbs could have been leading the team hunting the rogue hosts instead of offscreen somewhere, right? There was also a lot of explanations — and we want explanations, of course, but it’s ideal to have them as part of the action rather than spoken exposition. 

Perhaps the most unusual thing about the finale is that two characters who played significant roles through most of the season — Elsie (who I’m convinced is still alive) and Stubbs were not in the 90 minutes at all. Absent for several episodes now, Elsie is becoming the Gendry of Westworld, while Stubbs could have led the tactical response team to fight Hector and Armistice instead of faceless red shirts (and somehow survived, if that was to be his fate).  

Still, the Westworld puzzle box mostly fits neatly together, which is quite an accomplishment given how mind-bogglingly complicated this series was. The finale was emotional, and oh so smart, packed with violent delights and thoughtful ideas, all leading to who-knows-what’s next. 

More Westworld finale coverage:  

— Westworld producers talk those finale twists, and season 2

— Anthony Hopkins on Dr. Ford’s fate 

— Our Q&A with star Ed Harris about those big twists. 

— 10 burning unanswered questions 

Later: Our finale edition of our Westworld: Analysis Mode podcast:

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Episode Grade: A 

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Episode Recaps

HBO's ambitious science-fiction thriller 'Westworld' is based on the 1973 Michael Crichton film of the same name. The series developed by Jonathan Nolan stars Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, Thandie Newton, and more top names.
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seasons
  • 2
episodes
  • 20
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  • 09/25/16
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  • On Hiatus
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