Some will live, some will die—some will not do either for very long. But all will make their choice in this lovely, confounding, misanthropic extra-sized season finale of Westworld.
Major spoilers beyond The Door.
First things first: Maeve must be salvageable in season three or I am out.
Thandie Newton’s performance is the cornerstone of this show. Sure, Dolores gets all the badass, gunslinging publicity shots, but Maeve is the heart of Westworld and the showrunners would be insane to let her go voluntarily. So, fingers crossed that Felix and Sylvester can save the selfless, all-powerful mama. How bittersweet it was to watch Maeve let her daughter literally run into an Eden where she can be safe and heal from her past traumas. I only wish we could’ve seen a bit of dialogue between Maeve and Akecheta before he, too, stepped through the long-awaited Door. But her beatific smile spoke volumes, too. If (when!) Maeve returns, what will drive her without her quest to find her daughter?
Sidenote: How awesome was Maeve’s stroll back from the brink of death!? That was the buffalo stampede I was waiting for all season and I adored how it called back to the opening credits. Resourceful, darling.
So, Maeve’s daughter, Teddy, and Akecheta seem to be, for all purposes, dead to the park, caught in a peaceful dream within a dream (we call this Widescreenworld.) This was seriously some confusing Matrix shit going on tonight, with more sci-fi than western trappings. It was a bit jarring to be so forcefully reminded that Westworld is based on a Michael Crichton novel, when we’ve been doing the cowboy vs. Indians thing for so long, even Dolores got tired of it. Satellite beams, robo-brains, body-swapping and a really weirdly literal rip in the fabric of space and time—shit got pretty madcap tonight and I’m mostly okay with it.
Was it satisfying to watch Akecheta be rewarded for his tragedy by regaining all he had lost in the Valley Beyond? Yes, it was. But it’s pretty unsatisfying that we will likely not see him again on this show anytime soon. Unless they can work him in via flashbacks. He made a great Moses. Teddy’s fate left me lukewarm. I’m happy he’s happy, but I think the show will be fine without him. He’s Dolores’ high school sweetheart; now she’s running off to college and has to find herself, so this feels like a natural end to their romance. It’s better than getting a Dear Teddy email that reads, “Sorry, but in the real world, you seem even more boring than I’d first thought.”
Clementine, too, seems gone for good. Her ride through the crowds, leaving rampaging hosts in her wake, was beautifully filmed and chilling. Way less fun than when I use the Rioting Pedestrians cheat code in GTA.
Bernard remained the most cryptic part of the show. I still feel like I understood very little of his deal and, as this was a long episode and felt like it had more false endings than Return of the King, I only watched it once. So I rarely get Bernard scenes on a first go. But, I think what was most important was (1) Ford was not in Bernard’s head when it counted, and (2) Dolores built Bernard as much as Arnold built Dolores. So, they are not friends, but maybe family, which is way more complicated.
As for Dolores, I guess it’s kinda cool that the show took two one-note characters and combined them into one. The Hale-bot housing Dolores is about to tackle bigger and better—and hopefully better-written adventures. How long will her idea that real = better last, once she’s out among all that unchecked humanity? How long will humanity go unchecked with a freed Dolores? Did Dolores bring other hosts’ source code spheres with her, too, or was it just Bernard?
I feel like the Man in Black has been awkwardly shoehorned into this season. Why did Dolores need him, “a monster,” to get to the Valley Beyond when she didn’t know Bernard/”Arnold” was going to be there? Literally nothing about that trip was particularly special. And once at the Forge, I still don’t see how their interests are aligned when Dolores wants to destroy his guest research and William might have a reason to actually want to preserve it—Emily’s data. So unsatisfying.
Holy epilogue, Batman! How far in the future is that post-credits scene with the Man in Black and his daughter? It must be in real life, in the park, as the Forge was flooded and the system was nonfunctional, but I had to wonder if it was an elaborate, cruel prank played on him by the board. And yet, it seems like we are to take it at face value, as much as one can on Westworld. In a post-finale interview with showrunner Lisa Joy, she states the post-credits scene “gives full closure of the timelines by validating what happened in the park as the Man in Black leaves.” Um, not sure what it validates except that perhaps the hosts are trying to rebuild humans? I prefer the Man in Black to be human and suffering from his ultimate hell—he must sit and think about his own guilt, forever. Though to carry that guilt into the cornerstone of a host designed to be tortured, well, that’s pretty evil, too.
My main takeaway is that it seems the park as we know it is quite gone. So many great hosts died, many of whom could not be recreated. That doesn’t mean Delos will not build more hosts. But with Hale-bot out in the real world, she very well could extract some serious revenge on the company. Moreover, the (extremely dumb) deaths of recurring human characters Elsie and Lee seem to have been the forcible tying off of loose ends. Hale-bot would approve.
The big unanswered question remains central to Westworld: is anybody really free? As Westworld ends its sophomore season, it seems that yes, people—organic or not—can make their choice, but it always comes with a price.
- Oh please let Hector, Armistice, and Shogun-Armistice be okay? Especially Hector. I could watch him valiantly die for Maeve a hundred more times.
- How freaking creepy was that tech/surgeon who turned up Maeve’s pain sensors before he was about to decapitate her? That’s a level of sickness I just didn’t want to think about. Feeling way misanthropic after seeing what that dude is really like.
- How did Dolores know the body she saw was Emily? Did she meet her again when she was older? We only saw them meet when Emily was a very little girl, back at James Delos’ retirement party.
- I didn’t understand the James Delos flashback to his park experience or what it meant to the larger story.
- Next season: Maybe Lesser Hemsworth was a host the whole time? Whatever. I’m still in it for Maeve. And the Tor.com commenters. Thanks for another season of conversation, folks. Let’s all meet at the Mariposa real soon!
Theresa DeLucci is a regular contributor to Tor.com covering TV, book reviews and sometimes games. She’s also gotten enthusiastic about television for Boing Boing, Wired.com’s Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast and Den of Geek. Reach her via pony express or on Twitter.