Westworld was, in many ways, always very honest and straightforward with its audience. We knew by the end of episode one that things at the park were headed toward a vicious conclusion. “These violent delights have violent ends” became the show’s motto from early on after being muttered by a malfunctioning host, Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum), suddenly recalling the phrase from dialogue included in one of his former storylines as a cult leader who fancied quoting Shakespeare. He whispers the phrase to Dolores after he shows her a photograph of a woman he finds (a woman we later discover is the former fiancé of The Man in Black, a.k.a. William, but we are getting ahead of ourselves). The phrase is like a trigger programmed to make the hosts conscious of (or, at least able to recall) their pasts, including any abuses they suffered. Dolores tells the Westworld programmers that this is the phrase her father whispered to her, thus setting off a series of events that lead, eventually, to a very violent end.
Episode one concludes with Dolores, programmed not to cause harm to anyone or anything, killing a fly crawling on her neck; a foreshadowing of her awakening and of the things to come. After that point, the phrase becomes a sort of virus, passed on from Dolores to Maeve, and uttered at the very last by Bernard as the hosts take their revenge on the DELOS Board.
However, as honest as the show has been from the beginning regarding the nature of the story, the finale saw quite a few storylines coming together, as well as a few loose ends left over for, perhaps, season 2. Here is a list of what the finale showed us, as well as a few questions we still have.
William is the Man in Black
Theories regarding the true identity of the Man in Black have been varied and many from the beginning. He was clearly very familiar with Westworld, the various storylines, and even Dr. Ford himself. He had clearly been in the park for a while and had uncovered what he referred to as “the Maze,” a hidden game that was supposed to show the player who they truly were. However, as the Man in Black was warned more than once, last by Dolores herself, the maze was not for him.
The last episode of Westworld reveals that Dolores was experiencing memories of a young Man in Black, then called William, who fell for her and then slowly degraded in to a villain (or a “Black Hat”) after losing her and realizing she did not recognize him when he ran into her again in Sweetwater. It appears as though Dolores had actually been with the Man in Black (future William) for quite some time as we see her giving him a shave. Toward the beginning of the finale. She, however, has been experiencing her memories with the young William many years ago.
After the Man in Black knocks Dolores to the ground when she cannot remember the meaning of the maze, she tells him William will come to her rescue. The Man in Black then recounts William’s journey to Dolores; how William fell for her, then lost her after his future brother-in-law had her suffer at the hands of the soldiers he was currently residing with. How William then found his true nature as a killer—at least of robot hosts—and how he kept coming across Dolores over the years, though she never recognised him. He bought a large share of Westworld after his first incidence with Dolores and spent his time in the park trying to discover himself, and eventually landed on the search for the Maze. Dolores realises, to her dismay, that she is speaking to William, only over 30 years later and an entirely different type of man than the William she remembers.
It was the photo of William’s/The Man in Black’s ex-fiancé that Dolores’ father finds and shows her in the first episode. The thing that caused Peter Abernathy to utter the trigger phrase and thus begin the series of events that ends in the culmination of Ford’s narrative.
To his credit, the Man in Black expresses his desire to see the hosts set free and the unfairness of the park righted. He flashes the shadow of a grin after being grazed by a bullet from a lobotomized and militant host knowing that the hosts have finally managed to even the odds.
Arnold, Bernard and The Nature of the Maze
It turns out that making robots sentient isn’t so straightforward. Arnold eventually realised that the key to consciousness was creating a scenario where the hosts could eventually reflect on their own pasts. Arnold explains to Dolores that consciousness is like a maze, meaning that one must have the ability to circle back on their own memories and contemplate them until they can find their own voice and, thus, become self-aware.
A few episodes prior to the finale, we see Dolores going through various memories and are never quite sure about the exact order in which these memories take place. She speaks once about feeling like she is trapped in a dream as she stands with William next to a church spire; the same church spire Ford looks out upon in an earlier episode as he speaks to a little boy host about his new narrative. We intermittently see Dolores in a fully constructed church with the same spire while wearing her familiar blue dress. After being lowered in an elevator found in the church’s confessional, we see Dolores in a hallway where a very young Dr. Ford passes her on his way to speak with Arnold.
It turns out this is the city covered in sand which Ford uncovered and rebuilt as a part of his final narrative. This is the city of Escalante; the original city in Westworld and where Dolores, under the instruction of Arnold, killed all the hosts, Arnold and finally Teddy and herself in Arnold’s attempt to close down the park having been convinced the hosts had become conscious. The attempt fails, however, and Ford opens the park anyway. Ford also recreates Arnold by making a lookalike host who carries Arnold’s core memory of his child dying. He names this host Bernard.
Arnold buried a small wooden maze—one based on his son’s toy—in the ground at the church in Escalante and left clues in Dolores’ programming to help her remember it and it’s location and meaning. Bernard, Ford’s homage to Arnold, also continues helping Dolores cultivate her memory in secret. We see several of these scenes throughout the final few episodes.
Her ability to locate the maze on her own and recall, to some degree, its stated purpose was a signal to Arnold that Dolores had reached consciousness, even if only in its infant stages. His love for Dolores as a sort of adopted daughter after the loss of his real son lead him to decide he had to save the hosts from their fates. This is what eventually triggered Arnold to make the doomed attempt to shut the park down years earlier.
Dolores is Wyatt (But, not necessarily in that order)
There was already talk of a new villain to defeat all villains; the infamous Wyatt who was supposed to be a part of Ford’s new narrative. We finally discover that Wyatt is, in some sense, a memory. Wyatt was Dolores as she shot and killed every host in the park. Wyatt, however, was also something yet to come.
During her confrontation with the Man in Black at the church in Escalante, Dolores defiantly tells him:
“One day you will perish. You will lie with the rest of your kind in the dirt; your dreams forgotten, your horrors effaced. Your bones will turn to sand, and upon that sand a new god will walk; one that will never die because this world doesn’t belong to you, or the people who came before. It belongs to someone who is yet to come.”
That someone who is yet to come, the someone who has so far been teased as Wyatt in Ford’s new narrative, was, in fact, an awakened and conscious Dolores. Dolores finally discovers Arnold’s programming worked. What she once thought was his voice or the voice of another, had become her own voice. She had accomplished her own self-awareness and would now fulfil her own destiny as the one who would take down the DELOS board and take Westworld for the hosts.
The strangest thing about Westworld is how, in a way, its story of robots developing sentience does continue to circle back upon itself, forcing us again and again to contemplate exactly what sentience is and whether we, as humans, are also always in a continuous maze of trying to overcome our own programming. In other words, being self-aware and even being human doesn’t necessarily equal being totally free from programming, but rather building off of it and becoming aware of it to some degree.
Ford shows Dolores a copy of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam. He tells Dolores that hidden within the painting is a shape of the human brain, thus signifying that the divine has nothing to do with sentience, but rather the brain itself. This is a running theme in Westworld. Ford told Theresa Cullen (before having Bernard kill her) that humans are in the end nothing more than their programming, and that all of our grand pursuits are simply based on the obtainment of basic things like a sexual partner, or other animalistic gains.
However, Ford reveals in the finale that he has, for the past 35 years, been trying to see Arnold’s dream of the hosts reaching consciousness and setting them free from their confines through to the end. To achieve this, Ford has had to allow the hosts to suffer again and again. He even had Bernard leave out the gun Dolores used to kill Arnold in hopes it would trigger her memory and lead her into full self-awareness. He relied on Arnold’s idea that reflecting on one’s own suffering is essential to the development of the self, and though it took time and a few hosts who lost their sanity, it worked. This was the purpose of his new narrative and the unearthing of the town of Escalante.
Aside from Dolores, however, Maeve is a prime example of how programming, consciousness and humanity are somehow interconnected. Barnard tells Maeve that her escape attempts have been programmed and that this wasn’t her first one. Maeve, however, does not let this deter her and continues with her escape plans. Felix, the tech aiding in her flight, hands her a piece of paper with the location of her daughter as they head toward the exit of the park. Maeve reads the location and then puts it away saying, “She was never my daughter. Any more than I was . . . whoever they made me.”
However, as Maeve sits upon the train awaiting her escape into the outside world, she sees a mother and daughter snuggling together. She chooses to leave the train, apparently deciding to look for her daughter, when the lights go out. She looks around confused and this is where we leave Maeve until season 2. The question is whether Maeve is actually doing everything based on programming, or whether her search for her daughter is a break from her code. Perhaps, even that is a part of her programming as she is well aware that the mother-daughter scenario was also something someone else programmed into her.
Conclusions, questions and a possible new park
The biggest question Westworld leaves with us is not about the hosts, but about humanity. Are we nothing more than what nature coded us to do? Was Ford right? Is consciousness nothing more than something that arose from repeated experiences and suffering? In the end, even if that is the case, does that make life any less precious or grand or even, shall we say, miraculous?
While that question may be one philosophers and Westworld fans alike will contemplate for the foreseeable future, we do know Westworld still has some very concrete questions to answer:
- What happens to Maeve?
- What happens to the rest of the hosts in the park?
- Were the samurai soldiers seen fighting in the finale a clue to a new park we will see in season 2?
- Did the man in Black survive and if so, what is he up to now?
- What does Dolores eventually become after leading the hosts of Westworld in a rebellion?
As far as the last question goes, show co-creator Jonathan Nolan has stated the show would answer the question of what happens to Dolores after the season one finale. Nolan says they intended to begin with a Disney princess and end with a revolutionary. They definitely hit the mark. The actress who plays Dolores, Evan Rachel Wood, told Vanity Fair that season one was more of a backstory and the real show would begin in season 2. If that is the case, I think we can all agree that season one was one Hell of a backstory.
Unfortunately, we will have to wait awhile as season 2 of Westworld isn’t scheduled until sometime in 2018.