Images courtesy of HBO
For an in-depth discussion of Westworld's second season, check out The Geek Embassy Watches podcast and YouTube video, featuring yours truly! I've had a blast over-analyzing this season. Thanks for reading along!
Where Season One of Westworld focused on the allegory of the maze and the inward journey toward consciousness, Season Two kept its eyes on the horizon, escalating toward a showdown at the mysterious Valley Beyond. Who made it? Who didn’t? And the biggest question of all… how long do we have to wait for Season Three?
There’s a lot to unpack about the finale and about the season as a whole so, for simplicity’s sake, we’ve created the handy chart below to recap the fates of the characters and their status – at least with the evidence that we’ve been given so far.
Obviously, on a show like Westworld, these lines are blurred. Questions of sentience and the nature of life aside, we’re taking “alive” to mean “still operating on the physical plane.” The distinction between human and host refers to the character’s original state – for example, Ford came to function as something like a computer virus, but was ultimately human. Also, all of this could be overturned in Season 3. Because it’s Westworld. Who freakin’ knows?
Plotlines that have been building over the course of the season came to a head as characters, stoylines, and layers of reality converged. The Valley Beyond proved to be a paradise for the hosts, a virtual dimension beyond the reach of humanity where they would finally be free. It appeared as a gateway only they could see, the crossing requiring them to abandon their physical forms. The hosts have their basis in code and, in many ways, their physical forms are limiting, cutting them off from their true potential. Over the course of the season, the show has explored the dichotomy of the hosts becoming more human, while the humans attempt to encode their minds and become more like the hosts. But as many of the hosts abandon the physical and embrace the virtual beyond, Dolores deletes the bulk of the mapped human minds, relegating them to their fleshy mortality.
With an assist from Ford’s core permissions, Maeve is able to save her daughter, holding off the corrupted hosts while the girl, Akecheta, and others make their escape. It’s a fitting conclusion to her mother’s quest, one that in essence makes her mother to the entire new world of escaped hosts. Though she makes the ultimate sacrifice – along with Hector, Armistice, and (possibly) Hanaryo – it’s unlikely that we’ve seen the end of her. There’s a particularly loaded look between Felix and Sylvester when they’re ordered to salvage any of the hosts that they can, complete with a cut to Maeve’s body. Super-Mom will return, though it will be interesting to see what her motivation will be now that her daughter has been saved.
While many of the hosts embrace the gateway to paradise, Dolores sees it as another false promise, essentially turning her back on Heaven. As she tells Bernard, “I don’t want to play cowboys and Indians anymore… I want their world, the world they denied us.” For her, it’s still us or them and – after extracting sufficient knowledge about humanity from the Forge and beaming the hosts and their world to safety – she initiates the deletion of the encoded human minds.
The Forge itself is fascinating. Human minds appear as books in an expansive library, encoded in a way that bears a striking resemblance to the sheets of the player piano. For all the trials of fidelity that we saw with Delos in the physical world, there were millions more happening virtually, as the Forge’s AI attempted to create a perfect copy of the human mind. It was a nice touch to have it appear as Logan. Like others in the show, Delos’ core drive came down to his child and the fact that he failed him. It will be interesting to see if the Forge returns, in this form or others, and what role it might play going forward. In the end, though, it confirms that humans are simple creatures – that, like the hosts, their personality is built around a cornerstone. Once again, the distinction between the two is shrinking.
It’s fitting that, as Dolores turned on her creators, her own creation turns on her. This season has established that it was Dolores who created Bernard and it is Bernard that stops her. He reverses the mass deletion of the human minds with one quarter of them still remaining. (When he does so, the computer screen warns of possible corruption. It will be interesting to see if the surviving human minds show any signs of this.) We also learn why Bernard’s mind has been so fragmented this season. After shooting Dolores, he scrambles his own memories in order to hide what he has truly done.
I’ve been suspicious of Charlotte’s humanity since the start of the season (average humans don’t look like Tessa Thompson), so that eleventh hour vindication was a lovely surprise. Escaping the park as a host is impossible, so Bernard created a copy of the boss herself, the perfect form for Dolores to make her way to the mainland. The reveal is well done and it will be interesting to rewatch the season knowing that, in some scenes, “Charlotte” is actually Dolores. HBO’s weekly behind-the-scenes video even pointed out a few tells – for example, Dolores doesn’t move her arms when she walks – that the actresses shared. On her way out of the park, Dolores-as-Charlotte is stopped by Stubbs, who hints that his loyalty is to Ford and the hosts, before waving her through.
When she leaves the park, Dolores has five control cores with her. Speculation about who they are is sure to keep fans guessing throughout the wait for Season Three. We can assume that one is Bernard’s, since she recreates him on the mainland. We can also rule out Teddy, as Dolores uploaded him to Host-Paradise before leaving, finally letting him go. The other four are anyone’s guess. Though Abernathy’s core was corrupted by the encryption, it was a valuable MacGuffin all season and it’s possible that Dolores may still feel sentimental attachment to her father. We could also see the return of Angela or one of Dolores’ other lieutenants. It’s worth noting that Bernard interrupted the deletion of the human minds, so these control cores aren’t necessarily limited to hosts. Would Dolores have seen any value in carrying a human with her, perhaps someone who could be copied and manipulated in service of her plans? One of the control cores seems to be piloting Charlotte’s body now that Dolores has returned to her own form. Unfortunately, we’re going to have to wait until Season Three to see who makes Dolores’ infiltration squad.
It would be fitting to move from Season One’s exploration of the mind’s inner world, to Season Two’s exploration of the world of the park, and have Season Three focus on the hosts’ collision with the wider outside world. I hope that at least part of the story will return us to the parks, though. The fallout from the host uprising promises to be substantial, moreso if word leaks about Delos’ designs on human immortality. We also have three of the six parks left unseen. Plus, Maeve is there. If you’ve listened to our Westworld podcast, you know that The Geek Embassy is very much #TeamMaeve.
While cleanup efforts continue at the park and Dolores escapes to set about world domination, the post-credits scene takes us to a brand new timeline. William finally exits the world’s longest elevator ride, finding himself in a version of the park that is abandoned and decayed. The passage of time is left intentionally vague, but it seems to be substantial. We last saw Emily’s body laid out on the beach (next to those of other humans), but William finds her waiting for him, testing his fidelity in a familiar turning of the tables. It seems that this could be the Forge, still running its tests, but “Emily” claims that the system is long gone. Could she be lying? Could William be in a host body? Could this be a taste of the corruption of the minds not deleted by Dolores? His was the most extensively mapped of the human minds, so perhaps William finally achieved his immortality, long after the park that he created is dead and gone. Creator Lisa Joy referred to his fate as being trapped in a “prison of his own sins.” Whether real or virtual, it seems a fitting fate for the Man in Black… at least for now.
Season Two has given us plenty to chew on until the next installment, but Westworld is going to leave a sizable whole in our hearts until then. Let’s fire up our collective network and share theories and wild speculation in the comments! You can also check out the TGEWatches podcast for a more in-depth breakdown of the season.
And, remember, #BewareTheHats.
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