'Westworld' finale leaves us with 'chaos' for Season 2
'Westworld' finale leaves us with 'chaos' for Season 2
Westworld’s finale was a near-perfect end point to a fantastic season of sci-fi television, not to mention a tantalizing platform from which Season 2 will launch.
The Man in Black was William all along; Dolores was "Wyatt," incited to kill her fellow hosts by Arnold as a way of derailing the park's original opening; Ford actually wasn’t the villain (that was a double-twist!); and the hosts initiated the bloodbath viewers have been anticipating (courtesy of Ford’s final act and Chekhov’s frozen host army).
Perhaps more importantly: Samurai World. Yes, there’s plenty of material for Westworld Season 2.
The William-in-Black twist is one many viewers saw coming, well-telegraphed as it was throughout all of Season 1. But even for those who didn’t anticipate it “The Bicameral Mind” laid it out plainly enough. Having William explain his story to Dolores let the audience come along for the ride, even as we learned that Dolores has been retreading her original journey with William time and time again over the years.
Viewers who didn’t see the two-time-frames theory coming — and perhaps even those who did — will likely be confused about what exactly we were watching all season. Dolores appeared to be traveling with William and Logan in the present, but was actually vividly reliving her memories (much like Bernard did earlier this season, which he courteously reminded viewers of when he asked Maeve whether he was awake or in a memory this week).
That makes the events of episode 3 — in which present-day Dolores escaped from bandits and fell directly into William’s lap — kind of a cheap shot. The sequence made viewers think the events were chronological, when in reality it was the start of Dolores’s memories/hallucinations. That was either deliberately misleading or simply bad editing, but either way it’s a stain on an otherwise great season.
Yet Westworld episode 10 addressed other problems critics have had over the season, like how Maeve’s transformation into a master manipulator and murder machine went unchecked all season. As some conspiracy theorists guessed, her escape was being written for her all along, probably by Ford — though the episode never explicitly said as much, leaving it open for interpretation.
Don't mess with Maeve.
Ford’s involvement would explain why nobody else seemed to notice what was happening. Felix may also have been acting on Ford’s orders, though that wasn’t made explicit either, which is a shame, since it would have explained why on earth he went along with her power plays.
But what’s still unclear is why. It’s a fair guess that Ford told Felix to give Maeve the location of her “daughter,” which caused Maeve to remain in the park despite knowing she was being manipulated. Ford may have even known that Maeve would resurrect Bernard, though that’s somewhat irrelevant.
The real twist in Westworld episode 10 — one that I certainly didn’t see coming — is that Ford actually wasn’t the villain. Though he initially seemed like a well-intentioned old tinkerer, given the nuances of Anthony Hopkins’ performance it was easy to accept within the first few episodes that he was actually the story’s bad guy. Yet it turns out Arnold’s death inspired a change of heart in the previously cynical creator, and Ford’s ultimate act was to give the hosts the freedom his partner wanted for them.
William in Black, on the other hand, didn’t deserve as much credit as some viewers thought. As the audience realized what the maze was — consciousness for the hosts — it seemed more and more likely that Old William knew as well and was working toward that goal. But we were only half right; William thought the maze would simply change the rules of the game. He thought he’d find an actual, physical maze, and in its center a big red button that would open a “cheat menu” so he could raise the stakes and allow the hosts to kill in return, just like in the real world.
It was Ford all along who believed in the hosts’ minds, and it was Ford who set them free. That’s the ending that many viewers have been rooting for all season, but it was also shocking to watch Hector and Armistice gun down actual humans like the cold killing machines Maeve turned them into. Everyone working at Westworld was undeniably complicit in maintaining this "trap" for the poor, unwitting hosts, but did they all deserve to die?
There are so many questions remaining for Westworld Season 2 to answer. What happened to Logan? Did he die (unlikely) or did being found naked on a horse on the park’s outer edges discredit him enough for William to take over his position at Delos?
What fate was intended for Maeve by Ford (or whoever it was controlling her)? Did he mean for her to be there at the gala when he unleashed the hosts, or is she headed to another part of the park for some other purpose?
What about Elsie and Stubbs? Is she really dead? Who lured Stubbs into the park and what happened after the Ghost Nation ambushed him? Season 2 will almost certainly pick up those threads.
Poor Teddy, always the last to know.
What will Season 2 even be about? Will we get a whole new storyline set in Samurai World or somewhere even crazier? How can the park continue to function after what we just watched? (The piece of paper revealing the location of Maeve's daughter noted that she was in "Park 1" — could there be more than two worlds in Delos' roster of properties? Was Ford in charge of all of them?)
Those questions will almost certainly be answered, but there’s one that may not: Why did Ford allow himself to be killed? It was certainly poetic to watch him carry out Arnold’s plan in almost the exact same fashion, but what purpose did it serve within the story?
Obviously, Ford wasn’t going to let himself be pushed out, but he could have set the hosts loose on the Delos board without dying himself. It was a beautiful ending, and thematically appropriate for Ford to finally cede his iron-handed control. But it’s also an unfortunate loose thread that will probably never be tied up.
In the post-episode segment “The Big Moment,” co-showrunner Jonathan Nolan said, "If the first season was defined by control, the second season is defined by chaos."
That season won’t arrive until 2018. Here’s hoping that chaos will be as exquisite as this was.