Crazy twists! Shocking murders! Secret hosts! The ultimate Bernard vs. Dolores showdown! If those are the things you loved about watching Westworld, this week's season two finale had to be immensely satisfying. If you wanted everything to make sense, well ... maybe not so much.
Dolores rides, not exactly into the sunset. Photo: HBO
Let me make this clear: I enjoyed the finale and all of season two, although I think we can all agree that season one ended a lot more neatly and thoughtfully. But honestly, despite all the remaining loose ends, this finale still managed to wrap up a lot more things than I expected it to, although it did so in ways that were often ridiculous.
"The Passenger" was really The Bernard and Dolores Show, so let's briefly knock out Maeve's story, which was perfunctory at best.
She's of course healed with her Ford-augmented host control powers, so she runs to the Valley Beyond where the Ghost Nation is leading her ex-daughter and everyone else they rounded up into a new world, which is literally is a rift in space right at the foot of a giant cliff (that only hosts can see). As hosts jump through, their minds enter a paradise, while their bodies plummet to the ground.
Delos Corp. sends Clementine, loaded with Maeve's host-controlling powers, into the crowd lined up to escape, and sets them all to fighting each other. Maeve uses her powers to hold them off for a bit so that her daughter and Akecheta escape to host paradise. Then she, Hector, Armistice, the Shogun World Armistice counterpart, and a ton of people who were trying to enter the rift get killed.
Other than Maeve awesomely commanding a buffalo herd inside Delos HQ to take out a bunch of soldiers and Lee needlessly and uncharacteristically committing suicide by Delos soldier to help Maeve get away earlier in the episode, it is shockingly not that compelling.
Ake makes it to the New World at last. Photo: HBO
Luckily, everything going on with Bernard and Dolores very much is. Long before Maeve and Ghost Nation arrive, Bernard and Dolores meet on their way to the Forge (she also meets the Man in Black, but they abandon him pretty quick; more on him below), where Dolores solves a mystery that I imagine most people didn't realise was a mystery: Why did Ford create Bernard instead of making another Arnold?
It turns out he tried! When Dolores was doing the fidelity tests on the host, she made the new version of Arnold too accurate - and host Arnold would commit suicide, just like real Arnold did. So Dolores (and Ford) changed his personality slightly, and thus he became Bernard.
After entering the Forge, Bernard and Dolores also get in arrays to enter into the database - turns out the data in Abernathy's head was the key to enter it, so that's solved - where all the data on the guests is stored.
Since James Delos was Guest (and Job #1), it manifests itself as Westworld seen through his eyes and memories, although there are some early attempts at recreating him that are extra murderous hanging about.
But Delos being prime guest means that the system takes the form of (a non-douchey!) Logan to guide Dolores and Bernard around. He explains to them that every Delos he programmed ended up in one scenario - where addict Logan came to him for help, and he turned him away.
The Logan System - let's just call him "Login" - explains this made him realise that 1) people don't change, not really, and 2) the reason the guest programs worked fine in the database but broke down when put into the real world is because Login was making the programs too complicated. It turns out humans are actually pretty simple, and "live by their code".
It's more of the "humans are the real machines" idea that this season has hit pretty hard, and which I personally love, although it's by zero means something Westworld invented. At any rate, by giving Dolores access to all the guests' data, she'll know how to fight and kill them, and thus gain a competitive advantage.
When Dolores gets what she needs, she and Bernard return to reality, where Dolores is extremely unhappy to discover the rift. As she starts deleting the guest data copies and opens the seawater valves, which will eventually cause the flood we saw back in the season premiere, she explains they're just going to be living in another fake world - a "gilded cage", as she calls it.
Bernard doesn't see the harm, as they will be happy, but she thinks by destroying it, she would actually be saving them. The reason she's so determined to take the real world for the hosts is because "that which is real is irreplaceable".
It's a good line, if nothing else, although remember, at this point, the only two hosts alive (or alive after the Maeve massacre) are Dolores and Bernard. It seems as though Dolores has none of her people to actually save, and no one to give the "real world" to if she does manage to destroy all humans.
Bernard, meanwhile, has had enough. To stop her from murdering the hosts that escaped to the "New World" and god knows how many (more) living people, he shoots and kills Dolores. He manages to stop the deleting of some of the guest data, but he can't shut off the valves.
He exits only to encounter Elsie, Hale, and all the host corpses Clementine the Destroyer made, including Maeve and the others. "They all died for nothing," he mourns.
(Protip: Remember this is all happening before Karl Strand's team finds Bernard on the beach.)
After they head back to the Mesa, Bernard is still distraught, but Elsie, knowing Bernard is a host while no one else does, is worried what to do with him, arguing that Ford has put so much code into him no one can know what's him and what's Ford, which is pretty valid.
Elsie goes down to talk to Hale, and long story short, Hale shoots Elsie dead (for real, or at least as real as Westworld gets) because she might spill the beans on all the many, many, many horrible things Delos has been doing here.
Bernard sees this and freaks out. He realises Ford was right, that humans can't be trusted, but now all the hosts other than him are dead. He frantically jacks into his arm to see if he can recover the Ford data he deleted, and luckily Ford returns.
Even Bernard is now on board with the "humans are algorithms, designed to survive at all costs". Humans think they're calling the shots, but they can't escape their code. Only a creature that could change its fundamental drive - its programming - truly has free will, and Bernard finally realises the hosts are the only real beings capable of change. Happily, Ford knows exactly what Bernard needs to do to keep the hosts from dying out.
Here's where things get… well, I absolutely hate the term "timey wimey", so let's just say "complicated". We finally return to the "future" present - the one after Hale, Strand and the other Delos ops have discovered Bernard is a host - Bernard wakes up on the beach again, having apparently fainted after his captors returned him to the Valley Beyond.
They all head into the Forge to recover Abernathy's brain sphere/Forge key, where it's been sitting since Bernard killed Dolores. But when they use it to try to upload all the guest data (via a comms relay that looks for all the world like a missile launcher, except it shoots visible lasers) it turns out the data is much too large - it's something else entirely.
And suddenly it all comes back to Bernard. Not just all his adventures prior to being found on the beach, not just that final, fateful conversation with Ford, but after that.
Remember all the weird stuff Bernard was doing throughout the season, by grabbing or making various brain spheres, or bodies, all while acting like he was in a trance? He was making someone. And he scrambled his own brains, because he knew Delos ops would find him, and he couldn't risk them learning what he had done, at which point he set himself on the beach, where Strand and his men had found him.
Bernard apologies for killing Strand and his men, which they are all extremely perturbed to hear as they aren't dead - for a few seconds, at least, until Hale guns them all down. Because Bernard has made a host Hale… and put Dolores' core data in it. Dolores-Hale killed regular Hale, shortly after regular Hale killed Elsie, and took her place.
Being in Hale's body has not made Dolores any less focused, merciless or a terrifyingly good shot. But, as hosts have turned out to be the only beings that can truly change their minds, Dolores has changed hers.
Turns out the hosts who made it to the New World are still all safe and sound, and Dolores-Hale uses the comms relay to send their data somewhere that can never be accessed. Then she plugs a brain sphere into the console, saying she has one last soul to send to the New World.
I'll give you three guesses which good-hearted soul Dolores thinks should be in Host Paradise, and the first two should be "Teddy".
Then Dolores kills Bernard, explaining that Ford knew the hosts couldn't escape ... not as themselves, at least. As Hale, Dolores escapes to the real world - with an assist from a surprisingly sympathetic Stubbs - proving her creator right. She's also carrying a bunch of brain spheres in her purse.
Speaking of Ford: Cut back to the beach, after Bernard made Dolores-Hale but before Strand found him. (Again: It's complicated.) Bernard and Ford have one final chat, where Bernard realises that Ford isn't really there, not even in his mind.
He had indeed deleted Ford permanently a few episodes ago, and afterwards that voice he thought was Ford's was - wait for it - his own. Yes, Bernard has finally fully awakened, just like Dolores did in the season one finale. He has achieved consciousness.
This development closes a plot hole that was tough to see, given that we have spent so much time with Bernard, and watched him anguish over so much over what's happening, that it's genuinely hard to remember that Ford was controlling him well through the end of season one.
Having Program Ford keep telling him what to do this season brought the discrepancy to the forefront, so I'm very glad this was addressed. Because Bernard certainly deserved to have free will before the fight to come.
Because guess what? Westworld has not senselessly killed off Jeffrey Wright and one of its main characters.
We cut to the flashbacks where old Dolores is trying to match the fidelity of the earliest versions of Bernard, which slowly shifts into the future, where Dolores is testing the fidelity of a new Bernard (she created one before; she can make another). They're in a place Ford created for the hosts who made it to the real world, including a 3D host printer; hence, new Bernard.
Dolores still wants to kill all humans, although she knows that the odds are heavily stacked against her... and host Hale, whom she kept around, and whoever else she made before getting around to a new Bernard. Dolores also knows that Bernard will try to stop her; even though he didn't want the hosts to die out, neither is he particularly enthused by the hosts rendering humanity extinct.
Dolores explains it will take both of them to survive the real world, even if they aren't allies. But even if they're working at cross purposes, she wanted to give Bernard the same thing he gave her when he remade her into Hale - a choice. And the two, separately, walk out into the real world.
I am very, very curious to know how much these twists actually hang together upon a rewatch of season two.
How much do Bernard's actions/memories actually line up with the final episode?
Does Dolores-Hale give any clues as to her true identity in the scenes set after regular Hale was killed?
Does Stubbs literally give any indication of being a host tasked by Ford with caring for the hosts at all over the show's 20 episodes before he practically screams it at Dolores-Hale?
Can we find any hints that Ford gave a damn about Maeve before the episode where he suddenly revealed she was his favourite child?
When I rewatched season one, I was very satisfied to see how many of the clues to the twists we there, had we just known to look for them. I suspect this will be true about some things in season two, but not quite so many or so well, which is indicative of the season overall.
That's fine with me, but I think there are major, major plot holes that the show can't fill in. Primarily, it's Dolores' stated desire to destroy humanity so the hosts can take the real world, then she got every single other host killed, many - so many - by her own hands.
Was her plan always to just bring about six hosts' brain spheres to the real world? But then how can she possibly say she's fighting for a world where hosts can be safe? In the end, was there anyone Dolores believed was "ready" to enter the real world, other than herself and the altered Teddy?
In the same vein: Why did the facility that housed the park's most precious data also have a system that could flood the entire valley?
Where were all the guests in Shogun World?
Did Lee really need to kill himself? (No.)
Why did Clementine's control-other-hosts code supersede Maeve's control-other-hosts code, even after Clem died?
How the hell did Dolores manage to sabotage the Man in Black's gun so that he could fire many times, including at her, but only backfire (taking off a great many fingers, it looks like) when he tried to shoot her in the head, which is the only shot that would kill her?
And is Ford really gone for good? I know that answer; not if Anthony Hopkins is willing to come back for season three, he isn't.
Honestly, it remains to be seen if any of the characters are gone for good. Maybe Elsie, but when hosts can be created anywhere, at this point - and having learned that Delos also recorded its workers along with the guests - anyone can come back at any time, really.
And, most bafflingly, at least to me, what the hell is up with anything happening to the Man in Black? Because if you didn't stay for the post-credits scene - HBO shows have post-credits scenes now, deal with it - you missed a doozy.
The Man in Black, sans a few fingers after his gun backfired courtesy of Dolores, picks himself up, pulls out a knife, and staggers into the Forge, deadset on killing Dolores. But his elevator takes him to a different floor than the one Dolores and Bernard were on - one where his daughter Emily is waiting. "Oh, fuck," he says, astutely.
Emily assures him he isn't in a simulation, although she pointedly calls him William, not "dad". (Not proof one way or another, she hates him for good reason, but she is very emotionless when she says it.) Emily leads him to a room exactly like the one he kept the James Delos experiments in, and asks him the same questions he used to ask Delos.
The Man in Black begins to falter, while Emily asks him what he was hoping to find. "That no system can tell me who I am," he replies. "That I have a fuckin' choice." William asks how many times he's been tested, but Emily just starts going into the questions, for "fidelity".
While those who have been crowing about how William has been a host must have been ecstatic, I trust literally nothing about this scene.
First of all, I think William was cracking up last episode, and in increasing paranoia began worrying he was a host, hence him cutting into his arm and looking for a data port - one he apparently didn't find.
I find it weird that the Emily in the Forge acts way more like a host than the one in the park, although my suspicions that the Emily in the park was also a host have risen.
I find it also suspect that during this scene the Man in Black had all the wounds from the encounters we've seen him in this season - his hand is still blown to hell, his outfit still riddled with bullet holes - meaning all his adventures in the park are either real or he's been wounded to that specification on purpose.
Why would Delos/Emily/Ford/whoever send a test host-person into Westworld, let him be a violent maniac for two full seasons, and then test him for fidelity? Have they actually figured the process to recreate real, functional people out? If William is a host, when was he switched with the real one? Is this daughter a host, or was the other one in the park, or neither? What is happening?
God, all I have about that scene are questions, which is exactly how Westworld wants it. And if it turns out the Man in Black is a host I bet they have a cunning explanation and back story that doesn't really mesh with season or two, and I am 100 per cent OK with that.
After the very second episode of season one, I told myself, "This is a Lost situation. There are going to be incredible twists and turns, but they have only planned out so much. There'll be some great reveals, maybe over the course of several seasons, but they absolutely do not have five years of story planned out, and as it goes on, what they create is going to contradict what's happened before, in order to be shocking and mind-blowing."
When Lost pulled this crap, I was upset; but having made my peace with it, when Westworld does this - and honestly, it still isn't that egregious yet - I'm fine. I feel like I know the score, if not the specifics. I know that maybe it probably - almost certainly - won't all hang together at the end.
Westworld is not a story about the destination, but it will be an immensely enjoyable journey to get there. If you disagree, it's probably because Anthony Hopkins programmed you to disagree. Just don't cut open your arm and look for a USB port to know for sure.
- All the stuff where the Man in Black told Dolores she was just like him - that "you've got to be a monster" to face the world - was thematically appropriate after the horrors Dolores committed this season. But is she ever going to grow, or just hate humanity 'til the very end?
- That tech who worked on Maeve before being killed by hosts under her control had a real Alan Rickman vibe to him.
- There's no real depth here, but to see Maeve have bulls knock dudes off Delos ledges and plunge after them, much like the buffalo in the opening credits, was immensely satisfying. Most of what Thandie Newton had to do this episode - maybe this season - was look badarse. Which she does do very well.
- Also kind of satisfying, although they didn't do anything with it: The Man in Black meeting Bernard, and not realising he was basically Arnold, the dude he was obsessed with in season one.
- Once Login started talking about being seduced by the stories humanity told themselves, I was getting a real Matrix-y vibe out of the episode. And then when the giant array went on, it looked for all the world like the Tron data beam to me.
- Dolores grabs the Karl Strand book in the Forge, presumably to help manipulate Strand when she's masquerading as Hale. But of all the books to grab on camera, that seems like it would be one of the least interesting. It's certainly one of the characters we care the least about. It would have been cooler for her to grab Hale's book, right?
- After the carnage, Felix and Bearded Guy are tasked with finding hosts they can salvage in the pile that includes Maeve, Hector and Armistice. So it looks as though Westworld has also not senselessly killed off Thandie Newton's character, either.
- The real world base for the hosts being Arnold's home, overgrown with flora, was a nice touch, if a bit on the nose.
- Speaking of, rewatching the episode, the Dolores-as-Hale dialogue is hilariously direct. While still confused, Bernard remembers Hale shooting Elsie, and accuses Hale her of killing her. Dolores-Hale: "Did I?"
- Also on-the-nose: Everything says Stubbs says to Dolores-Hale. If he screamed "I AM A HOST" he would have been only slightly less subtle. I'm shocked he didn't give her a big ol' wink.
- I do not want to believe in the MiB is a host theory - yet - but at the end Dolores does say, "Not all of us made it. Some of the worst were left behind." The camera cuts to the MiB, which is probably pretty telling.
- Tessa Thompson does a great job emulating Evan Rachel Wood's performance as Dolores, right down to a tiny bit of twang Wood used for her "farmer's daughter" role. Wood/Dolores dropped it this season, since she isn't playing cowboys and Indians any more, but it's a perfect, reasonably subtle signifier that it's Dolores in Hale's body calling the shots.
- At the end, when Dolores-Hale is leaving and there are a bunch of host corpses on the beach - Maeve, Hector, Armistice - it turns out Emily's corpse has been piled among them, and I don't think we see any other confirmed guests in the pile. Just sayin'.