Look: last night’s big damn season two finale of Westworld was A LOT. A lot of plot twists. A lot of exposition. A lot of overlapping timelines, and deaths, and answers, and questions, and philosophy that maybe holds up but also may just be nonsense. It was fascinating and exhausting in equal measures — basically everything you have probably come to expect from Westworld, to like the nth degree. Which isn’t a complaint! But I’m not going to do a complete blow-by-blow of the episode, unraveling every convolution in the story. Instead, I just want to unpack the big events, the main revelations, that after-credit sequence (!!!), and where the series is poised to go from here.
Because, despite the episode seeming perfectly tailored to be a series finale, there WILL be a season three — a fact I had to Google to confirm after the show ended because I genuinely couldn’t tell. The reason the episode had a sense of finality to it was because … well, almost everyone you’ve come to care about over the past two seasons is dead, and the few remaining were heading out to the real world. So even though the show is coming back, it doesn’t seem like it will be set solely in a series of intriguing rich-person hedonist theme parks anymore. Which, like, I’m a little sad about, but showrunner Lisa Joy did tell The Hollywood Reporter that we haven’t seen the last park just yet. So how did all this happen?
Everyone converges on The Valley Beyond, where The Forge was situated. And remember, The Forge was the big honking server full of all that sexy human guest profile data that Delos has been illicitly gathering for decades, in a bid to engineer immortality. Dolores rides up with the MiB, for… reasons that don’t make much sense, honestly. She plugged Teddy’s spent suicide bullet in her pistol and hands it to him, as insurance for his inevitable betrayal — and sure enough, when he tries to kill her, the gun backfires and injures him. Honestly, she doesn’t seem to actually need him at all, so she could have just shot him and moved on, but I think symbolically he mattered as her opponent — and when she leaves him in the dust to continue on with Bernard, it’s a sort of passing of the torch as it will be the Dolores vs. Bernard philosophical rivalry that will drive the show forward from now on (especially next season).
[Oh — and also, we find out that Dolores spent at least 11,927 trials working to develop Bernard after Arnold passed away. And she eventually gave up on creating a perfect copy of her creator, since Arnold “didn’t make it.” So instead she’s the reason why Bernard is actually different from his human doppelgänger.]
While Bernard and Dolores head into The Forge, to use Papa Abernathy’s brain-pearl to unlock the system and gain access, everyone else converges in the Valley above. Maeve has freed herself from Mesa (in a glorious stampede of robo-bulls, natch) and reunited with Hector, Lee, and the Armistices, while Akecheta and the Ghost Nation group is marching with survivors and Charlotte drives in with the Delos crew and weaponized viral Clementine. And here is where things get tricky, because the episode is also weaving in the “present” — i.e. the part of the timeline where washed-up Bernard is escorted by Charlotte and Strand to try and track down Abernathy’s pearl. Because Bernard’s memories are mixed up, it’s sort of like he’s in The Forge simultaneously with Dolores in the past and with Charlotte/Delos in the now. Just, uh, bear that mind.
Dolores and Bernard upload themselves into the system to discover a virtual world that at first seems similar to The Cradle, except that the all the human profiles are books in a library… and the “control system” has taken the guise of Logan (HI BEN BARNES!). “Logan” reveals that humans are shockingly simplistic, and shows them the case study of Papa Delos. After 18 million versions, they were able to create a faithful copy inside the system — but it still failed when uploaded to the host body in the real world. And maybe that’s because humans are — dun dun DUNNNNN — incapable of change. No matter how many different choices are made along the way, they will still ultimately always end up in the same place. For Delos, it all comes down to this one pivotal moment with the real Logan: the time he kicked his son out of his home, the last time the pair spoke before Logan overdosed. Though Delos claimed his core drive, his meaning for being, was his son, he was incapable of ever saving Logan, even in a virtual world of endless do-overs.
Humans are predictable, and this is the key to “mankind’s undoing” that Dolores was looking for. In comparison, the hosts are capable of change — of questioning their existence and trying to rise above it. So while learning these lessons inside the system, the secondary purpose of The Forge is revealed: it contains an Eden-like pristine virtual world called the Sublime, where the hosts can live in peace and start over. Visible only to the hosts, a rift open in the Valley — this is the door that Akecheta was looking for all this time. And as the hosts march in, their consciousness enters the new world while their bodies tumble over the cliff. Unfortunately, not everyone escapes, because Clementine arrives and starts pitting the hosts against each other with her evil WiFi powers. Hector and the Armistices fall, while Maeve freezes everyone mid-fight to let her daughter escape. She’s shot by Delos soldiers. Still, Teddy is in the Sublime, and Akecheta is reunited with his wife there, and it all could be a happy ending.
Except that Dolores thinks it’s just another “gilded cage” and that no artificial world can compete with the real thing. So she starts purging the human data and triggers the Valley to flood. She’s set her sights on finding true freedom in the real world, which is when Bernard realizes she will hurt anyone who gets in her way (humans or hosts). So…
He kills Dolores. Shoots her in the head. And in the present, Charlotte and Strand have entered The Forge to see Dolores’s dead body on the ground.
So here’s where shit really goes off the rails. Bernard goes back to Mesa with Elsie, Charlotte, and the Delos crew, and he witnesses Charlotte kill Elsie — at which point he decides FUCK THIS and tries to upload Ford’s personality back into his system for hardcore help (only it doesn’t work, because he purged Ford the first, so really it’s just that his free will sounds like Ford’s voice). And this is his grand diabolical plan: build a host version of Charlotte’s body but with Dolores’s personality (WHAT), which then kills real-Charlotte (WHATTT), and then masquerades as real-Charlotte until in the present she kills Strand and all the other Delos flunkies back in The Forge (WHATTTTT). She then transmits the Sublime data off-world to somewhere safe (instead of all the guest data that real-Charlotte was after), and then she shoots Bernard because they can’t all escape.
Then Dolores-Charlotte leaves Westworld with Lesser Hemsworth’s blessing… because apparently he TOTALLY KNEW SHE WAS A HOST. It’s a very suspicious conversation, which I’m sure will have bearing next season. He might be a host himself, or he might be a deep-cover Ford lackey.
Out the real world, Dolores-Charlotte goes to Arnold’s mansion and builds herself a new Dolores body, and brings Bernard back too. Because in order to safe the host species, they need each other — and their philosophical conflicts. They are the author’s of their own stories now.
And in the post-credit sequence, the Man in Black meets his daughter in a room that is the same as Papa Delos’s test chamber… where she starts to administer his baseline interview to test for fidelity. OH SHIT! HOST IN BLACK! That bit apparently took place in the far future, as Lisa Joy unpacked in that same THR interview:
The post-credits scene delivers a bombshell, with the implication that the Man in Black is somehow a host. The first season’s post-credits scene was a bit more whimsical, with Armistice (Ingrid Bolso Berdal) losing her arm. Why save this reveal for the post-credits scene? What are you able to reveal about this scene?
Within it, just to clarify, we don’t necessarily say he’s a host. A host refers to a creature like Dolores, someone who is pure cognition, someone who is made up of nothing and has a fabricated body as well. It’s definitely a sequence that’s indicative of a direction we’re going to.
The reason we structured it the way that we did … it’s funny, because I understand that it seems complex at times, but we were really borrowing from very traditional bones of film noir structure. Something has happened, and the investigators, Strand (Gustaf Skarsgård), is taking his witness, Bernard, and trying to jog his memory to figure out what he remembers. He can’t recall, and he’s struggling to recall. He pivots back between this investigative moment, and this moment when the park has been thrown into chaos, and all of the events have unfolded. He’s trying to understand and recall what’s happen.
With those as the two major timelines this season, it felt right to wrap all of that up before the credits sequence. Finally, Bernard understands what happened. He remembers everything, including his own erasure of his own memory. You understand why: it’s to protect Dolores, who has come back as Hale, in order to protect and ensure the future safety of the hosts. We wanted to wrap that up and have Bernard’s story, in that sense, come full circle, so we would be sure to give that sense of closure within this chapter of the story. Unlike the first season, we played cards up with that all season; we knew we were lost in time, because we were very openly in Bernard’s perspective as he struggled with it.
But the one thing we did pop in that did jump out of that time sequence was the storyline with the Man in Black. For the majority of the season, we’re seeing him in the same timeline as everybody else. He’s in the park as hell has unleashed. He goes a bit mad as he thinks about his past, as he journeys into the Valley Beyond. He kills his daughter, not sure whether she’s his daughter or a host. Ultimately, we see him on the shore, as Hale — or “Halores,” as we like to call her — leaves the park. We see that he has survived that final arm injury he’s had. That rounds out that timeline.
What we see in the end recontextualizes a little bit of that. All of that did happen in that timeline, but something else has occurred, too. In the far, far future, the world is dramatically different. Quite destroyed, as it were. A figure in the image of his daughter — his daughter is of course now long dead — has come back to talk to him. He realizes that he’s been living this loop again and again and again. The primal loop that we’ve seen this season, they’ve been repeating, testing every time for what they call “fidelity,” or perhaps a deviation. You get the sense that the testing will continue. It’s teasing for us another temporal realm that one day we’re working toward, and one day will see a little bit more of, and how they get to that place, and what they’re testing for.
But setting aside how or why MiB survived — what about everyone else? Sadly, humans like Elsie and Lee (who sacrificed himself for Maeve in a grand final stand) are likely gone for good, but hosts are another matter. But in addition to the hosts that made it into the Sublime intact, Dolores-Charlotte escaped Westworld with a bag full of pearls. Per Jonathan Nolan’s post-interview with EW:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Do you know who each of those balls represent in Dolores’ purse? Or is your cast on edge about which characters Dolores found worthy of survival?
JONATHAN NOLAN: We’ve had some interesting conversations. It’s a large ensemble cast and sadly we’re saying goodbye to some people at the end of this season. But as always with this show, who remains and who doesn’t is something we’re having a lot of fun with. There’s going to be a bit of a wait for a third season but we want to surprise and hopefully delight people with the way things progress.
The good news is that there was a lingering shot of Maeve’s body that makes me think we haven’t seen the last of her, but could the same be true of Hector, or Armistice, or the other Armistice, or Clementine? And will we ever see our friends in ShogunWorld again?
Looking ahead, I’m interested to know who is in Charlotte’s body if Dolores has built her own again. I’m interested to see where the Sublime was sent to, and if we’ll ever see that world again. I want to learn more about Lesser Hemsworth’s deal, as he suddenly because interesting in the span of a single loaded conversation. I want to know what form the continued conflict between Bernard and Dolores will take, and whether the real world will be anywhere near as interesting as the simulated ones in the park.
Honestly, I’m not sure I buy this whole “hosts are capable of change, but humans aren’t” argument — though I expect that will evolve as the show continues to progress. For now, I’m worn out by the hairpin turns this finale took and yet I’m already missing some of these amazing characters (MAEVE!!!!), and I’m more impressed than ever with Tessa Thompson’s season-long Dolores impersonation.
See you in season three, friends!