WARNING: FULL SPOILERS
That was a hell of a way to end Westworld’s amazing first season. The Bicameral Mind answered the season’s most important mysteries in brilliant fashion, dashing our hopes early before completely turning everything we had seen throughout the season on its head. The producers were not kidding when they said they would play with audience perceptions.
There was a lot to cover in the finale, so read on as I try to make some sense of it all.
DARKEST BEFORE THE DAWN
Pain, both physical and psychological, had always been a reoccurring theme and the episode had healthy doses of it in the early going.
First off, we finally got confirmation that Will (Jimmi Simpson) was the Man in Black (Ed Harris). While most regular viewers (Myself included) figured this out long ago, the way the episode revealed this was done so well it draws you into the character once again.
The reveal was a credit to director/co-writer Jonathan Nolan, as he used great visual cues to show Will’s transformation. The Man in Black was narrating, but the visuals did a great job of showing us just how much of a sociopath Will had become. The acting from Evan Rachel Wood, Ed Harris and Jimmi Simpson were all amazing, but Simpson was especially strong in that final moment.
When Will, dressed in his new black garb, finally found Dolores in Sweetwater, that look he had when the object of his obsession had simply returned to her loop spoke volumes. It was a mix of devastation that slowly turned to resignation. The dip of the hat as a transition between Will and the Man in Black was a bit cliche though.
The quick flashes to Will’s past with Dolores were heartbreaking, but not in the way you might think. Yes, it is sad to see what seemed to be a decent man become a sociopath, but the most tragic thing to come out of this was not how evil The Man in Black was, but how pathetic he was.
The Man in Black relied on a fantasy to define himself. He relied on it so much that he bought the park to keep it open, his own playground to get cheap thrills. He wanted the hosts to fight back and possibly winning only because he wanted a new challenge. In an interview, Nolan said that The Man in Black represented the worst of humanity, and he certainly was that.
When Dolores finally fought back and basically kicked Will’s butt in the church, it was truly satisfying. But yet again, the episode took away a moment of catharsis as Dolores hesitated at that critical moment, allowing Will a chance to attack. It was still relatively early in the show, so it should not have been a surprise to see that happen.
Wood did wonderful work here, conveying desperate hope for the Will she knew and loved returning, and then righteous anger and disgust in her fight with the current Will. The emotions never went over the top and felt earned and believable.
Teddy (James Marsden) rode to Dolores’ rescue but it was a fleeting moment as it was eventually revealed that nearly everything we had seen…the quest for the Maze, Maeve’s (Thandie Newton) escape, the reveries…were all Ford’s (Anthony Hopkins) narrative. As Teddy confessed his need for a new beginning, it felt so artificial and sure enough, it was.
Poor Teddy. Throughout the season, he had been a simple plot device. He was the person who kept Dolores anchored to Sweetwater. He was Will In Black’s guide. And he was Dolores’ henchman in several important moments…more on that later. But it seemed like they were setting him up for a huge role next season, so do not dismiss him yet…again, more on that later.
Maeve’s escape just being another story for her to follow was devastating. I suspected this might be the case in my speculation article earlier this week, but it was still a downer. Maeve’s plotting had been a highlight of the second half of the season, mostly because of Thandie Newton’s awesome work.
Bernard’s (Jeffrey Wright) death was thankfully brief as Maeve and company found him in the basement where he was forced to kill himself. It was hilarious when Felix (Leonardo Nam) briefly believed he was a host, a nice wink to fan speculation. Maeve’s curt reassurance that he was human was fun as well.
Maeve confronting Bernard about his role “enslaving” his own “kind” was a moment that needed to happen. Bernard could not avoid the responsibility simply because he did not know who he was. In either case, he was a sentient being abusing other sentient beings.
Maeve’s desire to erase the memory of her daughter showed just how little she understood how consciousness worked. Yes, she was smart and independent, but the pain she felt was seemingly unbearable. She did not understand that it was part of who she was.
The “Maeve-Escape-Was-Only-Another-Story” was especially surprising because of the bloody carnage that Hector (Rodrigo Santoro) and Armistice (Ingrid Bolso Berdal) inflicted on the labs. The scenes were fun as the two discovered automatic weapons and mowed down anyone who stood in their way. I loved that Hector embraced Maeve’s betrayal at the end, happily going to his “death.” He knew who he was dealing with.
Arnold’s failure to free the hosts was the most devastating disapointment. The long suspected reveal that Dolores was the infamous Wyatt was confirmed as Arnold merged that character into Dolores’ programming. It allowed her to kill Arnold at his own request, but it did not result in her awakening or her freedom. It was only partially succeeded as she could never fully figure out what was at the center of her “maze,” the inner search that Arnold had set up as a way for her to achieve full consciousness.
In the end, Arnold was still the one pulling the strings. Ford told Dolores and Bernard that their savior never did figure out how to free them. The pieces were there, but in the end he seemingly died for nothing. And to top it off, Dolores’ journey was all part of Ford’s new narrative, one that seemed to guarantee the hosts would remain under control.
THE LIES THAT TOLD A DEEPER TRUTH
Ford’s purposeful insertion of the reveries and the resulting consciousness in the hosts was absolutely crazy. He admitted that he was wrong. It instantly made you think back to how he acted before…and parts of it make sense. Look at that scene between himself and Dolores in Contrapasso. I mistook the tension as Ford hating the one who killed his partner, especially after he said they were “Not old friends at all.”
Looking back on that scene now, I do not believe it was anger. I think Ford felt guilty about all he had put her and the other hosts through. As he said in the finale, Ford had to give the hosts time to understand their enemy, telling “lies that told a deeper truth” to toughen them up for the fight ahead.
Throughout the season, Ford went from eccentric old man to threatening antagonist to unlikely savior so this reveal seemingly came out of nowhere. But here’s the thing: He was still all three in the end. Revolutions never come about peacefully or without pain for those behind it, and Ford understood that. He told Bernard multiple times that pain was the driving force that shaped all life and he had to inflict that onto this new life he had wronged so long ago.
It was easy to see why Anthony Hopkins was attracted to the role. There were so many layers to the character that this season almost requires rewatching to see his scenes in a new light. It was an amazing arc and Hopkins was probably one of the few actors to be able to pull off the subtlety required.
Dolores’ final awakening was projected just a bit early as most people figured out that the voice she was always hearing was her own. But that final moment when she walked out to kill Ford, sparking the revolution did not lose any power because of that. It actually added to the sequence as we watched in disbelief that this was finally happening.
Those moments were visual storytelling at their best as Ford’s plans slowly emerged. The empty hosts “garage” that Sizemore discovered. Those same hosts materializing at the treeline just outside the executive board gala. The huge smile Will had when he was wounded by a returning Clementine. It all came together beautifully.
There is an important aspect to point out here: Choice was a big part of the ending sequence. Ford chose to help the hosts in the end. Maeve broke out of her escape story to find her daughter. The special features at the end of the episode said that the theme for next season is chaos. I think that choice will be a big part of the season as well.
Look at the three other hosts present at Ford’s “retirement.” Rebus, the host that set up Dolores’ assault in the early episodes, smirked. Bernard was dumbfounded. And most importantly, Teddy was horrified, mirroring the look he had when Dolores killed Arnold years before.
While this revolution was needed, not every host will probably agree with the methods. Dolores will most likely be the leader of the revolution, with hosts like Rebus gladly following. Bernard might be more of a moderate voice as Ford did apologize for the pain he had yet to suffer. And Teddy may be the dissenting voice, almost adversarial to Dolores.
Westworld has brilliantly set Teddy up to be a major character next season and this might be the way they go. Teddy’s loop was absolute dedication to her, including cold-blooded murder. It would be amazing if he breaks out of that loop and becomes an adversary.
THESE VIOLENT DELIGHTS HAVE VIOLENT ENDS
The Bicameral Mind did a great job not leaving many questions unanswered while also introducing some enticing ideas for next season. There were a few minor non-reveals, such as the ultimate fates of Elsie (Shannon Woodward) and Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth), though the two were not critical to the events in the finale. The episode was still a jaw-dropping finale that was almost perfectly executed, taking us on a roller coaster of emotion.
SCORE: 10 OUT OF 10