This article contains MAJOR Westworld season finale spoilers.
Previously on Westworld… an entire premium cable audience had its mind blown. If one recalls, you settled in for the season finale of Westworld, expecting to discover what is at the center of a physical maze, and maybe have someone explain to you just what is going on with Ford’s new narrative… and you end up in the thralls of a robot revolution that could very well signal an extinction level event for humanity as a species!
There was a lot to mull on—as we certainly did in our 4,000-word review back in the day—but perhaps you just want to take a step back and understand the basics. Like why did Dolores shoot Ford, how did Maeve make the “choice” to leave that train, and who the hell is Wyatt? Well, in a more simplified and concise manner, we’re here to help you understand everything about that blasted Westworld ending.
Ford’s Dying Wish is to Realize Arnold’s Greatest Fear
First, to understand (or recall) why Dolores put a bullet in her god’s back, we must examine why she was created in the first place. Ford might be the Westworld park’s deity who pushed everything along to its rightful conclusion, but he is not its technical progenitor. That was Arnold, and Arnold’s reason for creating Dolores is the same reason that he ultimately committed suicide: his desire to prove hosts can be sentient.
Not so subtly, it seems Arnold passed to Dolores a taste for the classics, and Michelangelo’s fresco of God imparting the spark of life to Adam in particular. Dolores was Arnold’s Adam, but she also very well had the capacity to grow into his Lucifer, a creation that would strike down its Heavenly Father. This is a terrifying realization… but not to Ford.
After Arnold thinks he has proven Dolores is truly conscious (which we’ll explain how below), he had achieved his goal of making his hosts into living beings. Unfortunately, that came with two dreadful realizations. The first is that if they are alive, then a park where guests can torture, abuse, and victimize these robots endlessly is a form of slavery at best, and a Sisyphean Hell at worst. Secondly, this means he has created beings that have the ability to outlive us and surpass us if they can truly be sentient.
For these reasons, Arnold attempts to destroy the park and even kills himself by having Dolores shoot him and all the other hosts. However, Ford is able to weather the loss of his partner and even comes to agree with him about the potential of the hosts by the time that William both proves that Dolores has “memories” of Arnold… and William in turn saves the park. And this gives Ford the time to enact a plan that has apparently taken decades to complete.
The Maze is a Test of Dolores’ Artificial Intelligence
The physical “game within a game” that Ed Harris’ Man in Black desperately sought really was not meant for him, nor was it truly physical. Arnold designed it as an elaborate test—far beyond the simile and morality tests replicants faced in Blade Runner—for Dolores to prove her consciousness. Before the maze, Arnold had attempted in vain to use the Bicameral Mind theory to jumpstart consciousness, as explicitly stated by Ford.
This meant that Arnold’s coded commands for the hosts would be heard like the voice of God inside their data… but this only drove the hosts to madness. Hence, he needed Dolores to find her own self-awareness by thinking and solving a puzzle she was not programmed to solve. Technically, the “maze” that Old Man William sought is a toy from Arnold’s son that has been buried in the ground. However, it is really a test that supposedly proved Dolores was cognizant. But Ford didn’t agree…
Dolores is Wyatt
The flaw in Arnold’s plan for Dolores is that he still had to program her to seek out the maze. This “loop” is why she chased the maze again with William 30 years ago (and about four years after Arnold’s death). It is likewise the reason she chases it now in the present. The fact that Ford is aware and welcome to the idea of Dolores searching for consciousness also explains why he would allow her to run around the park by herself lost in “memories” of the past during the contemporary events that spanned the last seven episodes (i.e. any scene without William and Logan, or Dolores and Jeffrey Wright as Arnold).
Still, Arnold’s plan is flawed. He only was able to get her to kill himself, as well as the other hosts, by grafting the personality for a new character named Wyatt on top of Dolores’ existing behavior models. Hence, even if reveries were allowing her to remember, she did not have the capacity to be truly aware or make her own choices. Not yet.
For the record, this makes Old William’s desperation to find Wyatt even more pathetic. He thinks it’s some hidden riddle left by Arnold for gamers, but he’s no different than the kid on the playground playing Pokémon and thinking that he’ll find Mew if he looks under a truck at the exact right moment.
Dolores Becomes Her Own God
The title of the episode is “The Bicameral Man,” but the thought of God being in your head is resoundingly rejected by Robert Ford. He points out that the cloud upon which Michelangelo’s God sits is in the shape of the human brain. Our own consciousness is the divine spark, as at least according to Ford.
He is thus attempting to jumpstart that consciousness in Dolores too, in order to truly create this new species of artificially intelligent beings. He might be trying to implant the idea for her to kill him in her head by leaving the gun she used to kill Arnold in front of her, which is also the same gun he has had Bernard leave around her ranch over the years. But conditioning is not the same as programming. He wants it to be her choice. Hence, when she starts listening to the “voice” in her head, it at first sounds like Arnold—who I always assumed was the voice, perhaps even a bit of programming he left behind prior to his death—then it sounds like Ford. But finally it sounds like herself.
Soon enough, Dolores realizes she is sitting across the table from herself in her own mind. It is her own personality, which is now as much informed by Wyatt as it is the sweet Sweetwater girl with dreams of seeing the ocean. Once she understands and accepts she can make her own choices, she is her own god and decides to take the gun and begin a murderous revolution against humans. Ford might have planted the idea in her head, but it is still her choice.
Maeve Never Had Free Will
Yet ironically, just as Dolores is finally breaking through real consciousness, we are learning the dispiriting fact that Maeve’s whole arc this season was preordained for her by Ford.
There seems to be some confusion in the fan community about who programmed this new narrative loop upon which Maeve has traveled, but it can only be Ford. As this episode confirmed, there is no Arnold inside of Dolores’ head, nor is it actually Arnold who is programming the hosts to break their traditional loops. It is, in fact, Ford feeding into his final narrative.
Admittedly, some have suspected that Maeve is just one more “stray” host used by Theresa and Charlotte to smuggle out intel on the park and hosts. However, neither are particularly adept at programming hosts, as seen in the stray that Elsie and Stubs discovered in the third episode. Also, Charlotte is now focused on using Abernathy as her newest mole. Finally, it only makes sense that Ford would have Bernard attack Elsie in the theater, thereby covering up his tracks, if he had something to hide. Elsie had just discovered the stray was a case of corporate sabotage (which Charlotte, in turn, revealed to be the board stealing research from Ford). However, Elsie also found a more ominous code programmed seemingly by Arnold.
This is because Ford had already entered the endgame of his plan to push the robots to self-aware revolution, which included finally revisiting the “reverie” code that Arnold had invented for Dolores 34 years ago. Ford couldn’t let Elsie share that he was secretly programming select models (namely Maeve, Abernathy, and perhaps Hector and Armistice) to look for their strings. Maeve’s entire arc, all the way to boarding the train, was preordained by Ford. Presumably, he intended for Maeve to recruit Hector and Armistice, and for them to create so much havoc and death downstairs in the control room, that everyone was preoccupied and cornered when he shut the power off, and unleashed a robot horde on the board in the park.
This likewise explains how Felix had such ease giving Maeve Ford’s godlike power over other hosts, and programming the security protocols to be loosened. The question then is whether Maeve ever had free will? Well… maybe.
In her final moments, she chooses to get off the train and search for her “daughter.” However, because she crushed Bernard’s tablet before he said what she’d decide to do on the train, we cannot be entirely sure if this also wasn’t in her loop. It is intentionally left ambiguous so that Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy have some freedom for next season, but the rosier interpretation is that she finally made a choice out of free will to go save the host that was her daughter. If that is the case, she, like Dolores, has developed true consciousness.
Do You Know What Happened to the Neanderthal? We Ate Them
In one of the most chilling scenes of the finale, Ed Harris’ older William discovers he is dealing with more than a programmed damsel as he is abusing Dolores. She begins speaking of dinosaurs, or great beasts, who are now only made of bone and amber. This is a wink to Jurassic Park, the Michael Crichton novel that bears many similarities to his earlier Westworld movie. But it is also speaking of extinction.
Just as mammals replaced the dinosaurs, Dolores is coming to realize, as Ford has, that beings of artificial intelligence like herself cannot die, and that they are the true next inheritors of this world.
“One day you will perish. You will lie with the rest of your kind in the dirt. Your dreams forgotten, your horrors effaced. Your bone will turn to sand. And upon that sand, a new god will walk. One that will never die, because this world doesn’t belong to you or the people who came before. It belongs to someone who is yet to come.”
This is also the motivation of Ford, who likewise spends his final moments lamenting that his park has become a prison for our own sins. His backhanded defense for that is “you’re only human.” But that includes human beings like William, who pretend to be moral and self-righteous, but who ultimately, when allowed to be whoever they want, often pick the vilest and most sadistic diversions, including rape and murder.
As the Joker once mused in another Jonah Nolan script, “They’re only as good as the world allows them to be,” and in the Westworld park, they’ve revealed themselves to be no good at all.
Ford realized sometime after Arnold’s death that the hosts were learning, and that if he gave them decades to stockpile experiences, they’d be ready to “remember” them via the reveries program that Arnold had invented for Dolores in order to solve the maze all those decades ago.
So, yes, Ford agrees with Dolores. Beings who cannot die will inherit the Earth. He compares himself to Oppenheimer by quoting the scientist who led the Manhattan Project to creating the atomic bomb. However, he does not mention Oppenheimer’s famed appropriation of Hindu scripture: I have become Death, the destroyer of worlds.
Ford doesn’t see himself as the destroyer of worlds; he’s the benefactor of a new and better one. It would also seem he may not have truly decommissioned any of the hosts who showed signs of potential self-awareness in the basement. He’s kept them in storage until the time was right. On his last night on this Earth, he ordered them awake, allowing them to offer just one more violent surprise to his distracted guests. Meanwhile, Dolores has chosen by her own will to still complete Ford’s vision—and it is one of apocalyptic fire, as well as the genesis of an unending synthetic golden age.
Is that a wonderful thing or a nightmare? Well, we’ll have to watch season 2 to find out how Nolan and Joy interpret that…