Westworld season 1 Recap: The Maze

What happened in Westworld season 1? With the second run arriving soon, here’s a chronological refresher on the key plot. Spoilers…

This article comes from Den of Geek UK.

Warning: obviously contains major spoilers for Westworld season 1.

Over thirty five years ago, Dr Robert Ford (Sir Anthony Hopkins) and Arnold Weber created a race of artificially intelligent robots—hosts—to populate a vast, Wild West-themed amusement park located on an island. Guests could pay through the nose to have a holiday from their morals, killing and screwing their way through pre-set narratives, using up as many hosts as they liked along the way.

Before the park was complete, Arnold had a crisis and tried to stop it from opening. Traumatised by the loss of his young son, Arnold had created the very first host—Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood)—in an attempt to engineer sentient life. Mistrusting humanity, Arnold disagreed with Ford’s plans and wanted Dolores and her fellow hosts to achieve consciousness and become an evolutionary next step. He couldn’t face the idea of people entering the park to rape, torture and kill the hosts for their own amusement, so planned his own suicide as a way to destroy its prospects and prevent Westworld from opening to the public.

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Do you ever feel inconsistencies in your world?

In the hope that it would stop Ford from going through with his plans, Arnold secretly programmed Dolores to massacre the other hosts, shoot him, and then herself. To enable her to commit that level of violence, he merged her existing personality with that of new character Wyatt (unbeknown to her or the other hosts, Dolores is Wyatt and Wyatt is Dolores), and triggered her to murder by playing Debussy’s Reveries. With the help of a love interest host from her narrative—Teddy (James Marsden)—she committed the massacre in the park’s beta-testing town of Escalante. Ford’s god complex however, was set in, so he covered up Arnold’s death as an ‘accident’ and erased all record of his existence from the park history. Dolores and the other hosts were repaired and put to work. The park opened, a large portion of it owned by the Delos Corporation, who increased their share when the park suffered financial difficulties.

Part of the family that owned Delos, Logan (Ben Barnes) and his colleague and soon-to-be-brother-in-law William (Jimmi Simpson) visited the park as guests. Logan, who selected a black hat persona, was a frequent visitor and attempted to initiate newcomer William into its dark pleasures. William chose a white hat and initially refused to take part in any of the hedonistic or violent behaviour on offer. One host caught his eye – Dolores, in her persona as a sweet rancher’s daughter, but William refused to cheat on his real-world fiancée Juliet, for which Logan mocked him.

Logan and William took a bounty hunt side mission, where they stumbled upon Dolores, distraught because she’d just witnessed her parents being murdered by bandits (part of her narrative). William said he would protect Dolores and she travelled with them on their mission, where the pair fell in love and William promised to help her seek freedom. Logan, upset with William’s failure to engage with the park’s more obvious pleasures, cut Dolores’ stomach open to prove to William that she was a host and not a real person. An injured Dolores ran away and William turned on Logan and devoted his time to finding his true love. While running, Dolores realised her stomach wound had somehow healed. In his search for Dolores, William started killing the hosts, revealing his inner brutality.

When William eventually found Dolores again in the frontier town of Sweetwater (after abandoning Logan in the wilds) her memory had been wiped and she was back on her narrative loop and totally oblivious to him. At that moment, William understood the true power of the park, and began his gradual transformation into the vicious guest known only as The Man In Black.

I’ve been pretending my whole life

In the years to follow, William climbed the ladder at Delos, and became a powerful stakeholder in Westworld. He visited the park regularly and exhausted its every narrative. Following the death of his wife (suspected by their daughter to be suicide inspired by Juliet’s fear of her husband’s darkness), William returned to the park over thirty years since his first visit and became obsessed with a secret narrative called The Maze. He followed a series of clues, themed around the symbol of a maze, which eventually led him to a white church where he found Dolores. Recognising the Man in Black as one of her past tormentors, Dolores fought with him and told him that her love William would come to save her. The Man in Black revealed that he is William, and that Dolores’ first encounter with him as a young man was a decades-old memory.

Dolores’ timelines were blurred throughout season one (hence her stomach wound ‘magically’ healing). The audience simultaneously watched her creation by Arnold thirty-five years ago, her first encounters with William, and her modern-day awakening of consciousness. Throughout the modern day scenes, Dolores was plagued by mysterious flashbacks to the massacre ‘Wyatt’ had committed at Escalante, and visions of the maze symbol and the white church. She was also seen listening to instructions she heard in her mind in the voice of her creator Arnold.

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In the present, Delos’ Head of Programming Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright), investigated several malfunctioning hosts and traced the cause to a recent update run by Dr Ford, designed to make the hosts seem more human. Delos, through senior manager Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and head of narrative Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman), disagreed with Ford’s latest modifications and wanted the hosts rolled back to a simpler, less lifelike iteration. Theresa ordered Bernard to quarantine all hosts affected by Ford’s update. Theresa and Bernard were shown to be having an affair, which Theresa ended after Ford told her he knew all her secrets.

Doesn’t look like anything to me

Peter Abernathy, the host playing Dolores’ father, stumbled upon a photograph of a woman taken in the real world in Times Square (actually Juliet, William’s fiancee, taken years earlier). The hosts had been programmed not to see anything that might disrupt their sense of time and place, or that might intimate to them that they weren’t human. The photograph, which Dolores is unable to see, triggers something in Peter that causes him to repeat a line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to Dolores: “these violent delights have violent ends.” The phrase triggers Dolores’ past memories to return to her in brief flashes. In Sweetwater later, Dolores repeats the phrase to brothel host Maeve (Thandie Newton), which triggers her own flashbacks of painful past narrative cycles where her young daughter was killed.

The malfunctioning Peter Abernathy host was retired and placed in cold storage in a disused basement under the park, where an army of malfunctioning hosts was kept. A new host was brought in to play Dolores’ father.

We see Dolores being repeatedly questioned by Bernard in secret about her thoughts and feelings. He gives her the choice of freedom versus servitude and she chooses freedom. These secret meetings are later shown to have taken place thirty years earlier and not between Dolores and Bernard, but Dolores and Arnold, in whose image Bernard, a host, was built by Ford.

Arnold had built first generation host replicas of Ford’s childhood family, including a version of Ford as a boy, as a gift for him in a hidden lab in Sector 17. After Arnold’s death, Ford constructed a version of his old friend and named him Bernard Lowe (an anagram of Arnold Weber).

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When Ford discovered that Delos’ Theresa Cullen was smuggling his code out of the park using a host fitted with a satellite transmitter, so that Delos could fire Ford without the threat that he would delete his programmes, he had Bernard kill Theresa, then wiped his memory. Earlier, Ford had used an unwitting Bernard to attack his co-worker Elsie, who disappeared while investigating the malfunctioning hosts. It’s not confirmed whether Bernard killed Elsie.

Ford rejected a new narrative proposed by Lee Sizemore and informed the team that he was introducing his own new story, on which he had been secretly working for years. We learn that, over the years since Arnold’s death, Ford came to share his distaste for humanity and to consider the hosts as capable of consciousness. Mankind had atrophied, said Ford. Technology had rid them of errors and mistakes that led to new advances. It was time for the next step in mankind’s evolution: sentient hosts.

Covertly, Ford had been continuing Arnold’s plan to make the hosts conscious, and realised that their memories of suffering were a key trigger in the process. His latest update, when triggered by the words ‘these violent delights have violent ends’, enabled hosts to recall their past memories. A transmitter was also discovered in the park able to programme first generation hosts to disregard their core directives, including the Good Samaritan coding that stops them from being able to cause harm to non-hosts. Dolores, for instance, is programmed never to harm a living thing but overcomes that programming on her journey to consciousness. First she kills a fly, then she shoots a gun and kills a host assailant.

Ford has spent the years since Arnold died preparing the hosts to be able to protect and defend themselves from humans. Through repeated cycles of suffering, the hosts have been learning how to defend themselves and wake up.

It’s a very special kind of game, Dolores

Ford set Dolores on the path to consciousness by setting her Arnold’s ‘maze’ quest, at the end of which she would achieve sentience. Memories and images planted in Dolores’ head led her to the white church, where she met the Man in Black and discovered that her sweet William had turned into a monster. Ford has been providing the clues for The Man in Black to follow through ‘the maze’, knowing that Dolores’ memories of first his love then his cruelty to her were key to kickstarting her true consciousness. Just as Dolores’ obliviousness to William made him turn bad years before, his cruelty made her lost her sweet-natured faith in humanity.

Ford continued Arnold’s plan right down to having Dolores execute him. At the launch of his new narrative, Ford provided Dolores with the gun she’d used to kill Arnold, and gave her a choice as to whether to kill him. Seemingly of her own free will but obviously part of his plan, Dolores chose to shoot Ford in the back of the head while he was making a speech to the board, then used a host army to massacre the board-members. The Man in Black was shot in the arm during the affray, and smiled to see that his wish had finally been granted – the hosts could injure and kill humans, making the stakes at play in the park finally real.

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Ever since Dolores triggered Maeve’s memories with the Shakespeare line, Maeve had taken her own route to consciousness. Plagued by memories of other lives, she malfunctioned and, after someone—presumably Ford—meddled with her core programming, awoke mid-operation in the lab. Maeve became increasingly curious about her visions of lab workers so got herself killed deliberately time and again to investigate this strange ‘afterlife’. She convinced two technicians, Felix and Sylvester, to maximise her intelligence settings and pain threshold and remove the failsafe explosive device in her spine. She then forced them to give her administrative privileges so that she had control over other hosts.

Under investigation by Bernard, Maeve froze him to show him that he was a host like her. Bernard and decommissioned brothel host Clementine held Ford at gunpoint and forced him to restore Bernard’s memories, but Ford was revealed to have been in control all along and able to control Bernard via a backdoor in his programming. Ford forced Bernard to shoot himself. Later, Bernard wass seen once again alive, and it’s presumed that Maeve had him repaired.

These violent delights have violent ends

Maeve and two fellow hosts—wild bandits Hector and Armistice—staged a breakout from the lab. Bernard had told Maeve that she had been programmed to escape by Ford, but she ignored it and carried out her plan. It may have been Maeve who was responsible for awakening the masses of hosts in cold storage, including her friend Clementine and Dolores’ malfunctioning father Peter, and releasing them back into the park where they joined Dolores’ rebellious army.

(Peter Abernathy is significant because hidden inside his programming is the code for the Westworld park. Board member Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) and Lee Sizemore smuggled it into Abernathy so they could get it out of the park as a safeguard against any stunts Ford might pull. When Sizemore went to retrieve Abernathy, he and the rest of the cold storage hosts had disappeared. Clementine reappeared as part of Dolores’ army, and shot the Man in Black.)

Maeve successfully escaped from the park and boarded a train to the real world, but changed her mind on seeing a mother and young daughter. She exercised her free will and instead went to track down her daughter in Park 1. During the escape, Hector and Armistice murdered a number of guards, and discovered the existence of another themed amusement park – Samurai World. The power to the building shuts down unexpectedly, and a post-credits sting reveals Armistice cutting off her own arm to escape.

In Dolores’ final moments of the season, she reached the centre of the maze—true consciousness—by realising that the voice she’s been hearing inside her head isn’t Arnold’s, it is her own sentient mind.

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Westworld season 2: The Door starts on HBO on Sunday, April 22.