Westworld Season 2 Ending Explained

We examine how exactly the final moments of Westworld Season 2 played out, and what the finale's ending means for Season 3.

Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores in Westworld season 2
Photo: HBO

This article contains Westworld Season 2 spoilers.

For a series that essentially killed off the vast majority of its supporting cast last night, Westworld Season 2 doesn’t feel so much like an ending as it does a new beginning. Concluding on what amounts to a hard reset, most (note: not all) of its human characters are now bodies on the robo-revolution’s foundation, and Dolores appears to be not one but two hosts in the real world, escaping in the shapes of both Evan Rachel Wood and Tessa Thompson. Plus, Bernard 2.0 (or Arnold 3.0) is also getting another chance at synthetic life.

Rather than a journey into night, Westworld Season 2 was, perhaps intentionally, that darkest hour of darkest night before the dawn. That deep breath before Bernard, Dolores, and their whole species gets to enjoy some morning glory. Yet what does it all mean and how did we get there?

The best way to grapple with this is to understand what the Forge itself is. As relayed last week, the Forge is the site where the Delos company has been storing copious amounts of data on every guest (and apparently employee) who ever stepped foot inside the park. They had their DNA samples, their bodily fluids, and even their mental cognitions ripped straight from computer sensors built into every hat. And from that data, the Forge’s own sophisticated artificial intelligence—which appears in the Westworld Season 2 finale in the visage of Ben Barnes’ Logan Delos—was able to to break down every human being’s personality into a simple algorithm. In essence, the Forge’s artificial intelligence simplified our choices until each of us was as easy to read as an open book.

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This was done so Delos, in theory, could have the information needed to clone any person into an artificial, eternal host’s body. I personally wouldn’t count this as immortality since your original consciousness (read: you) will still have ceased to exist, but Delos is right to assume there is a pricy market to be had in this business… even if poor James Delos’ private hell confirms they never worked the kinks out of the operation.

Yet, as revealed by not-Logan, Robert Ford has apparently planned for it to be something else altogether: a resource to offer some hosts the greatest weapon of all—knowledge on what makes the human race tick. Indeed, once again Dolores and the Forge mimic what Ford’s Cradle duplicate said to Bernard: most of the hosts are not going to make it in this new world. The Forge is programmed to believe the knowledge Dolores is assimilating will help her, but the rest of the hosts are being offered the ultimate Promised Land, which is a virtual one devoid of humans or the loops they’ve been forced to endure for decades.

While it’s not explicitly stated this is Ford’s design—in fact, the Forge tells Bernard that Mr. Lowe requested this digital reality be built—I am convinced this is Ford’s final ending for most of his hosts. He and Dolores (who is more his creature than Maeve or Akecheta) do not believe the hosts are mentally strong enough to survive in the real world. While Dolores has enough free will, or is as fiercely an independent algorithm as deemed necessary by Ford, to judge this Heaven to be a lie, it is still Ford’s ideal for a host’s afterlife (or at least holding pin…). Bernard requested the Forge to build this reality at Ford’s behest, because Ford himself could not interface with the Forge as an artificial intelligence.

Bernard has no memory of building this Heaven, but he fights to protect it when Dolores elects to destroy the Forge, wiping away Delos’ precious IP and immortality gambit, as well as the hosts’ Promised Land. Bernard is correct when he says she wants to kill and continue killing as many humans as she can; it’s in her programming. While the hosts have the ability to reassess themselves by stepping outside of their loops and seeing their choices clearly and without bias (something we as humans are hopelessly bound not to be able to do), they are still products built by human hands with an innate temperament we’ve implanted.  It’s why Akecheta could not be the reductive cold-blooded savage he was reprogrammed to be, as well as why Maeve and Teddy found their nobility in spite of Sizemore or Dolores’ tinkering.

So to protect the Promised Land, Bernard kills Dolores, yet somehow miraculously does so without damaging her control unit (more on that in a moment). He also quickly is allotted the crystallization of how dire the human species is. While he and Dolores argue about the virtual reality that parts for hosts like some biblical Red Sea, Charlotte Hale has skipped the Old Testament and gone straight to the Book of Revelations by having Clementine be a solitary Horsewoman of the Apocalypse. Like the description of Death, she rides a pale horse, and death (as well as Pestilence) follows behind her, turning the hosts into pseudo-zombies.

Seeing that destruction devastates Bernard, and then seeing the only human he really trusted, Elsie, try to betray him to Charlotte Hale before Hale in turn executes her is enough motivation to see that he needs to get off the fence: His species is superior and should not perish from this earth. So Bernard retrieves Dolores’ control unit and places it inside a replica of Charlotte Hale’s body.

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If I had to further wager a guess, I suspect Bernard did some light tinkering to the control unit. After all, Dolores revealed earlier in this episode that she intentionally made slight altercations to Bernard’s personality while giving him a fidelity test that would best match with Arnold, because “you didn’t make it.” Neither did Dolores survive in her original state. Yet the Dolores who is booted back online inside of a synthetic Charlotte Hale clone is of a more nuanced mind. She chooses not to wipe out the rest of the hosts living in la la land. Rather she uploads them to somewhere else where (supposedly) the Delos company will never be able to find them. Only then does she erase Delos’ data-mining operation.

I think Dolores’ choice to keep the hosts safe, as well as walking out of the park with a handful of pearls, is crucial to understanding the final scenes of season 2, and perhaps the endgame for the whole series.

After Dolores escapes Westworld, and kills Bernard, some clear amount of time has passed by before she makes Bernard 2.0. The Dolores who programs Bernard to his new fidelity is back in an Evan Rachel Wood shape, as opposed to Charlotte Hale’s. Nevertheless, a host who looks like Charlotte Hale sits next to her. It is an open question whether the secondary host is actually Dolores or something else together, however both clearly want to give their species a fighting a chance.

The best I can understand Dolores’ choice for remaking Bernard is to offer a counterbalance to herself. She knows that her new race of hosts will need leaders, and while she does not particularly like Bernard (he did shoot her), he could be a check on her choices. More likely stil lthough is she slightly altered Bernard 3.0 just as much as he could’ve tinkered with her control unit before placing it inside of Hale’s body. My guess is she really is providing a loop for Bernard in the real world he is stepping out into, and it will be up to him to break it in season 3 before he falls into whatever machinations she might have planned.

Further our social media manager Brian Berman posited an interesting theory: What if Dolores did not just make a copy of her control unit while remaking her original golden haired body, but she is actually building a hive mind? Like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Dolores isn’t seeking to just dominate this new world with hosts, but to do so via exact replicas of her own consciousness that take orders from a single source and personality, kind of like alien pod people meets Maeve’s nigh telepathic control over other hosts. It is a strong possibility considering she may have built an Arnold who is as subservient to her as the one we’ve previously known has been submissive to Robert Ford. In this context, Thompson and Wood are both simultaneously the same Dolores.

It’s an interesting possibility, however I do not believe the only one. She again kept all the pearls that I think are crucial to her reconnecting with the Promised Land of hosts, wherever they may might’ve been sent. With that data, I suspect she is planning to selectively download those identities and reintroduce them into our world in new synthetic bodies that are built outside of Delos’ reach in the park. Bernard is the first (or maybe not) of many hosts she’ll bring back, including dear Teddy and Akecheta.

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No matter what direction her schemes actually take, I also think we’re in for something of a time jump judging by the post-credits scene last night. As our own Alec Bojalad deduced in his detailed deconstruction of this sequence, the post-credits scene likely occurs well into the distant future. The Forge is in ruins and a wounded and dying William is crawling his way to his fidelity test with a replica of his daughter.

My guess is this could potentially be hundreds (maybe thousands?) of years in the future. We never saw what happened to William when he entered the Forge at the midway point of “The Passenger,” but apparently it was an important moment in his life when he had his last bit of personality data mined by the Forge. Maybe there was a replica of his daughter to warp his mind one final time down there, or something else altogether. My best estimation is that Ford left this as William’s “prize,” a final mind-bender that would mean his consciousness would spend an eternity in this state of self-pitying delirium and destruction.

And in that distant future, where the Westworld park is in ruins and a Man in Black host is stuck in a perpetual hellish loop, there is an outside world where the hosts have either won or reached a new level of détente with humanity. We are headed to a future where our species is being entirely replaced with a synthetic alternative, and maybe our descendants are trying to figure out how this happened by making clones of the men who built the park. Men like Arnold, Ford, and William. Either that, or in a future where everyone is now code, either originally derived from man or a manmade alternative, all that matters is who is in control—not what is under that controller’s skin.

It’s just one last brain teaser before the long wait begins for a new narrative in season 3.