The following contains spoilers for Westworld Season 2.
What lies in the Valley Beyond? That’s the question Westworld Season 2 posed early on in its run. Like “the center of the maze” from season 1, the Valley Beyond represents a central mystery for viewers to obsess over.
That’s why it’s so surprising that Westworld Season 2’s penultimate episode, “Vanishing Point,” just flat out tells the viewer what the Valley Beyond is. It’s The Forge. The what now? Yes, the Valley Beyond transitions one high-minded sci-fi moniker to another. Thankfully Westworld provides a surprisingly succinct and easy to understand definition of what The Valley Beyond/Forge is.
Dolores is the first to mention the purpose of the Valley Beyond in “Vanishing Point.” She and her army of Teddy and… well mostly just Teddy arrive at Ghost Nation lands. She explains to the tribe that she and Teddy must be granted passage to the Valley Beyond because what they’ll find there is the key to their survival in the new world.
“The Valley Beyond is not a tool. It’s a door to the world beyond,” Ghost Nation member Wanahton tells her.
“Your new world is just another one of their traps,” Dolores responds. “The key to our survival in that world lies in the Valley.”
The Valley isn’t the door to the outside world itself, as many would fairly assume. There are many actual doors to the outside world. We’ve seen the inner workings of Westworld and how tourists arrive to it, and it’s never been through a valley. Dolores and her company were actually at the ostensible “exit door” of the park two weeks ago when they staged an ill-fated Peter Abernathy rescue mission. They could have easily hopped a train to the real world then but didn’t. Because they need what’s in the Forge.
Shortly after Dolores and Teddy weave a bloody path through the Ghost Nation, Westworld more precisely explains what the Forge/Valley Beyond is through its favorite science fiction concept explainer: Bernard.
“What they’re doing to James Delos, they’re doing to everyone whose ever visited the park,” Bernard tells Elsie. “That’s what’s in the facility. All the guests laid bare in code on a vast server. Like the Cradle only much bigger. They call it the Forge.”
It’s hard to ask for a more concise explanation of the Forge than that. The Valley Beyond was never an exit. It was never a maze or a puzzle or a trick. It’s just more data, like virtually everything in Westworld. This season has established that William’s true vision for the park was as a massive data mining operation so that the very essence of all the guests could be captured digitally.
That data, instead of being housed in the Cradle with the hosts’ data, resides in a much larger computing structure called the Forge. So where the introduction of The Cradle revealed that there was truly no such thing as death for hosts who die in the park (until it was later destroyed at least), the introduction of the Forge reveals that there may be no such thing as death for any human that ides into the park. That is obviously a radical science fiction concept and also a very timely and useful one seeing as an important human character meets her demise this week.
Of course as the finale “The Passenger” reveals, there may have been a little more to the Valley Beyond than just the Forge. Bernard has been working behind the scenes to develop “the Sublime” within the Forge. What that essentially amounts to is a San Junipero-style Robot Heaven for all the hosts consciousness to reside in forever. In a sense then, Akecheta was right. The Valley Beyond was a way out – just not in the way everyone though.
The only question remains then is why does Dolores need to visit the Forge in the Valley Beyond before exiting the park? The show has not offered a clearcut explanation for this yet, but it’s not hard to see the potential uses of human beings’ digital souls. Dolores, of course, could merely be out to destroy the Forge and ruin the Delos Corporation’s lifelong work. That’s unlikely, however, as Dolores specifically said the hosts must use it as a tool to survive in the new world.
The ways that Dolores and friends could find the data in the Forge are limitless. She can use the data within the blackmail human beings on the outside into granting the hosts safe passage to a new world. She can present humanity with the concept of eternal life through the Forge and then threaten to take it away. She can turn the digital interface inside The Forge into hell for the loose data inside of it and then rule over it as a demoness.
At season’s end she has not used it for any of those purposes. Instead she opts to just delete all of the guest information and exit the park. Though thanks to a scuffle with Bernard all of that information may not have been deleted. Due to a very extensive time jump in the post-credits sequence, it seems as though at least William’s information remained intact. Did the Forge itself suvive the flood? That remains to be seen in season three.