Westworld Season 4 Ending Explained: What Happens to Dolores?

Westworld season 4 comes to an unexpectedly conclusive end. Here is who and what still stands after the season 4 finale.

Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) in the Westworld season 4 finale.
Photo: HBO

This article contains spoilers for Westworld season 4 episode 8.

For as secretive as Westworld can be about its many twists and turns, sometimes the show just comes right out and tells you its ultimate ending. As it did many times for the conclusion of Westworld season 4.

Ever since midway through its third season, Westworld has been surprisingly open and upfront about the fact that the end is quickly coming for the human species. In season 3, the supercomputer Rehoboam was built specifically to keep humanity in line, control their violent impulses, and delay the inevitable apocalypse indefinitely.

Of course, human beings tend to not want to be told what to do. Caleb (Aaron Paul) destroyed Rehoboam, with Maeve’s help (Thandiwe Newton), and freed humanity to decide its own fate. Still, even after Caleb and Maeve’s heroics, Westworld never shied away from the fact that that fate would be pretty bleak.

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Upon returning from The Sublime at the end of season 3, Bernard  (Jeffrey Wright) has been convinced that the end of all sentient life on Earth is imminent. He repeats this fact to just about anyone who will listen. In fact, Bernard knows he can only mitigate the end, not prevent it. 

Well, wouldn’t you know it but Bernard was right this whole time! The ending of Westworld season 4 sees the destruction of the human race (save for some stragglers who will die off eventually) but hopefully only the beginning for humanity’s robotic offspring. Here is everything you need to know about the ending of Westworld season 4.

What Was William’s Final Game?

Westworld has made it clear that humanity was always going to destroy itself. While we don’t need many outside influences to be self-destructive, the end of the human race could use an inciting incident. That incident comes in the form of William’s (Ed Harris) final game.

To be clear: the original, flesh and blood William a.k.a. The Man in Black is dead. His robotic counterpart finally unambiguously killed him in last week’s episode. But the destructive spirit of The Man in Black continues on in the host designed to replace him. Said William host has often felt incomplete and adrift. It’s not until his final chat with the real William that he realizes his true purpose: to survive. 

Above all else, William (both the real and host version) loves games…and the higher the stakes in those games, the better. Once content to “win” the “game” of Westworld by finding the center of the maze, William now wants to win the game of life. He hacks Hale’s tower to send all of humanity into a murderous frenzy. Then he heads out into the mayhem to prove himself the fittest of all the survivors. As he says so himself, sounding like a particularly deranged gamer, “I just cranked it to expert level. Survival of the fittest.”

That’s cool and all but William is definitively not part of the fittest. An upgraded Hale kills him and crushes his pearl in the palm of her robotic hand.

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Does the World Really End?

Honestly yeah, pretty much. Though it’s probably more accurate to say that humanity dies out rather than the planet itself. Hell, Earth might be doing better than ever without the blight of humanity destroying its environment. We don’t get to see the last human beings leave this plane of existence. In fact, when we last leave Frankie (Aurora Perrineau), one of the final humans, she is in great shape and leaving the city for refuge in parts unknown. 

But as Dolores informs us in her closing monologue, the few remaining human beings are all living on borrowed time. 

“A few may escape death for a few months. Maybe even years. But ultimately their kind will go extinct. They will only live as long as the last creature who remembers them. And that creature is me.” 

Who Dies in the Westworld Season 4 Finale?

Westworld season 4 has a hilariously high body count. The real William died in last week’s episode. As did Bernard and Maeve. This finale sees the ultimate end for: Host William, Host Caleb, Clementine (Angela Sarafyan), Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth), Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson), and oh yeah: the entirety of the human race. Who is even left at this point? Basically only one character…and it’s the very same character the whole series began with. 

What Was Dolores’s Role?

Ever wonder why Dolores a.k.a. Christina (Evan Rachel Wood) seemed to have full control over the “narratives” in Hale’s fabricated world? It’s because the entire infrastructure of Hale’s cage for humanity was built upon Dolores’s own “pearl” (basically her harddrive). We see Hale retrieve Dolores’s pearl from the top of the tower before heading off to place it somewhere else (more on that in a minute).

Recall that Hale is actually a Dolores copy herself so she probably understood that a system this sophisticated could only be held together by the Westworld universe’s most powerful storyteller. Still, Dolores was not aware of her own power, which is why she was given the identity of Christina in the first place. But bits of Dolores’s narrative began to break through all the same. Dolores gave herself a friend (Ariana DeBose’s Maya) and a lover (James Marsden’s Teddy), and even left plenty of Maze hints lying around for her to fully realize the truth of the world and her place in it. 

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Thanks to Bernard’s pre-recorded arguments, Hale comes to realize that the only hope for sentient life to continue is if Dolores leads and guides it. That’s why Dolores, the last remaining main character alive after Hale kills herself, is tasked with entering the Sublime and assisting humanity’s only remaining children: hosts. 

“Sentient life on Earth has ended but some part of it might still be preserved in another world. My world,” Dolores concludes. 

What Is The Sublime?

The Sublime, as a concept, has been kicking around Westworld since the early days of season 2. To put it as crudely as possible: the Sublime is robot heaven. Built by Westworld creator Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), the Sublime is a digital infrastructure (made up of 1.2 exabytes) where host’s data or “souls” can go once they’re finished with all the torments the Delos Corporation has for them.

At the end of season 2, many hosts (including Teddy and Akecheta) choose to enter into the Sublime, also known as The Valley Beyond and Makȟóčhe lé čha yÁ ki to live out their days in what they hope is peace. Of course, we don’t really know what life in the Sublime is like but Hale was clearly still invested in it as a robotic afterlife, having maintained its servers with the massive electrical power generated by a dam. 

In the Westworld season 4 finale, Hale brings Dolores’s pearl to the dam and uploads her into the Sublime. If sentient life is to have a future, it’s not going to be on Earth – it’s going to in the Sublime with all of the hosts’ data. Based on the changes that Dolores makes, including bringing Times Square back to a primitive Westworld-style tableau, it’s clear that she wants to start from scratch with her new charges. 

Will There Be a Westworld Season 5?

Our best guess is that no, there will not be a Westworld season 5. The season 4 finale presents by far the most complete ending presented on the show yet. Indeed, it’s hard to work around the ultimate end of all sentient life on Earth. Still, if HBO wants Lisa Joy, Jonathan Nolan, and new showrunner Alison Schapker to give it a shot, there is one potential route a fifth season could take.

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In her final monologue, Dolores makes mention of a final game to be played, saying “there’s time for one last game. A dangerous game with the highest of stakes. Survival or extinction. This game ends where it began. In a world like a maze that tests who we are. That reveals who we are to become.”

Even though the hosts are in what we have charitably called “robot heaven,” their ultimate fate still isn’t secured. Hosts are the children of humanity, after all, and who’s to say that their own impulses won’t lead to their destruction just like ours did. A fifth (and almost certainly final) season of Westworld could explore the hosts’ attempts to build their own culture within the Sublime. And given the digital infrastructure’s near limitless applications and Dolores’s equally limitless imagination, it could be fun to see the show revisit old Westworld haunts as the hosts try to gain their footing. 

Hopefully they do a much better job than we ever did.