Will Westworld Finish Where It Began?

On Westworld season 4, what if the center of the maze was a familiar Delos park all along?

Maeve (Thandiwe Newton) in Westworld season 3 episode 8
Photo: HBO

This article contains spoilers for Westworld Season 4 Episode 1.

Westworld Season 4 has already shifted everything fans were expecting from the show. With a few new characters to explore and familiar faces emerging from the wilderness, it’s clear that the conflict isn’t over just yet. There’s no telling how many more seasons of the show there will be, but as Season 4 continues to unfold, it’s obvious that showrunner Alison Schapker and creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, have an endgame in mind. 

There are hints throughout all the previous seasons as to what that finale may be. Is it possible that Westworld will simply end where it began? Few shows have managed to conclude their arcs with a return to the status quo, but the bizarre storytelling of the science-fiction HBO hit might be one of the franchises that could pull it off. What are the hints that could indicate this is the final plan and why would any of the characters return to their past lives? 

How Westworld Began

To look at the rhythmic storytelling of this phenomenal show, we might first need to remind ourselves where Westworld actually began. Audiences initially met Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), who was living out a simple life in a quaint town in the Old West. Of course, her reality was our fiction, as the world around her was revealed to be a theme park of sorts, designed for humanity to play through their dark desires and Western-style fantasies. 

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It was not a good life for the hosts, who were tormented by the guests and forced to live through the same narratives again and again. While writers might have created set narratives for them to follow, that didn’t mean that the artificial intelligence within the hosts always followed their prime directives though. It’s what launched the show, with these synthetic beings questioning their lack of choice and finally freeing themselves of the shackles of Westworld. 

With all this in mind, it seems unlikely that the hosts would want to return to such a setting. Yet, with the human aspect removed from proceedings, there was a genuinely good life to be potentially led. It was the outsiders that ruined Westworld with their cruelty and horrible narrative threads. Without them, the park might be a better place, if it was to be run by the hosts. 

The Maze Symbolism 

We all know viewers have to look deeper when it comes to the symbolism throughout Westworld. Some of the most intelligent writers in the game have been leaving hints as to where the show is heading. The visual of the maze, which has also been representative of the mind of the hosts, recently reappeared for the first time in Season 4, scrawled in some soil. 

The importance of the maze cannot be understated. The idea behind the symbol was to indicate that the minds of the hosts were a complex thing to unravel. That the hosts themselves had to push through their psyche and locate the center where they might find freedom. It was also a hint that there was a mystery to solve, with the secrets within the maze potentially unraveling Westworld itself. It’s a labyrinth to consciousness, but there is an element of the maze that has been overlooked. 

Often when entering a maze, there’s only one way out. The nature of a maze like this is that the center is a trap. While the secret might have been found, the walls are closing in. It’s plausible that the symbol of the maze could very much be demonstrating the path that Westworld will have to walk. Much like a trail of breadcrumbs or a single piece of string, the show is going to have to follow its tracks back out of the maze, towards the start. There’s no other direction to go in, thus potentially spoiling the finale of the show itself. 

Dolores’ Happy Ending 

The first episode of Season 4 introduces audiences to an alternative character for Dolores: Christina. The character dreams of a better life, describing in great detail the happy ending she so desperately wants. That desire is almost the spitting image of the life Dolores once led, with her father on the farm, at the start of Westworld. Dolores’ journey, or rather Christina’s, could be heading toward her past.

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It was a life that boasted a potential love interest in Teddy (James Marsden), who has just made a comeback after a significant absence. His presence in the park incarnation of Westworld itself was absolutely integral. It can’t be a coincidence that he has returned, alongside the stories of what once was and could be again. 

Christina is a writer, crafting stories that might actually be real, taking place around her. It’s possible that Dolores is in a simulation world once more, considering some of the other hints of the episode. Regardless, while the higher-ups, the human element, push her to craft more violence and bloodshed in her work, Christina seeks a better outcome. She imagines Westworld as that utopia. Thus it supports the theory that when Dolores breaks out of that spell, it’s that imagined version of the park that she will seek to rebuild. Christina might get to write those happy stories after all and actually experience them. 

Ford’s Narrative 

The theory has persevered that all of the actions of the hosts, since the very first day, have been a part of Ford’s (Anthony Hopkins) larger narratives. It was he after all, who began the robotic revolution, sacrificing himself for the grand scheme. But like all of Ford’s stories before, there is always an endpoint and then a reset. If this is all part of his plan, then is there a reset in sight? 

Ford thought long-term, but after a while, the story could run out of steam. If the choices of the characters are ultimately scripted then at some stage they are going to run out of directives. If the hosts never truly gained consciousness and were only programmed to think as such, then maybe they will revert back to their starting positions, which was of course Westworld. On the other hand, Ford is a meta storyteller. It’s also just like him to have the narrative conclude at the start, as an homage to his earlier work. 

Maeve’s Reunion 

Dolores might be one of the main focal points of the show, but there is another lead character who could have arguably been the key protagonist all along. Maeve’s journey has been one of freedom, fighting for herself more so than that of all the hosts. She has one goal in mind, to return to her daughter and live out their life the way they once did. But the dream she imagines for herself is once again a previous reality. 

Much like Dolores, Maeve’s fantasy is one that was a fixture of Westworld. Her daughter was at her happiest, alongside her mother, before the human interference in the fields of the Old West. Just like Dolores, if there’s some kind of happy ending to be had, the happiest these characters have ever been was within that time frame, before Maeve was rewritten and given a new career. The love of Maeve’s life, Hector (Rodrigo Santoro), and her best friend Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) can also be traced back to Westworld. With Maeve having visions of her former allies and romantic interest, she might be looking for a way to bring that back into her reality. 

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The Previously Seen Utopia 

The Valley Beyond was the artificial utopia where the minds of the hosts were sent, as a way of saving them at the conclusion of Season 2 of Westworld. This was the paradise that was dreamed up by Ford for his creations. It’s obviously worth noting that the shape that the utopia took, felt suspiciously like the time period and natural environment of the wider Westworld park. 

Why would the heaven that had been built for the hosts, which acted as an escape from the hellish reality they had previously survived, reflect the very place they had sought refuge from? Because under their own guidance, it can be the peaceful location that they had always hoped for. The theme of outside interference keeps popping up. Dolores is experiencing it right now, with Christina’s stories impacting the lives of others. Take out the writers and what’s left is a blissful existence. Take the human element from the original Westworld and it may be an attractive place for Dolores and the remaining hosts to conclude their tale. 

Season 4’s Status Quo 

Season 4 of Westworld has already supported the continued notion that all lives are cyclical. They will eventually return to the status quo. The previously mentioned narratives of the hosts in the early park were an indication that things would repeat themselves. Even 7 years on from the so-called revolution for host and mankind alike, not much has changed. 

Dolores is trapped in another existence, once again confused within a potentially fictional reality while carrying out the same tasks day in and day out. Even Caleb has returned to his former life working in the same job, for the same wages and constantly fretting about a war that might never come. No matter what had previously happened, everything returned to what was once the norm. With the Westworld park acting like the previous status quo for so many, this narrative cycle could indicate that it’s the natural point to finish at. 

Why The Hosts Would Return To Westworld 

While there have been plenty of narrative clues that the cycle may just continue, there’s one question that continues to plague this theory. Why would the hosts actually want to return to Westworld? There might be some kind of compromise in store. 

The parks are perhaps the one place the hosts feel they belong. Without the writers and guests destroying their world, they can live in peace. What was once a prison could become a refuge, if the area is granted to them as such. If there was a return to Westworld in the finale of the show, the status quo wouldn’t be reverted under anyone’s power except the hosts. It could finally be their choice to live the lives they have dreamed of. For Dolores that might be with her father and Teddy. For Maeve that might be with her daughter and Hector. The point is that Westworld is the opportunity. It was once the opportunity for outsiders to live out their fantasies. Now it’s the opportunity for the hosts to fulfill their own. 

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Why Delos Would Return To The Beginning 

This theory depends on the hosts taking control. If Delos still owns the rights to the parks, why would they want a return to the status quo? It could limit the problems the hosts are causing in the real world, granting their wish to put an end to the conflict. It could even be through force, with the hosts, unfortunately, getting no choice but to revert back to their starting points after their narratives have concluded with Ford’s story becoming one big promotional point for the parks. The answer might be in Season 4’s initial episode though. 

Humans still want entertainment, but not all of them are looking for blood and guts. If there was a peaceful Westworld to be had, where people could live happy and free, wouldn’t guests want to experience that instead! Christina wants to tell stories of love, happiness, and excitement. She won’t be the only one that wants that kind of escapism. Delos could just buy into that idea. Westworld could be a refuge for host and human alike, playing off of the savior themes Dolores displayed in Season 3 of the show. 

Westworld began with the same sequence of events played out, again and again. There would be something quite nostalgically satisfying for the finale to follow the same trajectory. It might seem like a return to the status quo, but the series could end with a shift in the power. Where humanity once wrote the stories, now the hosts are in control. That doesn’t have to be a sinister prospect, but instead a kinder way toward finding the experience for guests to enjoy and hosts to live out on their own terms. Whether that is the choice of the hosts, the humans, Delos, or Ford’s own writing is part of that mystery.

New episodes of Westworld Season 4 premiere Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.