All of our characters and storylines came together for a 90-minute season finale full of twists, multiple deaths, a few rebirths, and a whole hell of a lot of frustration and confusion.
Which is appropriate given the somewhat maddening and ultimately unfulfilling sophomore season of Westworld.
Everyone is still headed to the Valley Beyond, the vague goal of just about every character in the park, for various reasons. Delores wants to find the means to conquer humans there. William (Man in Black) wants to destroy something. Bernard is looking for answers, and Maeve is simply trying to find her daughter, again.
The first chunk of the finale is getting everyone there.
Delores, Bernard, and the Man in Black have the easiest time. Delores finishes corpse-hugging Teddy, gets on a horse, and randomly finds the Man in Black.
MIB had just recently murdered his own daughter and has been drifting ever closer to buying permanent real estate in Crazy Town. It takes two seconds for Delores to recruit him. They both want to reach The Forge. MIB even has an awkward conversation where he has to explain to the audience that while their goals currently align, he’s certainly not on Delores’ side. No shit.
The pair come across Bernard. Bernard’s buggy has run out of juice (after he ditched Elsie), and he’s had to huff it all the way to the underground elevator entrance to the Forge. Another buggy full of QA redshirts show up. Just when it looks like Bernard’s in trouble, Delores and William kill them.
In two full seasons this is our first meeting between Bernard and William, and it doesn’t last long. Having now found the entrance, William immeidately turns on Delores and begins to shoot her. Delores goes full-on Terminator, taking several gun shots while advancing on him.
The writing always plays it fast and loose with the rules of robot wounds. I think if they’re self-aware they can just turn off their pain? But Maeve always seems pretty fucked up after injury. Maybe Delores is just super badass.
Man in Black tries to shoot Delores in the head but the gun backfires. She had given him the gun, after all, and it blows off his entire hand. She and Bernard leave him there, but don’t worry. No matter how fucked up he gets and how little it matters to the story, that character will never freaking die.
The Forge is functionally similar to the Cradle – a virtual reality world that recreates the park in a digital space. It was originally designed to develop and test the James Delos imprint, recreating him in the park while testing it at the same time.
The Central AI of the the Forge is manifested as Logan, for some reason. This entire tour through the digital park goes on for way too long, as we had already dealt with the whole Delos-bot several episodes ago.
And that massive data library of host information the park had been collecting? That’s visualized as a bunch of books in a library, which Delores is dismissive of.
In fact, the Forge was more of Bernard’s idea, which he isn’t even aware of. The Forge can act as robo-heaven for all the hosts, a digital VR world that they can exist within. A doorway is activated, creating a portal into an idyllic VR world that only the hosts can see, and they journey to it like a religious pilgrimage.
Delores isn’t happy with this solution, however, and I don’t disagree with her. It is indeed a gilded cage, an escape but also a false promise. This isn’t the world she wants for her people. It’s another fake life, like the one they had escaped from. Delores decides to delete all the data and flood the entire area, which will destroy robo-heaven.
Meanwhile we have one player who needed a bit more work to make it to the Valley. We last left Maeve getting a pep talk from Ford via Bernard. She had been shot up, captured, reverse engineered, and now left with a grizzly vivisection. My falling out with the show can almost exactly fall in step with Maeve being nearly written out of the main plot.
Thankfully she has some legitimately awesome heroic moments in this episode, beginning with using her neural code speak to awaken some nearby hosts, kill the operator, and repair her body. Why had she waited so long to do that? Why did they leave host bodies near her knowing full well what she was capable of? Why leave her alive and functioning at all?
Maeve’s allies storm the area ready to rescue her, our first sight of them in several episodes. Maeve isn’t one to wait around and be rescued, however. In one of the single coolest moments of the entire season, she uses her code-speak powers to enlist a herd of robo-bison into goring and trampling the guards around her in an amazingly staged slo-mo action sequence.
Her party reunited, the group sets out toward the Valley, because Maeve can “feel her daughter” or something stupid. Honestly Maeve’s primary motivation has never worked for me, and I thought it would finally be resolved when she met up with her daughter several episodes ago. Alas, she still holds onto her fake-daughter obsession, limiting her character development and making her final moments play out predictably.
The one redemptive arc of hers belongs to Lee, the human writer and on-again, off-again ally. It was his fault Maeve was captured and tortured in the first place (and the reason Hale is able to use her powers in Clementine to kill most of the hosts at the end).
But it’s hard to hate Lee, and he’s been generally remorseful of his actions. In an endearing moment, he prevents Hector from sacrificing himself so they could all get away, wrenching the gun from him and reciting the stirring words of his own soliloquy. A fitting end for the character, which is more I can say for anyone else in her party.
Maeve arrives to find her daughter during the mass exodus of hosts through the portal We learn the reason for all the host bodies found in the water in the future – as they step through the portal, their consciousnesses is uploaded and their physical bodies simply drop down a cliff, which is flooded by Delores activating The Forge’s fail-safe.
Hale and her army of Delos security show up moments after Maeve. Their security measures completely suck; all they have are dune buggies and assault rifles. But she has one trick up her sleeve – they reverse engineered Maeve’s powers and stuck them in Clementine, a poor character who has not uttered a single line in the whole season (aside from the VR simulations) but is used by seemingly everyone.
Clementine literally arrives on a pale horse. In case you still don’t get the analogy, Hale says a line about only needing one horseman instead of four. Thank you for spelling that out for us, Westworld.
The effects are immediate. Clementine rides through the line of hosts and they begin attacking each other like feral zombies. Armistice shoots her dead but the code-speak continues, ripping into everyone, including Maeve’s allies like Hector and Hanaryo.
Maeve finally activates her own powers to stop the tide of chaos and death long enough for Akecheta (‘memba him? We spent a whole god damn episode on him) to help rescue Maeve’s daughter and uh, new/real mom, ushering all of them into the VR world. Hale’s troopers shoot Maeve dead, and she dies with a smile on her face. Ugh.
Then, the portal closes as the valley begins to flood. Bernard shoots Delores, delivering the best line of the episode: “This isn’t a dream. This is a fucking nightmare.”
The VR world is saved, but the portal closes. Bernard pockets the key (I think?) and escapes. At some point Man in Black makes it down the elevator as well, one-handed, but then we don’t ever see him again until the end. Fitting that even the writers are like: “I dunno man, does anyone care what he does at this point?”
Bernard is picked up by Elsie, who still doesn’t fully trust him. Nor should she, Bernard’s memory is kinda fucked, even if he did expel Ford from his mind. She takes him back underground and has it out with Hale, admonishing her for fucking all of this up so badly and only caring about their corporate interests instead of the lives of people (Ashley Stubbs echoes the exact same sentiments in the flash-forward scenes and throughout season two).
Hale responds by murdering Elsie on the spot. Totally saw it coming but still, damn. Once again her character is mostly used as a dramatic death for someone else’s story.
Bernard sees it and seems to finally snap, even jacking into himself and essentially doing a file search for Ford, whom he eventually imagines. Bernard comes up with a plan, which is teasingly played out as we flash back and forth between various timelines, including him waking up on the beach from the season premiere, and the interrogation between him and Hale.
The twist is that between Bernard seeing Elsie murdered and waking up on the beach, he builds Delores a new body, and downloads her consciousness into it (which he had presumably recovered). Delores herself is easily recognizable – but not if you murder Hale and replace her with a Hale-bot, with Delores’ mind inside.
Hale-Delores-host then kills all of Bernard’s captors and unlock robo-heaven (I think). Delores/Hale move it to a location that no one will find, which the show deigns to ever actually explain.
That’s a lot to digest – but wait, there’s more! In a further twist, the Delores/Hale host then kills Bernard and escapes to the surface, where the security team is evacuating a group of people. After a very awkward, left-field conversation with Ashley Stubbs (oh, apparently he’s a host too!?), she easily makes it out of the park, with several host control units.
The next scene we get is her returning to Arnold’s old base of operations on the mainland, now overgrown but still including some old host-building equipment.
Because we need one final twist, we learn that the interrogation scenes between Delores and Bernard actually take place even further into the future, as its revealed that the now free Delores has built her old body back (for some reason), as well as Bernard’s, bringing him back to life.
If you’re keeping track, that means Bernard and Delores have killed each other, and brought one another back to life, all within the same episode.
She tells him that despite their philosophical differences (he’s not quite on board with her Kill All Humans mantra), she values his opinion, and believes that his existence alongside hers is paramount for their people’s survival.
Thus begins the new era of… what exactly? The epilogue leaves way more questions than answers. We’re far beyond the park itself. Delores has the capacity to build and restore hosts. Bernard and Delores are alive. They don’t see eye-to-eye but they’re done killing each other, for now. Everyone’s dead except for Man in Black, so he can continue taking up screen time and being useless for another season.
Despite my complaints I did enjoy just about every scene that Bernard was in. Jeffery Wright did a phenomenal job throughout the season, and his roller coaster arc anchored the show and its wild, sometimes wildly inconsistent, themes.
Maeve had all the fun action scenes in the finale but her story completely falls flat in the end. I couldn’t have been more wrong when I thought we were headed for a Meave vs Delores showdown when it comes to robo-autonomy.
Like the season itself I have very mixed feelings about the finale. The final twists were fun, but the episode took a left curve into robo-heaven that was odd and confusing. Bernard and Delores were given priority at the expense of Maeve and her party. Maybe Westworld would be best served stepping away from a Game of Thrones-lite ensemble cast, and focusing solely on Bernard and Delores, and the futures they envision for their kind going forward.
Bernard: Bernard’s story saved this season of Westworld. He was our anchor into multiple timelines. We felt for him when he was manipulated by Ford, ached at the atrocities he could barely remember, and fist-pumped when he finally told Delores off and shot her. You know you’re a damn good character when the villain you both killed and re-birthed begrudgingly resurrects you out of respect.
Lee: Lee developed nicely from silly comic relief into having his own internal drama and regret to deal with, culminating in a fun blaze of glory sequence that was hilariously on-brand despite its emotional weight.
The Delores-Hale Twist: It was going to be tricky to continue the tradition of crazy twists that season one laid out. The reveal that future Hale is actually Delores was completely bananas, and was a great final note for how desperate and vengeful Bernard had become. Tessa Thompson also did a fantastic job completely switching gears into Delores-mode.
Man in Black: Has there ever been a more pointless character that soaks up so much valuable screen time? Even in the finale MIB does nothing but get himself maimed, yet he still freaking survives at the end, because of course he does.
Maeve: Maeve deserved better. I loved her superhero origin story throughout season two, but once she has the showdown with MIB and gets captured, it completely stalls. She gets some fun sequences in the finale but ultimately her frozen obsession with her daughter just becomes tiresome and frustrating. Be the robo-jesus your people need!
Akecheta: Why did we need an entire episode introducing this character again? Akecheta has a few lines and helps get Maeve’s daughter the last few feet into rob-heaven, and that’s about it. Extremely disappointing.
The Forge: The entire sequence of Logan-avatar taking Bernard and Delores through a tour of the Forge feels like a waste of time. We don’t give two shits about checking up on a virtual test-room for James Delos, and nothing we learn here really changes anything. The whole sequence could’ve skipped ahead to opening the door to virtual eden.
- We see about half a dozen cores in Delores-Hale’s purse as she leaves the park. Whom did she save and smuggle out of the park other than Bernard? Surely Teddy would be pretty high on her priority list.
- Hale is seen walking around with Delores in the final future/present scenes. That begs the question: now that Delores is back in her old/new body, who is in Hale’s?
- I was completely confused by the way Stubbs acted in that brief scene as Delores-Hale was leaving the park. Then I read that Stubbs is a god damn host in disguise. Seriously!? Does every single decent human character need to be a host?