Westworld: Endings, Introspection on the Season Finale
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
The highly anticipated series, Westworld, has closed its first season on HBO.
Here are some of my favorite moments from the finale.
William quickly became a character I didn't trust in the show. His obsession with Dolores gave me chills and reminded me all too vividly of moments from my past that I would rather forget. To see his character finally be proven wrong was really satisfying to me. Because, as we discover, the maze isn't a place, it's a metaphor. A metaphor for consciousness. Those who read my previous piece about theories of consciousness in Westworld will remember that in the bicameral mind theory, the ultimate test of consciousness is the ability to synthesize metaphor. The moment when William (The Man in Black) has the maze revealed to him, he is suddenly less conscious than the machines. For he was unable to understand the metaphor they had been using all along.
The reveal of Wyatt was another moment I thought was particularly well done. I had still been guessing up until the moment they revealed that Dolores had been the fabled villain all along. In episode 8, I thought maybe it had been Teddy, but episode 9 cast me back into doubt. As a folklorist, the reveal that Wyatt never truly existed but was an imaginary figure who had been, after years, woven into stories that resembled actual events that had once happened had me drooling. It was truly a clever little nod to folklore and cultural studies about storytelling. And of course, having folkloric figures is a cornerstone of every human culture. It gave a kind of depth and realness, not just to the main cast of Hosts in the park.
Ford's murder/suicide sequence was another big one from Sunday's finale. It was both beautiful and devastating.
"These violent delights have violent ends," Bernard murmurs as the realization of what is about to happen hits him. The lights twinkling around the stage cast a warm, happy glow as though to evoke joy from the audience. Or was it to mirror the joy Dolores feels at finally finding the key to her freedom?
The entire final act starts out with Dolores dying in Teddy's arms on a beach. A heartbreaking scene that is only made more heartbreaking when we suddenly realize the whole thing was a pre-programmed story meant to introduce Ford's new narrative to cold and disconnected board members. This, and the moment Bernard reads Maeve's code and reveals that someone meant her to escape the whole time gave us pause. Can the Hosts exist outside of human control? Can they make their own decisions? Considering how hard most of us were rooting for them all season, the weight of these realizations was nearly counterbalancing.
But then, what are the decisions that make us feel alive? For Dolores, it wasn't the decision to escape. That was part of her narrative. The decision that gave Dolores freedom from human control was the decision to stay in her world. To stay there, and to take it as her own. Maeve is a Host who is convinced true freedom can only come if she cuts all ties. However, as we learn, this drive for independence is being programmed into her the whole time. So Maeve is doing exactly what she was supposed to, until she decides to go back for her daughter. As Ford points out, you can not achieve freedom without suffering, and Maeve's suffering leads her to make, perhaps, her first original thought. To turn back to the Delos parks and find the little girl she remembers. Her identity as a mother is, after all, the thing that helped her break free of human control once before. William had said that, when he murdered her child and she cut him, Maeve had been truly alive.
Perhaps my favorite moment in the entire episode was when that bicameral mind theory I geeked out over came full circle. When Dolores sat in the chair across from Arnold's empty chair and Ford's voice echoes through her head.
"Do you know whose voice it is?"
Dolores finally realizes it was her own voice. In Jaynes' theory, humans evolved consciousness when they realized the voice in their heads spurring them to action wasn't the voice of a god telling them what to do, but instead was their own voice, weighing options and deciding what to do. For me that brought the whole season so beautifully full circle. I may have cried some tears of nerd joy.
Finally, the season finale confirmed the thing we've all been begging for. The existence of more parks. We even get a glimpse of Samurai World as Maeve, Hector and Armistice make their escape. So now we have a nice long hiatus to dream about the kind of worlds that might show up next season. The original movie had Medieval World and Rome World in addition to Westworld. Will they use the source material's influence or, like Samurai World, go in a new direction? Between World speculation and the looming threat of a hostile army of decommissioned Hosts, there will be no shortage of fan material to read in the meantime.
Westworld was a triumph. It brought a lot to the table, and carried it all to fruition beautifully. At a time when we really need to be introspective, Westworld brought us inspiration for our own journeys to enlightenment, and is a hell of a good time to boot. Before signing off, I'd like to send a big congratulations out there into the internets to Lisa Joy, Jonathan Nolan and the rest of Westworld's creative team on a job very well done.