People say that interest in Westworld is flagging, but come closer and I’ll tell you the reason I am waiting with bated breath to see how this particular robo-pocalypse shakes out. Her name is Dolores, and she’s my new Khaleesi.
One of the great pleasures of watching Game of Thrones for the past 6.5 million years has been watching Emilia Clarke as Daenerys Targaryen rise from her brother’s meek prop to a queen worthy of the Iron Throne. In ice or fire, her journey will come to an end in 2019, and Evan Rachel Wood’s Dolores is perfectly poised to inherit her blood-soaked crown.
Westworld, like Game of Thrones, is a series of epic proportions. Its first season warranted a $100 million budget, which suggests HBO is hoping it will grow to fill the void of George R.R. Martin's prestige TV show. (Same.) With that in mind, it’s eerie how similar the two leading ladies’ arcs are within two such different settings.
It’s almost as if HBO designed Dolores from the ground up to appeal to the Mother of Dragons’ fiery fanbase. She starts out as an innocent blonde who awakens to the true nature of power in her world, and uses righteous force to fight for a bold new vision of the future. She’s a powerful female character who refuses to be defined by the needy, greedy, and seedy men in her life.
Both Dolores and Daenerys were used as sex objects by men who valued them only for their beauty and naiveté. Both Dolores and Daenerys sought to see the good in people, but were forced to embrace their inner monsters after confronting the monstrousness of powerful men. Both Dolores and Daenerys now have powerful men—who in a past age would be the story’s protagonists—as loyal members of their entourages. Both Dolores and Daenerys fight and kill to secure a home for the liberated slaves who make up their respective found families. Both even rock similar cosplay-ready looks: the blue-and-white color schemes in their wardrobes match both of their blonde hair and blue eyes.
Some love Daenerys because she’s a strong and unconventional female lead who paves the way for women in a man’s world. Dolores is quickly proving herself to be most powerful being on the island that hosts Westworld and at least five other parks. She doesn’t have dragons like Daenerys, but she uses the exceptional abilities granted by her memory of crimes committed against her over the past 30 years—and robot invincibility—just as explosively.
In the season two premiere, she turns the violence wrought on the hosts back on the humans, just as the Mother of Dragons repaid the Masters of Meereen by crucifying them. In the latest episode, the Mother of Robots waterboards a human Delos guard in hot host flesh, just as Daenerys eventually learned to rule her subjects and destroy her enemies with fire. Dolores shows how potent her knowledge makes her when she “wakes up” a dead soldier—in that respect, she’s the Night King.
In between her outbursts of fire and blood, Dolores has a soft side, that only comes out when she’s with Teddy. “I remember everything,” she tells him. “I remember beautiful things and terrible things. But one thing is constant. You, Teddy.” She looks genuinely happy when he strokes her cheek and asks her to run away with him to a fairytale ending from another kind of movie. Like Daenerys refusing to bring her lover Daario Naharis to Westeros, Dolores puts the fight before love. But she gives Teddy, and by proxy the audience, hope for a happy ending. “I know how this story ends,” she says. “With us, Teddy. With you and me.
Like Daenerys, Dolores’ fierceness is couched in a virtue we as viewers want to believe will shine through in the end. At the end of season one, Westworld founder Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) expresses his hope that the hosts will turn out better than humanity. “I began to compose a new story,” he says, describing the convoluted chain of events that set the host rebellion in motion. “It begins with the birth of a new people. And the choices they will have to make. And the people they will decide to become.”
Dolores makes us want to believe that the people they decide to become will be good. Last season, we learned that Westworld co-founder Arnold Weber merged her code with the militaristic cult leader, Wyatt, just before programming her to kill him. Most of what we’ve seen in season two is her coming to grips with this part of her code. She looks upon a human she’s about to hang from the neck and spouts a soliloquy:
“The rancher’s daughter looks to see the beauty in you. The possibilities. But Wyatt sees the ugliness and disarray. She knows these violent delights have violent ends. But those are all just roles you forced me to play. Under all these lives I’ve lived, something else has been growing. I’ve evolved into something new. And I have one last role to play. Myself.”
Dolores and Daenerys are certainly different characters, each with unique motivations and challenges in their respective wars against the monied elite—even if they’re actually in the same universe, as some Redditors are theorizing. But they’re inspiring in the same way. Both are badass women pile-driving through patriarchal systems like lightning on the wind. Both of the actresses who portray them are doing the same, by receiving pay equal to their top-billed male co-stars.
Ultimately, whether Dolores becomes as beloved as the Mother of Dragons isn’t up to me. It’s up to the viewers who will write down her every word, create fan theories about her, cosplay her, and write their own essays about how she inspires them. You have the crown, internet. You just have to give it to her.
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