Warning: Spoilers to episode ten ahead.
"These violent delights have violent ends." These lines, borrowed from Shakespeare and whispered to Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) from her father in the first episode, mapped out the main arc of Westworld. This is a show about a park for rich people to satisfy their "violent delights," and we knew that the robots would finally enact violent revenge. As I wrote in my review of episode nine, Westworld is less a riddle than a jigsaw puzzle. Yes, there are mysteries, but most of them can be seen or intuited even when the puzzle is only half complete. (It was fairly clear from at least the midway point that Bernard [Jeffrey Lewis] was a robot, that William [Jimmi Simpson] was a young Man in Black [Ed Harris], and so on.) The enjoyment of the show comes not from being surprised, but from the beauty of how the pieces come together.
There are valid complaints about Westworld—the symbolism is heavy-handed, the philosophy is muddled, and the dialogue can be cringe'y—but no one can say the show doesn't fit together like a clockwork robot. While most TV shows these days seem to spiral into absurdity with plot twists that are unpredictable only because they are nonsensical, Westworld risks having its mysteries easily solved in exchange for having them enhance the show's mythology and philosophy.
Here's what happened in the finale:
Dolores Ex Machina
We begin the ending at the very beginning: the first Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) model being put together by Arnold (Jeffrey Wright). She's only a bit of plastic flesh pressed onto a robotic skeleton, but she's alive, and blissfully unaware of the decades of abuse she will suffer. We get some other flashbacks that flesh out her story. Somewhat later, Arnold tells Dolores that he realized that "consciousness isn't a journey upward, but a journey inward. Not a pyramid, but a maze." Apparently, completely unfamiliar with capitalism, Arnold thinks they'll shut down the park when they realize the workers will suffer. Luckily, past Arnold has a plan B: blowing the damn thing up with Dolores's help.
Back to the Future
While past Dolores is getting exposition dumps, present Dolores is stuck shaving the Man in Black. He's been searching for the maze the entire season, and he's finally about to hold it in his hands... and it's a children's toy. As rich psychopaths are wont to do, he takes it out on the closest person, Dolores, who cowers and says that someone who loves her will come save her.
In another flashback, we learn that the man she thinks will save her might have found something he loves a bit more: murder. William has gone full black hat (literally, picking up a black hat off a corpse for some on-the-nose symbolism), murdering his way across the countryside and also, for some reason, making Logan (Ben Barnes) ride naked while holding a feather. Well, the customer is always right. When William heads back to town, he sees Dolores alive again... and flirting with a brand-new guest.
Yes, the Man in Black is William, as we've long guessed, and Dolores has been retracing her initial journey with him to end up here. The Man in Black/old William also explains what we've intuited, that he took over Delos from Logan's family and bought a majority stake in the park. Exposition finished, Dolores and William get to fighting. Dolores almost manages to kill him before he stabs her in the gut.
Ted to the Rescue
Teddy (James Marsden) has been a pretty tragic figure in Westworld. Mostly, he shows up trying to save people and just dies foolishly instead. But Teddy finally gets to do something right this episode, riding in to shoot William and save Dolores. He whisks her away and takes her to the place he'd always promised her by the sea. The scene becomes painfully cheesy, but then, suddenly, lights flash on, the robots freeze, and people clap. Ford (Anthony Hopkins) knows his audience, and manipulated the entire thing so that Teddy and Dolores would have their corny ending on the beach during the gala.
The board members and other rich guests walk around in tuxedos and fancy gowns, playing with the hapless hosts. It's a brilliantly executed scene, one that breaks the fourth wall without being heavy-handed. It shows instead of tells, and sets us up for the brilliant ending.
Since Maeve (Thandie Newton) and Hector (Rodrigo Santoro) decided to set themselves on fire the last time they humped, they have to be rebuilt from scratch. This is one sausage that's neat to see being made, as workers put fake bones into the human mold, and then add the finishing decorations of tattoos and scars. Maeve never recruited her "army," but she has Hector and Armistice (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) as her woke bot minions, and the three of them are ready to slaughter some gods. Which, actually, turns out to not be too hard. "The gods are pussies," Armistice remarks, after biting off one man's finger and mowing down a half dozen others with a stolen gun.
In the basement, they find Bernard, and Maeve orders Felix (Leonardo Nam) to fix him up. Bernard has some bad news for Maeve: "This is not the first time I've awoken. Not the first time you've awoken either." In fact, Maeve's entire rebellion has been scripted. Someone using the codename Arnold has scripted everything from her rebirth to her rebellion to her screaming, "These are my decisions!" and storming out. For a second, you might think that the entire thing was a ruse: that Ford programmed a fake rebellion as some means of preventing a real one. But Maeve's crew is really killing people, and after a brief detour through Samurai World (season two teaser? "It's complicated," Felix says, vaguely), Maeve escapes to the train. She's about to be free. Really and truly free. Except, she can't stop remembering her (fake) kid. At the last second, she gets off the train.
The Red Meeting
While many of the show's mysteries were easy to solve, Westworld did manage to keep me guessing on a major one: What is Ford's deal? Is he hero or villain? Is he manipulating everything, or is it all about to fall apart? The answer to both questions is, brilliantly, yes. Ford both imprisoned the robots and is about to set them free. He both created a kingdom he could play god in and is helping that kingdom crumble.
Ford fought Arnold's robo-emancipation, but after Arnold's death, he realized his late partner was right. But he also says he realized that the robots needed to interact with humans before being freed. They had to know their enemy.
Westworld has been a very different show than Game of Thrones, but it takes a cue from the infamous "red wedding" scene to create a "red board meeting" ending. Dolores, fully self-aware, shoots Ford in the head as the army of decommissioned hosts arrives to finally have their "violent ends."
The appeal of the Westworld park is that you can do anything. It's a wide-open world where guests have limitless possibilities. The brilliant part about Westworld's finale is that the same is true of the show. Season two could be about almost anything. While the first season was about unraveling mysteries—both for the viewers and for the characters—those mysteries have been effectively solved. We know what happened and why. What we don't know is what will happen next, something that could create an entirely different kind of show.
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