The previous posts avoided spoilers and talked about HBO’s Westworld in general terms of its themes and characters — stuff that is apparent just from the trailers and basic setup. This post isn’t like that! Do not read this post unless you’ve seen all of season one!
Or unless you really like spoilers or just don’t care about the series. But if you do, you should trust me on this: You do not want this spoiled! It may even be all the better if you avoid any interweb discussion … the fans really did figure out some of the secrets before their big reveal. (On the other hand, the show’s creators have made it clear the truth was always in plain view. And so it was.)
Here are my questions and observations about the last episode and the season as a whole. I think we all have a few questions…
¶ Starting with the obvious one: Is Ford really dead? Supposedly Anthony Hopkins was signed for only one season. (Doesn’t mean they couldn’t sign him up for season two. Or that there isn’t a secret second season deal.)
There is some reason to think Dolores shot a robot Ford — the closeup of his handshake with Bernard and Bernard’s apparent reaction. We were told early on that hands were the hardest part to get right. There’s also that robot we saw being made in his secret lab (when Bernard killed Theresa).
On the other hand, his sacrifice makes narrative sense, and it recapitulates Arnold’s suicide (which was also assisted by Dolores). Is it a story, an homage to Arnold, or is it as real as it seemed?
¶ Which brings me to: What is Ford’s real plan? There is good reason to believe he’s behind Maeve’s uprising. Their escape sequence was very much like many computer games (in a multi-level facility). How real was it?
A bigger question is how he arranged that beach scene with Teddy and Dolores. It seems to require that the Man In Black (MIB) stab Dolores during their confrontation in the churchyard just before Teddy rides in to save her.
How did Ford insure the MIB would do that?
¶ Bernard’s forced suicide: Obviously Ford knew it wouldn’t really kill him. It was just a way to switch him off for a while before he got too stressed. Apparently the brain is well protected — exactly what you’d expect in a robot that will get shot a lot. (What does that suggest about when Dolores shot herself in the head 35 years ago?)
But did Ford expect (or know) Maeve and crew would come along and fix Bernard? Again, Ford’s narrative seems to depend on his ability to predict what people and robots will do. The robots, at least, are understandable, but how did he predict Felix’s actions?
¶ Speaking of Maeve: Just how programmed is she? Was her choice to return to the park to seek her “daughter” her first actually free choice? (Or was it really free at all?)
In any event, she never made it to the “mainland” — a term we saw that raised a lot of eyebrows. It appears that Westworld (and Samurai World!) exist on some sort of island served by train. (Some question whether it’s even on Earth.)
That beach scene, with the “moon” suddenly becoming a stage light raises interesting questions about just how controlled the whole environment is. That rising “moon” in the title sequence always struck me as very artificial. Is the park itself underground?
Or were we merely seeing through the eyes of Teddy and Dolores?
When Bernard takes Theresa to Ford’s secret lab, we first see a blank wall in the house; we’re seeing through Bernard’s eyes. Then Theresa asks about the door and Bernard replies, “What door?” Then we see the wall again, but this time there’s a door in it!
It was a cool, somewhat subtle, early signal that Bernard had to be a host. It also reminded us that sometimes we see things as the hosts see them, not necessarily as they are (cue that Mad Hatter quote again).
¶ What the hell is the deal with Felix? He’s going along with a robot uprising awfully calmly. Maeve assured him he wasn’t a robot, but was she lying for some reason? (Maybe she didn’t want to upset him?) Can she always tell who is a robot or does her programming blind her to certain hosts?
The business where Felix coaxes the robot bird he’s working on apes John Hammond in Jurassic Park coaxing the frog-DNA Velociraptor baby from its egg. The allusion is that, as Hammond created a problematic monster, so too did Felix with Maeve.
¶ Sylvester poses an interesting question: He didn’t bleed all that much when Maeve slit his throat, and Felix was able to fix him with a tool they used to repair robots. Does this mean the tool works on humans due to how the robots are biological?
Or does it hint that Sylvester is a robot? He, too, has ultimately gone along with all Maeve’s plans. Are both Felix and Sylvester part of Ford’s new story?
¶ There is also the question of whether Hector and Armistice survive the battle. During the end credits we see Armistice still going at it.
I wonder if the QA Security guys might be robots, making the whole thing part of Ford’s story. We saw the people in the control room being sealed off, perhaps for their protection from the story?
The original movie is about robots malfunctioning — that one is very much a Frankenstein story; our stronger-than-us lifelike creatures turn out to be a bad idea. So we can expect robot mayhem, but the ideas driving the show suggest things might not be what they seem.
¶ We know Ed Harris is signed up for season two, so it’s likely he survives being shot in the arm (by Clementine). In what state he survives might be an open question.
And who is this guy who attends a gala with a broken (?) arm yet still changes into a tux between the nearby churchyard and the gala in the town? (We did go from daylight to darkness, so presumably some time elapsed.)
At least we know that, yes, the MIB really is William. We even see William take on the black hat at one point.
¶ And what about the board members? We see Dolores firing into the crowd, and we see her army approaching, but we don’t see anyone actually killed. (Contrast that with the battle between Maeve’s forces and the QA Security forces.)
The show is never shy about showing us death, so why do we not actually see any board members killed? The final glimpse shows Dolores shooting a woman in the back, and we see a red dot appear on her bare back, but that’s all we ever see happen to the guests.
In an interview, Jonathan Nolan mentioned they spent some thought on that “red dot” — a red dot! paintball? — and so I’m really wondering if the supposed massacre by Dolores was not actually fatal. Maybe it provided exactly what Ford promised in his final speech: violence and danger.
¶ Along similar lines, what actually happened to Elsie and Stubbs? We’re not shown their deaths (if indeed they died). Contrast that with, say, the death of Theresa, which we’re shown quite explicitly.
We know Bernard choked Elsie, but did he kill her? And we know Stubbs was taken by members of Ghost Nation, but did they kill him?
¶ And what’s the deal with Ghost Nation? Who are they, and what’s their purpose?
¶ What happened to Logan? Do we just assume he eventually made it out of the park alive but disgraced enough that William was able to take over the company?
¶ What happened to Abernathy with his head full of corporate data (a plot point that bothers me a bit)? We saw Lee go down to get him and find the storage area empty of robots.
Interesting that he was the first host to go wacky seeing that picture. And the first to use the Shakespeare quote: “These violent delights have violent ends.”
¶ Speaking of that picture, how did it get from where William dropped it to the Abernathy ranch? (On the other hand, if Dolores was frequently meeting Bernard in the “field lab” beneath the church, perhaps that town wasn’t all that far away. But still. Hard to imagine it lasted outdoors for 30 years.
¶ Finally, what deeper plans does Delos have other than shallow entertainment? We’ve given to suspect they have some other purpose in mind.
So, yeah, lots of questions. Many were answered, but many remain.
And I have a huge one — something I don’t understand…
Season one very cleverly (and misleadingly) intertwines three narratives from three different times. All three can be, to a big extent, be seen as revolving around Dolores.
Dolores I: All her scenes with Arnold in the lab under the church, and culminating with Arnold’s death and the destruction of the robots, take place in the earliest timeline, before the park opened. Call it 35 years ago.
Dolores II: All her scenes with William, beginning with the engineered meeting in town, her fleeing her ranch home and running into William, take place in the second timeline. The park is open, and William and Logan are guests. It’s the first time for William, but not for Logan. Call it 30 years ago.
This timeline ends when a long-searching William sees a resurrected Dolores in town repeat the engineered meet cute with the can of sweet corn. William is shattered by the blank friendly look Dolores gives him.
Dolores III: Dolores is alone until she encounters the MIB in the church. This is the contemporary timeline. Presumably she fled the ranch again and journeyed on her own to the church (we see her several times alone during the journey).
In reality, the stories of Dolores I and Dolores II are memories the contemporary Dolores III is having during her journey.
We know that robots experience memories as vividly experienced flashbacks indistinguishable from reality, so much of season one — except for Maeve — revolves around Dolores and her flashbacks.
We do occasionally jump to Ford, Bernard, William & Logan, Elsie, Stubbs, or other characters, but the real narrative centers around Dolores and Maeve.
(Part of what elevates the show is the acting ability of both Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton. Of course, Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, and Jeffery Wright, are also outstanding actors. It’s a very strong cast!)
But here’s my big question: William (as the MIB), during the chat in the bar with Ford, says that he (William) saved the park. There is an implication he saved it from a disaster.
Yet, when William first came to the park, it was open, running, and the incident with Arnold was years past. Logan even mentions it to William. So apparently the park successfully weathered Arnold’s attempt to stop it from opening.
How? What saved it back then?
And what did William do to save it after his visit? What did he save it from?
If William saved the park from what Dolores and Teddy did, then Arnold had to be alive when William visited. Yet Logan mentions Arnold’s death, so there’s an apparent timeline problem there.
Later, with Dolores, the MIB (William) says he took her assertions about the place to heart and bought a majority share, thus becoming its most important guest (not to mention board member). But that doesn’t sound like saving anything from disaster.
Storytelling error? Or something we don’t know about yet?
Is there more to learn about what happened shortly after William visited for the first time? Was there some sort of robot uprising then? There is an older Wyatt story — possibly involving Peter Abernathy — that the new one is based on. Is that yet to come?
Specifically, did Dolores wake up to consciousness in the past? There is a reference to it, but I’m not clear whether it refers to when she and Teddy killed the robots and Arnold or something that came after when the park was open. (And might be related to the original Wyatt story?)
What if that event is meant to parallel or reference the events in the original Westworld movie? The TV series focuses more on robot self-awareness — a robots-as-pathos story — whereas the original movie was a robots-as-menace story.
A past “malfunction” related to Dolores might give us the original flavor while the contemporary story with Maeve gives us a new one.
Highly speculative, yes, but it’s a long time until season two in 2018.