Westworld: The Maze?

I really thought the previous post was the last of this series of (13!) posts looking into the first season of Westworld. I thought I’d covered everything, but the more I thought about Arnold’s Maze, the more confused I became.

Either I’m missing something (which is certainly possible), or there’s something muddled about the whole thing. This could be a case of my over-analyzing things; fiction almost always has flaws, and apparently the show did alter course about halfway through the season (plus, the actor playing Kissy died). But since the name of the season is The Maze, I’m surprised how muddled the core idea of it seems (or maybe I just don’t get it).

In any event, here’s what’s bugging me (as always: Serious Series Spoilers)…

Let’s start at the beginning:

¶ In the early days, Arnold and Dolores have secret meetings as Arnold becomes more and more fascinated with (and enamored by?) Dolores and the indications he sees of her awakening consciousness.

¶ At some point, when his pyramid idea fails, Arnold conceives the maze idea where, “every choice could bring you closer to the center. Or send you spiraling to the edges. To madness.”

¶ The hosts “passed the Turing Test after one year,” and Arnold died just before the park opened at three years, so this all happens sometime in the two years before Arnold dies.

¶ After Arnold dies, the maze apparently lives on, and Dolores makes at least two journeys (and probably more) to the church in Escalante.

  1. Dolores joins William, and their path takes them to Escalante, but the town is buried under sand.
  2. Dolores (as part of Ford’s new narrative) flees her home and journeys to Escalante on her own.

In both those cases, she’s there with William!

It’s not clear if she made the journey other times. But the steps of just these two journeys are part of what I’m finding hard to understand.

In Timeline 1 (with William and Logan):

  1. She either flees the ranch, or is sent (as Logan suggests).
  2. She arrives in William’s camp and collapses in his arms.
  3. They go to Las Mudas (seeking Slim’s location).
  4. They capture Slim, who leads them to El Lazo.
  5. In Pariah, they join with El Lazo.
  6. They escape the Confederados on the train.
  7. The train is ambushed, but they escape.
  8. She and William find Escalante buried.
  9. They encounter Logan (who later stabs her).
  10. She flees from them.
  11. And likely dies.

And in Timeline 2 (on her own):

  1. She flees the ranch after killing Rebus.
  2. She arrives at William’s campsite and sleeps (alone).
  3. She goes to Las Mudas and talks to Lawrence’s daughter.
  4. She does not meet Slim!
  5. She goes to Pariah and stares at coffins.
  6. She boards the train to Escalante (alone).
  7. The train is not ambushed (no Confederados).
  8. She finds the church in Escalante.
  9. She encounters the MiB. Who stabs her.
  10. Teddy shows up and carries her to the beach.
  11. She dies.

There is an interesting symmetry there, but so much isn’t clear. It makes sense for Dolores 2 to repeat the journey Dolores 1 made, but how either journey, especially the first (which depends on William), is “the maze” is unclear.

And can we, for a moment, consider that Ford’s new narrative apparently requires the MiB run into Dolores in the church and stab her just before Teddy rides up. If the MiB doesn’t stab Dolores on cue, what happens to Ford’s presentation?

Ford later tells the board that his narrative “begins in a time of war. With a villain, named Wyatt. And a killing. This time by choice.” Which might mean the beach scene is not part of that narrative. Still seems coincidental how it all worked out.

Things seem even more confusing to me when I consider the steps of the MiB’s journey. If he’s following the maze clues he finds, it seems a very different path from the one Dolores is to follow. Consider:

  1. He seems to start with Kissy and his scalp. Why? Did he know what he’d find? Do all hosts have mazes on their scalps?
  2. Kissy apparently leads him to Lawrence’s hanging and Las Mudas.
  3. Lawrence’s daughter tells him the maze isn’t for him, but gives him the clue about the snake laying eggs in the Blood Arroyo.
  4. Which leads him to Armistice and her tattoo.
  5. Armistice’s tattoo story leads him to Wyatt. How long has Armistice had that backstory about Wyatt? Teddy just got it from Ford!
  6. Then he finds Teddy (who’s there because the posse with Marti to find Wyatt got ambushed).
  7. Teddy leads him past Pariah and south of the border.
  8. They encounter Angela and Wyatt’s men, and Angela gives him the “city buried in sand clue.”
  9. Which takes him to Escalante, where he meets Dolores.
  10. And stabs her.
  11. But Teddy shows up and shoots him.

So what, exactly, is the maze?


I have so many questions…

»» Where did Arnold and Dolores have their secret meetings? Was it in the lower floor of the labs beneath the white church in Escalante? If so, then didn’t Dolores make the journey to Escalante repeatedly and before the maze?

Which means the journey to Escalante is not, itself, part of the maze.

Or was there some other lab — one closer to Sweetwater — where Dolores met Arnold for their secret talks. (Come to think of it, do we see windows with daylight in the background of their meeting place?)

Because the journey from Sweetwater to Escalante is quite long, and it makes sense that journey would be part of Dolores’ challenge. But this requires a location, whose access we’ve never seen, near Sweetwater for Arnold and Dolores to meet.

»» We do see Dolores meet Arnold in the Escalante church, but are we certain this is the end of her following the maze? She comes in, finds him sitting in the pews, and says, “I know where your maze ends,” and leads him outside.

But in the conversation outside, he explains the maze to her, and she doesn’t understand. So are we seeing them at separate times? The scene after actually coming earlier? Or did Dolores solve the puzzle of the maze without actually making the leap to consciousness Arnold hoped for?

»» Is the maze just for Dolores, or is it generally for the hosts as a metaphor for them to achieve consciousness?

Arnold tells her about the maze both in their secret talks and in the church graveyard, and he had a fascination with her, which all argues that the Maze was for Dolores.

But it makes sense as a general tool that improved on his pyramid idea, which argues in favor of it being for all hosts. Or for any host capable of it.

»» I’m hugely confused about the Maze Metaphor versus the Maze Physical Appearances versus the Maze Symbolic.

In one case, it’s an idea Arnold had about a journey inward. A better approach than the linear, hierarchical pyramid. The challenges he might set up would be many and varied.

In another it seems to be physical clues that signify… what? A path? The scalp maze is especially weird. How would that apply to Dolores? Why does the army have a maze brand? Does seeing the maze tell Dolores she’s on the right path?

And that business of the big maze in the dirt with Maeve… pure symbolism? Did Lawrence’s daughter really scratch a maze pattern in the dirt? Is there really a fortune-teller in Pariah with maze-backed Tarot cards?

»» What does Ford know, or think, about the maze?

He seems bemused to see it on the table top in Las Mudas, and goes to his office to look it up, but he seems to know what it is when it talks with the MiB.

Ford also appears not to know Dolores is keeping secrets from him, plus he seems to be finding remnants of Arnold in mini-Ford.

»» Is the journey Dolores makes to Escalante the maze? It’s actually hard to understand when viewed in standalone fashion:

  1. Dolores flees/leaves the ranch. Always flees? Does she ever just leave? Or wake up in the night and leave?
  2. She goes to Las Mudas. Why? There are physical maze clues there. Do they somehow lead her to Pariah?
  3. She goes to Pariah. Where she finds branded coffins? Do they lead her to the train?
  4. She boards the train, which takes her to Escalante. Was that train ambushed in the early days? Did she have to flee with El Lazo?
  5. She gets to Escalante and the little white church.
  6. And then? The graveyard and the buried maze?

What Arnold wants is for Dolores to integrate her programming and become whole. It seems to be Ford who makes the connection to the necessity of suffering, so what was Arnold’s plan?

What, exactly, is the maze?


This all began when I started thinking too hard about “what Arnold did” with his maze idea. I tried to construct the backstory… and was plagued by “yeah buts!”

¶ Arnold, the real genius behind the hosts, starts with a pyramid concept (memory; improvisation; self-interest; ???) as a path to full consciousness. This does not work; the hosts remain stubbornly asleep.

¶ Arnold, reflecting on the death of this son, comes up with the maze concept as a better path to consciousness. This makes the journey a set of choices towards a goal rather than a climb up to some goal.

¶ Arnold implements a series of clues, the maze pattern on various objects, including scalps. These are meant to lead Dolores to her own grave outside the church in Escalante.

¶ This journey seems to lead through Las Mudas to Pariah, where a train goes to Escalante. There are many physical maze clues in those locations. Most of them, in fact:

Lawrence’s daughter draws the maze in the dirt. It’s also on a table top in Las Mudas. The army has a maze brand, which is normally used to mark coffins. Those coffins ship from Pariah on a train to Escalante.

¶ The point of all this is the choices Dolores makes during the journey. The goal is that she integrate her inner voice and become a whole person.

»» Yeah, but why does Lawrence’s daughter steer the MiB to Armistice? It doesn’t appear Ford is involved. And how long has the (false!) clue connecting Las Mudas to Wyatt through Armistice existed? Some aspects of Wyatt are part of Ford’s latest machinations.

»» Yeah, but WTF with the maze on the scalps? What clue is that?

»» But where are Arnold and Dolores holding their secret meetings? At first, I assumed it was somewhere in, or near, Sweetwater. Then it seemed it was that lab under the church (and we do see her go down to that lab), but that’s in Escalante, which is far from Sweetwater.

Were those meetings “special” in being rare times Dolores solved the physical maze — found her way to the church in Escalante — and were indeed held in the lab under the church?

Or were the meetings ordinary, held often, somewhere near Sweetwater in a different secret lab? (Can’t be the one beneath Ford’s secret robot family home, that’s in another sector.)

The latter makes the most sense, as Dolores wouldn’t be gone so long. And I’m pretty sure I remember windows, which makes the lab above ground. An inaccessible “employees only” backroom somewhere in Sweetwater?

»» Was Dolores seeing her reflection a trigger, and if so, a trigger for an ordinary meeting with Arnold in the backroom or a trigger to give the maze another shot and go to Escalante?

»» Yeah, but none of this seems to have worked out in 32+ years. It’s only when Ford stirs the pot with the “Reveries” update and causes Peter Abernathy to infect Dolores, that Dolores undertakes a journey that finally brings her to “the center of the maze.”

How often did she try between William and that one? Did she give up once Escalante was buried? How often did she try before William?

»» Am I over-thinking this?

Yeah, but…

What, exactly, is the maze?

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts. View all posts by Wyrd Smythe

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