The most exciting new show of 2016 went out with a bang as the first season of Westworld closed with the brewing of a robot rebellion. After a season of big questions, eager viewers got a whole lot of answers when HBO finally revealed the meaning of the maze, the origins of the Man in Black, and the twisted reality of life as a host. Though not every question was answered in the finale, we got more than enough insight into the inner workings of the Delos Corporation and their maniacal attempt to breathe life into a new species. If you found yourself scratching your head when the credits rolled, or you simply can’t wait for the second planned season, then here are a few things to consider while we all wait for the park to reopen. SPOILERS AHEAD.
1. What Was the Deal With the Maze, Exactly?
As Ford and Arnold worked with their humanoid robots, like all obsessed scientists they pushed the limits of the available technology and devised new ways for their projects to mimic humanity. Namely, they built a foundation of fake memories and then added stock behaviors. The two began to act on each other and influence the hosts’ behavior. It was around this time that Arnold began to notice odd behaviors in the hosts. They seemed to be inching closer and closer to their own thoughts and motivations. Arnold, sympathetic to these machines grasping for humanity, created the maze as a means of leading hosts (metaphorically) to a kind of spiritual awakening, that would teach them to rely on their own intuition, thus making them essentially human.
2. What Was Going on With Dolores in Season One?
As the oldest robot in the park, Dolores was one of the hosts most receptive to Arnold’s nudging. The inventor took a special interest in Dolores, helping her on her quest toward enlightenment. Unfortunately, that quest isn’t something that could be forced or rushed, and it took Dolores a long time to walk the maze. Though Arnold tried to buy Dolores some time (more on that in a second), her existence was fraught with memory wipes which set her back a few decades. In addition, she’s one of the pivotal pieces of Ford’s new narrative, which it appears is guiding her path the entire time.
3. A Quick Note About Robot Memories
Throughout the season, several hosts have been dealing with memories that should have been long gone (in fact, pretty much every major robot character has been dealing with the memories of past lives). Unlike humans however, hosts remember (and re-live) every single detail of their memories. Therefore, the intensity of their memories make it difficult for hosts to distinguish between the things that are currently happening, and the things that came before. As a result, Dolores’ whole journey alongside William was only happening in her head. She was actually walking the path, but she was alone the whole time. She was only remembering past events with a nice fella who took a seriously dark turn.
4. So How Does Arnold Factor in To All Of This?
Early in the season, there were whispers of some terrible event that mired the park in scandal two-and-a-half decades prior to the start of the series. As it turns out, this terrible event was put into play by Arnold. The inventor believed that if he could manufacture some kind of tragedy (by programming Dolores to kill all the other hosts and then Arnold himself), then he could put a stop to the park’s opening and the interference into his research. It did not work, in fact, all this shooting spree really did was get all the hosts’ memories buried under a new layer of programming, only to fester there for the next two decades. Meanwhile, this noble sacrifice resonated pretty deeply with Ford. Though he only began to finish his friend’s plan several years later, Ford did create a host in Arnold’s image to help him with his work. That host was Bernard.
5. Is Anthony Hopkins a Good Guy or Not?
Well, he’s a dead guy now, but his overall morality is really in the eye of the beholder. On the one hand, it would seem that all of Ford’s machinations throughout the season were done in an effort to complete Arnold’s job. It would seem that he engineered a massacre in which the park’s hosts would attack all the rich folk on the board of the Delos Corporation. In that way, it looks like Ford is hoping to secure the “tragic event” that Arnold was originally trying to kick-start. On the other hand, in his attempt to “free” the residents of the park, he definitely killed at least one person, disappeared another, and subjected poor Bernard/Arnold to a half-life of work and erased thoughts. So, if you believe Ford’s theory that the end justifies the means, then he’s a good dude. By any other metric, he’s a selfish dill hole.
6. What Happened to White Hat William?
Jimmi Simpson’s quiet William was a constant companion for Dolores throughout the season. Throughout the journey, William maintained a stalwart morality and an open-hearted goodness in his dealings with the outside world. Only when his soon-to-be brother-in-law, Logan, sent a wounded Dolores scampering into the wilderness after dark, did the lovelorn William snap. Convinced that Dolores was undergoing some kind of profound transformation, William slaughtered every member of the host army at Logan’s back, and then wandered the park’s countryside killing and raping his way towards Dolores. Ultimately though, he only finds her back in Sweetwater, the town where all adventures begin. She’s been reset and she’s ready to greet a new visitor. This moment has a profound impact on William . . .
7. Why Was the Man in Black Such a Jerk?
. . . and thus the Man in Black is truly born. See, William was convinced that Dolores was searching for something deeper in the game, something with real meaning. As a man who’s constantly on the search for meaning, William believed that Dolores might lead him down the path to something worthwhile. When he found Dolores reset, he felt like a fool, like he’d been taken in by the park. Being thoroughly duped inspired, but confounded William. It was a sensation he’d spend the next thirty years chasing like an addict. It was also the reason that he engineered a takeover of the park through his company, the Delos Corporation. His final trip to the park, he was finally running down the ultimate thrill, a game in which the stakes were real. He thought that part of the game might be found at the end of the maze. Thanks to Ford’s big plan, William ultimately got his wish for a life and death experience in the park, since he’s among the high-ranking Delos officials mingling at the focal point of the hosts’ rebellion.
8. How Did Maeve’s Escape Attempt End Up?
Ugh, it didn’t! After an entire season of slowly awakening to the fact that she was artificial, Maeve’s goal wasn’t about becoming human. It was about getting out of Dodge. Of course, in the last moments of the finale, Bernard reveals to Maeve that she’s likely just following a programming protocol. It would seem that her desire to get out of the park was implanted there by some mysterious, unnamed source. That might have contributed to its ultimate success. Maeve managed to grab some outlaws, amp up their aggression, and use them to secure her passage to the park’s exit train . . . then, Maeve gave her escape attempt up to chase after a host who was once programmed to be her kid. It’s an incredibly human maneuver, but it still nullifies her efforts to date. She’s still on the loose, but she’s also still in the park. Oh, there’s also the matter of the super pissed off, naked, snake-tattooed blond lady who’s rampaging through the back offices of SamuraiWorld . . . she might be a problem moving forward.
9. What’s Going to Happen With the Host Rebellion in Season Two?
This is obviously the big plot line going into the second season. It would appear that Ford is hoping that the mass throttling of a bunch of rich folks will get the park closed, so that he and Arnold’s robots can be free to follow their own path. That could very well happen, but it’s not likely. If Black Hat William gets killed in the inevitable ruckus that will open the second season, then perhaps the park will close. Should he survive, then it’s anyone’s game. After all, he wanted a game with high stakes and he got one. He might be delighted at the kerfuffle and want to keep things going into perpetuity.
10. What Big Questions Remain?
The writers of Westworld did a great job tying up the major plot strands to the extent that if season two wasn’t going to happen, the story would still be complete. That said, there are a few niggling details that the questions left to eat away at our brains. First: Who engineered Maeve’s escape, and is Maeve veering offtrack, or playing into their hands? Second: What other parks are there beyond Westworld and Samurai World? Third: What is the larger game that the Delos Corporation’s board is playing outside of the park?
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