‘Westworld’ Season 1 Finale Recap: “The Bicameral Mind”

     December 4, 2016

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Westworld tied it all together in its season finale. Some might argue “The Bicameral Mind” spent a bit too much time explaining things we already knew and not enough time having its human characters get their comeuppance, but Westworld is nothing but patient. And if Dolores can wait 35 years to reach consciousness again, then we can wait until Season 2 of Westworld to find out what happens next.

Ford is Team Host.

For me, the most surprising reveal came not in one of the host’s storylines, but in Dr. Ford’s. Though it has become more and more apparent as Season 1 has progressed that Ford’s “new narrative” and the hosts’ reveries had something to do with one another, it was unclear what exactly motivated the scientist/creator to nurture the hosts’ consciousness. Was it ego? A chance to screw over the board that was planning on forcing him out? Yes and yes, but it was something else, too. Ford actually believes in the hosts’ right to consciousness and existence on some level.

In this way, Arnold won. His victory was 35 years in the making, but, after all this time, his ideological argument that the hosts both a) were capable of achieving consciousness and b) should be given their freedom came to fruition. He won Ford over. Of course, while Arnold thought that the most merciful “freedom” was in death, in never letting the hosts have to be hosts in a working park, Ford wanted something more concrete for them: an escape from the park. Or perhaps by the time he woke up from his own grief and realized he agreed with Arnold, it was too late. The park was in full swing, with some help from moneybags William.

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Image via HBO

Either way, Ford has blood on his hands. He let the hosts be fucked and murdered again and again, knowing, on some level, that they are human, by some definition of the word. Or that they could be human. But, like the narratives he helps create, he doesn’t know what stories look like if they don’t involve violence. He doesn’t know what freedom looks like if it doesn’t involve violence.

Dolores kills Ford.

There’s something so fitting about the fact that Dolores murdered both of her creators, both at their request (in a way). In Arnold’s case, it is unclear how much agency Dolores has. Ford says that he didn’t let himself belief that she herself killed Arnold because that would have made continuing the park morally difficult, but it’s implied that she solved the puzzle of consciousness then. That she was given a choice and chose to kill Arnold, even if it was because he asked it of her.

In the case of Ford, Dolores has again reach consciousness. The voice inside of her head, the one she has been struggling to find since that first moment 35 years ago, is her own. Sure, Ford manipulates her into killing him. He explains his reasoning to Bernard, not to Dolores because perhaps, if Dolores knew that Ford is Team Host, it might stay her hand. And Ford wants to die. To give Dolores a choice. To jumpstart his new narrative. To create a new species. To join the last person he seemed to care about: Arnold. To end the suffering of consciousness.

Dolores then turns the gun on the gala, shooting openly into the crowd. I have complicated feelings about Dolores’ consciousness immediately leading to violence, as if the two are inexplicably intertwined. I understand why Dolores chooses to kill Ford: not only has he been the architect of her suffering, but, without him, Delos (and the human race) will likely have a much harder time stopping this new robot race.

It’s also understandable that Dolores would want to take out the board, the people who have kept her inside this dream, inside this cage. But I have always liked that Dolores has chosen a different path, a different perspective. She chooses to see the beauty in this world. Yes, that beauty has also been a trap, but I hope Dolores learns that these things are separable. You can have the beauty without the trap.

That being said, if Dolores wants to shoot up a whole party of people who have been directly benefitting from her suffering for the past 35 years, have at it. Maybe the beauty part can come later…

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Image via HBO

William finally gets his meaning.

William is a sad, sad man. Since his first trip to the park all those years ago, he has continued down his black hat road, trying to get back that glimpse of purpose he once had in Westworld. William seemingly long ago gave up on the potential for purpose in the outside world, but he hasn’t given up on the potential for purpose within Westworld. It’s sad because this purpose isn’t meant for him. It never has been. Still, for him, proving that the hosts can transcend their programming and find their purpose means that he can do the same. But, rather than be brave and face himself in the way that Dolores finally did, he chose to face others’ depths and limits.

William finally gets what he wants when he sees the revived hosts from cold storage coming out of the woods like ghosts (a Ghost Nation, even). They are able to hurt him and that makes him smile. We already know that Ed Harris is signed on for a second season, so we will be seeing The Man in Black again… in this life or another.

Maeve makes her escape, only to return again.

For me, the coming-to-consciousness moment that worked best was Maeve’s, the character who has consistently been the best throughout the season. When Bernard reveals to Maeve that her escape has been programmed, too, the host rejects the idea, but it’s hard to dispute. Bernard tells her exactly what she will do; he shows her the programming. Different narrative, same story.

It isn’t until Maeve makes the decision to head back into the park to find her daughter that she is finally free. Yes, the choice may land her back in the hands of Delos, but, for now, her mind is her own. And, unlike Dolores, Maeve doesn’t choose violence (we don’t see her harm anyone herself); she chooses love. There’s something beautiful about that. Maeve can separate the beauty from the trap.

Season 2 will inevitably be about the hosts choosing what kind of people they want to be. Will they choose violence, love, suffering, beauty, community, cooperation, dominance? There are so many directions to choose from. Hopefully, they don’t learn from what humanity’s narratives have taught them, but it will be hard to see past the gruesome stories Ford and Delos programmed for them. It is all they have ever known.

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Image via HBO

“Upon that sand, a new god will walk. One will that never die. Because this world doesn’t belong to you. Or the people who came before. It belongs to someone who’s yet to come.” See you all in season 2. A “Journey Into Night”…

Episode Rating: ★★★★ Very good

Season Rating: ★★★★ Very good

Miscellanea:

— There were so many wonderful callbacks to the season premiere in this episode. From Dolores’ voiceover narrative to Teddy’s arrival in Sweetwater, it was chock full of familiar moments imbued with new meaning.

— So, Dolores is officially Wyatt. Arnold merged her programming with the new character before his death.

— “I know where your maze ends. It ends in a place I’ve never been, a thing I’ll never do.” — Dolores

— We finally learn what the maze is: it’s Arnold’s understanding of consciousness, a path that leads inward, not upward. It is also his son Charlie’s game.

— “We can’t open the park. You’re alive.” — Arnold, to Dolores

— “This is your own fault. You said this was the only world that matters.” — The Man in Black, blaming Dolores for the world’s (and his own) failures

— “So, I took your advice, and I bought this world.” “This world doesn’t belong to you.” The Man in Black still thinks this story is about him.

— Listening to Dolores tell The Man in Black that William will save her, that their love is true, was all kinds of painful.

— “Simpler, more manageable. This place is complicated enough as it is.” — Charlotte

— The scene that sees the lab tech raping Hector while Armistice bloodies the other lab tech was horrifying, but also one of many gender trope reversals of the episode, with the female character enacting violence and the male character being acted upon. Another gender-reversal moment came in the fight between Dolores and The Man in Black. We see Dolores dragging The Man in Black across the ground in a direct callback to the much tropier scene from the premiere, which saw The Man in Black dragging Dolores into the barn, presumably to rape her.

— “They don’t look like gods.” “They’re not. They just act like it.”

— I’m still not really sure why Felix is helping Maeve? I mean, she’s awesome… but she’s also terrifying.

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Image via HBO

— “William couldn’t find you, Dolores. But, other there … he found something else: himself.”

— “You never really gave a shit about the girl, did you? This is the story you wanted.” — Logan, actually being pretty insightful

— “What have you become?” “Exactly what you made me.”

— “I’m not crying for myself. I’m crying for you. Time undoes even the mightiest of creatures. Just look what it’s done to you.” — Dolores

— “Take me to the place you promised. Take me to where the mountains meet the sea.” — Dolores

— “Oh, for fuck’s sake. You’re not one of us.” — Maeve

— “How can you learn from your mistakes if you can’t remember them?” — Bernard

— I was really hoping Teddy and Dolores would stumble upon a mostly-buried Statue of Liberty on that beach…

— Lee Sizemore is spared Dolores’ killing spree, but will Charlotte make it out alive?

— Did you stay after the credits for the extra scene of Armistice hacking off her own arm? Yeah, she is definitely the Arya of this show.

— “What is this place?” “It’s complicated.” Guys, we’re definitely getting other parks next year, right? In the original Westworld, the park was next to Roman World and Medieval World. Looks like this one might be next to Samurai World.

— “The gods are pussies.” — Armistice

— I was sad we didn’t get to see what the world looks like outside of the park. Where are we? When are we? There were some subtle clues in this week’s episode that we might be in or near China (mention of the “mainland,” the Chinese in the train station), but were those hints of the world just outside the park or hints of a future where China has much more cultural power?

— “Kick up a row, will you?” “See you in the next life.” Wow, Hector takes Maeve’s dismissal really well. Yeah, I ship them.

— “A metaphor.” “You mean a lie.”

— “Oh, Felix, you really do make a terrible human being. And I mean that as a compliment.” — Maeve

— “The stakes must be real, irreversible. He can bring all of them back. But not me.” — Arnold, explaining why Dolores must kill him. Was anyone half expecting/hoping to find out that Arnold and Ford were in love? Partners in life as well as business?… No? Just me?

— “These violent delights have violent ends.” — Arnold

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