‘Westworld’ Season One Finale Recap: A Maze Is a Pyramid in a Flat Circle

If Ford’s grand narrative was to give Hosts free will the way Arnold wanted from the beginning, why…didn’t he just do it in the first place?

Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores, James Marsden as Teddy and Anthony Hopkins as Robert Ford.
Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores, James Marsden as Teddy and Anthony Hopkins as Robert Ford. John P. Johnson/HBO

Drew: I was dreading tonight, Vinnie. Like Ford throwing himself a super-fancy party to celebrate the end of his reign and the rise of the Sentient Host, I made myself two microwaved burritos and drank a liter of Diet Coke to celebrate the end of my giving a shit about the rest of this year. Goodbye, 2016! Thank god we’re going to let our iPads have a turn running the world for awhile. And yes, d’uh, we’ll give them real bullets. But only if our new robo-lords spend several decades in preparation by suffering from horrors beyond the scope of our imaginations, over and over, like some terrible Black Mirror episode. This will ensure they are properly “woke” and not at all suffering from Robo-PTSD. All they need to do is like, check in with themselves. See how they’re feeling. Happy? WRONG. Filled with sociopathic rage? Correct! You now have free will. Free will is that thing when you finally get those voices in your head to sound like you.

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In summation: If Ford’s grand narrative was to give Hosts free will, the way Arnold wanted to from the beginning, why…didn’t he just do that in the first place?

Vinnie: I’m going to have to dial my bulk comment section apperception down on this one, because honestly, truthfully, bicamerally (not a word but I’m on a roll), Drew…I did not love this season finale. I’m not even sure I liked it. I, unlike you, wasn’t even dreading “The Bicameral Mind”. I had full confidence that Jonathan Nolan, Lisa Joy and the other writer robots HBO engineered in a laboratory right next to the werewolf from True Blood would stick the landing, even if they were currently juggling roughly 1,400 balls in the air. Some of it was great, yeah–naked robot machine gun massacre was great, as well as my new band name–but do you not get the feeling that a lot of this season, maybe most of this season, now looks like a big ol’ waste of time?

For all its trippy time-hopping, Dolores’ journey ends with her finding herself, which…okay. The Man in Black’s journey, for as much time as this show spent setting him up as the Big Bad and “the maze” as the central mystery, ended with him digging up a toy in the ground and being kind of bummed about it. And Robert Ford — who if we’re tbh’ing is pretty terrible at writing dialogue for Dolores — well, like you said, it turns out Robert Ford was totally on board with Arnold’s plan, he just needed a little more time for the Hosts to get…stronger? But…he…built…them, so…he’s in charge of how…mentally strong…they are?

Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores and Jeffrey Wright as Arnold.
Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores and Jeffrey Wright as Arnold. John P. Johnson/HBO

Drew: Maybe Ford was just so pissed at William for taking over the park, that his whole new story was about how he’ll never, ever get the girl. Fuck you, William.

Vinnie: I did kind of love Robert Ford just popping up in a tuxedo to gloat after the Man in Black failed again to find the meaning of life inside this giant cowboy-themed amusement park. Like, can you imagine if the CEO of Six Flags kept skipping board meetings to gut the guy wearing the Porky Pig costume?

Drew: Seriously though…fuck William. I really believed in that guy! And then he literally turned into a Red Pill activist. “What have you become?” Dolores spits at William, who, yup, is the Man in Black. (Side-note: Someone should really give this show props for being a mystery show that was as satisfying as it was obvious. “Everything is,” to misquote Bernard/Arnold’s memory of reading to Charlie, “exactly what it is.” Man in Black is William. Bernard is Arnold. Three timelines. Motherfucking “Exit Music From a Film.” This show was not subtle in its BIG, FLASHING HINTS, and yet somehow…it worked for me.)

“What you made me, Delores,” William-as-MIB answers. Ugh, really dude? You’re still blaming your hollow life and sociopathic tendencies on a robot lady? That’s like if you were so pissed your iPhone 7 didn’t have a headphone jack, you dedicated your life to amassing  enough Apple stock to become a board member so you’d be allowed to camp out at any of the stores’ locations on new phone nights, harassing customers and breaking the merchandize. THAT will show them! (Perfect metaphor.)

Vinnie: Yeah, if anything, this episode really transformed William / the Man in Black / “Ed Harris looks a lot smaller in a tuxedo than I thought he would” from this grand, intimidating presence to just, like, the saddest dude. William, a man with a wife and child outside the park, spent thirty years giving sad Jimmi Simpson face to Dolores from afar, hoping if he tied his cowboy ascot tight enough he’d find meaning in his otherwise hollow life. That is way more tragic than Robert Ford or Arnold’s fate, which both could have been avoided through simple, inter-office workplace communication.

Jimmi Simpson as William.
Jimmi Simpson as William. John P. Johnson/HBO

Drew: So I guess the takeaway is: some people shouldn’t ever learn what kind of man they could be. Because they are just the WORST. Ugh. White hats are the new white knights.

But do we totally buy this origin of Black Hat William? He’s realized that Dolores has some ability to remember their first romantic train jaunt–her “loop” always brings them together, after all– and since he wants the robots to have free will (well, Arnold’s version of it, probably with their bulk DESTROY ALL HUMANS apperception turned way down)…what makes him so cruel? Look buddy, it’s a shame she can’t always remember you, but you did make a big impression on her life, and now she can finally CHOOSE YOU! But instead, nope, William is a big boy now– no sad Billy womp-womp feelings anymore!– so he stabs Dolores when she hesitates on shooting him. (Still not able to override that prime directive, not yet.) William GUTS Dolores, the love of his life, and then is somehow disappointed in her for “reminding him again” why Westworld isn’t reality. Uh…because in reality, women who get stuck in the gut with a knife DON’T react by dying in excruciating pain? Maybe William secretly wanted a robo-girlfriend all along. Like his favorite Dolores was the one who was going crazy all the time and made out of hormones, power pants and literal gears. Because blood? Super gross, you guys. (Perfect period metaphor.)

Vinnie: I think it’s worth remembering that yes, William is the head of a major corporation and basically runs Westworld but he’s also, definitely a little batshit insane. At the very least, dude is emotionally unstable and dangerously impulsive. I think when he stabs Dolores here, it’s this almost childish reaction to being denied whatever it is he wants yet again. It’s like pushing over the vending machine when your Snickers gets stuck. Yeah, you don’t get your chocolate bar but man, it felt good in the moment to fuck that machine up with no consequences. (Just don’t do this in L.A., because James Marsden will actually ride in on a horse and avenge the Snickers bar. Trust me.)

Drew: And yet, Dolores manages to give the most EPIC burn back to William, who seriously, never got over his grudge about his robo-girlfriend being a robot? (I mean, damn, maybe you should have, at any point, listened to your broken record of a Labute’ian brother-in-law!) “I’m not crying for me,” Dolores tells William after he straight up punches her in the mouth at her own grave:

“They say that great beasts once roamed these worlds, as big as mountains. Yet all that’s left of them is bone and amber. (Editor’s note: Dope Jurassic Park reference.) Time undoes even the mightiest of creatures. Just look at what it’s done to you. One day, you will perish. You will lie with the rest of your kind in the dirt. Your dreams forgotten, your horrors effaced. Your bones will turn to sand. And upon that sand, a new God will walk. One that will never die. Because this world doesn’t belong to you, or the people that came before. It belongs to someone who’s yet to come.”

Oh, BURN NOTICE! Man, I’m using as all my breakup speeches from now on. Plus, how much is William-as-MIB double-pissed when he learns that he’s been enlisted in Ford’s “new narrative” (well, not the real new narrative of the uprising, but the ostensible narrative of Teddy and Dolores and “Journey Into Night”)? Now that we know the struggles with the Board came down to William versus Ford, doesn’t it kind of make it seem like all those questions we had in the beginning of the show, like “Who the fuck is this even for?” and “Who would actually get off on this?” boils down to just one answer: William. Ford made the park in direct retaliation to William’s hostile takeover over the company. Right? Even the giving the host’s free will seemed to be made not so much out of empathy, but so Ford could prove to William once and for all that his RealDoll thinks he’s really not her type.

Ed Harris as the Man in Black and Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores.
Ed Harris as the Man in Black and Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores. John P. Johnson/HBO

Vinnie: Oh man, Evan Rachel Wood was so good here, as was Ed Harris’ “please stop roasting my soul” face. Actually, even if in my book Westworld’s story amounted to a series of clown nose honks, every performance on this show was flawless, top to bottom. I’m looking forward to a couple years down the road, when the Emmy Awards’ “Best Supporting Actor / Actress” categories are officially changed to “whichever Westworld and Game of Thrones cast members are available that day.”

Drew: I love that the metaphor here was essentially “robots need to not only become self-aware, but become SO self-aware that they go insane.” Kind of like how I feel after three years of going to psychoanalysis four time a week. Which reminds me: Please watch this show and take a shot every time a guy refuses to bone Dolores because she seems “too crazy.” I think I’ve mentioned that a couple times, but hey, I’m very human drunk at the end of this season!

Vinnie: I mean, not to dig up any maze toys where there aren’t any, but isn’t that sort of the point? These rich, often white and floppy-haired dudes are paying $40K a day to shoot and fuck robots, but as soon as they come across a Host that may have emotional baggage they’re like, “nope, not what I came for!” What I’m saying is, this show was pretty good at convincing me that a little FULL-ON ROBOT REVOLUTION every now and again wouldn’t be the worst thing, you know?

Drew: And here’s a thing: if Arnold/Bernard was able to control the Hosts from beyond (or…you know, whatever happened), isn’t Ford essentially doing the same thing? We see that Maeve’s robo-army uprising was just part of Ford’s grand narrative. (I guess to keep QA busy while Dolores/Wyatt returned as Skynet, if the Terminator had been set in Celebration, Florida.) We see Bernard’s dreams realized…in a sick, twisted way. The ending of the show ran the gamut in homages and allusions, only half of them other Nolan productions: Blade Runner, Terminator, Cabin in the Woods, Inception, The Prestige, Wayway Pines….you heard me right, Vinnie. Wayward motherfucking Pines.

Vinnie: I’m not going to fill up this page with 2,500 words on the ways Wayward Pines season one set up its mysteries more coherently than Westworld season one (for that you have to come to my Wayward Pines fan club, we meet at the dumpster behind the Dunkin Donuts on 56th Street every Wednesday). But man, Maeve, Hector and Tattoos’ wild machine-gun escape from the Westworld lab was such incredibly done sci-fi excitement and hullabaloo. It was the only part of the episode where I put timelines and mindscapes and theories aside, and focused more on “wait are those samurais whaaaaaat.” Jonathan Nolan’s mind might work like a malfunctioning Ms. Pacman game, but dude can direct a stylish as hell chase scene through a robot laboratory. (Seriously though, love the tease of other, non-cowboy-themed parks not only with the samurai, but with the paper Lutz gives Maeve reading “Park 1”.)

Drew: Also loved the nod to Game of Thrones’ finale, with how Maeve just totally pulled an “Adios Darios!” on Hector. “Look buddy, it’s been real, but fire-fucking and bullet retrieval surgery isn’t enough to sustain a post-theme-park romance. Also, we live forever, so I’ll probs see you around, eventually?” And then she rides off in her robot dragons.

Oh my god, Vinnie, do you think they get ROBOT DRAGONS?

Vinnie: Maeve was one-hundred percent the Khaleesi of this show. And, for fun: Theresa Cullen was Robb Stark, Robert Ford turned out to be Walder Frey, Teddy settled at a nice Bronn, Dolores was upgraded from a mopey Jon Snow to a manbun Jon Snow, and Bernard got demoted from a Ned to a Hodor so fast I’m not even sure when it happened.

Drew: I think Westworld answered all the Big Questions I had. Well, except for what happened to Logan, Elsie and Ashley Stubbs. And Lee Sizemore. And Abernathy. But besides them! The only hanging thread for me was the goddamn flies. Why were there sooooo many flies? Were the flies robots? Can the hosts now control the flies? Is this how they’re going to take over the world, like that killer bees episode of Black Mirror? Or can mankind use the flies to somehow fight back?

Man, so many questions. I am super glad consciousness is a maze, which again, to refresh: is just another way of saying “circular pyramid.”


Vinnie: Yeah, I think every single one of my problems with this finale would have been erased if HBO just chose a harder looking maze. My six year old cousin just called to say he solved the secret of robotic sentience with a crayon.

Drew: Westworld might not have been a perfect show, but it kind of was? I mean, I’m a very satisfied customer. My reaction of the finale is basically the face of Tattoo Lady when she discovers semi-automatics.


Vinnie: I think, in the end, I’m pulling a total William on season one. I went in unsure, bought all the way the fuck in and started (hypothetically) slaughtering robots left and right, and now I’m left so emotionally empty by the finale I might just spend way too much time moping around looking for a deeper meaning where there isn’t one. Plus, you know, I just bought all these new ascots.

Drew: I get it now, Vinnie. The beautiful trap is inside of us, and it’s the story we tell to keep ourselves sane. Btw, “Journey into Night” isn’t a new narrative, Ford. I’m pretty sure Jessica Lange is doing it on Broadway as we speak.

Vinnie: My face when Jessica Lange kickstarts the robot revolution:


Drew: My face when I realize Westworld was just season-long viral marketing for Thom Yorke:

If you haven't watched this video, you're missing out.
If you haven’t watched this video, you’re missing out. P

‘Westworld’ Season One Finale Recap: A Maze Is a Pyramid in a Flat Circle