This season of Westworld has always been leading us to this place, ‘The Valley Beyond’, ‘The Forge’, the meeting point of Bernard, Dolores, Maeve, William, and Akecheta’s narratives. It took its sweet time getting here, but we get the collision of ideals and agendas that we were promised and the twists we expected, all over the course of an hour and a half that is so jam-packed that some of it spills out past the credits.
It takes a little time for a lot of this episode to sink in, but even after some pondering, there’s still a lot of it that doesn’t really make sense. I’m not opposed to some things being a little ambiguous, but there are a few instances in this epic finale that feel like a few too many “Wouldn’t it be mad if…” conversations happened in the writers’ room. Westworld, with its multiple timelines and subtle background hints, desperately wants to be the kind of show you unpick, the kind that rewards attention and theorising. The problem is, if you want to be that kind of show, you need to be able to stand up to that level of scrutiny, and this season really hasn’t.
Take Emily (I’m trying to let go of my annoyance at the show for calling her Grace initially just to mess with us) for example. If Emily was just testing William for fidelity, as we’re told in the post-credits scene, then an awful lot of her interactions with him don’t make sense, unless she’s using this malfunctioning host version of her father as a way to work through her issues with her real father.
So, where are we by the end? Hard to say, really, as I’m sure season three will render any assumptions invalid. It appears that Maeve is dead, killed when Hale unleashes her Clementine of the Apocalypse on the hosts heading for the Valley Beyond, which it turns out is literally a valley beyond. Armistice, Hector, Lee and Hanaryo all died when Clem turns the hosts on each other, although Sylvester and Felix (I never noticed before that they both share names with famous cats. Is that a clue? Is everyone really a cat?) are tasked with figuring out which hosts can be salvaged. Hmmm, I wonder who they’ll bring back.
Bernard reveals that Charlotte Hale is dead and has been replaced by a host containing Dolores’s consciousness. Dolores wipes out all the Delos goons and escapes the park with a bag of control units. When we next see her, she’s back in her normal body and is in the house Arnold was building for his family. Bernard and host Charlotte are there too, as is a host-building machine. Dolores says that she helped Bernard get out because she realises he’s essential to their survival, but as her enemy. Wouldn’t it have been easier to achieve her goal of killing all of humanity without an enemy?
Elsie is dead, killed by Charlotte (or was that Dolores as Charlotte?) and Teddy, Maeve’s daughter, Maeve’s daughter’s mother who isn’t Maeve and Akecheta and his wife are all in the Valley Beyond, which has been beamed away by Dolores to somewhere where nobody will ever find them.
So that’s where we are. There’s a lot more going on besides all that but that would take weeks to describe. To summarise season two, Westworld revealed its strong points and its weak points quite clearly in this season but unfortunately it seems to want to lean more heavily on the latter. When it stopped messing around with timelines, naïve theorising and deliberate vagueness and instead got to the heart of its characters (‘Akane No Mai’, ‘The Riddle of the Sphinx’ and ‘Kiksuya’) it became something compelling and moving. If only season three could find a way to focus on that, rather than trying to prove to us all how clever it is.
Questions, questions, questions
- So, who’s definitely dead? Well, Lee and Elsie look certain, as does the real Charlotte Hale and the Delos gang. Everyone else looks set to be brought back to life. I’m not a fan of shows that use any form of reincarnation as a reset button as it becomes impossible for any character’s death to have any kind of emotional impact.
- Did anyone else feel like the dialogue was particularly weak? There were a few lines that felt straight out of a bad 80s action flick.
- Thanks for joining me on this journey. I’ve complained a lot, but there were some great high points along the way. How did you feel about the season overall? Better or worse than the first?