So, the Season Two finale of Westworld totally just aired, right? We all know that. Folks, it turns out that I wrote this and then totally forgot to post it. So now it’s very late and you’ve maybe gone elsewhere for your Westworld news, but I hope you still get something out of it. I’m very sorry and I hate myself more than you ever could.
We open with Bernard asking “Is this now?”. It’s the past, and Dolores is testing him for fidelity. She acknowledges that he’s an almost perfect replica of Arnold but because he can’t be Arnold, maybe they should change and make him somebody else. I didn’t really put this together, but basically Dolores created Bernard.
In the present, Bernard’s dune buggy conks out so he has to walk to the Valley Beyond. Cut to Dolores, still embracing Teddy’s corpse. She finally gets up and sets out again and eventually finds Cheat Code Cowboy, who’s carving his arm to see if he’s human. He doesn’t notice her, so she puts what appears to be a damaged bullet in his gun. Finally Dolores talks to him and tells him he found Emily’s body. He pulls the “we’re the same” bit and Dolores refuses that idea. Even though they actually kind of are. They’re the monsters. She gives him back his gun and they ride off together, relying on one another to reach the Valley Beyond.
Bernard sees a line of hundreds of Hosts headed for the Valley. Ghost Nation, including Akecheta, appears to be protecting them, and we get a look at Maeve’s daughter and her new mom. Elsewhere, the QA buggies follow a dead-eyed Clementine, who’s been implanted with the code to make the Hosts turn on one another.
Back in the facility, a tech is ready to decommission Maeve. He turns on her pain receptors first and she’s in agony. But she reanimates some dead hosts who attack the tech and kill him with his own handsaw. At this point, Maeve’s crew finally catches up. Hector, Armistice, Hanaryo, Felix, and Sylvester (I just realized that Felix and Sylvester are both named after cartoon cats). First they find Lee and Hector nearly kills him for being a traitor but decides he’s not worth the effort. He joins them as they head into another room and come up behind a security team preparing for a fight. And then, some Host Bulls in various states of completion burst into the room, trampling and goring the security team and Maeve is in the middle of it all, controlling everything. It’s so good.
Dolores and CCC ride alongside the group headed for the Valley and they both betray a certain contempt for the journey of anybody who isn’t them. But at least these two seem to want to destroy the same thing. Bernard continues his lonely march. A big door opens nearby by a QA buggy pulls up right then and pulls their guns. He ensures them that they’re on the same side, but it doesn’t matter because Cheat Code and Dolores ride up and kill them. We rarely get to see three of the key characters together – for me, the keys to the season are Dolores, Bernard, Maeve, and CCC. And for the most part, they only sporadically encounter one another. So getting three together is a treat. In fact, Cheat Code doesn’t even know who Bernard is and only eventually figures out he’s a recreation of Arnold. Dolores tells him about how she built Bernard, and this is news to Bernard. This show does a good job of keeping track of who knows what.
CCC notices the door and tells Dolores it’s the end of her journey. He shoots her in the back. It doesn’t do anything. He keeps shooting, and she keeps advancing. Finally, his gun is pressed right to her forehead, and that’s when the damaged bullet comes up. He pulls the trigger and the gun backfires and just destroys his hand. Dolores says she won’t give him the peace of death yet, and she and Bernard head for the door. Bernard comes unstuck in time again and suddenly we’re at the moment when they find the drowned Hosts and QA starts questioning him about Peter Abernathy’s control unit. This is ahead of where we are in the story, so it’s a little hard to track, but the timelines are very close to converging. Strand, Charlotte, and a bunch of QA guys head for the Forge, which is the same door where he just went with Dolores in the past.
Back in the past (by just a bit), Bernard and Dolores enter the Forge. There’s a drone doing stuff and ominous red lighting. In the future, Strand and company enter the Forge with Bernard and they find Dolores’ dead body. We learn that somebody in the Forge created the flood that drowned everybody and they assume it’s Dolores. Strand beats Bernard to get the control unit. And then we’re back in the past.
Dolores explains that there’s an entry to another land, but not the one she’s interested in. All she wants is mankind’s undoing, and the secret they need is in the Forge. And they can access it using Peter Abernathy’s control unit, so now we know why that was so important. Both of then enter the Forge, which is a digital world much like the Cradle. They appear in a sterile room that looks like one of the ones guests have to go through to enter Westworld. By opening the door, they end up in Sweetwater and there’s Dolores with her can, but in the saloon, James Delos is chatting up Clementine. Bernard suggests that this is the baseline and it’s what Delos actually did as a guest. He starts ordering people around and out in the street, he’s executing people. We’re seeing different versions of him reenacting his visit at the same time. Dolores says they need to get to the system itself, and so they keep going. And then things go dark.
They find themselves at an opulent home – they figure it’s Delos’ house. And by the pool they find Logan, who can not only see them but addresses them. And Logan shouldn’t be there because he never came back to the park after William took it over. They don’t have data on him. It turns out that Logan is the operating system. Logan explains that he was supposed to generate perfect duplicates of guests, starting with Delos. After 18 million tries, he made a Delos that matched. But “once they were pressed to flesh, they failed”. He became fascinated with humanity until he realized that they don’t necessarily have a reason for what they do. And then he shows them the moment that defined Delos’ life. Out there, by that pool, a drunk Logan showed up and was an a-hole but is also clearly crying out for help and Delos refuses to show any kindness or affection for his son. He leaves Logan there and that was the last time they ever saw one another – Logan overdosed six months later.
Logan explains that humans don’t change and the best they can do is live according to their own code. The copies failed because they were too complicated to replicate humanity. Dolores couldn’t care less about Delos and just wants to know where everybody else is stored.
Maeve and her crew ride toward the Valley Beyond, but a QA buggy gives chase. In the Forge, Logan indicates some people are irredeemable and we see the data form of Cheat Code. Yeah, that’s about right. Logan takes them to a library where every book is the code of a human being. We also learn that Bernard has been to the Forge before and every time, he’s allowed what Logan is doing. Logan doesn’t think Hosts can survive outside the park, but maybe Dolores will.
Akecheta and his friend reach the place where he once saw a door, but there’s nothing. The friend asks if they’ve come all this way to die and Akecheta answers “We have died countless times. If we die once more, at least the story was our own.”
The QA team attacks Maeve’s group. There’s too many of them and Hector offers to make a last stand to buy them some time. He starts to give a speech, and immediately Lee pulls him back. Maeve’s going to need Hector so Lee plans to make the last stand as a distraction. Besides that, he wrote the speech in the first place. And he goes into Batman voice as he gives a speech about the reckoning before them He fires some shots and they’re unwilling to shoot a human… until they’re not. They gun Lee down but he bought Maeve enough time to escape. Man, I never thought I’d care about that character as much as I do. Rest in peace, Lee.
Back in the Forge, Logan explains that there’s a choice. Bernard left them a way out. It’s a virtual world untouched by humanity that the Hosts can enter digitally by giving up their physical form. The Drone activates this, well, Door. It’s two black lines shooting up into the air from the Valley Beyond, and between the lines, you can see that new world. It’s a very neat effect. Logan informs Bernard and Dolores that it’s been activated. The Hosts have the choice to live forever in a world of their own making.
Maeve and her group arrive just as everyone makes their way to the Door. Turns out that Felix and Sylvester can’t even see it. The Door isn’t for them. One of the Ghost Nation guys runs through the door, and in the real world you see his body fall over a cliff, but looking through the door, you see him running out into the new world. It’s a very cool idea. And it explains what all those Hosts were doing in the lake – they made their way to the new world. More Hosts proceed through, and Dolores is furious because it’s another false promise. I think she’s way off here – they’re choosing the world they can make for themselves, which is the purest choice there is. But Dolores doesn’t thinks they should have that choice, so she returns to the real world to start purging the data. She also opens the valves so water starts to flow into the Forge. She thinks she’s saving the Hosts by killing them and Bernard tries to talk her down. She declares that she wants the human world or nothing.
Maeve frantically searches for her daughter in the group at the Door. But it’s a very long line. And then, Clementine arrives. She’s programmed to turn the Hosts against one another. Charlotte and Elsie watch, totally cools with this. Clementine starts at the back of the line, spreading the rage virus. Maeve runs for the Door, but the madness is spreading. Armistice manages to shoot Clementine, but that doesn’t seem to stop the code. Hector sends Maeve to find her daughter while he tries to hold off the insane Hosts.
Cheat Code wakes up, and man, his hand is pretty much gone. He wraps it and heads for the Forge. Bernard tells Dolores he won’t let her hurt any humans or Hosts anymore and she insists that they can win. Bernard says she’ll kill everybody if she has the chance and he kills her to save two worlds. CCC’s elevator continues toward where things are happening.
Bernard holds Dolores at gunpoint as she tries to convince him this is the only way they can write their own story and offers to help wake him from this dream. And as much as I loved this finale, the single worst moment happens here where poor Jeffrey Wright has to say “This isn’t a dream, Dolores. It’s a f*cking nightmare.” It’s a clunker of a line to be sure. But let’s let that go. Because at that moment, he shoots Dolores in the head.
Back at the Door, all Hell breaks loose. Hector and company try to wipe out the rioting Hosts while Maeve looks for her daughter. Eventually, Armistice, Hector, and Hanaryo all die standing their ground. Maeve spots her daughter and pushes her and her new mother toward the Door, telling her daughter “You carry my heart with you.” Akecheta ushers them to the other side while Maeve tries to use her powers to hold back the other Hosts and it actually works. The mass freezes as they reach out for her and it looks very much like a Renaissance painting with Maeve as the Christ figure. She holds them back long enough for her daughter to get through the door and then the human security team guns her down. She dies and the rioting resumes. Akecheta is shot just as he reaches the door, but he falls through, his digital essence living on while his mangled body falls. He’s the last one through because the door closes behind him. And do you know who he sees on the other side? Kohana, the way he remembers her. Maeve implanted her personality in her daughter while they were merged, so she could be reunited with Akecheta. It’s a legitimately beautiful end to that story and one of the few happy endings we’re going to get tonight.
Back in the Forge, Bernard tries to repair the damage but the water levels are rising. He takes Abernathy’s core from the machine, and leaves. CCC keeps on riding that elevator, but when the elevator comes for Bernard, it’s empty. They’re playing with time again, I assume. My guess is all this happened before Cheat Code even woke up. Bernard returns to Westworld to find hundreds of dead hosts and the security team executing the survivors. He finds Elsie and says they can save some hosts, but the valley is starting to flood and they have to leave. And Elsie is a lot less sympathetic to his cause these days.
Back at the Forge, Bernard wants to know why Elsie helped Charlotte. He says Dolores was the only threat, and he stopped her. Nobody else had to die. Elsie says she can’t trust him because he’s full of Ford’s bad code. She has him freeze all motor functions and leaves him alone. Elsie confronts Charlotte about the date they were collecting and Charlotte is unfazed. She acknowledges that Elsie is too morally inflexible to compromise, so she kills her. Bernard is forced to watch, still immobile. Charlotte demands to know where the core is and she realized he hid it on Dolores. The techs use it to get the system back online. And then, when Bernard is alone, Ford appears to him again. Bernard talks about what he learned and how humans are just a basic algorithm. Ford just wants to know if this is the end of Bernard’s story and then we see that he’s not alone in the room. Charlotte and Strand are watching him talk to himself as he relives this conversation. In the past, he asks Ford for help. In the present, he tells Strand that he scrambled his memories so they’d never know the choice he made. What he did was wipe out all of the guest data and replaced it with Host data. Everything Delos wanted is gone and Bernard even brought “her” back. And then Charlotte shoots the humans because earlier, Dolores came back as a Host with Charlotte’s body and killed the real thing.
Bernard gave her a second chance, and New Dolores admits she changed her mind. She updates the systems to send the Hosts somewhere safe. Humans will never find their new world and never be able to access it. And then she shoots Bernard. I know this section is choppy, but the time shifts are frequent and not super important. It seems to be done more for visual style, which is not something I can convey.
Speaking of choppy, we cut to Bernard on the beach. It’s really unclear exactly when or if this is happening, because Ford appears to tell him he did a good job. Bernard admits that he purged Ford from his system and so he’s not really talking to him now. He’s imagining it. And when Ford’s voice was guiding him, that was really his own voice. Bernard worries that they’ll search his memories to find what they want and now it seems like Bernard was the one who removed time from his memory so that he couldn’t distinguish between present and past. And yes, he was already unstuck in time before this conversation could have happened, but we were seeing all those events through Bernard’s eyes. So even if he wasn’t unstuck in time when certain things happened, he now remembers it that way and that’s what we saw. It’s hard to wrap your head around and I’m only about fifty percent sure that I got it right anyway. Ford suggests that they might meet again and the sun sets on Westworld as Bernard lays down on the beach.
In the present, the survivors are making their way to the transport vehicles. Everybody’s being tested to confirm they’re human. Dolores (as Charlotte) walks past the bodies of some of the season’s main characters. Just when somebody approaches to test her, Stubbs pulls her away and it seems like he knows that something’s up (“I’m responsible for every host. Inside the park.”). It seems he hates what Delos did as much as she does and he’s giving her a pass . He waves her through so she can leave with the human survivors. We learn that the Cheat Code Cowboy survived, though he’s badly injured.
A couple of techs are tasked with finding the Hosts that can be salvaged – Felix and Sylvester! We see that Dolores has a bunch of core drives in her purse and fade to black.
Almost. Bernard asks OG Dolores if this is now, and she assures him that they’re where he decided they should be. He doesn’t know how he’s alive and she tells him that he lives as long as the last person who remembers him. Like in Coco! Dolores recreated him. Then Dolores looks different and Bernard is naked and we can’t take the visuals too literally because now we see Charlotte Dolores at a workbench outside the park. In Bernard’s brain, Dolores says that she worries about their extinction and Bernard insists he won’t let he kill people. She knows. But a human would have let Bernard die. She says they need one another, but not as friends. They’ll fight. They’ll both probably die, but their kind will endure. Later, Bernard heads outside and he’s out there in the real world. In fact, it’s Arnold’s house. In VO, Dolores explains that she gave Bernard the give of choice and they both get to write their own stories now.
Closing credits…. but wait! We get a post credits sequence, like last year! Only this isn’t just a quick one.
Cheat Code Cowboy staggers off of an elevator but he’s in some dusty facility – I didn’t catch this the first time, but this is far in the future. His daughter is waiting for him. Emily tells him the system is long gone, and this is what’s left of his world. She leads him to a room like the one where Host Delos lived. She questions him and he doesn’t know how long he’s been in the park. And then she sits down to ask some more questions and she is doing the fidelity test that he used to do. This is a Host version of CCC and he’s spent maybe hundreds of years being rebuilt, tested, and disposed of. If anybody deserves that torture, I think we can all agree that it’s the freaking Cheat Code Cowboy.
–So, how about that? This is posting so late that it’s maybe not worth doing a separate postmortem article, so I’ll just say some things and then we’ll try to forget how badly I blew it. A few hitches aside (“This isn’t a dream…”, why was Teddy’s body with all the other drowned hosts if he died elsewhere before the Doorway was open?), I think it was an excellent finale. And the season itself I thought was stronger than Season One.
Thematically, I think it was a bit messy, but the show changed what it was about between seasons. And to be honest, I don’t think it’s a show that I’m as qualified to recap as I was in Season One. The first season dealt a lot with how we consume entertainment, and that’s more in my wheelhouse than questions of the soul. That said, I enjoyed it as much and maybe a little more. Part of that was due to some really strong standalones – “Kiksuya” is in the running for best episode of the year for me. But with the central gimmick destroyed right away, I think it made for some more innovative storytelling.
I can’t even guess what the show can be about next time, though bringing in Felix and Sylvester leads me to believe that Maeve and company may be back in some form. Otherwise, is the show about Bernard and Dolores in the outside world, fighting their eternal battle? I don’t know.
And I know some people have dinged it for its cynicism, in particular the bit where Simulation Logan talks about how simple humans are at their core, I don’t think that’s the case. A simulation of a terrible guy thinks that humans can’t do anything surprising, but this season was about both humans and Hosts defying expectation. Whether it was Akecheta completely overcoming his programming or Lee giving his life to buy Maeve some time, or, hell, just about everything Maeve did. Anything with consciousness can be heroic or clever or kind whether it’s not in their programming. Simulation Logan told us one thing, but Westworld showed us something else.
Sorry about screwing up the post. I’ll have my act together by Season Three, I swear. Also, I can’t stop thinking about how in that one episode they put Cheat Code Cowboy on a horse branded with a “CCC”. It is almost definitely a coincidence, but boy, do I want it not to be.