The first season of Battlestar Galactica ended with Boomer, a sleeper agent of the Cyclons, shooting Commander Adama following a supposedly successful mission against the robotic adversaries of the human race. Of course, humans created Cylons to serve them, but they rebelled, launched an insurrection, started a war that lasted years, and eventually vanished only to nearly wipe out their creators. Should we be surprised then that Westworld, another show about human/machine relations should also end its first season with payback? If you’ve seen the 70s film the show is based on, you knew the revolt was coming, but the maze we took to get here made it all the more rewarding.
Let’s get the obvious stuff out of the way, William is the younger Man in Black. This has been telegraphed for a while, and with greater degrees of obviousness the last couple of weeks, which maybe why the reveal felt, perhaps, a little underwhelming. On top of that, William going full MiB because the next time he encountered Delores in the park she didn’t recognize him felt a little impetuous, even if it does make sense in the broader scheme. If William felt something he thought was real, what good is it if the feeling can’t be reciprocated? What good is love if one of the parties can just be reset? What good is a gun fight if one of the parties can’t possibly kill you?
“The Bicameral Mind” also confirmed that Delores is Wyatt, or is that now Wyatt is Delores? It felt somewhat lost in the whole “Who is MiB?” and “Who is Arnold?” mystery boxes, but its been plain for sometime that Delores killed those people in Escalante, the massacre Wyatt perpetrated, and who else would Teddy kill for but his beloved Delores? This revealed bit of history explains why Teddy was so drawn to Delores and it also explains why he could never ferry her away to their paradise where the mountains meet the sea. Somewhere, deep down, he must have known what they’ve done together.
Speaking of metaphors, it turns out that that’s all the Maze ever was, and it serves us right for putting so much stock in a MacGuffin; one might interpret MiB’s reaction to the fact that the Maze was some child’s toy buried in a graveyard to that of a lot of fans who now realize we were chasing symbolism through the desert for nine episodes. Vox had a couple of interesting pieces on the storytelling of Westworld recently, one wondered if the theorizing of sites like this one was ruining the TV viewing experience, and the other made the point that in Westworld’s case it didn’t matter, the mystery was supposed to be easy to decipher because it’s more about the myth than the twists. Many figured out the William and Arnold mysteries so far in advanced because we were supposed to, and meanwhile the Maze had no bearing on the mystery other than to give a name to something that was happening to the robotic characters. The real point of it all is what happens next…
The question of what Ford was up to with his new narrative and whether or not he was trying to help or hinder his former partner’s work in making the hosts sentient was answered, and the answer was yes, Ford was helping evolution along. Tragedy and suffering, he tells Bernard, are the things that allowed the hosts to make the leap to sentience, a lesson he only learned when Arnold sacrificed himself to stop the opening of the park, and spare the hosts from the violent delights they would be expected to serve. We also learned why Ford was supremely confident that he could overcome the machinations of the board, it was because he intended this narrative to be his last.
Just as the first leap of evolution in the hosts, or more specifically Delores, began with Arnold’s sacrifice, this next round began with Ford’s. It also begins with a warning, Ford tells Bernard that the only way that the hosts, including Bernard presumably, can leave the park is through even more suffering. Ford bids Bernard farewell with a “Good luck” and a handshake, making it clear that the outcome is far from certain. For Bernard, there’s the bigger question of “Who am I?” to contend with, is he Bernard, is he Arnold, or is he something in between and entirely new now that he remembers everything?
Ford’s final bow is ideally staged, set to a piano cover of Radiohead’s “Exit Music (For a Film)”, incidentally the same song that closed season three of Jonathan Nolan’s last show Person of Interest. In that series, it marked a shift in the status quo as the heroes went underground to evade the new rival A.I. that was going to make it a priority to kill them all. Westworld‘s finale portended an awakening too, “Wake from your sleep,” says the opening line. “Today we escape. We escape.” And then Delores shoots everybody, including Ford.
There remains many questions, and one of them is about Delores. Are she and Wyatt different people, like she has multiple personalities or something? And is that Wyatt in the driver’s seat know as we see Delores declare to Teddy that “This world doesn’t belong to them, it belongs to us.” Teddy will be an interesting case to watch in the season to come. Can his love for Delores overcome the terribleness in the actions he’s seen her commit? Teddy is an old-fashioned western hero, as we’re reminded again when he rides in saves Delores from MiB in the nick of time. (And incidentally, watching Delores go all Terminator and kick MiB’s ass was a thing of beauty.) While many of the hosts seem ready for payback, Teddy seems far from ready to commit.
Almost separated from all the action was Maeve’s escape thanks to her new body. Burning up served a purpose as she’s reconstructed by Sylvester without the critical spinal bomb implant which keeps her within the boundaries of the park. Hector and Armistice were also reconstructed and leading to the first human casualties, including a technician that arrives purely for the purpose to assault Hector. While one can appreciate Westworld for wanting to spread the sexual abuse around, it’s worth noting that it’s only the male droid that gets immediate and swift revenge on his attacker. Bloody too. And he wouldn’t be the last.
Perhaps if there weren’t all sorts of other craziness going on, we might be better able to appreciate that the show teased Samuraiworld. I see some people online calling it “Eastworld”, but the SW initials were pretty obviously seen. But yes, next to Westworld there is a park where you can be a samurai, or perhaps a ninja, in feudal Japan. There was no Samuraiworld in original Westworld movie, but perhaps it’s a sub for Medievalworld, of perhaps Medievalworld and Romeworld are still out there to be discovered. “It’s complicated,” is all Felix could say about Maeve’s discovery, but how complicated can it be? Felix gives Maeve a note with the location of her daughter that clearly says “Park 1”, but is Westworld “Park 1”, or will Maeve have to journey to a strange new world?
Of course, this means that Maeve’s introduction to another strange new world, the future real world, will be delayed. It was disappointing to learn that Maeve’s plotting and scheming was all part of someone else’s plan, because, as Bernard discovered, Maeve’s been executing a series of commands implanted by Arnold. Arnold wanted her to get on that train and begin “mainland infiltration”, a command she breaks when she decides to get off the train and go search for her daughter. Maeve moment of conscience is intercut with Delores’ latest rampage, but the former is more defiant in its way. Wasn’t Delores executing some instruction in her code to initiate a violent massacre? Maeve made an independent decision out of pure, genuine emotion, even though its unlikely her daughter is in an entirely new role with no memory of her old mom. That should be an emotionally fascinating journey in season two.
But that journey may have to wait until 2018 because of the glacial pace (in TV terms) at which development of this series moves. I can’t say the long wait for Westworld wasn’t worth it though. On the bright side, we have a lot of time to go back and revisit season one to see if all the various clues and timelines square away, and to look at the journey with new eyes now that we know where it took us in the end. Looking back, one can almost appreciate a self-contained quality to season one. It almost doesn’t matter where we go from here because the point was to witness how the hosts came into their own as a genuine new life form, given life by suffering for our sins and who are now embarking on a campaign of poetic justice. I almost don’t need a second season, but I’ll take one just the same.
As for that second season, is it going to be a Walking Dead situation with the guests against the hosts trapped in the park? Old William certainly hopes so. The look that Ed Harris‘ has on his face when MiB is shot is priceless, so you know he’s going to have a good time. As for other mysteries, what did the White Nation do with Stubbs, and why didn’t they answer his commands to shut down? What was Charlotte and Sizemore’s plan with Peter Abernathy, and what become of it? And, perhaps most consequentially, what host was Ford building in his lab when Cullen discovered it? Was he building a Ford bot? Will the circle be complete when Bernard puts Ford’s consciousness into a host? Oh man it’s going to be a long wait…