Did you know that the traditional way to acknowledge the end of a season of Westworld is to sit forward in your chair and say: “Wait… What???” True fact.
I pity the fool who watched “The Passenger,” the super-sized finale of a time-warped season two, without the benefit of being able to rewind and/or talk to a friend. Even with those assets, this is an episode that ties up a season that requires a little effort to untangle. (Definitely by design.)
Let’s recap a bit broader than just this episode, for the sake (I hope) of clarity. This season, the main storylines we’ve been following tracked:
- the Man in Black (Ed Harris) as he believed himself to be playing a next-level game designed by Ford (Anthony Hopkins), just for him
- Bernarnold (Jeffrey Wright) as he navigated an unreliable sense of time and reality while attempting to survive being known as a host
- Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) as she worked to retrieve the key she hid in Peter Abernathy’s (Louis Herthum) head
- Maeve (Thandie Newton) and her crew as they searched for Maeve’s daughter
- Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and co. heading for “the Valley Beyond,” which would allow Dolores to punish humanity somehow.
The season opened with Bernarnold coming to on a seashore, being collected by Delos security hunk Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) and delivered to Delos HQ jerk Karl Strand (Gustaf Skarsgård). This moment happened about two weeks after the massacre arranged by Ford, and executed by Dolores and the hosts, in season one’s finale. From there, the timeline shifted primarily along parallel tracks between the time between the massacre and that moment, and the time unfolding after that moment (with enough flashing back further to confuse things).
Tonight we learned that both of those main tracks led to the Forge, where Bernarnold and Dolores arrived together twice.
Last week, Teddy (James Marsden) escaped what Dolores had turned him into (and what he knew she’d be asking of him in the future) by shooting himself in the head, and the Man in Black (MiB) flipped out and shot his own daughter while under the delusion that everyone was a host created by Ford to torment him. Bernarnold left Elsie (Shannon Woodward) alone, as a protection to her, and deleted Ford from his system; and the message Ford had Bernarnold deliver to Maeve allowed her to unlock protocols from the tablet the sadistic Delos tech had plugged her into. Charlotte Hale and her flunkies had extracted Maeve’s code that allowed her to telepathically control other hosts and planted it in Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) so she could turn hosts on each other, and Akecheta (Zahn McClarnon) was still off with the Ghost Nation, protecting Maeve’s daughter.
The Passenger rejoins Dolores spooning with Teddy’s body after salvaging his control unit. Eventually she rises and remounts her horse to continue toward the Valley Beyond. She encounters MiB where we last saw him, sitting on the ground and digging into his own arm with a knife to see if he’s actually human. She considers him, collecting his gun from the ground and loading it with a flattened bullet she removed from Teddy’s control unit. Then she engages him by commenting on how she can see that he’s questioning his own reality now, and that she found his daughter’s body a mile back.
She offers him his gun and brokers an uneasy alliance with him, inviting him to ride with her to their common destination. She observes that there’s something there that he wants to destroy, and he agrees that they’ll ride together for as long as their purposes are aligned.
When they arrive at the door to the Forge, they come upon Bernarnold, who has just been stopped by a dune buggy full of armed Delos security personnel. Dolores and MiB take out the Delos folks, then Dolores dismounts and comments on the appropriateness of Bernarnold being there for the end.
MiB decides that this is the end for Dolores, and he shoots her in the back. She turns, walking towards him as he continues to shoot, explaining to him that he has never understood the hosts. When his gun reaches the bullet Dolores planted, it misfires and explodes, taking some of his fingers with it. He crumples to the ground, where she leaves him as she and Bernarnold enter the facility.
Once inside, Dolores places her father’s control unit into a port on a console in a control room, unlocking the system. She steps into a host dock to enter, and invites Bernarnold to do the same. These docking stations are more modern than the one he used in the Cradle, and their heads are surrounded by crescents of light instead of being sawed open while their control units are removed.
They awaken inside a virtual environment similar to the one in the Cradle, and go searching for the system’s control. First they move through a version of Sweetwater in which James Delos’ (Peter Mullan) memories of the park are playing out. They identify this as the baseline for the guest data storage they’re in. Bernarnold expresses concern that conscious minds aren’t supposed to be in this place, so they need to be prepared for adverse effects of their presence, but as day turns abruptly to night, Dolores suggests that maybe this is a place that expects and welcomes them.
They find themselves in James Delos’ house at the retirement party Dolores attended there. They pass through the party and onto the back terrace, where she finds Logan (Ben Barnes) in the spot she found him during the actual party. He tells her she isn’t supposed to be there, and she responds that he shouldn’t be there, either– Logan never returned to the park after William took over, so his data was never collected.
This Logan acknowledges that this is true, and that he is based on James Delos’ memories of his son. The Logan they’re speaking with is the system control they’ve been looking for.
He leads them on a tour of the process he used to catalog humans, showing them some of the millions of variations he ran on James Delos. He reveals that when he recognized that every variation on James Delos’ life was rooted in the last conversation Delos had had with Logan, he understood that the reason Delos kept failing when made flesh was that they’d been attributing too much complexity to humans. Ultimately, humans appear to lack free will and are simply passengers in their own lives as they struggle to survive and satisfy cravings.
Logan takes them to a library of the simple algorithms he’s collected on more than four million people who have visited the parks, and Dolores begins to read them. She isn’t interested in James Delos, but she does pause on Karl Strand.
Bernarnold doesn’t feel certain that they should be there, but Logan assures him that he’s been there many times before, and that it was him who told Logan to allow Dolores access to anything she wanted. He also shows Bernarnold the new, virtual world he’d created for the hosts to escape into– the Ghost Nation’s version of the Valley Beyond. Logan tells Bernarnold it is his decision what happens for both the hosts and the guests’ data.
Dolores doesn’t need to read many human algorithms before she understands that she wants to burn it all down. She leaves the system and heads to the control panel. Bernarnold has initiated the opening of the true Valley Beyond to the hosts, and outside of the Forge, Akecheta and all of the hosts he has collected (including Maeve’s daughter) are rewarded when a rift opens in the landscape in front of them, where they can see the green pastures of the promised land.
Bernarnold follows Dolores out of the system in time to see her initiating the deletion of all of the human data and the release of all the seawater that cools the servers on which it is stored. She wants to kill all the humans, and she doesn’t accept that Bernarnold’s virtual world for the hosts is any better than any false reality Ford created. He can’t let her kill all the hosts, and he doesn’t agree with her that humanity is the enemy, so he surprises her by shooting her in the head.
While this drama is unfolding inside the Forge, more is unfolding outside. Back at the Mesa, Maeve uses the new power Ford helped her unlock to revive the hosts strewn about the room in which the sadist Delos tech is about to permanently disable her. He turns on the saw that will open her skull and allow him to remove her control unit, cranking up her pain receptors beforehand to ensure that she feels everything excruciatingly. She counters by having a trio of reanimated hosts disarm him, slice open his jugular with the saw and perform surgery on her to bring her back up to full health.
As she’s taking things into her own hands, Hector (Rodrigo Santoro), Armistice (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal), Hanaryo (Tao Okamoto), Sylvester (Ptolemy Slocum) and Lutz (Leonardo Nam) have infiltrated the Mesa to rescue her, inadvertently collecting an abashed Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) on their way. Before they reach Maeve, she emerges walking in the midst of charging bulls in various states of completion. The bulls gore the Delos security standing between her and her gang, and as soon as they’ve been dispatched she cracks wise about having had to save herself and they all set out in search of her daughter again.
Maeve’s band heads towards the Valley Beyond, where she wants to make sure her daughter arrives safely. En route, they’re interrupted by more Delos security. Hector is ready to sacrifice himself so that the others can continue the mission, but Sizemore is ready to be a hero and insists on being the one to stall the Delos crew while Maeve hotfoots it to her daughter.
Instead of stepping out and telling his coworkers something to stop them, he comes out shooting and reciting a speech he wrote for Hector’s character. The Delos guys say things like, “Sir! Stop shooting at us because we know who you are from work.” He does not, so they kill him in what seems like kind of an unnecessary sacrifice.
His actions do allow Maeve and the gang to get to the chain of pilgrims winding through the desert landscape towards a rift in the sky, through which everyone except Sylvester and Lutz can see a green valley. They move through the snaking line of hundreds of hosts, desperately seeking Maeve’s little girl, when they catch sight of Clementine coming on a pale horse. With her comes death.
Maeve runs through the crowd searching for her daughter while Hector, Armistice and Hanaryo hold off the hosts gone homicidal under Clementine’s influence. Armistice shoots Clementine, but her work has been done, and Maeve, the most powerful host of all, doesn’t seem to be able to override Clementine’s chaos? Instead she finds her daughter and the new mother she’s been assigned, sends memories into her daughter of the life they shared, and sees them safely into the Valley. At the last minute, she uses her powers to hold back the swarming horde of bloodthirsty hosts long enough for her daughter to make it safely across the threshold, but then Maeve gets very shot by the Delos thugs who arrived with Clementine.
Once Maeve’s daughter is safe, Akecheta follows her. Delos shooters get him in the back, but only his body dies, falling over the cliff that all of the other host bodies have just gone off as their consciousnesses moved into their new world.
Bernarnrold emerges into the immediate aftermath of this, seeing hundreds of dead hosts who didn’t make it into the world he created and finding Delos thugs shooting any of the survivors. He finds Elsie there with Charlotte Hale and tells Elsie that there was a different way. She puts him in her dune buggy and takes him back to the Mesa with the Delos folks.
Back at the Mesa, Elsie tells Bernarnold that they need to figure out what to do about him. Nobody knows yet that he’s a host, but she doesn’t think he can be trusted because of all the bad code Ford put in him. She freezes his motor functions and orders him to sit while she goes to strike a deal with Charlotte Hale. Bernarnold has warned her about how untrustworthy Hale is, but Elsie doesn’t listen.
Downstairs, in clear view of helpless host Bernarnold’s window, Hale offers Elise a promotion if she can play ball. Elsie agrees, but Hale has read her personnel file and knows she’s too morally inflexible to be an ally. Delos has been studying the staff as well as the guests. Hale unloads several bullets into Elsie and leaves her, and the gun she used, with the other corpses in the Mesa, looking like it was a host who killed her.
Bernarnold comes alive at this. He evokes Ford, whom he’d tried to delete, and asks him for help. Ford leads him to a place where they can build one more host.
It’s Charlotte Hale.
When he shot Dolores in the head in the Forge, Bernarnold removed her control unit and took it with him. He hid Peter Abernathy’s control unit in her head. After seeing Charlotte Hale kill Elsie, moments after Elsie basically told him she would never trust him, Bernarnold decides that he was wrong to stop Dolores and needs her back. Guided by Ford, he builds a physical copy of Charlotte Hale and plants Dolores’ control unit in her head.
As soon as the Dolores Charlotte is complete, she waits for the real Charlotte Hale in the cold storage unit where Hale is dumping bodies, including Elsie’s. The minute real Charlotte is alone, Dolores Charlotte emerges and shoots her dead, then assumes her identity.
This means that in the timeline of this season in which Bernarnold has been at the mercy of Karl Strand and outed as a host by Charlotte Hale, it was Dolores Charlotte all along, because this is before Bernarnold appears on the seashore.
The swap is revealed when Karl Strand and his people finally succeed in draining enough of the sea Dolores created with her flood that they can get to the Forge. Strand, Dolores Charlotte, Bernarnold and some redshirts go into the Forge, where Strand tries to beat the information he wants out of Bernarnold. He wants to know where Abernathy’s control unit is.
As Dolores Charlotte figures it out and removes it from original Dolores’ head, Bernarnold realizes that he scrambled his own memories to prevent Strand from figuring out what he’d done. As soon as he’d unleashed Dolores Charlotte on the world, Bernarnold had recognized that the Ford who had helped him create her was just a figment of his own imagination, and that if anyone figured out that he was a host, they’d easily be able to get anything they wanted from him. To complicate that, he scrambled his own mind so that Delos wouldn’t know he had killed Charlotte Hale and replaced her.
Bernarnold’s monologue to a shocked Strand is punctuated by Dolores Charlotte killing all the humans in the Forge’s control room and resuming the mission Bernarnold had interrupted. She places one more host in Bernarnold’s paradise, Teddy, then sends the virtual Valley into some unknown place by rerouting the Delos data transfer process. Dolores Charlotte shoots Bernarnold in the head, collects his control unit and goes back to the beach where the Delos extraction team is hard at work.
When she arrives there, she’s greeted by Ashley Stubbs. He approaches her with a knowing look in his eye and questions why she’s leaving when she said she wanted to stay there. She tells him she’s changed her mind and wants to go work on things that need to be handled on the mainland.
He understands and says to her suggestively: “You know, the old man himself hired me so many years ago I can barely remember it, but he was very clear about my role here. About who I was supposed to be loyal to. I guess you could call it… my core drive. And this project the company started blurs the lines. You know? I’m just not sure who you’re supposed to be loyal to in a world like that. But what do I know? Guess I just stick to the role Ford gave me. I’m responsible for every host inside the park.”
She exchanges a look with him that says that they both know they’re both hosts, and he waves her through to leave with the rest of the humans before going to attend to MiB, who is still alive and in a tent where he’s in desperate need of medical care. (Or is he? Scroll down…)
Dolores Charlotte goes back to the house Arnold was building for his family in the city on the mainland. Ford finished it after he died, and inside is everything Dolores needs to make new bodies for herself and Bernard. She has left the island with a purse full of control units, and when Bernarnold opens his eyes in is new body, he sees Dolores in human clothes looking back at him. Charlotte Hale, whose body now holds who-knows-who’s control unit, is waiting for Dolores outside of the conversation lab in the basement of Arnold’s house.
Dolores explains that she and Bernarnold both need to be there to ensure that the hosts survive. They won’t be friends, and they both may die, but their efforts will ensure a future for their kind. She and Charlotte-bot leave him behind, and he follows, exploring his new/old home and emerging into the world beyond its doors.
Back on the island, Sylvester and Lutz are tasked with helping to salvage any hosts they think can be salvaged. They see Maeve’s body on the beach, and their faces suggest that she’s just made it to the top of their list.
In a post-credits scene I’m guessing a lot of us missed, the injured MiB makes it into a post-apocalyptic-looking version of the Forge, only to find his daughter waiting for him. She walks him into a room like the one he would have fidelity conversations with James Delos in, insisting that the system is long gone and that they’re in his real world. He tells her he only ever wanted to know that he had a choice. She wants to ask him some questions to establish a baseline for… fidelity.