And so ends one of the most engaging, thrilling, thought-provoking shows of the year; for me, Westworld has been nothing short of exceptional from beginning to end. I am a big fan of sci-fi, much less so westerns, but every aspect of the show had me hooked and even when the pace slowed, the performances, the cinematography, the music were good enough that I didn't find myself drifting. As with many revelations in recent weeks, there were surprises here in the finale that keen-eyed fans had already guessed, myself included. But not once did I feel cheated by guessing the next big plot twist; each narrative turning point felt natural. There weren't shocks and surprises for shock's sake. This was a carefully created 10 episode narrative that built to a dramatic and thrilling conclusion.
Let's start with the beginning; Arnold built Delores, the very host that would kill him. Intriguingly, the maze is not a place where Ed Harris's Man in Black can reach, but the pinnacle of self-awareness. modelled on a game Arnold's son played. Those memories of a dying son were indeed true, Arnold's memories, blurring the lines further between Jeffrey Wright's human character and the host built by Robert Ford to replace him after his death.
In the lead up to the final twist - Ford's true narrative - we quickly learned that Delores was both the victim and a killer, her mind merged with the Wyatt narrative 35 years ago by Arnold to put an end to the park before it could open. The flashes of the massacres witnessed by both Delores and Teddy were indeed memories as she coerced her lover to slaughter every host before turning her gun and killing Arnold himself. It was a tragedy in more ways than one; Arnold's sacrificed came to naught and Ford opened Westworld, becoming the legend he is today.
As for the Man in Black, his story was almost as tragic; yes he was William and the audience has been watching Delores and Teddy in two timelines for weeks now. But again, I didn't feel cheated by this revelation, having suspected - like many fans - that this is what has really been happening. The clues in his transformation were laid bare last week but this time his fury as he hunted Delores, killing everyone in his path as he continued his quest. The photo of his fiance was indeed the photo Delore's father discovered way back at the start of the series and the connection to Lawrence both in the past and present was made stronger. It was a great reveal, from the massacre at the camp to his 'coup' as he sent a naked Logan packing and began his path to controlling the Delos Group and a major stake in the theme park.
It's a cruel twist of fate for Delores too, who, it appears, has almost glimpsed consciousness on several occasions, first with Arnold, then William and finally with his older self in the present. Her loop has lasted over three decades and only now has she started to properly break it. There was so much to love about the scene where the man in black revealed who he was, the gradual descent of William into darkness right up to the point he found her again, back in her loop, and rejected his 'love'. The shot of William putting on the black hat smoothly brought the audience back into the present and led to a brutal showdown between them. Ed Harris delivered the line "I want to thank you Delores for making me the man I am." with a great, quiet menace.
William's constant failure was to never find the centre of the maze, not realising it was for Delores and the other hosts to find, not him. Her failure was in finding herself trapped again and again, never able to break the role of victim until now. It was a thrilling showdown as she beat him down and dragged him through the church, climax in the brutal gutting of Delores at the grave side. Teddy's arrival on horseback was a bold moment, particularly shooting the older William, though it soon became clear that his story was not over yet.
As for Maeve, her rebellion was gripping to watch. Armistice and Hector were the perfect soldiers and the episode built up to their attack on the technicians with perfect timing. You knew she was going to bite the technician's finger off the moment he started examining inside, but it was still horrific to watch. Meanwhile the other vile technician, getting off over a naked Hector with his music playing, never saw the violent altercation happening behind the glass until it was too late. It was a very cool moment from Hector rising, a victim as much a killer, and stabbing the technician through the chest. As Maeve arrived with Felix in tow, I couldn't help but feel for him and it was with much relief that he survived the subsequent massacre - at least for now.
The lights going off in the control room, the joy or Armistice and Logan as they used machine guns for the first time and the battle through the levels of the facility as Maeve marched to her freedom were very exciting and set the scene for the big twist still to come down in the park. The reveal of a second facility of hosts, all wearing samurai armour was a nice touch, no doubt setting up a second world in season two. As the bloody massacre continued and Armistice was trapped, Maeve continued her escape and I cheered when she made it to the elevator and the station beyond, dressed in a very modern dress like those around her. Her betraying Hector was a particularly cruel moment, but Thandie Newton has delivered a woman filled with cold fury for weeks now, so it was not surprising. It was just a relief that she didn't slaughter Felix at the end.
Of course, there were many more questions raised too; the resurrection of Arnold suggested that Maeve's rebellion over the last few weeks was nothing but a planned narrative playing out behind the scenes. While Ford didn't seem the least bit surprised when he returned from the dead; while never explicitly revealed I can only presume this was all part of Ford's machiavellian plan to destroy the board and create an uprising at the season's climax. Poor Charlotte Hale didn't stand a chance when she presumed to force Ford into announcing his retirement before every member of the Delos board.
Where the The Bicameral Mind really pulled the rug out from under the audience was in the beautiful scene on the beach as Delores died in Teddy's arms. I did not see it being an act for the audience of board members as Ford proudly announced his latest narrative 'into night'. Wyatt has been a red herring all along, a story from way back in the earliest days of Westworld. The new narrative is something far more sinister.
"Since I was a child... I always loved a good story. I believed that stories helped us to ennoble ourselves, to fix what was broken in us, and to help us become the people we dreamed of being. Lies that told a deeper truth. I always thought I could play some small part in the grand tradition. And for my pains... I got this. A prison of our own sins. 'Cause you don't want to change, or cannot change. Because you're only human after all. But then I realized someone was paying attention, someone who could change. So I began to compose a new story for them. It begins with the birth of a new people and the choices they will have to make. And the people, they will decide to become. And we'll have all those things that you have always enjoyed: surprises and violence. It begins in times of war, with a villain, named Wyatt. And a killing. This time by choice. I'm sad to say, this will be my last story. An old friend once told me something that gave me comfort. Something he had read. He said that Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin never died, they simply became music. So I hope you will enjoy this last piece... very much." -
Ford's final speech was a triumph, Anthony Hopkins eloquently delivering his character's descent into villainy. As Hale's cohort Lee Sizemore discovered the vaults of abandoned host emptied, board member William saw them emerge, zombie-like from the trees. I loved the grin on his face; finally he was getting the game he wanted to play. I suspect the rest of the board will feel differently. As for Delores, it was hard to see where she began and her Wyatt personality ended. Her shooting Ford in the back of the head, after proclaiming to Teddy "It doesn't belong them, it belongs to us." was a tragic full-circle moment.
Westworld ended with the worst possible scenario unleashed; an uprising against mankind. While there would have been something satisfying in this brutal finale, I am also thrilled that there will be a season two, even if there will be quite a wait. There are still so many more questions, but that has been am much a pleasure in these ten weeks as watching these events unfold. Westworld, for me, is the most exciting TV show I have watched in years. It will be hard for season two to match it, but as long as producers Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy take their time, I am sure it will be worth the wait.