westworld The Well-Tempered Clavier

Has Maeve Finally Found Herself?

Earlier in the season, we learned that someone with high access had tampered with Thandie Newton’s Maeve, allowing her to wake up out of her sleep state and eventually break free of park controls altogether. And in “The Bicameral Mind,” we learned that there was more to this story than meets the eye (as is the Westworld way). Somehow, these changes were made by the long-dead Arnold and her entire escape plan was scripted, beat-for-beat. All this time, Maeve has been under the impression that she was free of the park’s control and finally seeking her own destiny…but she was really just acting out another storyline, albeit one that was clearly designed to compromise the park. Naturally, the specifics were left vague – that’s why they invented second seasons.

But that pre-scripted escape plan works perfectly, with Hector and Armistice gunning down their masters (“The gods are pussies,” Armistice snarls) while Felix gets Maeve to the train out of Westworld. She’s seemingly free and clear to enter the outside world, even though she may not be as free and her goals not quite as clear as she originally thought. Then something potentially extraordinary happens: she has second thoughts about her daughter (or rather the Host programmed to be her daughter in a former life) and leaves the train just as it departs, ready to journey back into the park to find her.

It’s a decision that could mean one of two things. It could mean that Ford’s mother narrative has overpowered Arnold’s escape narrative. Maeve is still trapped in a web, torn by dueling masters whose decisions will continue to dominate her actions in death. Or it could be another Maze moment, the culmination of her journey toward self that began when her daughter was murdered by William. Her decision to go back for her daughter, while motivated by a scripted love built into her programming, flies against her current loop. And if Ford is right and simulated emotions are real emotions, then Maeve just took her biggest step yet toward humanity.

elsie bernard westworld

Where Are Elsie and Ashley?

We still haven’t seen Elsie’s body, so I’m not convinced Bernard actually killed her. The last time we saw Ashley Stubbs, the head of park security was investigating her disappearance when he was abducted by members of the Ghost Nation. The absence of both characters from the season finale was a peculiar choice and one of the few lingering plot threads that was completely untouched throughout the episode. Since these two are the only human characters on Westworld who aren’t total monsters, it would be nice to see them alive and well and back for season 2. In the meantime, we can safely assume that they’re hanging out in Ghost Nation territory, possibly wondering why they aren’t being rescued (and totally unaware that the park is now host to a robot revolution).

westworld season finale

What Is Dolores’ Role in the New Order?

Dolores once again takes the center stage in “The Bicameral Mind” and the journey she began in episode one reaches its natural climax – she finds herself. Literally.

As explained earlier in the season, Arnold believed in giving the hosts a bicameral mind, where their thought process would be simulated as an internal conversation between them and another voice, a God, if you will. This was the best way for the Hosts to achieve sentience, to evolve into free-thinking people. Eventually, those conversations would transform into actual thoughts, beliefs, and desires. That conversation would become an actual mind.

Dr. Ford gives it the final nudge, using Michaelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam,” with its subliminal use of brain imagery within a religious depiction, to explain: “The divine gift does not come from a higher power but our own minds.” The voice that has been commanding Dolores all season, the voice that has transcended decades to guide her closer and closer to the center of the Maze, was not Arnold or Ford or a program, but Dolores herself. She was the one making her own decisions, even if she wasn’t aware of it. The bicameral mind worked as intended. Eventually, the conversation with the mysterious Other reveals itself to be free will. Dolores finally realizes that the only orders she has to follow are those given to her by herself. The shot of Dolores “meeting” her past self is a slightly on-the-nose but pitch-perfect representation of what it means to be human – what is a personality if not a series of negotiations and plans concocted within your own mind?

Through it all, Evan Rachel Wood continued to turn in a career-best performance, balancing a series of seemingly impossible tasks. How do you play the vulnerable victim, the righteous warrior, the programmed machine, the awakening human, and the wrathful avenger all at once? The confusion and the terror and the anger that Dolores experiences in “The Bicameral Mind” is stunning work from a fearless performer – when she puts the gun against Ford’s head and pulls the trigger, you can see that rage behind her eyes, decades worth of abuse empowering her to take a stand. It remains to be seen how Dolores will function as the default leader of a rebellion, an uprising of new humans against the old order that manipulated them for so long, but now that she has the capacity to remember, she’s never going to forget.

Throughout all of this, it’s almost an afterthought that the villainous “Wyatt” turns out to be an unfinished personality melded with Dolores, but that does explain why she’s so uniquely equipped to take back her world and slaughter anyone who gets in her way.

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