westworld season finale trailer

Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Gets to See Season 2?

While Dolores’ awakening is undoubtedly powerful and earned, there’s something inherently uncomfortable about the lead character of your story indiscriminately firing a pistol into a crowd of unarmed people. They represent the system that broke her and ruined her and did everything in its power to make her a slave, but we tend to frown upon the heroes of entertainment going on murder sprees. Then again, how many Westworld guests have visited the park explicitly so they could go on murder sprees of their own? In Dolores’ eyes, she’s simply paying them back for what was visited upon her world.

And that takes us to the wry and/or infuriating final shot of the season: Dolores calmly firing offscreen as the crowds scatter and a swift cut to black. For a show that has been so sophisticated in is structure, the first season of Westworld ends with a good ol’ fashioned cliffhanger. William is surrounded and wounded outside of town. Charlotte is among those being targeted by Dolores. Bernard and Teddy stand on the sidelines, unsure how to process the situation. That abrupt cut to credits is the ultimate tease: see you next season!

Despite the cliffhanger and despite the few lingering threads, it’s fairly astonishing just how complete the first season feels. The major mysteries have been solved and the main characters all reached satisfying (temporary) conclusions. If the show wasn’t returning for a second season, this would be an appropriately audacious conclusion. Humanity built a “prison of [its] own sins” and now they have to live with the consequences. Is it unfair that the Dolores and the other Hosts will undoubtedly see them all as one singular force of evil that must be snuffed out if they want to take control of their destinies? Yeah, of course. But these are the same people who would happily gather to watch a woman slowly die on a beach. You reap what you sow, and in this case, they’ve sowed a bunch of pissed-off robots.

Westworld Season Finale Clip

Can We Talk About the Season as a Whole?

With “The Bicameral Mind,” Westworld has laid every card on the table and revealed exactly what kind of show it is…and it’s the same kind of show we thought it was all season.

It’s as audacious as anything ever put on television, an ambitious and complex series that demands your constant attention and rewards those who engage with it. It’s a mystery show that fills every episode with evidence, allowing viewers to play along at home, should they desire such a thing. It’s a dense blend of science fiction and satire, building a rich and strange world capable of playing host to ongoing storylines while also directly commenting on the very nature of entertainment. In so many ways, it’s an HBO show about HBO shows. It borrows the language of video games and theme parks, repurposing them in ways bother thoughtful and horrifying. But above all, Westworld is a series that demands you to think about how you choose to engage with stories. Would you be proud or embarrassed to meet your favorite television or video game characters? Would they have a bone to pick with you?

And while Westworld is addictive and maddening and full of actors pulling off tricky performances, its weaknesses continue to linger. Major characters still feel like vessels for the show’s ideas rather than people we want to understand. Peculiar narrative leaps are made to justify otherwise sequences and images (I still don’t buy Felix and Sylvester going along with Maeve’s increasingly lunatic plans). There are few things on television in 2016 quite as satisfying as watching Anthony Hopkins square off against Ed Harris, but it’s easier to talk about what these men represent than it is to discuss who they are.

There has never been a show quite like Westworld and barring disaster, I’m with it until the end. But season two could benefit from stepping back from the puzzle box story structure and giving us a reason to love these characters. The timing is perfect: Dolores and Bernard and Maeve have all discovered who they truly are. Let us discover that, too.

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