“Welcome to the world,” Arnold says to Dolores in the opening scene of “The Bicameral Mind,” the season finale of the hit HBO series Westworld.
The beginning of the episode possesses a dreamlike quality, vacillating between a blue-dress-garbed Dolores smiling sweetly at Teddy over the bodies of massacred hosts in the street to Dolores shaving the face of the Man in Black as he alludes to a place that she had taken him before, an early episode nod to the popular fan theory of a dual timeline. One minute, Dolores is leaving the white church with Arnold as he gently explains the meaning of a small carving of a maze and its relation to his programming of her – the first tier of the pyramid as memory and the second as sensibility, which left her vulnerable to madness; the next, she is denying any knowledge of the carving to the Man in Black.
In the most gorgeously rendered episodes of the series, in which the steady accrual of suspense acts as a backdrop to the existing conflicts, the question of which world is ultimately preferable – that of the hosts, in which humans cannot fail but nothing is real, or the gritty outside world of the humans – serves as a constant refrain.
The past Arnold informs past Dolores that they need to shut down the park to prevent the exploitation of the hosts, and scenes of Dolores and Teddy massacring streets full of hosts flash onscreen as Dolores begs the Man in Black not to compel her to remember. She is clinging stubbornly to the goodness within her world, insisting that there is someone who loves her who is making his way back to her. Once she utters the name “William,” The Man in Black finally confirms the dual timelines: he tells the story of William’s coming of age within the park as he scoured it in search of Dolores. William is shown scalping hosts (with the Man in Black’s knife) and plucking the trademark black hat off a freshly massacred host, finally arriving at the edge of the park with a naked, hog-tied Logan. William, who has grown cold and mercenary, is still searching for Dolores; when he finally finds her, however, it is in the same place where he first encountered her. Dolores has been reset, and as she finally gazes upon him, he realizes she does not know him at all. He watches as she greets a new guest as Dolores’ lack of humanity dawns on him fully. The evolution from the naive William to the cold Man in Black is finally explained.
Amid this emotionally charged back-and-forth, machinations occur behind the scenes: Maeve reawakens and begins lowering the pain sensibilities of other hosts; Charlotte reveals to Ford that the board is forcing him into retirement after his new narrative reveal; the Snake Lady awakens and begins brutalizing a technician working on her.
Maeve, who has orchestrated this uprising, appears behind the scene and simpers of the humans, “I want to see their world.”
The Man in Black, still contending with Dolores, acknowledges that she helped him realize that Westworld is just like the one outside.
“This world doesn’t belong to you,” Dolores growls at him and, as Maeve’s setting adjustments begin to kick in, begins to assault him. The Man in Black stabs her in the stomach, a scene juxtaposed with flashbacks of William gazing tenderly at her. Teddy advances on horseback and shoots the Man in Black, rescuing Dolores.
“Take me to where the mountains meet the sea,” Dolores tells Teddy, reminiscent of the series’ opening scene.
Ford approaches the Man in Black, who complains that the hosts are not worthy adversaries for him. In a chilling moment of foreshadowing, Ford informs the Man in Black that he will be pleased with the new storyline.
Bernard appears amid Maeve’s revolution to deliver the most dramatic revelation of the episode – that Maeve is still not making her own decisions, her storyline has merely been altered again to accommodate this revolt. He shows her the steps that she is programmed to follow, which she is dutifully obeying.
Dolores’s death scene with Teddy ends with an audience, and lights snap on to reveal it is playing out in front of the board members present for Robert’s new narrative reveal. Meanwhile, the technicians become aware of a breach of security, which leads to an eerie scene in which techs skulk among hosts, the conscious among whom blend in easily. The hosts begin slaughtering.
Robert reawakens Dolores, and she sees Bernard, whom she mistakes for Arnold. Ford reminds her that she killed Arnold, explaining that Dolores was a surrogate for Arnold’s son and that Arnold made a system upgrade for Dolores called “the reveries.” Robert confirms another fan theory: that Dolores’ character was merged with an emerging character…Wyatt.
“In you, Arnold had found a new child, one who would never die,” Ford tells her. Arnold had compelled Dolores to commit the massacre but realized afterward that hosts death would not be permanent enough to damage the park. In a scene full of irony, Arnold forced Dolores to shoot him after saying, “I hope there’s some comfort in the fact that I left you no choice,” thereby denying her agency even in his attempt to help her. The irony embeds itself further in the sense that it was Dolores who awakened in William the desire to invest in the park, thereby keeping it afloat.
With the aid of Felix, Maeve prepares to escape the park. Felix tells Maeve that he has located her daughter, but Maeve is undaunted by this last-ditch attempt to keep her in the park. “She was never my daughter,” Maeve says, the most painfully conscious moment of the entire season, “any more than I am who they made me to be.”
Ford explains to Bernard that the key to the hosts’ awakening and consciousness is their suffering. Arnold understood this because he had lost a son, but Ford did not desire to instill self-awareness into the hosts until he lost Arnold.
Dolores follows her alternative timeline counterpart. The center of the maze is locating her counterpart and reconciling the two; what she has wanted is to confront herself, and realize who she must become.
Ford debuts his new storyline in the well-lit town pavilion to an indulgent crowd; meanwhile, the Man in Black smokes apart from the group. Hosts begin to descend on him from the darkness. Dolores shoots Ford in the head as the hosts unleash their fury onto the human crowd.
The Man in Black smiles, having finally gotten his wish: the hosts can fight back, the odds have been evened out, and the line between the real world and Westworld blurs even further.
[Featured Image by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images]