Imagine having any idea what the hell just happened in the Westworld finale.
There were actually really cool things that happened Sunday night in the Westworld Season 2 finale, the kind of mind-blowing things you’d expect from a series bold enough to gift us with such elegant episodes as “Akane no Mai,” “The Riddle of the Sphinx” and “Kiksuya.” But with so many jumps back and forth through timelines, plot reveals, and an overlong running time, the reaction to what was supposed to be the year’s biggest TV episode was less “Wow!” than “Huh?”
We wrote down all the plot points. And we read them over a few times before writing this. Still don’t know what happened.
People are robots who you didn’t think are robots. (Never trust a Hemsworth). And people are robots who you thought were gonna be robots but then second-guessed yourselves. (Ed Harris?!). And then Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) just opens the door to the real world?
It’s not exactly satisfying, but it’s provocative. Actually, that’s a sentence that could probably describe this entire series thus far.
Here’s our gripe: This show, with all of its puzzles and twists and timelines and nerdishness, had actually established a narrative universe that was appealing. Thandie Newton as Maeve may be the best actress on TV. The cinematography on this show is unrivaled. And between William (Ed Harris) maybe killing his daughter and Teddy (James Marsden) killing himself, here was a beautifully shot show with insane twists to keep you busy.
And then this week happened.
Can anyone without a Cliff’s Notes guide really tell me what happened this week?
Characters were literally turning into other characters. Fan favorites sacrificed themselves. Timelines merged, we think, and more questions were raised than were answered.
If you, like us, thought the most intriguing part of Westworld was what the company behind it, DELOS, was actually gathering when it opened its doors—data about the humans buying tickets—then “The Passenger” was a wild reveal. It’s not even the humans who are in charge.
But the vacillation between character study and moral allegory, with the overarching data storyline, never honed itself. We’re still not sure what to think the show is supposed to be.
Here we were all bracing ourselves for the robot uprising, a timely revolution born out of, in the real world, our own instincts to offer up all of our data to any service that would ask, and, in Westworld, the willingness to sacrifice your life for the expense of indulging any depravity.
What “The Passenger” revealed is that the most human thing about us is actually our own roboticism. Turns out, it’s not that humans are too complicated to replicate as “hosts,” as we thought—it’s that they’re too simple. They’ll literally run off the ledge, each and every time.
Listen, we endorse any bold project that challenges its audience to think. But after watching every minute of both seasons of Westworld, studying the various dissections of each episode that crop up each week, interviewing several members of the cast, and watching the finale twice, we will concede that it is absolutely ridiculous that we have no idea what happened.
In the era of #PeakTV, you gotta make a mark. But that mark should not be a vigorously scribbled: “WHAT?!”
Are we here for any project in which Evan Rachel Wood and Tessa Thompson combine talents in order to achieve malevolence? Is the sky blue?
Did we have to rewind the TV three times to try to gather what was actually going on in those scenes? And did our confusion over what the hell happened to our Lord and Savior, Maeve, preoccupy all of our thoughts? Well, yes.
Here’s what we can tell you.
There was an Eden, an actual place the hosts were moving towards. But that was not the paradise we would hope for those characters. What was a virtual utopia for some of our favorites seemed to be, in actuality, certain death. And that’s just for the ones who made it there. After a season of pursuit, it looks like Thandie Newton’s Maeve didn’t find her happy ending—well, her daughter is happy, but she is dead, to our chagrin—which is excruciating for any fan of the show enrapt in her character’s revolutionary story arc.
A timely indictment of the delusion of a happily ever after. But then again, is anyone actually ever dead? Felix and Sylvester are in charge of salvaging bodies. Will they revive our hero, Maeve, again?
All of that is happening in what appears to be, from a casual fan’s eye, roughly 649 different timelines. Some of them are even virtual, which in addition to fostering a furrowed brow leads to one of the big revelations, from a virtual version of Logan (Ben Barnes): human consciousness is disappointingly easy to map and predict. That was supposed to be the big reveal. Subverting it into an “eh” is kind of genius. Us humans? Turns out we’re not in control of our destinies. We’re programmed, both for good and for bad.
The moral reckoning that was the initial existential appeal of Westworld—what would we do if we were allowed reckless abandon, would we choose the white hat or the black hat—was deemed irrelevant by the finale, kind of dropping an anvil on stakes we had invested a lot of time and a lot of headaches in trying to understand over the last two years.
It all allegedly opens the door for new questions to ponder for a possible season three: Are the hosts Charlotte/Dolores saved just living on a server somewhere? Who is Charlotte/Dolores smuggling out of the park in her purse? The consciousness of Teddy? Bernard? That purse is pretty full...
It also pops the enthusiasm balloon of a TV series that seems to rely on that very obsession to stay buzzy. We practically suffered a brain aneurysm trying to decipher, first of all, what Dolores and Charlotte Hale want with Bernard in the last scene, let alone what to make of that Marvel-like credits sequence with the Man in the Black Hat and his daughter.
So much of the first two seasons of Westworld centered on this crazy maze that was integral to the plot. The unpleasant thing is, after having invested so much time in solving it, we still feel woefully lost in it. Worse, there doesn’t seem to be a compelling enough reason to try and find our way out.