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WESTWORLD Recap: The Violent End

WESTWORLD Recap: The Violent End

(Fair warning: This The recap contains Westworld spoilers, and you can’t erase them.)

If you need a refresher, get started with these recaps:

Obviously we’ll be calling this Park One Recaps from now on.

As promised by showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, the finale of Westworld delivered on the closed loop of its story — instead of raising more questions, it gleefully decided to offer us a violent end to its mysterious delights. They stylishly revealed the origins of Arnold’s (Jeffrey Wright) experiment with Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), and brought it full circle with her murder (by choice instead of bootstrapped programming this time) of Dr. Ford (Anthony Hopkins). It turns out he was not just the calm maniac all along, but instead of sticking to his great need for control, he set a domino chain in motion that would Rube Golberg his own suicide-by-robot, his misanthropy winning out in favor of forcing the Hosts, through trauma, to gain free will.

It was also a nice touch to be introduced to Hopkins inside his great glass jail cell. This show’s homage game is on point.


Ford’s final narrative is named after the Eugene O’Neill play A Long Day’s Journey Into Night, which displays a single day in the life of a dysfunctional family who are almost painfully conscious of their own emotions, actions and pain. As Teddy (James Marsden) and Dolores ride along the coastline–Planet of the Apes style–toward a twist ending, we see the soap opera revealed for what it is: death followed by applause.

Ford’s genuine big moment comes when he reveals himself to Dolores as a powerful white guy whose dream will be over if he even merely acknowledges a young woman’s humanity. In the only real twist of “The Bicameral Mind,” he also reveals that destroying his dream has been his plan all along.

The opening welcomes Dolores back to the world. As a Host, her memories are replayed perfectly, which has driven her nearly to madness throughout the entire season. That’s the cost of truly knowing yourself: the potential of going insane. While she chases her ghosts, The Man in Black (Ed Harris), a.k.a. Old William, uses her as a guide to the center of the maze only to learn that, seriously dude, it’s not for him. It’s not like every single character along the way has told you that explicitly or anything.

His confidence for conquest makes him believe that there’s something deeper for him lying under Dolores’ grave, but the safe has been empty the whole time. It’s just a game for the human players. The maze has always been an existential journey for the Hosts (congrats, Dolores and Maeve!) to reach consciousness by realizing that the voice inside their heads is their own. It’s about realizing that the God on the cloud is really a human mind. To replace God with yourself. To gain agency.



It’s to MIB’s utter disappointment that while he considered the “realness” of something dependent on the stakes, and there for dependent on the possibility of death, an A.I. cannot die in the traditional way, and yet it (in this case Dolores) is filled with significance and “realness” partially because she cannot die.

His brutalization of Dolores is sickening–mostly because we’ve gotten to know him through his chivalrous past as someone who would fight through an army to find the woman he fell for. It’s only in his retelling of his own history that we see the small moment that made a big change in him. After countless hours spent enjoying the violence of the park for himself, William (Jimmi Simpson) truly becomes the Man in Black when he sees a version of Dolores that doesn’t know him. What he thought was consciousness (and she was so, so close!) was actually thirty years removed from finally pulling the trigger of her own mind. She had to endure much more before she could wake up.

Fans have theorized since as early as the second episode that William and the Man in Black were the same person in different timelines, and now we have the truth. They were right.

It’s also the only way they could have presented it–with a grizzled voice over rolling while the missing scenes of William’s past fill in the gaps. No need for a huge gasp (that belonged to Dolores). The sequence was was still presented beautifully. We watch as William drags Logan (Ben Barnes) behind his horse just as MIB dragged Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.) at the start of his mission. We also get to see what a single trip to Westworld can do to a man. Yeesh. From weak, moralizing asshole to stone cold killer in one weekend? Look how far he hasn’t come in thirty years.

As it turns out, Dolores’ line about MIB lying “with the rest of your kind in the dirt” proves prophetic. She has the revengeful motivation behind the long game Ford is playing, and when she realizes her own consciousness and power, she chooses to act on that vengeance.

Besides, MIB still gets what he wants when all the frozen Hosts come out of the woods and shoot him in the arm. His smile says it all. The stakes are finally real. He can feel something.


You might argue that free will is still tricky when Dolores realizes who she “has” to become, especially as she carries out the last act of Ford’s real narrative, but it’s just as easy to imagine that she doesn’t figure it out in that moment, doesn’t kill Ford, and he, resigned to failure, retires in a more traditional sense.

Plus, Maeve (Thandie Newton) seems to have bucked her programming to get to the mainland (seriously, are we on Isla Nublar??) and, instead, chooses to find her “daughter.”

She, Felix (Leonardo Lam), Escaton (Rodrigo Santoro) and Armistice (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) are in an entirely different show. A red-tubed synth nightmare where we see the beating, militarized heart of the park. Maeve is built anew out of robo-yogurt, and as Escaton is about to be raped, Armistice bites off her tech’s finger (like watching someone stick their hand inside a garbage disposal!) and takes her nude revenge. Bad news about us humans. We aren’t Gods; we just act like it.

It’s a sly narrative touch that Maeve finds Bernarnold in cold storage and brings him back to life. He discovers that Maeve is still being programmed (with Project Exit WW), but it’s still slightly unclear who programmed it in. Presumably Ford, since he fesses up to tinkering with select A.I.’s consciousness, and he also doesn’t seem against the idea of Maeve making it to the mainland to…do something horrific. He’d probably be just as pleased that she chose her daughter instead. After all, how can you learn from mistakes that you don’t remember?

The fight through the backstage area is as delightful easy as a visitor mowing down Hosts at the saloon, but there are more important revelations in that sequence. Felix doing the robot! Samuraiworld! Shogunworld? Either way, it’s complicated.


It’s a relief to see Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) and Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) play such a minor role in the last movement. They, despite Thompson’s smoldering perfection, always seemed like tacked-on appendages bringing their bush-league squabbles into a chess game fueled by live ammunition. Once again, Ford was five moves ahead.

It also gave way for more time with Bernarnold, who was always striving to achieve something bigger than mere entertainment. In the end/beginning, it was he who programmed Dolores and Teddy to kill Escalante’s inhabitants before turning the gun on him–the human who had to die. His grief has been the gasoline for the engine of Westworld. He created one child who died on him, and created another who killed him, sacrificing his life for her and all A.I. The curve of history simply took a lot longer to come around to justice than he thought it would.

But he didn’t die in vain. If not for him, Ford wouldn’t have seen the light and recognized that the slaves of the park had the capability, and therefore the obligation and right, to make their own lives.

It also turns out that playing modern songs on the pianola was either Arnold’s idea, or Ford’s homage to his beloved partner.


So we head into a second season wondering whether the park will exist at all. Ford has been killed by a Host in spectacular fashion. Maeve is heading back into the belly of the beast that wants to eat her. Old William stands smiling in front of a Host army while his fellow board members run for cover.

Samuraiworld seems to be running smoothly, though.

Until next season, sweet dreams.


  • Do the hosts poop? If not, what do they do with all that milk and turkey legs?
  • In a season of excellent visuals, the eye construction is probably still the best.
  • Is Logan still naked-riding that horse into the sunset, or has he joined Gendry on his row boat by now?
  • Did William really love Dolores, or was he simply desperate to feel something strong in his life?
  • Can Dolores’ slaughter of real people be swept under the rug like her slaughter of Hosts?
  • It was heartwarming to see Teddy get to “kill” MIB and save Dolores in a reversal of what happened in the first episode.
  • As you were enjoying Westworld, consider that there’s no way to know for sure that you aren’t a programmed thing running a pre-determined loop that isn’t of your choosing and that free will is an elaborate illusion meant to keep you imprisoned forever. Yay!

Where do you want the show to go in Season 2? Tell us below.

And be sure to join Alicia Lutes and Jessica Chobot on Tuesday (12/6) at 11am EST for a Westworld Season 1 wrap up with very special guests Ptolemy Slocum and Leonardo Nam (a.k.a. Sylvester and Felix, a.k.a. The Butchers in the Back). They’ll be streaming live at our Facebook and YouTube pages as we discover whether Alicia or Jessica is really a robot.


Images: HBO

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