Season finale. Everything comes full circle. I thought about breaking this up into two separate posts, but fuck it. I figure if you want to read it, you will. There’s a path for everyone.
“The Bicameral Mind” is the final episode of West World’s first season. With the way things end — I can say I’m more hooked than I was on Game of Thrones. Call it my addictive personality or obsession with a great story, but it’s true nevertheless.
Once again, the title talks to us. The now outdated theory of our mind separated by two halves — one that talks, and the other that listens and does — makes itself present in this episode. It manifests itself in none other than Dolores — who, throughout the season, has shown that she is guided by an inner monologue. Her intuition, her bicameral mind. More on sweet D in a sec.
In this final episode, we begin with Dolores’ very first memory. How fitting the end is the beginning. Dolores is now the narrator, telling Arnold of her first memory — a memory she’s had all the time, but was unable to access it. She is enchanted by Arnold and her epiphany. Their relationship is that of a parent and child. However, the Man in Black snaps her back to reality, and she is back in Escalante shaving his neck with his knife (how ironic). The Man in Black begins to lose his patience with Dolores, but humors her as she falls back into another memory, which leads her to her own grave. She digs up a toy maze; she holds the game — literally — in her hands. Contrary to what the Man in Black may believe, there are no coincidences in West World, no chance encounters. And as Dolores says, “There’s a path for everyone.”
She realizes Arnold made the maze for her. Dolores, who has been at her grave before, is explained (by Arnold) that the journey to consciousness is not a path upward, but inward. (lightbulb moment.) Arnold tells her that he wanted her to listen to her own voice, and reach her own consciousness, but that she has yet to reach the third level. This is when Arnold explains to her (and us) that once he realized what Dolores was capable of, there was no way he could go through with opening the park — a decision Ford was not onboard with. Arnold tells Dolores, “Once you found it, you will find your way back.” Arnold wants Dolores to break the loop and help him destroy the park — and the only way to do that, is to kill the other hosts. Dolores panics — she’s too gentle and naive to be holding a gun — or so it seems. So, Arnold messes with her personality, and adds in what I’m assuming is a lot of aggression and very little empathy. I found this scene to be particularly puzzling. I’m all for Dolores being a bad ass and smashing the park — but it’s almost like she’s a pawn of Arnold’s. I suppose Arnold is acting selflessly because he wants to free the hosts, but he’s still controlling her. How much free will does Dolores actually have?
We quickly flip to William, who is consumed by his obsession to find Dolores. I don’t think anyone really gives a shit about him at this point, and if you do, I ain’t sorry. We’re trimming the fat here.
Teddy awakes on the train (again). But this time, something is different when he steps into Sweet Water. His mind begins to flip back to another life long ago, and sees the entire town massacred. The only other being he sees is Dolores, who flashes him an all-knowing smile.
Back to the graveyard (which is an interesting setting, given all of Dolores’ realizations that make her alive). For Dolores, the past and the present meet in the graveyard in Escalante — including her relationship with the Man in Black. He is frustrated with Dolores, and after 30 years of playing the game, he wants answers. Frightened, Dolores tells him that she has someone — someone true — who is coming for her. MIB chuckles and in a long-winded narration, he tells Dolores the story of William. He reveals that while searching for Dolores for all those years, William found his true self along the way. And, surprise, MIB is William. Not a huge fan of this twist, but whatever. This truth then reveals that during this entire season, we’ve been watching Dolores from the past. Sure, there are subtle hints here and there that point to this, but I really was hoping for something more… clever. Having this thrown in my face sort of disappointed me — made me feel slightly cheated. Whatever.
A key part of this scene is a notable switch in Dolores’ demeanor after William pushes her. Dolores is devastated that she was the one who committed the massacre in Escalante all those years ago — but don’t forget, she did it under Arnold’s orders. Her disposition quickly shifts from being a damsel, scared, and vulnerable, to an ominous, dangerous, and indestructible being. The juxtaposition of Dolores, injured and on the ground by her grave, and William standing over her should not go unnoticed. William tells her he wants to get to the center of the maze, and he’s sick of her stupidity. This triggers Dolores to make a very, very foreboding statement: “Time undoes even the mightiest of creatures … One day you will perish … and your bones will turn to sand, and upon that sand, a new god will walk … the world belongs to someone who has yet to come.” This is not the first time Dolores has predicted this apocalypse of sorts — she says something very similar before slashing Logan and escaping the Union camp. It is not gibberish, or improvisation; it’s a premonition of the future. In a nearly possessed manner, Dolores attacks William and deals him several blows (that actually hurt him and he totally deserves it because he’s an asshole murderer) before he is the one who finds himself at her mercy, laying on a grave. Dolores holds a gun to William’s head — but she can’t pull the trigger, and disappointedly, William stabs her. Circling (ha) back to Arnold’s theory of consciousness, is the final step to consciousness free will? Why does Dolores hesitate? She, like Teddy, can’t bring themselves to murder, and I’m dying to know what that final step is.
In an epic Maeve fashion, she, Hector, and Armistice begin taking down the gods and escaping. This comes just after William encounters Ford at the graveyard, and tells him he wants the hosts to fight back. Ford also tells William the maze isn’t meant for him, but he will at least like the new narrative. Be careful what you wish for. The trio head down to where Clem and “dead” Bernard are. They bring Bernard back online, who is still shocked by his memory. While it may seem Maeve has no empathy for Bernard, she has chosen to let go of the past on focus on her plan of escape. For a hot minute, she asks Bernard to delete her memories of her daughter — making it obvious she still may be grieving. But Bernard tells her it’s not possible, and that it is engrained in her core code. This is Maeve’s cornerstone — her identity as a mother and losing a child. Like Bernard. Maeve is rattled, though, when Bernard tells her that she’s been programmed to escape this entire time (orchestrated by Arnold). She vehemently denies, and says, “I’m in control.” Maeve is strong, but her notion of free-will is threatened; which, in turn, causes her to question the nature of her reality all over again.
Teddy finally takes Dolores to where the mountains meet the sea (WW is on an island, in case you didn’t know). In a theatrical, dramatic performance, Dolores’ final words to Teddy are what we have always heard Dolores say — but with more. She begins by stating, “Some people choose to see the ugliness in the world, I choose to see the beauty.” A given. However, she follows by saying, “But beauty is a lure. We’re trapped, Teddy. Lived our whole lives inside this garden, marveling at it’s beauty, not realizing there’s an order to it, a purpose. And the purpose is to keep us in. The beautiful trap is inside of us, because it is us.”
A lot to break down. This soliloquy reminds us that throughout the entire season, we are only seeing a part of the picture, but not the whole picture. That there is much more at play than we can see. Dolores’ final words aren’t threatening or dangerous — they are sad. We pity her. We feel for her. You can get real introspective on this shit, but all I’ll say on this is that it calls on the audience to consider their own entrapment. How happy are you, living in your own garden, in your own world? Is there more out there? Maybe, we should constantly search for more, rather than live contently, exactly where we are. And maybe, ignorance isn’t bliss.
Maeve and her followers make their way through West World’s facilities, shooting and killing anyone who comes in their path. Bang bang. Felix is clearly disturbed, and Maeve urges him on and provides him with tacit emotional support. An interesting role reversal. Armistice’s arm is trapped in a door — there’s no other way it can end for her (love that her name is Armistice, when she is literally the antithesis of that, almost like Ares). Her cornerstone is fighting to the death, and sticking it to the man. Hector tells her to “die well.” (But if you caught the scene after the final credits, you know damn well she’ll be back for season two) Maeve bids farewell to Hector, her star-crossed lover, in the elevator. He understands, and tells her, “See you in the next life.” (Foreshadowing, much??) She does not want anyone by her side in her endeavor. Not even Felix, who hands her a piece of paper with her daughter’s location inside the park. For half a second, she hesitates. But then she says,”She was never my daughter, any more than I was … whoever they made me.” And with that, Maeve leaves Felix and plops herself down onto the train.
Following her death, Dolores is brought back online by Ford in the old field lab. She and Ford muse Michaelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam.” Ford uses the painting to explain Arnold’s thought process behind building and creating Dolores. He tells us that through Arnold’s own personal tragedy, he created a test of empathy and re-imagination; an idea he had gotten from one of his son’s toys. The maze, then, was created for Arnold’s child, Dolores, to play. She solved the mystery of the maze — and the key, Ford tells us, was the simple update of the reveries. We learn that in an attempt to stop Ford from opening the park, Arnold merged Wyatt’s narrative with Dolores, enabling her to take down other hosts. We watch Dolores kill Arnold during the massacre, who tells her, “I hope there’s some solace that I left you no choice.” Although Dolores physically shoots Arnold, he programmed her to do it re: “These violent delights have violent ends.”
Ford goes on to explain Dolores was not truly conscious, and Arnold pulled the trigger through her. He defends his stance on opening the park and choosing to trap the hosts in his dreams, but he also admits he’s changed. Upon quoting J. Robert Oppenheimer, Ford is admitting he may have made a mistake, one that took him 35 years to correct. In his own way, Ford is apologizing to Dolores. He levels with her, and while referencing the painting, tells her that the divine gift of consciousness does not come for another power, but from our own minds. In a paternal manner, he asks her: “Did you find what you were looking for, and do you understand who you will need to become if you ever want to leave this place?” He then leaves her, but not before saying, “Forgive me.” Dolores is left in tears, but her eyes are fixated on the painting — she knows what she needs to do.
Bernard, still pissed at Ford, confronts him in the church on his way out. He calls him out and tells him that one day, he will loses control of the park and the hosts. Ford (who is really just Anthony Hopkins playing Anthony Hopkins) counters with a confession of sorts. Ford explains while Arnold tried to save the hosts, Ford knew how: time. The hosts needed time to understand their enemy (humans), so they could have a fair shot at their own freedom. He admits that Arnold’s key insight, which led to the hosts’ awakening, was his own suffering. Through suffering, the hosts could reach their own consciousness. It was only after Arnold’s death, and through his own suffering, that Ford realized he was perhaps wrong. Ford, the master, the creator, the god, repents for his sins and confesses to his creation. Before leaving the church, he, in a way, passes Bernard the baton, and tells him: “In order to escape this place, you will need to suffer more.”
Wrapping this up because I am now over two thousand words and I’m not sorry at all so here’s the last bit.
Dolores, alone in the old field lab room, comes face to face with herself. She finally reaches the third level. She realizes this entire time, she’s been listening to her own self, her own voice. Her realization of self prompts her to make her own choice — completely unprogrammed (I’m making a jump here, humor me). She grabs the gun and makes her way to the gala, where Ford makes his final speech — his final performance, if you will. Unlike her last go-around with Arnold, Dolores will kill Ford on her own free will — and Ford knows this. There’s no doubt in my mind Ford is aware of the events that will transpire, even if they are unplanned and improvised. He explains to the shitty Delos board people that this next narrative will begin in a time of war and a villain named Wyatt, and a killing will occur –“this time, by choice.” Little do they all know they are part of the narrative — the story of the hosts and humans finally collides in an explosion of gunfire and violence. Dolores’ past and present finally merge. In a predictable final blow (sorry not sorry), Dolores assassinates Ford, and proceeds to shoot guests. But not before Ford heeds a final warning, one we’ve heard throughout the entire season: “These violent delights have violent ends.” Ford’s final narrative finally begins, as his own ends. And if we’re being totally honest, it’s not his narrative anymore — it’s belongs to the hosts.
Shit really does hit the fan, but it would be naive to say we didn’t see this coming. Dolores has reached her full potential and steps into her own self — one that was there all along. She breaks the loop with her own free will, and she does that on her own. We finally see Ford’s full plan — and until this episode, I don’t think anyone was expecting him to help the hosts. Like Arnold, West World became Ford’s reality — and I don’t think he could live without being in it. Which I think plays a factor in his choice to help Dolores, and end his life. His own suffering, I think, drove him to compassion for the hosts. Maeve also arguably makes her own decision in getting off the train — I wouldn’t be surprised if in the next season, she sets off on a quest to find her daughter. Maybe, just maybe, Arnold programmed her only to leave the park and get on the train — maybe he was gambling and hoping Maeve would decide to stay.
Thanks for reading. Stay tuned for next season’s West World Chronicles.
Freeze all motor functions.
P.S. I sat down the other day and watched the 1973 film “Westworld” out of principle and sheer curiosity. Well, mainly because a very clever human called me out for blogging about this show and having never seen the OG. Needless to say, the concept behind the film was developed, but I think the tech/special effects couldn’t do it justice. Besides, who wants to watch some robot take down a human who can barely put up a fight? We all like watching people squirm, robot or human-alike.