We’ve finally reached it: The center of the Westworld maze, where every errant question the show has raised over the course of its 10 bonkers episodes will finally be answered and the Nolan brothers will emerge from a piano full of whiskey, stark naked. The finale begins with a flashback to Dolores’s birth, when Arnold made her out of clay like a dreidel, except a dreidel that you can have sex with.
Flash forward to the present day. Dolores is shaving the Man in Black’s face with a knife while having an epiphany about Arnold’s intentions for her, which were, essentially, to play a chill game for three decades in order to find herself. Now this is a parenting method I can get behind. Becoming self-actualized at 35 years old: Not too shabby! (It should be said, before this recap devolves further into inevitable madness, that the acting in this episode is fucking incredible, particularly that of Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, and Jeffrey Wright.)
For reasons that remain utterly unclear, Douche Friend is still being dragged around the park by Forlorn-Looking Rich White Guy as they search for Dolores. Seriously, why is DF allowing this to go on? There is zero reason DF needs to fear FLRWG, who’s never proven himself dangerous to other humans; couldn’t DF just ask a robot to help him get untied and casually walk home? This section of the story will only get increasingly infuriating as we move forward. Please prepare yourselves accordingly.
James Marsden is beginning his regular loop, dreaming fitfully about the moment his agent convinced him to do The D Train. Except this time, he’s urged by a mysterious voice to remember that time 34 years ago when Dolores shot everybody up. This unequivocally romantic image compels him to shoot up some totally innocent passersby and jump back on the train in search of his mass-murderous lady love. A direwolf from Game of Thrones runs across the screen again because HBO will not let us live a moment on this fragile, spinning rock without reminding us that Game of Thrones will be back for Season 1,000 in 2017.
Back in time again, to before Dolores shot everybody up, and also before Dolores met FLRWG, and also before James Marsden starred in The D Train. It is already becoming frighteningly clear that HBO has decided to jam 29 pounds of plot into a 10-pound bag for this finale, even as it inexplicably took its sweet-ass time the rest of the season, waiting five episodes before anything actually happened and spending at least three of its 10 hours showing white men searching for things on horses. But now we must all keep up and avoid violent whiplash as best we can, as we have 90 minutes of this demented pacing ahead of us.
So, yes, OK, Dolores is talking to Arnold about the game he’s designed for her. “I know where your maze ends,” she says. Back in the present, she and the Man in Black approach her grave.
She digs it up. Inside is ... the maze. The center of the maze is the maze.
Dolores is hella confused. The Man in Black is not pleased. But Arnold is thrilled. He’s like, “No, listen, this totally makes sense, because consciousness is a maze, not a triangle, and you’re hearing my voice, but really it’s not mine, so whose is it? Wheeee!” Dolores is like, “...................” Arnold is like, “Eh, it’s fine. You’re alive! Congrats!” See, for reasons never fully explained in this episode, Arnold believes without a doubt that the robots are conscious. But Ford doesn’t, so he’s going to doom them to a life of repetitive rape and murder. According to Arnold, the only solution to this quandary is for Dolores to kill everyone, including Arnold and herself. This plan seems ... flawed, because the robots can’t actually die and Anthony Hopkins will still be around to fix them up, but hey, I’m not a robot scientist.
Standing next to the Man in Black, Dolores flashes back to memories of herself and James Marsden enacting this plan, and begins, understandably, to freak out. In response, the Man in Black begins inexplicably beating the shit out of her. As he kicks her in the face, he reveals to her that, yes, he is FLRWG, 30 years older. He also reveals himself to be the original “Self-Professed ‘Nice Guy’ Who Actually Sucks So Badly But Can’t Figure Out Why Women Keep Rejecting Him, Then Slowly Goes Insane, Writes A Manifesto About How Women Are Unfair And Then Starts Killing Them.” (See: Elliot Rodger, et al.) According to Forlorn-Looking Rich White Old Guy, the whole reason he’s beating the shit out of Dolores right now is because he was totally in love with her 30 years ago, and spent all of this time finding her so he could “save” her. In the process, he found ... himself. (BRB, pukin’.) Turns out “himself” was a guy who would put his naked brother-in-law on a horse and, uh, give him a feather — I genuinely don’t understand what the hell happened to DF, is he still roaming Westworld naked on a horse?
When FLRWOG finally ran into Dolores, she didn’t remember him, because she’s a fucking robot designed to forget things. This turned FLRWOG into a vengeful sulkeroo who decided to usurp his brother-in-law, buy Dolores’s world, and spend the next 30 years skulking around it, trying to figure out the Deeper Reason why a girl didn’t like him. Now he’s mad at Dolores for not giving meaning to his life. I think we’re supposed to feel bad for him? All right, ladies, who rejected a young Jonathan Nolan?
Charlotte and Lee are bantering about the future of Westworld as they wait for the Delos board to arrive for Ford’s “final narrative” reveal. Even though Lee peed all over everyone and sexually harassed her, she’s going to give him Anthony Hopkins’s job once he’s ousted by the board. Realest plot line on this show thus far; hashtag patriarchy hashtag I’m Still With Her. “Just make everything simpler,” she demands by way of explaining why she is going to all these great pains to remove Ford, sabotage the park’s transcendent technology, and hand over the reins to a functional idiot. Charlotte could’ve been a fascinating character, because Tessa Thompson is amazing, but HBO gotta HBO and give her ham-fisted, two-dimensional motivations drawn up by an 8-year-old with crayons on a restaurant tablecloth.
Felix and Sylvester are rebuilding Maeve from the ground up, which takes about four seconds. She hacks into the system and adjusts the Hot Guy From Love Actually’s code and the Snake Woman’s code so that they’ll awaken and be ready to join her revolution. This takes another four seconds. This segment of the story line is truly on hyperspeed; we spent a full eight episodes watching Maeve slowly gain consciousness, and now we only get one and a half of watching her actually take down the establishment. Who is drawing up these storyboards?! Oh, right, the kid at the restaurant.
Charlotte, resplendent in an all-cream ensemble, drops by Anthony Hopkins’s office to inform him that the board has voted him out of his job. “When you’ve reached the top, there’s only one direction you can go,” she says, conveniently forgetting about lateral moves and proving that, yes, she was in fact rendered in 2-D. “What about the hosts?” asks Anthony Hopkins. “We’ll make ... simplifications,” says Charlotte. All right. We get it.
The only gay character who has ever been on this show steals the Hot Guy From Love Actually so he can fuck him under industrial lighting in an office made entirely of glass.
Snake Woman awakens, bites off a tech’s finger, and chokes him with it. The Hot Guy From Love Actually wakes up, too, and stabs The One Gay Guy Ever On The Show in the stomach. He does not remove his headphones.
After FLRWOG explains his flimsy story to Dolores, the two have an elegantly coordinated fight inside the old church. Dolores gets a few good shots in there, but ultimately, as she holds a gun to FLRWOG’s forehead, he stabs her in the tummy. Welp! This entire William/Man in Black plot line stopped making sense as soon as we were given a rapid-fire montage covering 30 years’ worth of story in 10 minutes, one that relied largely on the audience’s ability to fill in lazy shorthand (“then he ‘found himself’ and got bored with Dolores and ... eh, you guys get it”) to explain how FLRWG went from lovesick puppy to stabby old dick. Again, I implore thee, HBO: Why did we spend nine episodes watching FLRWG languidly trotting about on a horse, knowing he was the Man in Black but waiting impatiently for y’all to reveal your hand, when we could’ve just learned this connection halfway through, then seen it fleshed out with the background it needed to be remotely convincing?
James Marsden shows up a tad too late, but just in time for Dolores to realize, as she lays dying, that she picked the wrong angry white boy to love. “Take me to the place where the mountains meet the sea,” she says. They trot off languidly on a horse.
Maeve, Snake Woman, Felix, and Hot Guy From Love Actually are in the very wet basement. Earth’s last remaining mystery as we approach the singularity: How do you dry a basement? They come upon the body of Bernard, and Maeve asks Felix to fix him and bring him back online. (Side note: I could listen to Thandie Newton say “for fuck’s sake” for the rest of my life and it would be a good, full life.) Bernard wakes up and is like, “Shit, I didn’t drink enough to forget my entire life, and now I have the worst hangover.” He explains to Maeve that this isn’t the first time either of them have awoken, that a handful of robots have awoken over the years and then gone fully nuts. Maeve asks him to remove memories of her daughter, but he explains that he can’t, as memory is the foundation of consciousness. Just like basements are the foundations of buildings. In Westworld, they’ve only solved for one of these problems.
FLRWOG is staring forlornly at Dolores’s little maze-toy thing when Anthony Hopkins approaches him. “You were looking for the park to give meaning to your life,” says Anthony Hopkins. “But it’s just games.” Really digging how this show is high-key shading organized religion, Trumpism, the United States’s history of systemic racism, the willful ignorance and short memory of the entire human race, and modern-day basement technology all at once. “I tried to tell you, the maze wasn’t meant for you,” adds Anthony Hopkins, getting in another dig in at the human race again, this time for being wasteful fucks who casually destroyed an entire planet in the span of a few thousand years.
Back in the sopping basement, Bernard checks out Maeve’s code and tells her that somebody’s altered her story line to make her rebel — that she’s still just got the illusion of free will and her ending has been predetermined. Before he can tell her exactly how her story will end, Maeve breaks his li’l iPad in a hot rage. “I’m out, muthafuckas,” she says, giving Clementine one last smooch on the lobotomized head. Upstairs (or wherever the hell), the other Professional iPad Holders begin to panic, realizing that shit is starting to go down somewhere inside the HQ.
James Marsden and Dolores are — wait for it — riding a horse on some sick beach that nobody has thought to go visit before. Least realistic moment in Westworld so far: Nobody is drinking margaritas and boning on this here beach. As Dolores dies slowly on a pile of wet sand (same), she drops some hardcore Adam and Eve references, finally revealing to James Marsden that their world isn’t theirs, and that they can’t escape it. “We’ve lived our whole world trapped in this garden, marveling at its beauty, not realizing that there’s an order, a purpose: to keep us in,” she weeps. She dies, James Marsden weeps and says some shit about this being a “beginning,” and the Delos board begins to clap wildly. Turns out this alternate Grease 2 ending is the start of Anthony Hopkins’s new narrative. Charlotte turns to Lee and reminds him he has “somewhere important to be.”
The Robot Rebellion is unfurling smoothly-ish beneath Westworld. Westworld itself is in lockdown, and everybody is freaking out and shooting at Felix and Maeve and the Hot Guy From Love Actually and Snake Woman, but somehow, nobody really gets hurt except for Snake Woman. She gets her arm stuck in a door — hate when that happens — but, rather than 127 Hours herself, she decides to chill and shoot people from halfway inside the door (a post-credit scene shows her 127 Hours–ing herself a few beats later, though). Shoutout to the hundreds of extras standing naked and silent and totally still in a facsimile of a wet basement for days, probably, surrounded by others doing way cooler shit.
Back at the cocktail party, the board members are haphazardly shooting at the robots for funsies. Westworld has officially abandoned all pretense and is now advancing a clear Anti-Human agenda, one I can happily get behind, as humans are terrible (today’s proof: Trump’s national security adviser’s son promoting a fake news story about Hillary Clinton running a child-sex ring out of a pizza place, encouraging an active shooting).
Over at HQ, the robots have stumbled through a set of doors that read SG, behind which are a bunch of samurai robots. “What is this place?” asks Maeve. “It’s complicated,” says Felix. Is this an adjacent theme park? Ahem, Eastworld. Is it called Samurai World? Shogun World? A potential spin-off for Season 2, or just a quick glimpse at something we’ll never see again? How many worlds are there? Is there a Mandy Patinkin World? Asking for a friend. Anyhoo, looks like the samurai are gonna need to get conscious real quick, because Snake Woman and Hot Guy From Love Actually shoot all of their human minders. “The gods are pussies,” sneers Snake Woman.
Felix hands Maeve her bag of tricks for Earth (good luck), and the two run toward the elevator. Hot Guy From Love Actually is stopped by an invisible wall just before he steps inside. Maeve explains that she’d love to take him, but can’t, because she’s an Independent Woman. Maeve. Why are you Laura Linney–ing this gorgeous man? Just take him around with you, fuck him in exotic locales, and turn him off when you’re bored. “See you in the next life,” he says as he smooches her goodbye. This is the most emotional I’ve ever been watching this show.
Anthony Hopkins and Dolores are having a chat in his office. He’s mansplaining Michelangelo to her. He introduces Dolores and Bernard, who’ve never met, partly because it’d be too confusing for them, but mostly because it would have ruined all these manic plot twists and hours upon hours of purposeful misdirection. Anthony Hopkins sits both of them down and begins to explain, oh, just the entire backstory of this show in a classic Explanatory Monologue that should’ve been stretched out over multiple episodes. Settle in, friends.
Hokay. Arnold wanted Dolores, his fave robot, to replace his dead son, so he set about figuring out how to help her reach consciousness. Ultimately, what ended up working was the reveries — allowing her to hold on to her memories. (We don’t see what ultimately convinced Arnold of Dolores’s consciousness, which is kind of important, but all right.) Arnold and Anthony Hopkins argued over whether the robots were truly conscious, and when Arnold lost the debate, he altered Dolores’s programming by merging it with that of Wyatt, a new villain he was working on. Dolores, now a hardened criminal, did Arnold’s bidding alongside James Marsden, murdering all of the robots to release them from their existential prisons. For her final act, she shot Arnold right in the dang head, because the stakes had to be “real, irreversible.” (Some advice the show really needed to have taken in every episode that aired before this one.)
Bernard is like, “So you’re a dick, basically.” Anthony Hopkins is like, “Not exactly, it just took me 35 years to fix this hot-ass mess I made. I’m just slow, see, and then really, really fast when I realize I am almost running out of airtime.” He proceeds to share an extremely fun fact about Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam: It’s not actually depicting God bestowing consciousness on man, but rather, man’s own brain doing the work. I’m going to be drunkenly pulling out this tidbit at parties for the rest of my life. Thanks, HBO.
So, yeah. It turns out that, all along, Anthony Hopkins has been the one behind the robot uprising, which I (sort of) (vaguely) predicted several recaps ago, when I envisioned that at the center of the maze would be Anthony Hopkins, naked, eating a popsicle. In reality, Anthony’s been encouraging the robots to become conscious and revolt for three decades, letting them live out all manner of horrors, then remember those horrors so that they might go fucking HAM, murdering all of the humans and retaking the park/planet as their own. Sounds good to me! Sooner rather than later would be fab, thanks!
Maeve is trying to understand the concept of heels. Felix hands her a piece of paper with the “information she asked for” — the location of her daughter. Maeve’s like, “No, I am an Independent Woman, I have no time for sex with Laura Linney’s leftovers, or for my own children!!!!” She tells Felix he is a terrible human as a compliment and struts off toward the train. Thandie Newton was born for this shit, truly.
Anthony Hopkins and Bernard are having a Final Chat. Bernard is like, “We’ll get you back, Anthony Hopkins!!!” Anthony is like, “Wait, did you not ... just ... hear that entire thing back there?” He explains that the only reason he let the robots suffer for so long was because suffering breeds consciousness. Oy, is this true? Can somebody fix this?
Dolores is still sitting in the field lab. She walks back into the glass room where she used to have her talks with Arnold, confronting her memories of her maker. “Do you know whose voice you’ve been hearing all this time?” asks Arnold. Suddenly, Arnold transforms into Dolores. As Dolores sits across from the more questionably hairstyled version of herself, she has an epiphany: She realizes she must confront herself in order to morph into the vengeful world-destroyer she’s destined to become. Oh, and she’s been talking to her damn self this entire time! This means she’s truly conscious; she’s got that bicameral mind, baby!! This makes me feel a lot better about all of the things I say out loud to myself when I work from home. I’m just conscious as fuck!
On the train, Maeve stares at the piece of paper bearing her daughter’s coordinates. She races out of the car at the last possible minute, choosing, it would seem, to reshape the world she was given rather than escape it and find a new one (hint hint, everyone trying to get to Mars before Trump takes office). This gives me hope that the Hot Guy From Love Actually will finally be able to get over Laura Linney’s stark betrayal.
Back at the cocktail party, Anthony Hopkins takes the stage and explains, finally, his new and final narrative. Charlotte smiles joyfully, so close to her inexplicable dream of things being “simple, just simple, I don’t even care as long as they’re simple.” Anthony Hopkins is like, “So I built this park, then realized it was a prison of our own sins and nobody was even paying attention to that jarring fact. LOL. Because you don’t want to change. You cannot change. Because you’re only human, after all.” Oof. Give us the real talk, Anthony. We can take it.
But, as Anthony explains, the robots were paying attention to life around them, and unlike us simple fucks, able to make real and lasting changes to themselves. As such, he wrote this new narrative for them. Nobody at the party seems freaked out yet, which is proof positive that Anthony Hopkins is spot on with this whole “not paying attention” thing. “Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin never died,” says Anthony Hopkins. “They simply became music.”
Dolores walks up to the stage and shoots Anthony Hopkins right in the head. Somebody — Clementine? — shoots FLRWOG, who looks genuinely thrilled about it. Bernard and James Marsden and all of the naked extras watch as Dolores calmly goes about murdering all of the board members. In other words: Arnold thought the way to free the robots was for the robots to die and/or escape Westworld. Turns out the path to freedom was for the robots to take over Westworld, then probably the rest of the world as well, cleaning up the literal hot garbage spilled for centuries by us clumsy idiots.
It’s a relatively fulfilling finale to a show that, as it unfolded over the past 10 weeks, ended up proving one of its own theses: Humans may have great ideas, but they often fumble the execution. Westworld’s first season was fascinating in concept, and occasionally in practice, but ultimately (and ironically) felled by the lack of real attention it paid to creating a coherent, moving story. There were moments that transcended this foundational problem, in large part due to some amazing performances: Maeve’s first walk through the lab, Dolores’s self-confrontation, Bernard’s pained awakening. In its second season, I hope Westworld’s writers realize that valuing obfuscation over all else is a tricky business, that it’s kind of shitty to keep your audience in the dark until the last possible second and then unleash upon them a frothing swarm of vindictive robots. Let’s remember to cut them a little slack, though — after all, they’re only human.