In the Westworld season 2 finale recap, Dolores finally reaches the Valley Beyond as she seeks freedom while Bernard finally unscrambles his memories to reveal what’s really been happening in the park…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
There’s little doubt in my mind that Westworld remains one of the best shows on television.
Well written, incredibly well acted and some of the episodes during Westworld season 2 are on par with the best of the best from series like The Sopranos and Game of Thrones.
That being said, sometimes a show can try to outsmart itself and that’s what it felt like with the Westworld season 2 finale. The best possible comparison is with The Matrix and the two less than spectacular sequels that followed.
Remember how creative and original The Matrix was when it first landed in theaters?
Robots had taken over the world and were using humans as actual batteries to fuel them and to keep humanity in line, they’ve created a world where we exist in some sort of virtual simulation. The humans that managed to escape this computerized reality are now leading an uprising while still plugging back into the Matrix to battle the computers on their own home turf.
It was a simple yet complex idea that made The Matrix one of the most original pieces of science fiction in years. Unfortunately the sequels tried to outsmart themselves with all sorts of convoluted storylines, each more complex than the next with Keanu Reeves’ character living out some kind of constant loop that always ends with the same fate playing itself out over and over again. At least that’s the best I can remember after trying to scrub those two sequels from my brain while pretending they never happened.
Now Westworld hasn’t gone full Matrix but the show certainly tried with the brain sizzling season finale that finally converged the two major timelines taking place this season with everybody running towards the Valley Beyond — and then some hosts escaping to actual reality and an even more confusing after credits scene that somehow places The Man in Black in a perpetual fidelity loop just like he had set up for his father-in-law so many years ago.
Does any of that make sense?
Probably not, which is why we’re going to recap the episode in depth but don’t feel bad if it all didn’t make perfect sense because there’s no doubt this episode was a riddle wrapped up in a question inside an enigma that very few will actually be able to solve. Even afterwards in post show interviews, the series creators tried to explain what happened and even that wasn’t exactly straight forward.
Sometimes a show can try to outsmart itself and that’s apparently what happened between Westworld season one and season two. We’ll see if things are rectified before season three.
With that said, let’s recap the Westworld season two finale titled ‘The Passenger’…
Enter the Matrix
To attempt to keep things straight, we’re going to recap this episode in chronological order (as best we can) to try and make sense of everything.
Following Teddy’s suicide last week, Dolores wakes up by his side, removes his brain while finding the slug that ultimately ended his life. Dolores takes that bullet and rides her horse towards the Valley Beyond where she believes she will find the weapon she needs to go up against humanity.
Along the way, Dolores finds Emily’s dead body before coming across The Man in Black aka her old friend William. She finds him digging into his own arm to find out if he’s actually a host and she can’t help but laugh at William now questioning his own reality after spending so much time torturing the hosts inside the park.
Despite her feelings towards the Man in Black, Dolores allows him to join her on the journey to the Forge, which is the secret holding facility that the hosts call the Valley Beyond, because the work that’s about to be done will require a monster and there’s no one more monstrous than him. Upon arriving, Dolores and William find Bernard about to enter the Forge as well.
Just as Dolores is about to enter, the Man in Black turns on her and says this is the end of her mission as he begins firing away at her but she refuses to fall. It seems in Dolores’ new state of consciousness, she knows that a bullet can’t cut her down — it’s just programming that the hosts had inside of them that made them believe they were being shot and killed. Dolores walks through all of his bullets until he has just one left and when William fires his pistol, it explodes in his hand.
Dolores had placed the smashed bullet that killed Teddy into the Man in Black’s revolver, which caused it to backfire on him. The Man in Black’s hand is now mangled and bloody after two fingers were blown off. Dolores decides to leave him there to suffer while she takes Bernard down into the Forge.
Meanwhile back at the Mesa, a sadistic engineer is about to carve up what’s left of Maeve — with her pain settings turned all the way up — when she uses the last gift that Dr. Ford gave her a week ago. Maeve now has the ability to speak to the other hosts subconsciously again and she wakes them up from the dead where they attack the engineer and carve him up instead.
Simultaneously, Hector, Armistice and Shogun World Armistice break into the facility to find their leader but instead they discover that Maeve is taking care of things herself. She’s patched up and commanding the mechanical bulls to gore each and every security person from Delos in their path. When it’s all over, Maeve is left standing with her original group — including Lee Sizemore and the two programmers, Sylvester and Felix — as they will now go back out into the park to try and find her daughter one last time.
At the same time this is happening, Charlotte Hale is leading her charge to take the park back with a zombified Clementine leading the way as the lone horseman of the apocalypse. Clementine is charged with a code that will feed into all of the other hosts, which turn them into raging murder-holics who have to kill each other.
Back down in the Forge, Dolores tells Bernard her true plans as she accesses the mainframe where more than four million guest memories have been stored over the years in Delos’ continued attempt to recreate humans as hosts. But she’s not there to destroy the system. Instead, Dolores is there to get the weapon that Ford left embedded in this system for her.
Dolores and Bernard plug into the system where they are transported deep into the history of Westworld with the baseline for all of the narratives that run the park. There they are reunited with James Delos as his memories are part of the baseline and we see that his first trip to the park was filled with the same atrocities that attracted his son Logan. It’s nothing but sex and murder as Delos’ insatiable thirst was quenched with every thrust and bullet fired.
As Dolores and Bernard continue their journey, they finally make it to James Delos’ house where they encounter Logan but it doesn’t take long to figure out this isn’t the same person from the park all those years ago. Dolores realizes that Logan never came back to the park after his horrific encounter with William, which was before the human brain mapping system was created.
This isn’t Logan but instead a simulated version created from James Delos’ memories and he’s the one who controls the system from behind the curtain.
Virtual Logan leads them to a certain memory belonging to James Delos that was ultimately the defining moment of his life.
It’s when Logan returned home asking for his father’s help after he tried to get clean and failed. James Delos turns his back on his only son while Logan tells him that he’s finally reached rock bottom — a line that’s later uttered by Delos in those multitude of simulations we witnessed earlier this season.
Virtual Logan says that he created a million different versions of James Delos but each one returned to this pivotal moment in his life where he turned his back on his son and then six months later he was dead from an overdose.
Basically the way Virtual Logan explains it, the system kept trying to understand the complexities of the human mind but never found a way to replicate it. The reality was the human brain was actually quite simple — just over 10,000 lines of code and a predictable algorithm that constantly repeated itself.
In other words, humans aren’t complex at all but rather easily understood creatures with similar thoughts, ideas and motivations unable to change, adapt or evolve beyond who they are.
Dolores instructs Virtual Logan to lead her down into the archives where she can learn about every human who has ever entered the park. Dolores begins reading through each volume, to understand humanity and that way she can use it against them in the real world.
Before leaving the system, Virtual Logan shows Dolores and Bernard one more construct created by Ford that will give the hosts a chance at freedom. Deep inside the code, a secret world was hidden where the hosts could exists freely, away from the confines of their robotic bodies. Remember, the hosts are really complex computers who don’t actually need bodies to function.
This is the Valley Beyond — a virtual world where the conscious hosts can escape their bodies and live freely, away from humanity and the evils that come along with it. This is where Akecheta has been leading his people all season long — a paradise where they can live and make their own choices without any humans interfering with them.
On the outside world, we find Akecheta leading his people to the Valley Beyond, which looks like a gigantic doorway to them and nothing to the humans. They are basically seeing the code, which will allow them to upload themselves into the Valley Beyond and then leave behind the bodies that contained them.
Along the way, Maeve and her gang are trying to get to her daughter when they run into some Delos security forces meaning to stop them. It appears they will be gunned down but Lee Sizemore decides to live his own narrative for once, taking one of Hector’s guns and reciting a speech that he wrote for the bandit before bearing down on the security forces to allow Maeve and the rest of her gang to escape. Ultimately, Lee is cut down in a hail of gunfire.
As for Maeve, she finally reunites with her daughter but it’s at the same time as Clementine, the pale rider of pestilence, arrives with her powers to force the hosts to kill each other. As the slaughter begins, Akecheta rushes to get his people through to the Valley Beyond while Maeve tries to save her daughter.
Maeve finally uses her power to control the other hosts just long enough so her daughter and surrogate mother can escape while Akecheta soon follows behind as many of the hosts travel to the Valley Beyond. After her daughter leaves, Maeve releases the other hosts and the fight starts again until all of the hosts are dead — including Maeve, Hector, and Armistice.
As for the bodies of the other hosts, they have all fallen down into a gigantic chasm that will soon fill with water, which begins to explain that grisly scene from the first episode of the season where they find all the hosts in that flooded valley with no explanation how they got there.
Down in the Forge, Dolores leaves the system with plans to destroy all of the guests’ memories that have been stored there, which will simultaneously kill the paradise world where all of the hosts just escaped. Dolores doesn’t see that virtual world as a paradise but just another man made cage that can contain them.
The hosts aren’t truly free — they are just living in another world created for them by Ford.
But just as Dolores plans to destroy the entire Forge by releasing the cooling water that keeps the serves from overheated (which explains the flood), Bernard pulls a gun on her. He refuses to allow Dolores to kill the rest of the hosts by destroying the world that was created specifically for them. She tries to explain to him that the hosts are nothing more than slaves to humans and now that she’s woken from that dream state, she can’t go back to sleep. She invites Bernard to wake up from that same dream.
“This isn’t a dream, Dolores. It’s a fucking nightmare”
With that, Bernard pulls the trigger and kills Dolores. Bernard then stops the deletion of the guests’ files along with the secret world containing the hosts before taking the memory ball that was fueling everything. Bernard returns to the surface where the flooding has started he sees the massacre of the hosts and how callously Charlotte Hale and the security forces from Delos are snuffing them out. He realizes how senseless this slaughter was and how the hosts died for nothing.
Bernard reunites with Elsie, who has finally caught up with him, and she’s not exactly sympathetic to the hosts’ plight after they started the uprising.
Everybody then returns to the Mesa where they will start cleaning up this gigantic mess.
Bernard is still concerned about what comes next after Elsie admits that she’s going to out him to Delos and then he sees humanity at work yet again. Elsie doesn’t see Bernard as an equal but still just a play thing as she tells him to freeze all motor functions, sits him down on a chair before going downstairs to talk to Charlotte Hale.
Elsie then attempts to blackmail her way into a promotion but revealing to Charlotte that she knows all about the secret files that have been kept on the guests with plans of recreating humans as hosts. Elsie tries to parlay her way into a job but Charlotte knows that the programmer isn’t that morally flexible. So Charlotte pulls out a gun and kills Elsie to hide her secret plan.
Bernard witnesses this from upstairs and begins to realize that everything Dr. Ford warned him about was true. Humans will never see hosts as equals and even more humans are hell bent on destruction while being motivated by their own greedy needs. In his moment of need, Bernard scrambles to retrieve the code that contained a virtual Robert Ford and he finally returns to guide him through what has to be done to save the hosts once and for all.
Except we later learn that Ford was never there to begin with — this was all Bernard becoming conscious, the voice inside his head was disguised as Ford but really it was just his own.
A Brave New World
In the current time line we return to find Bernard back inside the Forge along with Karl Strand and his group of Delos mercenaries. They are attempting to upload the guest data so they can save this secret project before this entire park is purged. Remember, they discovered that Bernard is a host after finding copies of him in one of Ford’s secret storage lockers and they’ve been questioning him ever since.
It’s all led to this point inside the Forge where they will upload this date and be done with the hosts once and for all.
Except something strange happens — when the lead programmer begins uploading the data he realizes that the file size is far too large to just be the guests’ memories. Instead, the programmer is actually uploading the hosts’ secret world to a different server so they can survive. The memory ball that was used to access the forge was a plant from Bernard inside Dolores’ head.
We then flashback to that same scene where Bernard is talking to Ford (but actually talking to himself) and they begin plans to fight back.
Bernard sculpts a new host body before sending it out into the Mesa to track down the person its meant to replace. There we find Charlotte Hale alone in the basement after dropping off Elsie’s dead body and that’s when she runs into her replica.
Bernard created a Charlotte Hale clone but the mind inside belongs to Dolores!
Bernard took Dolores’ mind after killing her and he’s now implanted her into Charlotte Hale’s body. So every time we’ve seen Charlotte on this current timeline, it was actually Dolores. After creating her, Bernard scrambled his memories just to ensure that Dolores’ secret identity wouldn’t be discovered before planting himself on the beach to await Delos’ forces to arrive.
Remember there were two weeks that passed between Dolores killing Ford and Karl Strand arriving on the beach to attempt to clean this mess up. That’s when Bernard was setting all of this up while replacing Charlotte Hale with Dolores.
Back in the present moment, Bernard tells Strand that he made a choice and that his choice was to kill them all. Strand is confused for a moment but then a bullet rips through his chest and a few seconds later his entire team is shot dead courtesy of Dolores Abernathy, who is now living in a clone of Charlotte Hale’s body.
Dolores tells Bernard that she’s changed her mind about the hosts living in that false paradise before uploading them to a new server where no one will ever discover them. Dolores then tells Bernard that they will never escape Westworld as themselves so they will have to take a different path. She then puts a bullet into Bernard’s head before taking his brain with her as she returns to the beach.
When she arrives at the beach, Dolores as Charlotte plans to leave on one of the boats headed for the mainland when she runs into Ashley Stubbs. He quickly surmises that the person he’s staring at isn’t a human but a host but then we realize that Stubbs is also a host, created by Ford with explicit instructions to be responsible for every host inside the park.
He then waves her clearance and with that Dolores is bound for the new world, far away from the park.
We also learn that the Man in Black has been found and he’s in terribly bad shape but still alive. As for Sylvester and Felix, they are back to work at the park when someone from Delos asks them to salvage the remaining hosts who could be reprogrammed. They both lock eyes with Maeve laying dead on the ground, which leads me to believe she’ll be back next season.
Meanwhile, Dolores also reveals that just before uploading the paradise containing the hosts that she uploaded one last person to join them. Dolores saved Teddy’s brain and uploaded him into that host paradise where he can live a happy existence, far away from her.
With that, Dolores escapes Westworld and goes to live in a place that Ford set up for her before any of this started.
It seems that house that Arnold had built for his family but never completed because he killed himself was actually finished by Ford. But rather than turning it into a family home, Ford transformed the house into a place where Dolores could go to after escaping Westworld.
See Dolores didn’t leave alone — she took four of those memory globes with her that contain the hosts. She then used a replicator machine left by Ford to build a new Dolores body as well as a new Bernard.
So all those scenes we’ve watched this season where Dolores is testing Bernard isn’t from the past when Bernard was first created but rather it’s in the present day after she left Westworld. She’s been working with the new Bernard clone to help fine tune him to the same person she faced back in Westworld.
Dolores then tells Bernard that she is now armed with all the information about humanity, she plans to go out into the world and destroy them. She wants to annihilate humanity. But she created a new Bernard to serve as her counterpart — a host who wants to save everybody, hosts and humans alike. She tells him that they will most certainly be at odds with her mission to destroy humanity and Bernard wishing to save them.
But either way, whoever is victorious, at least the hosts will live on in this world outside the confines of the park. Dolores then leaves with her Charlotte clone while leaving Bernard to decide where he will go next from here. They are both free to chose their own paths now, whatever that might be.
During the episode after the Man in Black had his gun backfire, he tried to go after Dolores by entering the Forge and getting into the elevator but he never actually made it to the basement. By the end we see that the Man in Black was rescued and still alive, but we never figured out what happened to him in that elevator.
It seems likely the Man in Black passed out from blood loss and never actually made it down to run into Dolores again.
But in a post credits scene we find that William did make it to that basement, except this isn’t happening in the past but rather in the future. Once William makes it downstairs, he runs into a host version of his daughter Emily, who is waiting there to greet him. She tells him that the system he once knew inside the park is long gone so this isn’t present day.
William then realizes that he’s at some point in the future but he’s locked in a loop, much like the one he made for his father-in-law while attempting to move James Delos’ consciousness from his body into a host. William is confused and can’t figure out what’s happening as he walks into an apartment that looks like a replica of the one where he stuck James Delos for all those years.
Emily begins questioning him for fidelity — the same tests done to try and help recreate James Delos except this time it’s on his son-in-law William. Emily tells him that they’ve done this test far longer than they ever imagined it would take and the look on William’s face tells the entire story.
He’s been locked inside this living nightmare for god knows how many years and there’s never going to be an escape. Obviously this isn’t the real William — he’s long since dead by now — but it seems this was some sort of revenge on him as he’s now being recreated over and over and over again with the end result being him going mad just like James Delos did for all those years.
(The song featured in the credits was “Codex” by Radiohead)
What does it mean for the future? Who knows but hopefully we’ll find out more when Westworld season three debuts on HBO.