Review of Westworld Season 1 Finale

Answers and Questions

nominated for 22 Emmys 2017

Here's what we learned in the excellent season 1 finale of Westworld, and the possible questions raised:

  1. The Man in Black is the new majority owner of Westworld.
  2. The Man in Black is William, much older. This is one of the first fine twists -- a sequence of turns and revelations of events that cut deep. What we've been seeing of Dolores during these ten episodes are not just skips and jumps and loops in her mind, but time itself chopped up, that is, earlier and more recent events in her life. Which means, regarding William, that every scene we've seen with him happened in the pretty distant past -- i.e., decades ago. Nice touch.
  3. Dolores dying in Teddy's arms by the sea is actually the entree to the new narrative Ford has been promising. I actually realized this a few moments before it was revealed, but it was still memorable to see.
  4. Maeve, despite her best efforts, was never going to leave Westworld. I was actually thinking this, too - the essence of Westworld is that, like the Hotel California, you can check in if you're a host (be created), but you can never leave. But the pursuit of her daughter being the reason is an effective touch -- because, after all, not only does love conquer all, but it's an all powerful component of what makes us human.
  5. The path towards consciousness is knowing thyself. In the Jaynesian bicameral mind -- at least, as portrayed in Westworld -- this means one half of your brain listening to the other. Two millennia prior to Jaynes, Socrates urged the same thing: know thyself. This makes Westworld not only Jaynesian but Socratic, a very good thing in my book.
  6. I never bought that Socrates drank the hemlock, though (and my best-known novel tries to explain what may really have happened back then) -- but, with that in mind, I wasn't happy to see Dolores blow out Ford's brains at the end, just as she had done years earlier with Arnold (even though suffering that real-guilt pain is said to be the only way she can achieve true consciousness).

And here's where some questions for the next season come in. Will Anthony Hopkins return next year as a Ford-host by whatever name, just as Arnold did with Bernard? Hard to say, since Ford is not around anymore to build a new version of him, just as Ford did with Bernard -- and Arnold. 

On the other hand, Bernard is no slouch, and he may indeed have the capability (and his success in recreating Ford would also be another testament to Ford's as well as Arnold's genius, since Ford built Bernard). I certainly hope we see Ford again in some form, given the tour-de-force just wonderful performance this first season by Hopkins (one of the best of his long and superb career, I'd say).

Also not 100% clear is what happened to the Man in Black aka old-William at the end. Was that attacking force of (presumably) hosts armed with weapons that could kill him? Maybe, probably, since it takes real death for the hosts to learn ... but you never know.

Anyway, this was the best television series ever about androids, and one of the best ever of science fiction, period. Kudos to all the writers, producers, actors and actresses, and HBO. I learned a lot as well as enjoyed this series -- and the only deaths I had to deal with regarding Westworld were those on the screen.

And I'll be back with reviews of the second season as soon as it's back on the air.

Paul Levinson
Paul Levinson

Paul Levinson's novels include The Silk Code (winner Locus Award, Best 1st Science Fiction Novel of 1999) & The Plot To Save Socrates. His nonfiction including Fake News in Real Context has been translated into 15 languages. 

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Review of Westworld Season 1 Finale