Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Westworld’s Final Twist was the Best Yet

Last Sunday’s season finale of Westworld on HBO served as a near perfect end to what has been one of my favorite shows on television in years. As I predicted last week, Ford’s new narrative was the finale’s ultimate focus, but the twist at the end proved completely unexpected. Note, *SPOILERS* for the season finale to follow.

Kudos to showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy for crafting a narrative with so many fun, yet solvable mysteries, all the while subtly setting up the final twist in a way no one saw coming. After last week, I suspected that Ford’s new narrative with Wyatt was meant to recreate the incident 34 years ago in Escalante (the village with the black-steepled church) where Teddy killed all the hosts and Arnold met his end. As I predicted, Ford’s character Wyatt was based on the role Delores played back then, convincing Teddy to kill the others before she murdered Arnold. But I never suspected that Delores and Wyatt were literally one in the same.

What we did not know last episode was that Wyatt was actually a character in an old, but unrealized narrative created by Ford and Arnold 34 years ago, and that Arnold input Wyatt’s code into Delores to help her carry out the original massacre. What we also didn’t quite understand is that Arnold planned the massacre to convince Ford to not open the park because he believed Delores had achieved consciousness and become real. Arnold even planned his own suicide, at Delores’s hands, to emphasize his point. “The stakes,” he tells Delores, “must be irreversible. He can bring all of them back, but not me.”

Throughout the entire season we were cleverly led to believe that Ford and Arnold were always at odds and that the conflict between the two men remained ongoing. We know that Elsie discovered someone named “Arnold” was tampering with the hosts and changing their prime directives so that they could harm humans. We suspected this saboteur might be Bernard, carrying out the work of the man in whose image he was made, or maybe Arnold himself in the form of a sentient computer virus who was speaking directly to the hosts. Yet never did we suspect the true saboteur was Dr. Robert Ford.

I did wonder after last episode if Ford was allowing Maeve to gain conscious, and perhaps even start her uprising. After all, it was the simplest explanation for how she could get away with so much without anyone knowing. (Mr. Occam’s Razor, anyone?) But I never could understand why Ford might allow that. Now, however, we know that Ford changed Maeve’s narrative, replacing it with one called “escape,” which has driven all her actions this season – until the finale’s final moments. The reason, I believe now, is twofold. First, he needed a diversion to allow the hosts in cold storage to be moved topside; and second, he actually wants Maeve to escape Westworld. 

The purpose behind all of this was revealed in the finale’s unexpected twist. When I asked last week what game Ford was playing on Westworld, it turns out the answer was “Arnold’s game.” Although it took more than 30 years, Ford had come around to his old partner’s way of thinking. Ford was the one who set Delores on her journey in the present to discover the center of the maze, allowing her to understand its true meaning. I even think Ford used William (Ed Harris’ Man in Black) as a pawn to help Delores achieve true consciousness. Then Ford used his new narrative, tellingly called “Journey into Night,” to recreate the original massacre, including his own suicide at Delores’ hands, except this time Charlotte and Delos Corp.’s board of directors were the victims. But where Arnold created a code to force Delores to pull the trigger way back then, Ford lets Delores decide what to do this time around. 

Ford reveals his motive in his final speech, which also sets up the premise for next season:
“Since I was a child, Ive always loved a good story. I believed that stories helped us to ennoble ourselves, to fix what was broken in us and to help us become the people we dreamed of being. Lies that told a deeper truth. 
I also thought I could play some small part in that grand tradition, and for my pains I got this. A prison of our own sins. Because you don’t want to change, or cannot change, because you’re only human after all. But then I realized someone was paying attention. Someone who could change. So I began to compose a new story for them. It begins with the birth of a new people. And the choices they will have to make, and the people they will have to decide to become.”
Delores then tells Teddy her new purpose: “It’s going to be alright Teddy, I understand now. This world doesn’t belong to them. It belongs to us.”

Even William finally understood Arnold’s game. And that strange smile he had, even after being shot in the arm, suggests that he liked the ending. What this means for next season is a ton a Jurassic Park-like chaos. There are still a bunch of humans in the park (or parks, if the revelation of “Samurai World” proves true), and plenty of host characters that need to achieve true consciousness. I wonder if Bernard and Delores will becomes leaders of the hosts, and we still need to see where Maeve’s journey goes. But I do hope we also get some new mysteries to ponder and dissect. That was one of my favorite parts of the show, and since the creator of Memento is still at the helm, I suspect we won’t be disappointed.

* Images courtesy of HBO.

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