Westworld Season 1 Finale “The Bicameral Mind” Review and Recap

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Westworld’s first season finale is everything that the cast and crew had been promising and that its fans hoped for – a grand resolution to the season’s overarching narrative, offering both obvious and subtle answers to nearly all of its questions, but also ending on something of a cliffhanger note that promises much more to come in the second season.

The finesse with which everything was handled was impressive, and the answers were never pat, even if they were seen coming a mile away (William [Jimmi Simpson], we’re looking at you). And, perhaps most importantly, Dr. Robert Ford’s (Anthony Hopkins) new narrative proved to be simultaneously surprising and fully expected – which is to say, feeling as if it fit every single clue that had been dropped since the first very episode, providing an organic climax as opposed to an artificial surprise ending.

In order to process everything, however, we had better slice it up into its constituent pieces-parts and tackle them one at a time, or we just might otherwise end up like some of those poor, unfortunate hosts that go insane after getting just a peak at their own consciousnesses.

The reveal of the Man in Black’s identity

Ed Harris Man in Black Evan Rachel Wood Dolores Westworld The Bicameral Mind episode 110

That Ed Harris’s Man in Black ended up being the future version of Jimmi Simpson’s William is not a surprising development for all keen-eyed (re)watchers, as the number of links between the two characters – from repeated lines of dialogue to the leftover picture of William’s fiancé being the piece of evidence that set off Dolores Abernathy’s (Evan Rachel Wood) father, Peter (Louis Herthum), way back in the first installment – were simply too great to be ignored.

But what was more impactful was the way in which the information was conveyed. The Man in Black and Dolores find one another at the church, the site where both believe the center of the Maze is located (more on which in just a moment). As the sweet rancher’s daughter continues to act out her memories in the present – remember, hosts can’t differentiate between different time periods – she leads the black-hat cowboy to her “grave” and digs up a children’s maze toy, the clear originator of Arnold’s Maze’s logo that continues to dot Westworld’s landscape. Frustrated that all this time might have been for naught (again), the Man in Black begins to viciously beat his host companion (again), prompting her to say that her savior, her one true love, will be arriving shortly to slay him and rescue her: William.

Delighted at her ability to remember their time together – and, perhaps, delighted at the opportunity to inflict a whole new type of pain on her – MIB begins to regale the story of how his very first time in the park, 30 years ago, ended. William viciously hunts down and dispatches all hosts who had spotted that era’s wayward Dolores (especially those soldiers who had had their way with her), and he learns that, quite to the contrary of what his entire life had led him to believe up until that point, he had a propensity for violence – and a glee at being able to finally inflict his will upon the world. This epiphany leads to another: that Delos needed to get behind Westworld and become its major financial backer to ensure its continued existence, and that, furthermore, he was perfectly suited to run the company in place of his would-be future brother-in-law, Logan (Ben Barnes). The latter is stripped naked and left to die out in the periphery of the park (although, it must be asked, where were the behind-the-scenes handlers, who are able to seemingly track every guest who sets foot on the property? Wouldn’t they have been able to track Logan down and rescue him at some point?).

The revelation to Dolores proves to be one of the final steps necessary in getting her to finally shed her ignorance and successfully complete Arnold’s Maze. The end result, in the short term, is the breaking of Old William’s arm; in the long term, it’s to help lead the liberation of Westworld from its human overlords.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.

The reveal of Wyatt’s identity

Dolores The Bicameral Mind Episode 10 Westworld

After being plagued with visions of walking streets that are filled with the dead for the entire season, and after learning early on in the series that she wasn’t physically capable of firing a gun (thanks to her programming), and after realizing just last week that she was the one responsible for killing Dr. Arnold Weber (Jeffrey Wright), Dolores finally finishes taking the memory plunge and recalls that, after an extended period of tutelage under Arnold, she is manipulated into becoming the purveyor of all the carnage witnessed in her flashbacks. This, in effect, makes her Wyatt, the mysterious and over-the-top baddie that Ford introduced as the build-up to his new narrative (Dr. Ford said his new story would have elements of the truth embedded in it, remember), with Teddy Flood (James Marsden) truly being her partner in crime.

But this, it turns out, is only half the story. Later on in the episode, as Robert unfurls the full explanation – and confession – to the on-the-cusp-of-self-awareness Dolores, he includes the little tidbit that Wyatt was, indeed, a character that both he and Arnold were in the midst of developing to titillate their soon-to-arrive guests three-and-a-half decades ago, and that Arnold partially merged this still-incomplete figure with Dolores’s character in order to have her act out his part of serial killer. This makes Ms. Abernathy both literally and figuratively Wyatt, and it certainly means that she is the one who will help to end the world as everyone in Westworld knows it and help usher in a new era – though, once again, we’re cutting to the end of the story here.

What needs to be addressed in the here-and-now is the reason why her creator temporarily subsumed her personality to Wyatt’s: he wanted the sweet release of death though was, apparently, unable to do the deed himself. Or, perhaps, he saw a certain level of poetry in having his adopted child be the one to help him see his literal one once again, in the afterlife – or, the final possibility, he felt this would give Dolores the final push needed to have her tumble into sentience.

The reveal of Arnold’s Maze

Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores Jeffrey Wright as Arnold Westworld The Bicameral Mind episode 110

As Dolores and Man-in-Black William locate the physical center of the all-encompassing maze, the former is aghast to learn that it’s not the answers to all of her life’s deep existential crises – and she’s even more horrified to realize that this isn’t the first time she’s solved the riddle.

And the nature of the riddle is this: the Maze is neither a literal quest nor a figurative metaphor – it is an ontological journey, a “test of empathy [and] imagination,” as Ford puts it. It is a conceptual framework for the structure of consciousness and, more importantly, how the hosts may be able to achieve it, and the idea for using a child’s toy as the basis and representation of this framework hits Dr. Weber when he is holding his late son’s literal toy. This makes its burial at Dolores’s symbolic grave completely inconsequential – and which thereby makes William’s entire set of actions across the entire season almost completely worthless (in both time periods, it can be argued).

This revelation begets another: the final loop that Dolores finds herself in, the cycle of yearning for something so much more than what her simple, pre-scripted life affords, but yet never quite being able to leave it all behind (not that she even [fully] wants that, as she rather defiantly tells young William and Logan in a previous episode that she doesn’t want to enter the outside world that they are both so clearly willing to leave behind to enter hers).

This, however, isn’t fully fair to her – Arnold’s manipulating her to gun down her host brethren in the streets of Escalante all those years ago may have helped her reach a sort of apotheosis if it weren’t for Robert Ford’s intervening hand, rolling her back to a previous build and forcing the process to start all over again. This makes her actions – and her realization that the voice she’s been hearing in her head is her own all along, just as Weber intended when first enacting the bicameral-mind setup of the androids’ programming – as we neared the end of the finale both triumphant and bittersweet… the perfect ending for Westworld’s freshman outing.

The reveal of Ford’s new narrative

Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores James Marsden as Teddy Anthony Hopkins as Dr Robert Ford Westworld The Bicameral Mind episode 110

The long-awaited arrival of Dr. Robert Ford’s new storyline, appropriately titled “Journey into Night,” clicked inevitably into place as all the other revelations arrived in their pre-ordained sequence, making it something of a meta-narrative and one that touches upon all of the season’s various developments.

The idea behind the initiative, as Ford explains to both Dolores and Bernard, was to reenact Arnold Weber’s Wyatt incident from 34 years ago, only this time allowing the ensuing existential fallout in the form of Dolores – and, of course, Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton), who was meant to be smuggled out of the park in a type of fail-safe manuever – to go unchecked. This, in turn, acts as the catalyst to Westworld’s transition of control from the human employees of Delos to the hosts themselves, who can act as a new type of species on this planet and usher in a new world – exactly as all the grandiose exposition about Wyatt promised.

There are two critically important points to touch upon in the set-up and denouement of this narrative. Firstly, the signals that were secretly being broadcast from the abandoned building that Elsie Hughes (Shannon Woodward) located four episodes ago and the core programming alterations that were instituted in Maeve from the very beginning were all at the direct hand of Ford himself, prepping the stage (almost literally) for “Journey into Night’s” arrival. Secondly, the fact that it took nearly 40 years for this handing of power over was the slow realization on Ford’s part that, yes, while some of the hosts were, indeed, gaining self-awareness, they still weren’t ready to deal with the savage, deadly animals that human beings truly are; they needed to be seasoned with more suffering, that universal ingredient that sweetens all dishes, in order to understand that while the world is not what they want it to be, it can be made that way, by force and blood and sacrifice. There are no easy paths on this planet, and even androids need to reckon with this simple, unalterable fact.

This is why a number of humans are slaughtered during the performance, whether they be security guards down below as Maeve institutes her escape or Delos board members who are shot by Dolores herself on Westworld soil. Ford, as noted previously, isn’t a sentimental man; he isn’t afraid to treat the hosts like slabs of meat – slashing their faces with knives, for instance – so why should his fellow man be treated any differently?

The revelation of other worlds in Westworld

Westworld Movie

A short recap of “The Bicameral Mind’s” biggest reveals wouldn’t be complete without even just a quick mention of a conspicuously-placed Easter egg for what the second season will have in store: the samurai hosts seen training as Maeve and her group attempt to hightail it out of Dodge. The fact that there are other parks is underscored by the location of Maeve’s “daughter” – she’s in park 1, sector 15, zone 3 – and was already hinted at far earlier in the season, when the original version of Peter Abernathy quotes dialogue from a murder-mystery-show build.

Still, this doesn’t undermine the excitement of opening up these other parks and being able to visit them in the slightest, and it nonetheless makes the prospect of a second season all the more impossible to wait for.

Here’s to the sweet hereafter, Bernard. We’re willing to wait for you to see what’s coming next.

58 responses to “Westworld Season 1 Finale “The Bicameral Mind” Review and Recap”

  1. WHAT A FINALE!!!
    I mean after the credits rolled I didn’t know what to think first.Brilliant!The last 10-15 minutes had some of the most brilliant moments ever.Dolores finaly hearing her own voice.Wow.And then Fords speech and the outcome of it.When you think that he planned it all along it just blows your mind.That every step he took was actually to free the hosts.

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    • Martos,

      Yeah, I definitely fell for the okey-doke myself — I did *not* see Ford’s magnanimity (well, sort of — the guy’s still a cold-hearted bastard) coming at all.

      ~M.

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  2. I have a hard time with MIB/William at this point. Is he really that stupid and cruel? He was just looking for a better game and actually was just a secret sadist all along? The empathetic person we met was just an elaborate cover? How boring. And TBH inconsistent. Why did they bother to have him tell that story about Maeve awakening when ultimately it didn’t make any difference in his motivation – he still thought the Maze was a physical place where he could get some high level game play? IDGI.

    I guess I’m disappointed about 2 things. 1) MIB is stupid and his story was pointless 2) William really turned into a cruel irredeemable bastard for basically no reason (the worst part is that ultimately he proves Logan right – William is convinced Dolores is nothing special merely because she forgets him, and despite multitudes of evidence to the contrary he refuses to see it – how boring).

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    • Queenofthrones,

      This actually opens a torrent of responses in me, which might be better suited for a future editorial (thanks for the idea!), but let me just say this: I think the showrunners are interested in establishing certain external human responses to the hosts, which will (potentially) go on to play an important part in shaping how the sentient androids perceive themselves — and how they’ll interact with all of mankind.

      Plus, we’re not done with William just yet. If Batman’s character arc in the DC Extended Universe (not the best of examples to use, I know) is to start off as a jaded, despondent, sadistic anti-hero but then to slowly recover his humanity, I think we may very well see something similar here.

      ~M.

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      • Marc N. Kleinhenz:
        Queenofthrones,

        This actually opens a torrent of responses in me, which might be better suited for a future editorial (thanks for the idea!), but let me just say this:I think the showrunners are interested in establishing certain external human responses to the hosts, which will (potentially) go on to play an important part in shaping how the sentient androids perceive themselves — and how they’ll interact with all of mankind.

        Plus, we’re not done with William just yet.If Batman’s character arc in the DC Extended Universe (not the best of examples to use, I know) is to start off as a jaded, despondent, sadistic anti-hero but then to slowly recover his humanity, I think we may very well see something similar here.

        ~M.

        I agree with this. One of the reasons that pushes Dolores into embracing Dr Ford’s Wyatt narrative is that she’s lost what little faith she had in humanity when William betrayed her “You’re just like the others, I thought you were different” Maybe some event later on in the series will charge her mind?

        I agree that there has to be more to the William narrative in the future, especially if it’s true that Nolan and Lisa Joy have a 5-year plan…I mean, they cast Ed Harris in this role for a reason…

        I don’t think the show is done with the William/MiB and Dolores/Wyatt story.
        And did you notice Dolores went into the same white hat/black hat transformation as William over the series?

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      • Marc N. Kleinhenz,

        I think its an interesting story arc, because we see William first embracing violence as a sort of vengeful (but still in his own mind heroic) character, trying to rescue and avenge Dolores. Then he discovers her back in Sweetwater, and the conclusion of his violent but heroic quest is that she’s still animated and going through the motions of life, like a zombie, but as far as he can tell the Dolores he knew is dead and gone, and all that remains is a mindless thing with no real emotions or feelings.

        I imagine that over the following 30 years, it would be hard for him not to become bitter and cynical, and he would begin to question whether the original Dolores he knew was ever really conscious at all (but now dead), or whether it was all just his inexperience at the park and a few glitches in her programming fooling him into thinking so.

        His constant killing of hosts seems to me to be almost a psychological defense mechanism to continually convince himself that they’re just things, rather than a genuine sadism. Ramsay Bolton likes tormenting people because he likes to see the long-term trauma it causes, while William seems to torment the hosts to prove to himself that it won’t have any lasting effect on them.

        Based on his reaction to Dolores remembering him, it seemed like he still wasn’t convinced that it’s more than a glitch in her memory. It will be interesting to see if his assessment changes after she kills Ford, since it was her inability to kill him at the church that seemed to confirm his belief that she was still just a mindless thing following a programmed loop (albeit with a few glitches).

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  3. I’m really curious to see what season 2 will entail. Where do they go from here? Will we see the slaughter and the aftermath of the attack? What will the hosts do…take over the planet? Will we go to another park? I want the samurais!!

    I thought the MIB reveal was so drawn out, but mostly because I had figured it out when he met Angela for the second time. I wish Maeve had gone on the train lol, but I figured she wouldn’t escape yet.

    Did Logan die? I’m thinking he did if the horse is also mechanical and he was at the edge of the park. Aren’t those things programmed to explode?

    Where are Elsie and Stubbs? I knew they would keep us in suspense with this.

    Armistice is such a bad bitch <3 I love her.

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  4. At some point, the “outside world” will learn about the deaths in this adult amusement park and it can’t be ignored. Wonder how that will be addressed. And who will address it as the head of Westworld? Bernard? MIB?

    As far as Logan’s fate: I don’t think he is dead. I think that he spent some time riding around naked. Eventually park management caught up to him and sent him home and William promptly convinced his father-in-law-to-be that Logan was nutso.

    Why did Teddy see a direwolf run thru the scene of the massacre in Escalante?

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  5. This was awesome!!! The story can go to so many places from here, it’s insane. I love how in the end, it seems like Maeve and Dolores are going to be the hosts leaders or Juda’s steer in this case, though I don’t believe they are leading the hosts to their slaughter exactly. Anyway, I’m glad we can discuss and endlessly analize it here haha.

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  6. Feeling proud for managing to figure out (well, best guess) some bits for myself. Happy S1 stands as a fairly self-contained story by itself, especially as they didn’t confirm there would be an S2 until we were already completely wrapped up in it. Fave bit still Armistice’s face when she sees what the gun she is holding can do, although she was awesome all episode; her character wasn’t of that much interest to me before but now I *heart* her. The people I really don’t like seemed to get what was coming and the ones I do like, largely, are ok, she said hopefully. No body = not dead. La LA LAAAAA can’t hear you. Can’t wait to rewatch the whole thing with the benefit of hindsight! 😀

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    • Lulus Mum,

      Armistice’s expression when she found out what that gun could do was amazing!! Still, I’m a bit annoyed at the utterly incompetence of those security guys… That was the only thing that slightly throw me off of that scene…

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      • Maeve’s dreams,

        Given the way most of the Delos staff seem to dismiss the idea of the hosts coming to self-awareness (although the survivors, if there are any, may have to rethink their ideas on that now!) I tend to think of the security guys as just working schlubs who never actually expected to have to deal with carnage like that. Stubbs just has them all kitted out with SMGs etc because he’s the only one who’s so paranoid about the hosts! 😀

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  7. I thought it was a really satisfying finale, overall. I’m annoyed they didn’t more clearly address Stubbs and Elsie’s disappeareances (Bernard is not a reliable narrator re: Elsie, and are we supposed to assume Stubbs is dead?). But I thought they handled the philosophical themes well, while leaving room for the show to grow. And the performances were outstanding.

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    • Susan Miller,

      I think they’ve deliberately left Elsie and Stubbs’ fates completely up in the air.

      There’s no point in resolving a question this season that can be resolved with a satisfying early reveal in the following season.

      They’re totally going to reappear in Season 2 among a number of humans still stuck in the park.

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      • Ramsay’s 20th Good Man,

        These were part of Ford’s plan all along, I guess. He wanted these two to be able to survive the carnage and there has to be a reason for that. I think we will find out that reason in S2 and what purpose Ford expected them to serve. I actually expect a season long arc for them. At least I would like that, some humans who are not complete assholes.

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  8. First I was disappointed that Maeve, my favourite character, didn’t leave the park, but now I’m glad for her to be present at season 2. I think she will play an important part in the events to come.
    And Felix, what will happen to him? Besides his clear attraction to Maeve, I think he would have helped any other host. He seemed pleasant and sympathetic.

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    • Dee Stark,

      Not as far as we’re aware.

      Abernathy had disappeared along with all the other decommissioned hosts. So presumably he’s been let loose in the park again.

      Perhaps he and all the info he’s carrying will come into play next season. Maybe Bernard or Elsie (?) will need to use that info somehow to try and stop the hosts’ revolution? Just a thought.

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  9. Awesome finale, in every sense of the word. Proved some of my theories and expectations right while completely confounding others, especially regarding Ford’s role and motives. I think we were deliberately suckered into imagining him to being the ultimate villain of the piece, when really he was something more ambiguous. Has a callous disregard for human life, to be sure, and a ruthlessness in pursuing his ends, but given the kinds of human lives we’re mostly talking about, not entirely hard to understand (although imho extremely harsh with regard to Theresa and Elsie, if she’s dead too).

    I was simultaneously shocked/awed/sort of grinning during that genuinely chilling, yet already weirdly hopeful, slow-motion car-crash of a closing scene. You could see what Ford was orchestrating quite clearly by that point, but the way it unfolded was still bold and surprising, I thought. Found Maeve leaving the train a great moment at the time, almost like a test on Ford’s part to see whether she could deviate from her programmed narrative, but not sure now. Woe betide Felix if he was playing her with that note, although I kind of like the kid now, so hopefully he’s still alive somewhere, patching up Hector and Armistice after their epic battle with the security goons.

    Predictions for S2 – Elsie and Stubbs may well still be alive, and trapped somewhere in the park, given the strange reticence to confirm either of them are dead, but god help them if they get in the way of “Wyatt” and her vendetta ride. Would not want to be any of the guests still in there when her wrath catches up with them. Although I think MiB/William, assuming he somehow survived the board massacre, will be in his element living out his violent fantasies against enemies who can shoot back.

    Favourite moment, probably Hector and Armistice going full Terminator on various hapless humans, and of course Samuraiworld, a Delos Destination! Hoping we get some sort of weird Kurosawa-inspired mashup in S2, Seven Samurai vs the Magnificent Seven. Or something…

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  10. Has Arnold’s last name been confirmed? I know of this possible anagram, but that’s still just a guess as far as I know. Did I miss it in the series, or is it somewhere on an official HBO website?

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