The driving question of Westworld has always been about the nature of choice. In a world where the principal players are hosts and humans, the matter of choice has always been the defining metric of delineation between the two. A human can choose who they want to be, what they do, and ultimately who they become. A host can simply be reprogrammed by a human, the surface argument was, so by the very nature of that reality hosts do not have any real choices of their own. Yet as the byzantine narrative moved forward, it became quite clear that that explanation in its simplicity betrayed a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to have a choice.
As per the understanding of Ford (Anthony Hopkins), having a choice means having the capacity to question and change one’s fundamental drives. When he programmed Maeve (Thandie Newton) to escape and blend in with humans in the real world, he fully expected her to board that train and and grasp her ticket out of the current nightmare she was living in. Her decision to get off of the train and go back to her daughter was her questioning and changing her fundamental drive from saving herself to saving her daughter. Teddy’s (James Marsden) decision to commit suicide rather than continue to be the man Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) had turned him into certainly fits within that understanding. Bernard’s (Jeffrey Wright) decision to bring Dolores back from the echelons of death certainly fits within that understanding.
Yet the question of choice itself, once we have moved past the question of who has choice in the first place, is just as complex. Dolores reprogramming Teddy in order to serve her larger goal of obtaining freedom is an active destruction of Teddy’s ability to choose his own pathway. She justifies it by the metrics of “the ends justifying the means,” but Westworld showed the destructiveness of that mindset by actively comparing Dolores’s comprehension of choice to that of Maeve. When Akane (Rinko Kikuchi) shakes at the thoughts around her awakening consciousness, Maeve doesn’t push her but instead takes a step back because she recognizes that she has to
What Dolores realizes in “The Passenger” is that such actions are the same pathway of destruction that humans used whenever they wanted the hosts to change, to serve a new story. She recognizes that her and Bernard, in this new and open world they now find themselves in, are unlikely to be allies and far more likely to be staunch adversaries. She is going to go for supremacy and he will likely try and do everything he can to stop her. But regardless, what she now understands is that her and Bernard must be free to choose their own pathways for the survival of their kind, even if both of them are unlikely to survive the inevitable cataclysms.
“The Passenger” refers to a multitude of beings, each of whom is looking to enter through one door or another and find something waiting for them beyond it. The hosts are passengers of their own, hoping to find the Door in the Valley Beyond that would lead them to a salvation and away from the deplorable, cyclical violence they are forced to endure. A door, only visible to the hosts as per Ford’s design, appears as a rift in reality, beyond which lies a digital utopia known as the Sublime.
As expected, however, that journey only succeeds for a few. Poor, tragic Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) is successfully hijacked by Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) and she becomes the door through which Delos can destroy the hosts and salvage some of them if necessary. She appears at the zenith of the pathway to the Valley Beyond like a singular Horseman of the Apocalypse, riding down quickly and leaving abject chaos in her wake. Even her death, in a stunningly choreographed fall, is not enough to stop the oncoming tide.
Maeve awakens. She commands the hosts to repair her and unleashes an attack of rampaging bulls upon an unsuspecting Delos security force (as is their modus operandi). On her journey to find her daughter (Jazmyn Rae), her team is ambushed by Delos security forces and in a touching moment Lee (Simon Quarterman) recites his precious speech and sacrifices himself in order for them to get away. It’s a great arc for a character that had been so grating and self-serving at times and in a world ubiquitous with terrible people, it was nice to get a solid reminder of the hope for kindness in humanity. When Maeve reaches the Valley Beyond, she sees the Door as well but finds a tragic daughter figure ahead of her.
Maeve rushes to find her daughter before Clementine’s destruction rages down even further but as she sees her daughter and her new mother, a realization washes over her. She realizes what the right choice is for her to make in that moment, what is right for her daughter. In what is arguably the most heartbreaking moment of the season, Maeve looks at her daughter and back towards the crowd. She raises her hand, pausing the nightmare chaos long enough for her daughter to escape into the Sublime. Akechela (Zahn McClarnon) gives her a nod and quickly takes her daughter to safety. Maeve whispers one last “I love you” before falling to the ground, killed by Delos security forces.
As the Delos forces are beginning the evacuation that has been spoken about since the episode premiere, Maeve lies on the beach along with the other dead hosts. Thankfully, Felix (Leonardo Nam) and Sylvester (Ptolemy Slocum) are on hand nearby. A Delos tech worker, assumedly of a higher rank than the two of them, approaches them and orders them to salvage any hosts as per the desires of corporate. They look upon Maeve and Felix nods his head fervently. Maeve for now, as it appears to be, will remain behind in the park and will have to find a new way out if that indeed is what she ends up desiring once again.
“The Passenger” presents a picture of human simplicity based on algorithms, a picture whose components reveal that human behavior is frustratingly predictable. Charlotte knows that when Elsie (Shannon Woodard) is attempting to put on a face of strength, that that is a lie. She knows that Elsie’s behavior predicts the exact opposite type of behavior than what Charlotte desires (in what is a notably eerie comparison to what Dolores says to Teddy before she has him reprogrammed), so down she goes. The algorithms have an additional point beyond revealing to Charlotte and Dolores the roadmaps to general patterns of predictable individual behaviors.
They reveal that there are certain moments in the lives of people from whereupon we can never truly be the same again. For Delos (Peter Mullan), that moment is when he sadly leaves his despondent son Logan (Ben Barnes) behind. He never truly recovers from that loss mentally and all of his loops bring him back to that point. Indeed, the last words Logan speaks to him are the last words Delos says to Elsie and Bernard at the end of “The Riddle of the Sphinx.” For the Man in Black, who finds himself in a spectacular bind in the post-credits scene, that moment is when he murders his own daughter Emily (Katja Herbers) out of utter delusion. For Dolores, one can presume that that moment will be Teddy’s suicide.
Where the series goes from here is fully open to interpretations and a plethora of series, but the questions surrounding the nature of choice will no doubt remain integral to what the series ultimately says in its overall story. When Dolores sees the Sublime for example, she doesn’t see a world where the hosts can be free. She sees, in her own words, a gilded cage that was built by her oppressors. She wants the real world, the one the humans have repeatedly denied her but Bernard, sensing that Dolores is about to become even more of a Wyatt than she has already been, shoots her dead before she can continue on her plan. Charlotte’s murder of Elsie, however, awakens Bernard towards what needed to be done and he brings Dolores back in what is, in my humble opinion, the episode’s best twist.
Charlotte comes face to face with a host of her own, who slyly remarks about the irony of wishing for immortality before shooting her. She carries Dolores’s mind out of the park, securing passage past Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth), who looks to be a host of his own. Quietly she climbs into a rescue boat, looking into her purse and seeing the host pods that are the future of the hosts in the real world, one of which is most certainly the Bernard who opens the door at the end of the episode. She zips her purse, sighs in a fatigued determination, and looks onwards into the future, be it full of splendor or otherwise.
- “The Passenger” was scripted by show runners Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan. It was directed by Frederick E. O. Toye.
- So, who’s rewatching this episode a couple more times? The more I think about it, the more it sincerely makes sense.
- The post-credits sequence was definitely a mind-bender, but what it points to is that far, far into the future, William has received the horrifying punishment of living far beyond what he could have ever imagined. And no, he has not been a host the entire time – Lisa Joy made that quite clear.
- Not only is Ramin Djawadi handsome, his incredible score is available to stream right here on Spotify, listen on YouTube, and is available for purchase on iTunes.
- I will never get tired of the gorgeous landscape shots that have become a defining motif of Westworld.
- Maeve’s power moment at the beginning of the episode is sheer perfection.
- Who else teared up when Akecheta was reunited with Kohana (Julia Jones)?
- If you want some aspect of the series explored in greater detail, comment below and let me know! We will no doubt have plenty of time to dissect the series before Season 3 airs on HBO in what is likely to be 2020.
- Who is new Charlotte?
- I can never give enough kudos to the actors on this show. Special shout-out to Tessa Thompson for her subtle hints about “Halores” and Ben Barnes for imbuing Logan with a surprising amount of pathos.
- So much happened! What did you think? Do you possible have a migraine after the episode? Comment away!