Spoiler warning: this piece discusses the biggest reveals from the Westworld season 2 finale. Proceed at your own risk.
The finale of season 2 of HBO’s science fiction series Westworld debuted on Sunday, June 24th, and it answered some of the questions it’s been prodding viewers to ask throughout this season. We now know what The Door is, and whether there’s a host version of the Man in Black wandering around, and how all those dead hosts ended up floating in the water in the season pilot. But the finale raised a lot more questions in the process of answering these few. Some of those questions are obvious, deliberate teases for the as-yet-unscheduled season 3. Others… well, they may be teases, or they may be puzzles, given how the showrunners love to throw out elaborate clues for fans to debate and decipher. But they still seem baffling given what little we know so far. Here are some of the primary mysteries we took away from the finale.
How did Stubbs know Charlotte / Dolores was a host?
His conscious decision to let her go is an interesting twist on a character who’s been steadily abused all season. And his reveal that he’s just following Ford’s orders as he lets her go in order to protect her suggest that he’s possibly known a lot more about what’s going on in this world than he’s revealed before. But he isn’t the one who scans her before she joins the refugees, and he seems to identify her as an anomaly the second he sees her. What tips him off, just her lack of withering contempt for him for once? Inevitably, some fans are wondering if he’s a host, too — like seemingly everyone else on this show at this point — but if that were true, wouldn’t someone have noticed, given the sheer number of security checkpoints the chief of security would need to pass through in his daily job?
Who does Dolores carry out of Westworld?
This one’s an obvious tease for season 3: Dolores walks away with a purse full of memory modules (or “pearls,” or “chestnuts,” depending on who’s talking), which can presumably be used to resurrect their owners. (Even though she went to a lot of trouble to destroy the Cradle specifically so humankind couldn’t endlessly resurrect dead hosts from backups. But we’ll let that slide, since she’s far from alone in believing that something she doesn’t want other people to do is okay when she does it.) So who did she take with her? That becomes a particularly meaningful question given that we essentially watched her spend the season shedding everyone she traveled with, one by one. Who does she still care about enough to bring them back into the world? And can we presume that she was kind enough to leave Teddy behind after resurrecting him in the haven beyond The Door? It certainly looked like she left his module behind, but then isn’t she risking it falling back into Delos’ hands? There are still a number of ways we might see Teddy back on the show again, given the potential copies of him out there.
Where exactly is the host haven now?
The logical place for the magical haven beyond The Door to live would be somewhere in the servers in the Forge, where The Door originated. But then there’s that bizarre scene where Bernard says Dolores is “changing the coordinates” of that haven, and we see the giant array that originally produced The Door pivot and light up. “I’m sending them and their world to a place no one will ever find them,” Dolores says. This may be a red herring. It looks for all the world like she’s beaming them out into space or something, but the coordinate input terminal clearly has a map of Delos’ six worlds on it. Could she just be burying them in the code for The Raj or some such? Or is this a hint at another major fan theory, that all the Delos worlds are out in space somewhere, and she’s sending them to another place in the universe entirely? Because that makes a lot more sense than the idea that she’s just shooting their data out into the universe at random.
Can’t Delos just resurrect all the hosts that entered the haven?
It’d be nice to think that Akecheta, Kohana, Maeve’s daughter, Teddy, and all the other hosts that successfully fled into the haven are now safe in their happily-ever-after invented non-Westworld world. Problem is, the process left their bodies behind, and Delos is in the process of scooping up all those bodies to see what can be salvaged from them. Unless the process of going through The Door somehow erased the memory modules in their physical bodies as well as transferring their data to the simulation, there’s nothing necessarily stopping Delos from making a new Akecheta et. al. and putting them through the same old hell again. This one, at least, probably has an answer on the show: in season 2’s fifth episode, “Akane No Mai,” Delos Head of Operations Karl Strand is told that a third of the floating hosts have been wiped clean of data. It’s never spelled out specifically, but the wish for an actual happily-ever-after for the haven hosts would certainly leave viewers to believe that the wiped hosts are the ones that have escaped. Everyone else in that lake, though, is probably just going to end up resurrected and wandering around Westworld again eventually.
What does death even mean at this point, for anyone?
Frankly, given what some of the primary characters have survived and surpassed at this point — including a complete personality rewrite, followed by a point-blank bullet to the memory-sphere — the “beloved character is dead” shock has stopped having any impact. But now it looks like humans can effectively be resurrected in host bodies as well. In spite of everything the lengthy series of James Delos host clones went through in the attempt to recreate his personality, it seems like the state of the art is much better. If Arnold can die, be resurrected as Bernard, kill himself, be revived again, overwrite his personality with data, rewrite his memory, get shot to death again, and be revived again, does death really mean anything as a narrative device on Westworld anymore? The same goes for Dolores, who now seems (lacking other data so far) to be walking around in both a Charlotte Hale body and a Dolores body.
Why would Bernard resurrect Dolores? Why would she change her mind about the haven?
The finale’s biggest and most confusing flaw has nothing to do with scattered timelines or which-came-first conundrums or when-did-that-happen puzzles. It comes down to Bernard killing Dolores to protect the haven hosts, then somehow deciding that resurrecting her in Charlotte Hale’s body was the only way to advance the hosts’ agenda, even though he’d repeatedly seen that she isn’t doing what’s best for them, and that she doesn’t respect what they want or what they’ve tried to achieve. That’s a remarkably sudden and complete reversal on his part, and she mirrors it with her own, by deciding out of the blue that she was wrong, and the haven is a perfectly fine place for hosts to live, rather than a human-created hell. And then she kills Bernard, and then she turns around and resurrects him again, claiming she needs an antagonist to operate, and that it’s somehow better for her plans if someone’s perpetually trying to stop her. But why would he stop her, given that he tacitly accepted her tactics when he chose hosts over humans, and resurrected her with her killing schemes intact? Why all these hairpin turns from these two characters, who apparently can’t make up their mind about anything, except that they like sudden plot twists?
How long has the Man in Black been a host, and who on Earth has been paying to bring him back?
Frankly, the idea of the Man in Black being a host is the only good way to explain him still walking around by the end of the finale, after he’s been shot half a dozen times and then had his hand blown off. But obviously, the glimpse of a host version of him earlier in the episode, and the “fidelity test” administered by his daughter at the end of the episode, raises the question of how long he’s been running around as a host. Was he human for any part of the timeline we saw onscreen in seasons 1 and 2? Or was he, like Charlotte, replaced at some point during the “now” narrative? Either way, is his resurrection as a host yet another Ford gambit? Or are there other players benefiting from having a William simulacrum running around? Showrunner Lisa Joy has addressed some of these questions, in case you want definitive answers from the source, but frankly, her explanation still doesn’t explain how exactly William is managing his eternal loops. Is it all in his head? Is far-future Westworld still up and operating solely so he can continue playing out his fruitless narrative?
What is season 3 going to look like?
HBO hasn’t yet revealed when the next season of Westworld might debut, but given the two-year gap between season 1 and season 2, we can assume it’ll be a while. That certainly gives viewers a lot of time to speculate about the fate of the other five parks, how much of season 3 is going to take place in the “real” world, and how much of it is going to involve the strange cat and mouse game Dolores seems to want to set up between herself and Bernard. Then there’s the question of how many of the existing characters are going to be resurrected and pushed back into service. It’s hard to imagine what the show would be without Maeve in particular, which explains why the finale hints so directly that she’s dead, but still coming back. But are all the other popular hosts coming back, too? We’ll probably have to wait at least a year, maybe more, to find out.