What makes a person a person and a host a host is a question Westworld has come at from several different angles. “The Passenger” at last posits the great solution: Humans are largely unchangeable creatures with the illusion of free will, and hosts, by their simpler natures and complex makeups, are the truly free.
The episode wraps up the major plot points of the season, though it does it in typical Westworld fashion: Tell a tortuously circular story then reveal everything behind what we thought we were seeing. “The Passenger” feels as if it plays around with timelines as much as the rest of the season in its entirety. Partly it’s due to a narrative trick: Bernard self-scrambles his memories so the Delos people can’t weaponize what he knows against the hosts. So there’s one key to the series. Each season is told in the perspective/processing of the first host we see wake up. Season 1 was Dolores, in bed, her memories overlapping. Season 2 is Bernard, waking on the beach, his memories scrambled. It’s a neat meta-trick, but as far as telling a story in the best way possible, it feels like one hand patting the back of its owner. It’s more clever than functional.
The trick is carried further when the show reveals its second turn: It will ultimately come to a battle between Dolores and Bernard and their respective take on humans, hosts, and the possibility (or lack) of coexistence. This is also mirrored in both seasons opening on conversations between Bernard and Dolores.
Dolores, in the post-Incident timeline, comes across William digging into his flesh to see if he’s a host and takes up his abandoned pistol, jury-rigging it with the flattened slug Teddy used to kill himself. She gives it back to him and they ride together for a while until they reach the Forge. There she comes across a waiting Bernard. William, true to his nature, betrays her and shoots her, not understanding why his bullets won’t kill her. When he goes to use the shotgun on his LeMat, the slug causes him to blow his own hand apart.
Dolores and Bernard go down to the Forge. She gets cracking on erasing all the Richie Riches that uploaded to the servers before they both take a guided tour of the virtual facilities, led by a virtual Logan who tells them about humanity’s foibles. He explains that the testing we witnessed with William and James Delos’s recreated host body came after 18,000,000 virtual incarnations. Logan realized that humans are boring creatures that do the same thing over and over again and for some reason break down mentally when put back into a body. It’s where our lesson on humans not really being free comes in. Ho-hum.
It’s the type of thing that’s hard to take seriously because Westworld is a land of hedonism, all vice with virtue fleeting as a bean fart on the prairie wind. Unlike Jurassic Park, it seems no one suggested a coupon day, so it’s an endless version of The Most Dangerous Game for the cruel, idle rich. Aside from the family in the first season who goes on a painting picnic, every other character we see in the park is some degree of monster. For as much video game critique as the show offers, everyone in it is the Grand Theft Auto player who rampages around murdering cops and prostitutes exclusively, or the fantasy game player who slaughters whole villages, sometimes just to see if they can break the system. There’s never the person who tries to be the ultimate hero and complete every quest, who frets over rule breaking and accidentally killing civilians. In Westworld, it’s all Gamergate, all the time.
Eventually, Logan tells Bernard that he inserted a gate into the park for the hosts to enter into a boundless, paradisaical realm where they could choose their own destinies for themselves. He opens it and the various bots that have been travelling toward it start to go through. Delos tries to send the Clementine host and her virus (which turns hosts against each other) through the line of escapees. Maeve’s crew, after she rescues herself (by reanimating some hosts who kill her attackers and then fix her up) stops Clementine and Maeve holds the line back with her own code long enough for her daughter and daughter’s new mother to escape. Akecheta also escapes. Maeve and everyone else dies.
Bernard, still in the post-Incident timeline, kills Dolores who wants to take her fight to the humans, but then enacts a secret plan based on his own imagining of Ford guiding him. The twist is, the Charlotte Hale we see running around in the post-post-Incident timeline, is really a host with Dolores’s brain orb inside, and has been the whole time. It might make a second viewing more intriguing, but Hale was so thinly sketched the whole season, it’d be hard (aside from possibly now-obvious dialogue cues) to see how they could’ve hinted at it. Dolores offs Bernard and leaves the park made up like Charlotte.
Back in the real world, there’s a base of operations in what was going to be Arnold’s house, that Ford finished after he died. In it Bernard wakes up again as Dolores and the host version of Charlotte leave him, telling him of the battle to come between them.
There’s a scene after the credits of the Man in Black coming down to the Forge in a future where everything is in ruins. There he meets a recreation of his daughter and feels relief that he didn’t really kill her. Until she takes him into the James Delos apartment and tells him he’s being finalized in a fidelity test, that is.
The End. Season 2 es finito. And we’ve learned our lesson: Humans are essentially hosts and hosts are really free. A cynical poke in the eye for these uplifting, joyous times we find ourselves in. So long, don’t forget to tip your server.
Westworld is a weird beast of a show. A jumbled puzzle box by design, the show tries to hide its relatively straightforward story in editing choices that feel like the film canisters got dropped and taped back together like a drunk making a salad. Whatever the case, it’s been a ride with up ups, and low-down downs, but it’s been my privilege taking the journey with you.
Be sure to stick around for an upcoming post-mortem on the season that’ll be sure to be full of splendor…