Westworld: The Bicameral Mind

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Season 1, Episode 10 – The Bicameral Mind

For quite some time now some of the biggest plot twists of the season have been predicted by many fans watching the show. William is the Man in Black, Dolores is Wyatt, and Maeve is being manipulated. After reading these predictions weeks before they were revealed, I was a little bit in denial despite how convincing they were, simply because it seemed too unwieldy to be properly explained to the audience. There was a very real danger towards the end of the season for all the storylines to fall apart spectacularly because the mysteries became too complex. Thankfully it didn’t, but the feature-length size of the finale is no accident. It really did take 90 minutes to explain everything properly, and in some ways, that isn’t a good thing.

I praised an earlier episode of Westworld with the fact that not a single minute is wasted. Every scene, every line of dialogue, seems to serve a purpose. There is no wasted moment in this show, and the finale is no exception. However, there did become a point halfway through “The Bicameral Mind” when the seemingly endless barrage of exposition started to feel more like a lecture instead of a dramatic reveal or progression. Although this is a necessary evil, the fact that the show had to reach this amount of explanation in the end is a little bit disappointing. The answers themselves were satisfying, but it’s clear that the writers sort of forced themselves into a corner where the only solution was to have characters literally sit down and explain the answers to us. There are times when the finale simply felt too rough around the edges, and no amount of refining could clear out all the jagged edges.

But still, it’s a thrilling finale that doesn’t feel like 90 minutes at all. And despite some of the reveals being predicted early on, the finale still had one big surprise up its sleeve, which was the most significant. I noted before how unpredictable Ford can be, and he delivers in a big way. It’s revealed that all of Ford’s actions and plans actually served to help the hosts themselves, even when it seemd to be on the contrary. Despite the emphasis of Ford and Arnold’s disagreement years before, it turns out that Ford has actually been continuing Arnold’s plans all this time. Ford emphasizes that the hosts needed to understand their enemy and remember the cruel things which were done to them in order to successfully take over the park. But most important of all, they had to choose to do it themselves. Whereas Arnold programmed Dolores to kill him and the other hosts years ago, Ford guided the hosts to choose for themselves.

The most satisfying scene of the finale is when Dolores stops hearing Arnold’s voice in her head. All season long the hosts have been guided by Arnold, but once Dolores starts hearing her own thoughts, understanding that it was her voice all along and waking up from the dream – the dream that Arnold was the one guiding her –  it’s the fulfillment of a promise and of an evolution that the show has been building up to since the very first episode. Even the realization that Maeve was programmed to want to leave Westworld doesn’t take away her free will, because it’s through this very manipulation that allowed her to ultimately choose to stay in the park to find her daughter. Even knowing full well that her daughter is an artificial creation (both physically and emotionally) doesn’t stop her from choosing to stay behind. It is this very choice that allows them to take the next step in finally taking control of their own lives.

Ford has been constantly referred to as a God playing around in his own kingdom. For the longest time this comparison to an all-powerful and omnipresent being was done so in the most literal sense, which is that Ford built and controls everything in Westworld. We see him wave a finger to a host to do his bidding, erase their memories, and assign them new narratives just because he can. He was essentially a kid gleefully pulling the strings of his puppets to fulfill whatever desires he wants or to punish those who wish to oppose him. But one thing the show hides until the last minute is that, like God, Ford created the hosts after his own image. He ultimately wants them to evolve by acting on their own and, eventually, become better than humans. Every act we see him do, both good and evil, was for the benefit of his creations, including his own cruelty to them. We always assumed that Ford’s grand plan for the new narrative was going to be ambitious, and here at last it’s revealed: the narrative of freedom.

What the hosts choose to do now that they’re finally untethered from the control of their Gods is both an exciting and frightening prospect. The violence was inevitable, but what comes after that? Can they ultimately build their own world? Will they find a place outside of Westworld or stay in it? Can they fit in with the rest of human society? Ford has continually warned them that humans will only disappoint them at best, and wipe them out at worst. It’s clear that the first season, with its emphasis on the past and the origins of the hosts and their creators, is just the prologue to a grand story. I truly don’t know what to expect in the next season, but I do know that it’s going to be a long wait. Season 2 isn’t slated to return until 2018 at the earliest. In the mean time, revisiting the first season with a more careful and knowledgeable eye should unearth more interesting details in a show that’s so full of them.

9/10

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