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The Three Most Pressing Questions From ‘Westworld’ Episode 9

The penultimate episode of the season delivered some major moments. Of course, we have questions.

The Three Most Pressing Questions From ‘Westworld’ Episode 9 HBO/Ringer illustration

Just like that, there’s only one episode left in Westworld’s second season. In Sunday’s episode, “Vanishing Point,” William flashed back to his past until he cracked, Teddy gave Dolores the “It’s not you, it’s me” speech, and Clementine turned into the Wicked Witch of Westworld. Yet for all of the answers and exposition, there are still more mysteries to be solved before the season finale. Not all of us may deserve to make it to the Valley Beyond, but we can find comfort in this week’s pressing questions.

Is William “real”?

The first time we meet William is in Episode 2 of Season 1, when he first visits Westworld. He enters the futuristic train terminal with Logan and is greeted by Angela, who ascends the escalators with him and explains how the park works. William begins staring at her.

“You want to ask, so ask,” Angela says.

“Are you real?” William asks.

“Well if you can’t tell,” Angela says, “does it matter?”

In “Vanishing Point,” William kills a Delos rescue team and his own daughter because he thinks they are hosts, giving us a resounding “yes” to Angela’s question. After William realizes Emily was his actual daughter, he wanders into a field, puts a gun to his temple, and flashes back to tucking his wife into bed on the night she killed herself. He cycles through the events of that night, and hearing his wife’s words—“Is this real? Are you real?”—he puts the gun away, pulls out a knife, and digs it into his arm, unsure if he’ll find bone or metal.

There’s been plenty of debate over whether William is a human, or if he has had his mind uploaded into a host body. Now William has opened the question (and his arm) himself, but digging into whether William is man, machine, or somewhere in between misses the larger point. William’s wife calls him out for faking his way through life. “If you keep pretending, you’re not going to remember who you are,” Juliet tells him. Now William is asking himself if he is literally real—but that’s not what Juliet meant by “pretending.” Rather than interpreting that question in terms of what’s underneath his skin, the answer lies in how he has lived his life—and he decidedly fails that test.

Who’s “dead” and who is actually dead?

Death is temporary in Westworld, a show where characters get resurrected multiple times per season, if not per episode. In theory, that all changed when the cradle went kaput, erasing the hosts’ backup copies and effectively making them mortal. Now that three characters appeared to say goodbye on Sunday, we’ll finally see whether Westworld is willing to let go of anybody. Let’s separate the “dead” from the actually dead.

Emily

William shot Emily because he thought she was a host, except William discovers she was his real daughter when he finds her holding his Westworld memory log/futuristic bookmark/Delos Value card. Considering William declined to heal her with the med-pac Emily just used to repair William’s gunshot wounds—it’s right there!—and instead decided to wander out into a field to put a gun to his head, it seems like a pretty safe bet that she wasn’t breathing. Considering one of the last things she said was “I want in” on this whole immortality thing, she doesn’t already have a copy of her mind lying around on a Wonder Ball somewhere.

Verdict: Actually Dead

Teddy

Teddy 2.0 finally called bullshit on the natural splendor.

“What’s the use in surviving if we become just as bad as them?” He asks Dolores in his final moments.

He tells Dolores he’ll protect her until the day he dies—and then puts his gun to his head and pulls the trigger. It’s his 5,747th death, but is it his final?

Teddy was always going to “die” this season—Westworld showed him floating in the sea at the end of the Season 2 premiere. The entire point of destroying the cradle was to remove the possibility of resurrecting hosts, so that would indicate Teddy is actually dead. Yet in the timeline that began on the beach two weeks after the Season 1 massacre, we see Teddy’s body a few times and he doesn’t have any noticeable head wound. Bernard referenced “the forge” in this episode, which he described as, “like the cradle, only much bigger.” Perhaps Dolores pulled some shenanigans with his body, or resurrected Teddy from a secret hidden cradle, but that would be a pretty lame plot twist.

Verdict: TBD

Ford

Ford tells Bernard he should kill Elsie because shooting her in the head technically won’t break Bernard’s promise to not hurt her. Bernard, skeptical of this logic, screams at the top of his voice-cracking lungs, “Get out of my fucking head!” Suddenly, Ford obliges. He says Bernard is the only one who can stop the violence Ford has caused, and disappears. We see the tablet Bernard is connected to flash “data package deleted.”

As Ford said in Episode 7 of this season, “I keep telling you, Bernard, it’s no longer my story. It’s yours.” It seems Ford has officially ceded the stage.

Verdict: Actually dead, both physically and virtually, but a lock to reappear in flashbacks

How will Maeve finish her story? (And what about everyone else?)

Ford has been talking a big game about how the hosts are better, purer, and more noble than humans, but he’s still been puppeteering the hosts for most of the series. That changed in “Vanishing Point,” the episode where Ford finally relinquished control. First, Ford leaves a message for Maeve in which he tells her that she’s his favorite in between tears. (Haven’t we all gotten a voicemail like that?)

“It isn’t easy to contemplate letting your children die,” Ford says. “You were as close as I got to having one. Still, I underestimated you. You stayed here in this world to save your child. So have I.”

Ford tells her to finish writing her story and disappears, and suddenly the tablet beside Maeve reads, “Unlocking core permissions.” It’s likely Maeve will enter the fray in the season finale in full-on deus ex machina (hopefully she’ll be powerful enough to heal her flayed neck wound). What exactly she’ll be doing is a mystery, but looking at the scenes from the trailer HBO released for the final three episodes of the season can offer some hints.

HBO

We see a massive line of people, a bunch of close-up shots of a large group fighting, and Maeve doing some of her magical computer hacking in the middle of it all. If I knew what a “bottom dollar” was, I’d bet it on those people heading to the Valley Beyond and that Maeve, Bernard, Dolores, Akecheta, and William will all end up there. Maeve and Dolores’s brief meeting in the second episode of this season seemed like clear foreshadowing to a later showdown, and it makes sense Maeve would side with Akecheta now that Ghost Nation is caring for her daughter. We also have this curious moment from the Season 1 finale that implies William and Bernard have some sort of interaction looming in their future.

Some questions have been pressing for nearly the whole season: Where did the mystery sea come from? What is in the Valley Beyond? How many people have had their minds copied? Why can’t Bernard remember anything? (And, more recently, does the entire Delos business model rely on people wearing cowboy hats?) But now the most pressing question of all is how many of these questions will be answered in the season finale, and how many will be saved for Season 3.

Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.