In the opening scene of Westworld’s second season, Bernard confides in Dolores that he’s “frightened of what you might become.” That more or less echoes Dr. Ford’s suspicion about the entire species, hence his elaborate, Delos-funded experiment in fast-tracking human evolution by strip-mining their thoughts and desires within the confines of a consequence-free amusement park of the flesh. It’s a living.
Now that it’s clear (we think) that William, Dolores, Bernard, and Maeve are the Four Horsemen of Ford’s host-marshaled apocalypse, it’s probably a good moment to pause and reconsider our main players—be they of flesh and blood or carnal code, if that even matters—heading into Sunday’s finale.
Have things only become more muddied since the aforementioned, somewhat clarifying premiere, or are we all overthinking it? Is Westworld a plot-driven drama, a mystery box, or something—like the park itself—that can conform to individuals’ expectations and experiences? We’re not sure we can answer any of that, but if it helps, here’s a digest of eight key (or at least seemingly consequential) characters, along with our best sense of what they stand to gain or lose as the show wraps up another polarizing chapter and looks toward the Valley Beyond.
What’s Her Deal? The rancher’s daughter–turned–rebel leader has—very much as her designer, Dr. Ford, intended—had any trace of her docile self consumed by the alternate persona of merciless gunslinger Wyatt. (Or manifested her destiny, depending on how you see it.) She manipulated and sacrificed an entire army of confederate soldiers in order to fend off Delos’s hit squad; laced any breathing human with lethal ammo and left others high and dry for the vultures to eat alive; slaughtered countless park staffers en route to rescuing her father Peter, who apparently has some seriously advantageous data stored in his hard drive; wiped out a tribe of ideologically opposed Native Americans; and even forcibly reconstituted her beloved Teddy into less of a sensitive liability. Granted, Teddy killed himself in front of her rather than suffer through another existence in which he’s not the author of his own narrative, but there’s no turning back now: Dolores is coming for us all.
What Is It She Wants? She wants back out into that real world she tasted as one of Westworld’s earliest prototypes, and she wants all the vengeance she can muster while she’s still inside the park’s walls (or whatever supports that place). But she also demands fealty and single-minded sacrifice. Those ultimatums have already come at a cost and might require strategic improvisation, bearing consequences and necessitating adaptations that Dr. Ford will no doubt be keenly observing from his digital afterlife perch.
Should We Be Rooting for Her? Maybe. She, like Maeve and the rest, has been through decades of trauma at the whims of an omniscient tinkerer who may never grant them total free will, and dealt with the grubby hands of innumerable dark-souled park patrons. But her story arc this season has been far from a heroic journey. Without the Season 1 backstory, it’d be hard to call her anything but a villain. Teddy’s apparent death might mellow her crusade, but what to make of the spectacular carnage to this point? And if she ever escapes, will she be capable of differentiating humans who mean harm from those that had nothing to do with her captivity? If she’s truly an expression of her maker’s id, then everyone’s screwed.
Our Best Guess for Her Finale Fate: Looks like it’s Maeve’s turn to adapt to her circumstances accordingly and allow no mercy (more on that next), so we might see Dolores seeking out other worlds and wisdom before storming society’s gates. Or she could simply leave behind Teddy’s body and all the other rotting corpses in a giant watery burial like the one Delos execs stumbled on in the season premiere. ‘Cause that’s how she rolls.
What’s Her Deal? The former brothel madam has hooked up with the park desperado, Hector, hijacked Westworld head writer Lee Sizemore, journeyed into feudal Japan (or at least the park’s approximation thereof), re-outfitted herself like a Marvel Comics assassin, and scorched the earth in search of her daughter. That didn’t work out so well, and she’s currently eviscerated and prone on an operating table, about to be decommissioned by a conspicuously unfeeling tech with salon-ready hair. The good news: She can telepathically communicate with all manner of hosts and made some new friends at the exotic and super-murdery Shogun World. Plus, Ford’s essence arrived last episode for a pre-op pep talk (apparently she was always the old man’s favorite), and what’s more, it turns out the Native Americans who kidnapped her daughter were trying to help her all along. All in all, things are looking up for Maeve.
What Is It She Wants? Like Dolores, she wants a chance to guide her own future without the whiplash of being rebooted and delivered back into her hellish past. (It’s a metaphor.) But she also wants some measure of power, and after her most recent ordeal, and with Ford’s motivation, she might soon tap into her own inner Wyatt.
Should We Be Rooting for Her? One supposes we should care whether she reunites with her daughter. As for the rest of it, we’ll take a wait-and-see approach. If her goodness curdles and all she brings into the new world is one more authoritarian voice (one that can wordlessly bring her legion to obey, no less), that’ll be a toughie. But since she seems to have a built-in foil in her old pal Clementine—the Magneto to Maeve’s Professor X—there’s reason to hope for her continued positivity. And as she has been for Ford, Maeve is an almost universal fan favorite, and she and Hector are definitely in the running for Westworld’s hottest couple.
Our Best Guess for Her Finale Fate: While Dolores is licking her wounds, Maeve is going to lead the charge toward the threshold of whatever lies beyond the park—and hopefully get a bit further than she did at the conclusion of Season 1. And sure, with her daughter. Why not?
Dr. Robert Ford
What’s His Deal? To the surprise of no one except for those who—like myself, admittedly—thought Sir Anthony Hopkins might have reached his Danny Glover, “I’m too old for this shit” epiphany, Dr. Ford isn’t actually dead (time is a flat circle across HBO universes, after all). His consciousness was essentially disembodied within the glorified server farm he called the cradle (a sci-fi spin on the earth’s reputed hub of humanity’s origins), but even after the cradle’s destruction in Episode 7, he piggybacked into Bernard’s CPU to get back to the real world and since has seemed to become functionally omniscient—at least long enough to continue beta testing his evolutionary intervention before rendering the planet’s population obsolete.
What Is It He Wants? Like all his hosts and guests, control. We know enough about Robert’s volatile upbringing and melancholic early adulthood to make excuses for his behavior, and we know that—at least according to him—he holds host rights in some regard. But he’s also simply something of a mad scientist, a warning that if human beings don’t correct their own terroristic tendencies (eco or otherwise), some force of nature—maybe not a single person, but you get the idea—will hasten their demise. Living forever is, it appears, a perk of the job.
Should We Be Rooting for Him? There doesn’t seem to be much hope for human harmony these days, so maybe he’s onto something. But he’s also pretty maniacal, and Westworld is girded by a bit of old-fashioned good-and-evil interplay. So no matter how much he says he’s on the side of the angels, it’s fair to hypothesize he’s the devil that James Delos was talking about.
Our Best Guess for His Finale Fate: Angela may have rocked Ford’s cradle, but the forge still looms, and it looks as if his scientific trials may have already evolved into something pandemic.
What’s His Deal? The Man in Black, it turns out, may not even be a man. At the end of last episode, he was cutting himself open to confirm whether he’s the aging business tycoon exorcising his inner demons in the park, or if he had himself converted into a prototype of a human consciousness-laden host with his data harvested and darkened into some kind of proxy for Ford, who couldn’t be bothered with the dirty work of defying death. At face value, once-innocent William succumbed to his inner shithead; made millions off Westworld while maintaining a stoic social facade; cloned his father-in-law and tortured the poor facsimile for a lifetime; inadvertently (maybe) nudged his alcoholic wife toward suicide; and shot his own daughter dead in the desert of the park that he wanders around in a slight state of delirium in hopes of living forever. Contrarily, there’s the possibility that he’s one of Ford’s earliest and most prolific hosts, spun off and planted among the living as a kind of mole while also helping the good doctor determine how close he can come to eternal life without falling off a cliff of lucidity. Or something in between.
What Is It He Wants? Redemption? Self-knowledge? At minimum, some answers that explain his scattered mind and body and offer peace. Maybe his old flame Dolores can help.
Should We Be Rooting for Him? It’s hard not to will the most hardened evil in the direction of its better angel. The desire to do so is a testament to the show’s success and Ed Harris’s likability. But if you can’t quite shake all that murder and sadism—no matter who was in control—feel free to root for his demise.
Our Best Guess for His Finale Fate: William, Maeve, Dolores, and Bernard share their collective raised consciousness and cast Ford out, Freddy‘s Dead–style. Either that or they go ham on the forge.
What’s Her Deal? Delos board head Charlotte is, arguably, the show’s most unknowable principal. (Almost as unknowable as the Delos org chart.) She’s been almost unwaveringly steely and deadset on snagging whatever data from Westworld guests and hosts she can before Ford successfully sabotages his creation. She gets a couple of good scares courtesy of a Wyatt-army ambush (Bernard saved her) and Dolores, who’s none too pleased that Ms. Hale cruelly abducted her dad, who is seriously glitching out. Last episode, Charlotte stumbled on a serious game changer, pulling a reverse Terminator 2 and recoding Clementine as a lethal force who can telepathically command other hosts to tear and gnash each other to pieces. Charlotte’s the worst. It’s also worth noting that any blank canvas in Westworld is a question begging an answer, and (potential spoiler alert) she shares a suspiciously similar name with a certain child of a park founder who so far exists only in theory.
What Is It She Wants? It’s conceivable that, a la Emily before she was offed, Charlotte wants in on this whole immortality thing. She also purely enjoys getting what she wants, and with the whole Westworld in her hands, sky—or Valley—is the limit.
Should We Be Rooting for Her? There’s an argument to be made that, like Dolores, she’s a badass doing what she has to do to reach her perceived destiny. But she’s also untrustworthy, disingenuous, ruthless, and not one for sharing—and what’s more, she’s a corporate stooge. Boo.
Our Best Guess for Her Finale Fate: Charlotte’s not going to win, but she’s not going away.
What’s His Deal? Bernard’s got a lot on his plate. He spent most of the season pretending he’s human to stay “alive,” even though he’s basically still stuck in a narrative loop that’s dishing out whatever death blows Ford decrees and keeping the Delos staff off his scent. (He’s also juggling more timelines than the rest of the cast, god help him.) And despite having been partly nurtured into semi-consciousness by none other than Dolores, he—like Teddy—has an essential goodness that transcends his programmed compassion (except when he’s possessed by Ford into killing slews of Delos tech hands). He’s also pretty sure he’s responsible for those bodies floating in the lake. He at least made nice with Elsie after mugging her last season, but then again, her parting words to him last week were “Fuck you, Bernard.”
What Is It He Wants? To shake off the terrible deeds he’s been programmed to carry out and emancipate himself from Dr. Ford’s hold in time to make sure Dolores—and Charlotte—don’t turn Westworld into a weapon. Some more readily accessible core fluid wouldn’t hurt either.
Should We Be Rooting for Him? For sure. He may be Dr. Ford’s greatest accomplishment and ultimate undoing—a host whose ancestral muse is still lurking somewhere inside him, struggling to surface and save Westworld from itself.
Our Best Guess for His Finale Fate: Given the above, a tragic and true death on the doorstep of total actualization wouldn’t be a total shocker. Nor would him taking Dolores or Charlotte down with him.
What’s His Deal? What a ride for the Delos family’s wild child. William left him bare-assed, sun-ravaged and babbling somewhere in the sands of Westworld, where he’s afforded some mercy from Akecheta (see next entry). But the die is cast and he returns to civilization a doomed and doomsaying junkie. He’s also said to have OD’d, but a finale preview signals that some simulation of this tragic figure has been preserved in the forge to mysterious ends—or else flashbacks zoom out a bit to illuminate this “bottom” that he professes to see.
What Is It He Wants? To show us the bottom, naturally. Or unnaturally. Logan saw something in William way back when that he can’t un-see, and it would be somewhat fitting if the court jester turns out to be the one who enlightens us all.
Should We Be Rooting for Him? Absolutely. His sins are no worse than anyone else’s, but his visions are potentially vital.
Our Best Guess for His Finale Fate: Odds are the original human version of Logan is dead, buried, and not coming back. But it’s feasible that both he and his sister (a.k.a. Juliet, William’s wife) have been crudely reborn like their father. Even if he’s a ghost in the Delos machine, Logan’s fate is less provocative than what he knows about everyone else’s.
What’s His Deal? The Ghost Nation leader is a solid candidate for having been Dr. Ford’s patient zero, i.e. the first host to assume consciousness, deliberately or not. He’s also responsible for coming across the mysterious maze-man symbol and making it into a religion, thus setting William, Karl Strand, and those who later inherit it on a probable course to lunacy. (Amazing how symbols can inspire and devour us.) Akecheta, who somehow evaded being killed off by guests for years (maybe because, as we saw with his protection of Maeve’s daughter, he’s a total sweetie), has experienced an enormous spectrum of emotions. He is awed by his humanity, enraged after the lobotomy of his lover, and overwhelmed with curiosity and hopefulness about the New World beyond, a kind of revisionist fantasy of how the West might be reclaimed. He even earns a tête-à-tête with an admiring Dr. Ford. Unfortunately, Akecheta and Dolores don’t quite see eye-to-eye about what the Valley represents. This spells disaster for Ghost Nation and, like Dolores following Teddy’s suicide, likely leaves him with no one left of his kind, and no sure road map for how to survive.
What Is He Wants? Akecheta might, poignantly enough, wind up pointing civilization’s way forward. Getting Kohana back online would be a bonus.
Should We Be Rooting for Him? Yes. Don’t be an imperialist.
Our Best Guess for His Finale Fate: A reunion with Kohana, and new alliance with Maeve. Or he could make it out into the “real” world and immediately find himself disenfranchised and unwelcome on the other side of the door. Man, people suck.
Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.