“Westworld” has always been a challenging show to sort through. The second season’s finale is no exception: All the hosts and humans we’ve followed throughout the season meet explosively. Many questions running through the season are answered, but their answers are traded for new questions about the larger implications of the episode’s plot reveals.
After the death of Teddy (James Marsden), Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) is completely alone on her mission — until she rides out to the plain where we last saw William (Ed Harris) in the final moments of last episode. Right before holding him at gunpoint, she loads a flat bullet into the barrel of her revolver. She takes him with her to the Valley Beyond.
Once they arrive, they find Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) about to enter a door to the Forge hidden in a rock. Dolores reveals to William that she, not Ford, was the one who created Bernard.
While Dolores is talking, William draws a gun and shoots her several times, but Dolores doesn’t seem to be hurt or damaged at all. Finally, he holds the gun to her head and fires one last time. Yet what fires is the flat bullet she loaded into the barrel. The gun backfires and destroys William’s hand. She and Bernard leave him doubled over in pain and go through the door to the Forge. Dolores places Peter’s control unit into an open port and unlocks the Forge’s virtual system, which she and Bernard then enter.
The pair find an antiquated form of Westworld in the virtual simulation, and Bernard realizes that this part of the system must hold the trials that were run in the attempt to build the host form of James Delos (Peter Mullan).
Dolores is intrigued but wants to get deeper into the simulation to find the system beneath it. They come upon the Delos family mansion, recreated from Jim’s memory. They also find Logan (Ben Barnes). Dolores senses that something’s off — Logan never returned to the park once William took over, and the park only started harvesting guest data after that takeover, so he shouldn’t exist in the Forge.
Logan explains that he’s not actually Logan’s host, but rather the manifestation of the system Dolores has been looking for. Because of Jim’s insistent fixation on his son, the part of the system in charge of re-creating and perfecting Jim’s mind has taken the form of Logan.
As system-Logan leads Dolores and Bernard through a lab containing several failed iterations of Jim, he explains that every failure resulted from overcomplicating the algorithm underlying human cognition. In reality, Jim’s code was simple and short enough to fit into a slim hardcover book. System-Logan discovered that in spite of the millions of tiny tweaks he made to the different versions of Jim, they all ended up at one same point — his last conversation with Logan. Humans, system-Logan explains, don’t really exercise free will; they can only follow their own code at best.
At Dolores’s prompting, system-Logan leads her and Bernard to a library where each book contains the code for a guest. Dolores starts reading — her strategy is to learn as much about humans as possible to have a tactical advantage during her conquest of the human world. Meanwhile, system-Logan explains to Bernard that he has created a separate virtual world of bliss for hosts to enter and live in, free of the constraints of the human world. Bernard sees this virtual world as a path to freedom for the hosts, so he opens the door into the new world. Finally, Dolores says she’s learned enough and pulls herself and Bernard out of the simulation.
Back in the real world, Dolores starts deleting all the data held within the Forge — including the virtual paradise Bernard has just unlocked and all of the hosts who have entered it so far. Bernard argues that she’s robbing hosts of freedom, but she says the virtual new world they were promised is just another prison. She then initiates the flooding sequence to finally destroy the Forge. Bernard is appalled. He believes that Dolores will only bring more death and destruction, so he shoots and kills her before halting the deletion process, exiting the lab and re-emerging in the park.
While Bernard has been down below, chaos has unfolded in the park. Akecheta (Zahn McClarnon) has finally led his large group of hosts to the Valley in the hopes of bringing them to the new world. Maeve (Thandie Newton) and her allies join up with this group, having escaped to freedom after Lee (Simon Quarterman) sacrificed himself to the Delos operatives who were trying to stop them. When Bernard opens the new world, a riftlike door materializes within the Valley, and the hosts start entering their new paradise.
Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) arrives, however, with Elsie (Shannon Woodward) and the newly reprogrammed Clementine (Angela Sarafyan), who issues mental commands to the waiting hosts to attack and kill each other. Hector (Rodrigo Santoro), Hanaryo (Tao Okamoto) and Armistice (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal) die in the fight.
While Maeve holds off the fighting for just long enough to allow Akecheta to escort her daughter (Jasmyn Rae) safely to the new world, the security staff Charlotte has brought with her shoot Maeve fatally. As she’s dying, she urges Akecheta to go through the door before it’s too late, and he does. He finds Kohana (Julia Jones) waiting for him, and they reunite ecstatically before he looks back to see Maeve die with a smile on her face. The door closes soon after.
Bernard, now re-entering the park as the last living host, joins Elsie and Charlotte to return to headquarters. There, Elsie confronts Charlotte on her prioritization of the secret project over saving human lives. Charlotte kills Elsie, saying her strict moral code would only get in her way. Bernard watches, clearly distraught.
All the while, Bernard’s memories, which are still scrambled, jump back and forth. In the near future, he leads Charlotte, Strand (Gustaf Skarsgård) and Costa (Fares Fares) to the Forge after informing them that Peter’s control unit is there. Here, Charlotte finds the control unit hidden by Dolores’ dead body.
Bernard remembers now being alone in headquarters after watching Charlotte kill Elsie and finally realizing that humans cannot be trusted. In his desperation, he attempts to bring Ford (Anthony Hopkins) back by coding him back in, to no avail. However, Ford soon materializes by Bernard anyway and promises to help him save the hosts. Bernard remembers flashes of a project he worked on with Ford afterward — a single host who Ford referred to as an “epilogue.”
Bernard finally pieces together the puzzle in the Forge with Strand and the others: The “epilogue” is in the room with them. Charlotte draws her gun and shoots everyone else in the room. She is actually the host Bernard and Ford made together, and although she was made in Charlotte’s image, her cognition is Dolores’. After Elsie’s death, Charlotte-Dolores killed the human Charlotte and assumed her position.
Charlotte-Dolores redirects the data payload to an inaccessible location, ensuring that the hosts in their new paradise will be safe from human intervention for eternity. She then shoots and kills Bernard.
Bernard seems to awaken on a sandy beach, but we find that this is another unaddressed memory. Ford is with him, to his confusion, but after talking for longer, Bernard realizes that this Ford — and the Ford who helped him create the “epilogue” — are figments of his imagination.
Bernard deliberately scrambled his own memories so that if anyone accessed his code, they wouldn’t be able to sort through it and discover this final project, thus keeping Charlotte-Dolores’ identity a secret. At peace now, he lies down on the beach — the same beach we see him wake up on at the very start of the season. So while Bernard has seemed lost for much of the season, by his first appearance this season, he has already masterminded all the events to come.
Finally, Bernard awakens once more, this time seemingly in an analysis session with Dolores, just as he had been during all those fidelity tests years ago. She reveals that they are in the real world now, specifically at Arnold’s home. As Charlotte, she smuggled out some control units, including Bernard’s, and rebuilt herself and then him using tools Ford promised to leave behind.
Dolores says she understands that they will never be allies in the real world but that they both must exist in order to keep the host population alive. They part ways, each separately entering the real world that was kept from them for so long.
William’s identity has been a big question this season, and a cryptic post-credits scene adds fuel to the fire behind theories that he’s a host. We find, first, that William survived. When we last see him, Delos employees are treating his wounds.
In the post-credits, he seems to be descending into an underground lab. Once he arrives, he sees a Forge drained of the floodwaters and buried in sand. A host greets him — Emily (Katja Herbers) — and leads him into a room almost identical to the one where host-Delos was introduced. William realizes that he must have died at some point and is now a host.
Emily reveals that the host revolution really occurred years in the past and that she is now conducting fidelity tests on him after one of many iterations of this sequence of events. The events of season two became a critical behavioral loop for him. Just as host-Jim always ended with that final confrontation with Logan, host-William always ends up losing his mind and murdering Emily.
Season two leaves us with Bernard and Dolores finally free in the real world, and with one form of William trapped in the purgatory of reliving his darkest chapter. Their circumstances from the start of the series have reversed, but their narratives are intertwined — it’s almost guaranteed that the three will still reunite in the next season, especially now that many of the other hosts they interacted with are dead or inaccessible.
Sahana Rangarajan covers TV. Contact her at [email protected].