Westworld: The Passenger, Review

***SPOILER WARNING***

If you have not seen the tenth episode of season 2 The Passenger and don’t want the show spoiled then please turn away. If spoilers don’t bother you or you have seen the episode then welcome.

Welp, that just happened.

The season finale of Westworld was jam packed with dizzying content at a gargantuan 90 minutes. I’m not complaining but I can see why some people would be turned off by the shows lofty aims. Trying to figure out what the hell is going on in Westworld has always been the sport of the show. But as Season 2 pulled into its final stretch, the plot of Westworld leveled-up from difficult to nearly impossible. The Passenger, in my mind, ranks as one of the shows most confusing episodes but it’s also one of the most rewarding.

There’s so much that happens that running through it all would be a disservice; instead I’ll do my best to point out some of the highlights and problems. But yes we will talk about the post credits scene.

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PHOTO SOURCE: Westworld, HBO

One of the big revelations in “The Passenger” is the nature of the episode’s title: It’s the term Bernard and AI Logan come up with to describe humans. After millions of iterations and experiments, the system that William bought to figure out the nature of humanity came to the conclusion that we’re essentially passive creatures going through the motions established by the limited algorithms in our brains. Free will is an illusion humans invented to make ourselves feel better—in reality, we’re all just passengers, moving from point to point until we die.

The notion of free will took center stage as did the recurring theme of ‘storytelling’ to the point that Westworld went out of its way to make sure you were paying attention. AI Logan says “At first I was seduced by the stories they told themselves about who they are.” Akecheta, at the Valley Beyond: “We have died many times. If we die once more, at least the story was our own.” Dolores, at the Forge: “I’ve read humanity’s story. So now I’m erasing them.” Dolores, a few scenes later: “We were born slaves to their stories, and now we have the chance to write our own.” Ford to Bernard: “Is this the end of your story? Or do you want your kind to survive?”

It was pretty cool to see The Forge and even cooler to step inside its mainframe via Dolores and Bernard. It was essentially a tour through James Delos’ memories led by an AI version of Logan. The final scene of the tour between James and Logan was surprisingly moving. Essentially, all of the versions of Delos that were created always came back to that final scene where he rejects his son and offers him no help. Logan, we’re told, would go on to die of overdose not long after. This was just another instance of the show turning down the puzzlebox stuff for a moment to yield maximum character effect. Peter Mullan was a great addition as Delos this season, and the decision to bring back Ben Barnes as Logan yielded surprising rewards.

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PHOTO SOURCE: Westworld, HBO

While inside The Forge we learn that the Valley Beyond is a real place where code can go to live forever without being hampered by their physical bodies. It’s a heaven of consciousness. At the same time, it is a metaphor for our real world. No matter how you look at it, the Valley Beyond is a door to a new world.

Dolores is dismissive of this as just another cage but Bernard makes the case that its for the best. He vows to stop her and he actually does by shooting her point blank and killing her. Unfortunately, the damage is being is done as prior to her death she begins to flood the forge and the valley. Bernard is able to override this and salvage whats left of the host data before making his way out.

In The Valley we see Ake leading the hosts to the door which presents itself (thanks to Dolores and Bernard) as a rift that only they can see. It was also the stage for a showdown between Clementine and everyone else. Seeing her zombified self go through the crowd and turn everyone against each other was both mesmerizing and terrifying.

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PHOTO SOURCE: Westworld, HBO

The culmination of Maeve’s daughterquest was where the plot delivered best in the finale. Seeing Maeve do her wizard thing one more time was satisfying, and her ultimate death felt entirely appropriate to the arc that she has been on since the beginning of the series. The moment when Maeve saw the wave of Clementine-induced madness coming and then, instead of warning everyone, cut to the front of the line while scanning the crowd for her daughter was the most Maeve thing ever. That she sacrificed herself in order for her daughter to live was touching.

Meanwhile present day Bernard is still being interrogated by Strand and Hale as they make it to The Forge. The big reveal here is that Hale double crosses Delos and kills them all, only she’s revealed to actually be Dolores! We learn that after Bernard left the Forge in the previous timeline he created a host Hale with Dolores’ mind in it (who kills real Hale).

It was good to see that in the leadup to this Bernard got some agency. The whole season we’ve seen him essentially be Ford’s puppet or wandering almost aimlessly trying to figure out his memories. Its revealed that after he deleted Ford he simply re-imagined him so as to build up the courage to proceed with his plan. Unfortunately for him Hale 2.0 is still Dolores and she kills Bernard.

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PHOTO SOURCE: Westworld, HBO

Towards the end we see Hale 2.0 leave the park but not before a meet with Stubbs. Here we get an interesting conversation where Stubbs reveals that he was hired by Ford himself and given specific instructions from the outset. He doesn’t say what those were but implies that he’s in on the robot uprising. There’s also a subtle hint that he too may be a robot when he says “I guess I just stick to the role Ford gave me”.

Hale 2.0 leaves the park with at least 5 control units in her purse (who might those be?) and notices the dead bodies of Maeve and Emily being lined up. She makes it outside and to Arnold’s house.

Then Bernard awakes and we see Dolores in her body and we’re told that she’s re-created him and that this version is trial 11, 927. She tells him that they need each other to ensure the survival of their kind, but not as friends or allies. It creates an entirely new conflict for the future, one that plays off of archetypes from civil rights movements of past (man of war versus man of peace) in potentially fascinating ways.

Then the post credits scene:

Prior to this the last we see of the MIB is him lose his fingers at the hands of Dolores (no pun intended). He then makes his way down the elevator into The Forge but that’s the last we see of him. Then in the post credits scene we see that he makes it there only to find that its in ruins and covered completely in dust and sand. There he’s greeted by Emily and William gives the best line of the night: “Ah fuck, I’m already in a thing aren’t I?” Emily assures him he’s not in a simulation but rather he’s in ” your world, or what’s left of it.” She leads him to an area still in good repair and apparently in use – an observation chamber, like the one in which he tested the failed hosts of James Delos. Emily begins a baseline interview, the final step, to verify “fidelity”.

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PHOTO SOURCE: Westworld, HBO

What I gather is that William indeed appears to eventually become a host running loops to test fidelity, and I’d guess there’s one key moment in his recurring narrative: his gunning down of Emily. Which would present a creepy parallel with his father-in-law’s virtual-reality loops. The Emily we see here is also certainly a host since she’s very well kept and doesn’t call him dad but William. It also must take place in the future since the whole place is in ruins.

And so what of the park now? Wasn’t this a show about a recreational outlet for the rich and depraved? Surely the park will have some role to play in future seasons, and the company will have a voice in what happens. But the shift from a self-contained island to the mainland city recalls “King Kong,” and even “Blade Runner”. What was once a controlled genetic experiment, ostensibly intended for immersive theme-park fun, has become a threat to the human race, which has now been infiltrated by creatures that can hasten its demise.

All in all this was a good episode but one basically for the diehard fans. Casual viewers I imagine will be put off by the grandiose nature of it all.

It also felt like a series finale with various ‘endings’ and payoffs but the show is renewed for a third season so its interesting to see what direction they take the show from here.

Diagnositics

  • Lee got a nice send off by by Maeve and company some time. He recites Hector’s lines from season 1 as he’s shot multiple times by Delos men. Although he didn’t really buy them a lot of time
  • Maeve will presumably be back next season since Feliz and Sylverster are tasked with seeing which hosts they can salvage.
  • Where does Dolores (inside Hale 2.0) send the signal of all the hosts at the end? She says it’s someplace where they’ll never be found; is that another tease?
  •  The transformation of Elsie from comic relief in Season 1 to a real character in Season 2 was abrupt, but worth it. Elsie’s death here felt like it had stakes.

That’s it for this season, I hope you enjoyed these reviews. Make sure to keep it locked on TGON for all your news, reviews and analysis.

 

 

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