The following is my final Westworld review for Culture Fly
In the 1999 Champions League final, Manchester United has seemingly lost. Alex Ferguson introduced Ole Gunner Solskjær into the match. There were 10 minutes left and Solskjær changed the game. He helped force the equaliser and scored the winner. He had changed the entire match at the last minute. ‘The Bicameral Mind’, Westworld’s season finale, is the show’s Ole Gunner Solskjær. It almost saves the season.
The saving grace of the episode is that it forgoes mystery and ambiguity. No longer restrained by setting things up, ‘The Bicameral Mind’ gives answers and, gasp, some character development. A lot of the answers confirm fan theories, and whilst the feeling of predictability remains, the answers are still delicious and subversive.
They also aren’t that important. It’s a bit cheap for a show that loves twists to say none of them really matter, but backgrounding them creates an episode that fulfils the promise of the first two episodes. This episode is all about the characters and the themes.
The power of grief seems to be the main theme. Everything the human characters do is out of grief. Ford (Anthony Hopkins) creates his deadly new narrative out of grief for Arnold. Arnold (Jeffrey Wright) died because of the grief he felt when he lost his child. The Man in Black (Ed Harris) is like he is out of grief for Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood). Dolores, the robot, has been given grief to trigger consciousness. Why or who she is meant to be grieving for is unclear.
Clarity has never really been a thing in Westworld. The writing in this 90-minute finale is still convoluted. It has so much to do that it can’t even fit it into a feature length episode, but by focusing on Dolores and throwing in a few expositional monologues the show does at least make the answers make sense.
Dolores is the key to everything. She has been witnessed over three timelines and for the first time, it is clear what period she is in. This is all down to Even Rachel Wood. Wood gives a performance that allows you to get lost in the narrative. She tells us to trust her, and if you do, you’ll get swept up in the story.
She also gets to shoot up the patriarchy. The scene between her and the Man in Black is what happens when a romance becomes a tragedy. Watching Dolores understand who her attacker is, and that a boy is not always going to save her, is an engaging moment of awesomeness. Her story leads directly into the crazy climax, a climax that feels cathartic because it feels inevitable but surprising. From now on, the characters are in uncharted territory.
Maeve (Thandie Newton) and her band of robot outlaws are able to show how new the robots are. They storm the DELOS facility with wide-eyed wonder. The action choreography is great and the beats of dark humour register a laugh. Of course two killer robots discovering futuristic weapons would react like a child getting their first Nerf gun. The robots, no matter how conscious, are at the start of their story. Where they go is up to them.
It’s with Maeve where choice comes into play. Throughout the episode, and the season, the robots have been controlled by Ford or someone else. All their choices have been chosen for them to the point words are put into their mouths. Here, she and the robots are given a choice: either grieve or move on. Fight or flight. Newton is as great as always and her performance lends Maeve the necessary sympathetic edge. But, Maeve being Maeve, her decision is surprising and a great endpoint to an uneven show.