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What to Make of Westworld’s Game-Changing Finale

Dolores and maeve look at the beauty in westworld

**Spoilers for Westworld’s season 3 finale lie within**

Usually, the shocks and thrills of a Westworld season finale come in the form of revealed identities or timeline shenanigans, but this season of the HBO sci-fi drama has steered away from the mind games and into a far more human story. And thus last night season three finale relied far more on emotion and sacrifice for its impact and for the most part it was successful. Instead of the regular sentiment after a Westworld finale where we ask “what just happened?” we’re left asking “will what happened really matter?”

First up, a LOT happened in this episode. The world is falling into chaos and Dolores has seemingly appointed Caleb the leader of some sort of resistance against control by the machines and mega-corporations, but before he can do anything with the position, he and Dolores need to get to Incite and Rehoboam and there are a lot of foes in their way.

One obstacle is Charlores, the copy of Dolores in Charlotte Hale’s body who has been so traumatized by the losses and acts Dolores prime made her endure. She’s now gone rogue and is taking matters into her own hands. I’m not sure how I feel about this whole storyline, even though it’s given us some great moments from Tessa Thompson. It feels so weird that this version of Dolores is so murderous when all the other versions are either docile or have hope for humanity like Dolores prime. It feels like this was all just set up for a new “villain” that didn’t lead to much … except maybe robots taking over the world.

The other, much more satisfying obstacle Dolores had to overcome was Maeve and Serac. In another absolutely great fight following their blow out last week, Maeve and Dolores spared both physically and philosophically about the merits of free will and the nature of self. Maeve believed Dolores wanted to create a world in her image, but Dolores contended that every host is a copy of her in essence and  (as we saw with Charlotte) it’s their lives and choices that make them individuals. And then in the big moment, Dolores showed Maeve mercy.

It was an act of compassion that paid off, as Maeve was able to (thanks to a shutdown command from Charlores) bring Dolores Prime into Incite so she could be hooked to Rehoboam, and basically be slowly killed. In a truly beautiful scene, Maeve and Dolores met in a simulation, Dolores’s last memory. There, Dolores repeated her refrain from the premiere of the show that some chose to see the ugliness in this world, the disarray, but then Dolores chooses to see the beauty.

I loved this scene, and it was an emotional and affecting goodbye to a character that’s been at the center of the series. While we may see other versions of Dolores, the series has shown us that individual consciousness and self are not the same as a copy of memories or behavior patterns. It’s consciousness, the choices, and, most importantly, the capacity for choice that makes a person who they are.

It’s weird to think of Westworld without Dolores at the center of the maze, but it does give me hope for the recently announced fourth season. While this episode could have functioned as a pretty good capper to the entire series, I’m glad that we’ll have more in the future if only to see how Maeve and Bernard step up more.

Maeve, of course, switched sides and took down Serac to save Caleb. And Dolores’ final act was giving Caleb control over Rehoboam. Dolores went through a lot to find and manipulate Caleb, but ultimately it was clear she “chose him” for a reason. He not only could make choices, but he showed the potential to make moral choices and so it was fitting he was given the choice of how humanity would proceed. He chose destruction with the hope a new world would rise from the ashes, as Maeve hopes too.

And… about that new world and Bernard… Much of the complaints this season have been about how many of the beloved characters we had left were sidelined, often to make room for stuff regarding Caleb. It stung a bit to see actors of color like Jeffrey Wright and Thandie Newton get shuffled around to make room for a white man to be ordained as the savior of mankind. Bernard, in particular, hasn’t had much to do, but at least in this episode he had a moving conversation with Arnold’s widow, played by the wonderful Gina Torres.

It was another scene about memory, and how those we lose endure only as long as we remember them. Access to memory seemed to be a very literal thing for Bernard as it turned out Dolores had hidden the key to the Valley Beyond in his mind, not hers. He ended the episode seemingly looking into the valley … then awoke at the end in the distant future, possibly after human civilization has crumbled.

Again, what does this all mean for next season? Will we be on a bifurcated timeline again, with Maeve and Caleb set against the Host version of the Man in Black and Charlores, while Bernard works in the future to rebuild? Will the Lawrence copy of Dolores and the other hosts we barely saw this season figure in more? And will we ever see Evan Rachel Wood on the series again?

I think the answer to the final question is yes, but it will be a while before we find out. Even so, the version of Dolores we’ve followed so long is gone and it’s bittersweet. It was beautiful that she died finding some semblance of peace, and that Dolores, who has been both murderous and naive and who represented the first successful AI to achieve consciousness, ultimately saw the beauty in the world, and died to give it a chance to exist in freedom.

(image: HBO)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.