Let’s take this one chronologically.
We begin (as best as we can tell) with Arnold and Dolores in a high-rise hotel room somewhere in Asia. Not only is this the first scene within the series to take place outside of the park and its complex, it also confirms the suspicion that hosts were taken out of the park for a variety of reasons.
Once more, we are in a dream. Only the dream described isn’t a reflection on the nature of Dolores and Arnold’s conversations, but more a reaction to what she sees outside. City lights, and technology far beyond anything previously encountered. It’s worth noting that she sees these things and recognises that they are beyond her comprehension: this all predates the programmed response of ‘it doesn’t look like anything to me.’ Instead, we have a new phrase:
‘Have you ever seen anything so full of splendour?’
This sequence – which covers Arnold and a young Ford discussing whether Dolores is ready, ostensibly for investment reasons; a walk through the streets of the ‘real’ world; a trip through Arnold’s under-construction home for his family – deepens our understanding of what’s at play here. From the beginning of the episode, to the end, different characters reinforce the conceit of Westworld the TV show: the humans are not the protagonists. Way back in the pilot, a recurring discussion was about how Dolores sees her world. Her views might have changed, but they’ve also expanded. And her presence here shows us the truth: the real world is her world. And all of the hosts (or at least those deemed worthy). We are watching a story that is not about us.
The best likeminded recent story I can think of is the new Planet of the Apes trilogy, which gradually shifts our sympathies and the story’s focus from the humans to the apes, and their attempt to create their own world.
To Arnold, so many people have stopped seeing the beauty, the wonder, of the world. He wasn’t building the park as an escape, he was – from this early stage – building the inheritors of the world.
‘We’re simply not the ones who deserve it.’
Sometime later, perhaps that very evening, two hosts are sent incognito to meet with Logan and present themselves as the start-up worth investing. This is a glimpse of the future for him, even if it’s a view he doesn’t maintain over the years. The aftermath of a host-saturated orgy is seen by Dolores, undoubtedly one of the many memories she is now accessing, fuelling her hatred of how she and others were used.
Some years later, after young William and Logan’s visit to the park, William has ostensibly usurped Logan in the hierarchy. He visits Sweetwater with Jim Delos, and the two hatch a plan to use the park not as a financially unstable escapist adventure park, but as a place to potentially exploit the guests of the park by accessing their wants, desires, and DNA. Clearly this is crucial to the overall mystery about Westworld’s real purpose, hinted at from the first episode of Season 1.
Again, it’s worth pointing out that Dolores is present during this scene, and the logical extension is she’s now aware of this plan. Piecing together what they’ve show us, we have the portability of the hosts’ ‘brains’, the storage and misuse of guests’ identities, and established precedence of real people recreated as hosts (Arnold to Bernard). Is this the endgame? Does this explain the litany of hosts in the flooded lake at the end of last week’s episode? If this was Delos’ grand plan, what does Dolores hope to do with it now that she is full aware and leading the revolution?
Something doesn’t quite match here. Last season, Elsie and Bernard stumbled on information secretly hidden in a host with the intent of transmitting data out of the park. It is unlikely this is Delos, given they control things. There would be no reason to use such convoluted and devious means. So was this Ford? or Arnold, perhaps? Given Elsie was then taken out of the storyline for stumbling across this information and the presence of Arnold’s coding into the hosts’ current actions, it’s likely that either Ford or Arnold or both had some plan that involved smuggling certain data out of the park, and that this is separate to whatever Delos cooked up with William all those years ago.
Years pass, and Dolores is out of the park again, this time as entertainment at Delos’s retirement. William is now married to Delos’ daughter, with a child of his own. Again piecing together threads, Delos is retiring because of a terminal illness which he was hoping Westworld’s operations could cure. We know from last season that disease and some processes of aging have been rectified by Westworld’s technology, and a guest mentioned to older William how the company had saved his daughter’s life. So there is something going on there which will no doubt be revealed. However, Logan sees none of this work as a positive. They’re all drinking and partying while the human race burns, and they’re the ones who lit the match. Again, we are not the protagonists. We are not the inheritors of the world.
Again some time later, and William now meets with Dolores to gloat over her otherness. Her nothingness. Whereas he has built something that will change the world. Again, we can only speculate, but whatever it was he built, at least two parties in the present time are heading that way.
(I say present time, but present only for this episode. Last week’s timeline of two weeks after the revolution is not present in this episode.)
Older William is intent on making it back to this place (‘This game was meant for you,’ he is told, acknowledgment from Ford that this is something only he can rectify). He sees it now as his biggest mistake, but the whys and wherefores are still unclear.
Headed that way is also Dolores, Teddy, Angela, and their newly acquired band of confederados. Dolores sees this place as a weapon, but also possibly the valley beyond, which has so far come to symbolise some sort of promised land afterlife. Whatever is there, and whatever happens there, is undoubtedly instrumental in the bizarre scenes the Delos security team find a fortnight from now.
Not headed that way is Maeve. She crosses paths with Dolores and it’s clear that there are two different ideologies personified in these two characters. While that’s articulated loudly, I’m not sure if the story has done the work to get them to this point of tension. It’s difficult to see, as a lot of Maeve and Dolores’ motivations have stemmed from internalised developments, upgrades to their consciousness which we can only guess at as we see them act. But given they have had little to do with each other in the series, this scene reads more as signposting to the audience, than as a realistic interaction between two actualised hosts.
This episode felt, structurally and formally, a lot like an episode of Lost. Flashbacks, memories influencing present timelines, and fleshing out the world of the story are all par for the course with that other mystery-driven story. I appreciate how much more we now understand about the park’s creation, and its importance to characters’ current motivations. Hopefully Westworld can generate some stronger character work in the coming episodes to develop more than just satiation in solving mysteries for the audience. A uniting of Dolores and Maeve is integral at some point, given that the latter’s revolution needs to also consider the former’s thoughts on living. How will the hosts continue to survive? Do they age? Can they procreate and populate? Do they want to be Pinnochios, or real boys and girls? And what will they need with them on their island of misfit toys?