Westworld showrunners talk about shocking season 2 finale and what’s to come

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THIS ARTICLE CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE WESTWORLD SEASON 2 FINALE, “THE PASSENGER”

After a twisting, confusing, and jaw-dropping batch of episodes, Westworld’s second season finale – titled “The Passenger” – aired on Sunday evening (locally, last night) and it was… well, twisting, confusing, and jaw-dropping. In other words, everything we’ve come to love about Westworld.

However, you would be forgiven if you find yourself especially lost after the events of this season once the credits rolled, or rather after the credits rolled (more on that later), on the sophomore showing of HBO’s acclaimed sci-fi drama. I’m not going to do a beat-by-beat recap of everything that transpired as that would require me to break out some stationery to line up the broken, flip-flopping timelines we experienced from Bernard’s unreliable point-of-view this season and I like my brain intact, thank you very much.

That mind-melting approach to the narrative was fully intentional, by the way. Showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy have been chatting to EW and THR respectively about season two and its finale, and revealed that they always wanted it to be a bit confusing.

NOLAN: “The first movie that I worked on [Memento] was told backwards, right? I’ve always had a great faith in the capacity of an audience to not only be able to track complicated non-linear storytelling but often to embrace it and enjoy it. Those are the people we’re making this show for.

The first season is rooted in Dolores’ perception of reality that we only understand too late is nonlinear. In the second season, with the audience’s understanding of that, we thought we could play with our cards up, showing the non-linearity of Bernard. In fact, the second season is a little more straightforward but it is playing out in two distinct timelines — two and a half if you count the post-credits sequence, and complete with flashbacks. It’s not necessarily for everyone but all of these choices were rooted in the protagonists’ understanding of the reality around them, and centering this season on Bernard’s broken mind as he tries to navigate through the debris of memory. Subsequent seasons will be structured in… different ways.”

As for those subsequent seasons, don’t be surprised if they don’t contain any stories in the Sublime – that virtual paradise that exists on the other side of “The Door”. Dolores changes the coordinates of where she sends the data for the Sublime with all the hosts’ consciousnesses and only she knows where. And that’s the way she wants to keep it, to ensure their safety.

JOY: “I think we have to take Dolores at face value. It’s locked away. Humans can’t access it anymore. They’re gone. They’re in a place we can’t touch. There was an interesting corollary to this for me. Even religions and mythologies deal with this, an idea of a heaven or a nirvana where you don’t have to be attached to your body anymore. You can be pure and free in that way. It’s a sort of digital afterlife for them. The stakes and the finality of it are important. It’s not something where I think the humans can type it up and get back in and start messing with them anymore. It’s what so many hosts sacrificed so much for, to see their kind to this safe space.”

While upcoming seasons may not see more of the Sublime, we will be seeing a huge chunk of the real world though. As we saw, Dolores managed to escape the confines of the park with a handbag full of six other host consciousnesses by having her mind transplanted into a recently constructed host body copy of Hale. Oh and she did it with the help of Stubbs, who totally confirms himself to have been a host secretly working under Ford’s command to assist her this whole time, and some technowizard magic from Ford to fool the neck reader into thinking she’s human since they’re still “in a place where the systems are all code.”

Those were not the biggest revelations of Dolores’ exodus though, as we see that she’s set up base in Arnold’s old house in the real world and used the host-printer there to bring back Bernard whom she “killed” earlier in the episode so that she could get his consciousness out with her. Surprisingly though, she’s also printed a new Dolores body for herself but still kept the Hale host body for… well, we have no idea who’s in the driver’s seat there. But we know it’s not two Doloreses… Maybe.

JOY: “Ehhh, not really. The question of who’s who and what we’re looking at is something we’re excited to play with. We’re excited to withhold a little from the audience but … it’s complicated.”

NOLAN: “It’s going to be a whole new world. And we technically have three [hosts], because Hale is out there, too, or someone who certainly looks like Tessa Thompson! We’ll come to see who’s really there and what that character is in the future.”

Joy continued by explaining that this “new world” they refer to is the real world but one in which a new intelligent species is essentially being born into, which has always been one of the goals of the show.

JOY: “This series is about reinvention and scope. The first season was a more intimate look at the park from within the loops. In the second season, the hosts broke out of their loops and were able to explore more of the park. In the third season, they’ve broken out of the park itself. We’re in terra incognita. From the beginning, when Jonah and I were thinking about the series as far back as the pilot, we knew we wanted to explore other worlds in the park, and we also knew the one world we would start to see little glimpses of throughout the first two seasons was the real world, and that we would get there eventually — and when we did, it would be a whole new experience.”

With this focus on the real world though, does this mean the end of a narrative set in the parks? Besides for Westworld, and the recently revealed Shogun World and The Raj, we know that DELOS developed three other worlds. Will they just be forgotten now?

JOY: “I don’t necessarily think that we’ve seen the last of these artificial worlds that are central to the concept of our series as a whole. But the major lens that we will have is going to be the real world. If the park does emerge and come back, we would plan on explaining how that could be, and why.”

And now onto the finale’s biggest shock, which some viewers may have missed as it came after the credits. Those who stuck around were rewarded with a humdinger though: Ed Harris’ Man in Black is actually a host! Well, kind of.

JOY: “Within it, just to clarify, we don’t necessarily say he’s a host. A host refers to a creature like Dolores, someone who is pure cognition, someone who is made up of nothing and has a fabricated body as well. It’s definitely a sequence that’s indicative of a direction we’re going to.

Unlike the first season, we played cards up with that all season; we knew we were lost in time, because we were very openly in Bernard’s perspective as he struggled with it. But the one thing we did pop in that did jump out of that time sequence was the storyline with the Man in Black. For the majority of the season, we’re seeing him in the same timeline as everybody else. He’s in the park as hell has unleashed. He goes a bit mad as he thinks about his past, as he journeys into the Valley Beyond. He kills his daughter, not sure whether she’s his daughter or a host. Ultimately, we see him on the shore, as Hale — or “Halores,” as we like to call her — leaves the park. We see that he has survived that final arm injury he’s had. That rounds out that timeline.

What we see in the end recontextualizes a little bit of that. All of that did happen in that timeline, but something else has occurred, too. In the far, far future, the world is dramatically different. Quite destroyed, as it were. A figure in the image of his daughter — his daughter is of course now long dead — has come back to talk to him. He realizes that he’s been living this loop again and again and again. The primal loop that we’ve seen this season, they’ve been repeating, testing every time for what they call “fidelity,” or perhaps a deviation. You get the sense that the testing will continue. It’s teasing for us another temporal realm that one day we’re working toward, and one day will see a little bit more of, and how they get to that place, and what they’re testing for.”

Joy went on to confirm that this version of the MIB is more akin to the James Delos “host” we saw earlier in the season, which was the first failed attempt at trying to house human consciousness in an artificial body. But don’t expect to see this future storyline anytime soon as the real MIB and the rest of the cast in the current timeline – the few that made it out “alive” – are enough for now.

JOY: “Yeah, we just get that it’s not his original incarnation. That version of him that was “human” would be somewhere lying dead, and this is some other version of himself now. He doesn’t quite understand what.

I think that storyline is something we’ll get to eventually. But season three, the main story will not be leaping that far forward. I’m really curious creatively to see what happens to Bernard and Dolores, now that they’ve finally earned their freedom. I think we’ll see a lot more of that.”

As for the future, Nolan explains that besides for not having a release date pegged for season 3 yet, they’re not even 100% sure as to which of the cast will be returning. And based on the nature of the show’s practically immortal characters, that could be anybody.

NOLAN: “We’ve had some interesting conversations. It’s a large ensemble cast and sadly we’re saying goodbye to some people at the end of this season. But as always with this show, who remains and who doesn’t is something we’re having a lot of fun with. There’s going to be a bit of a wait for a third season but we want to surprise and hopefully delight people with the way things progress.

We’re still talking it through, honestly, with our friends at HBO, and with the cast and the crew. We want to take the time to make every season as exciting as possible. And we have an enormous challenge going into season 3 with the worlds that we’re building going forward. We want to make sure we have the time to do that right.”

Hopefully, by the time season 3 eventually does get here – and remember there was a near two-year gap between the first and second seasons – we will have managed to go figure out some of the remaining mysteries. Like, what happened to the human backup data after Bernard interrupted the deletion? Why did Dolores also want to delete the Sublime to allow the hosts to be free when essentially doing so meant that she and Bernard were the only hosts left alive? Why did Bernard think that bringing Dolores back as Hale would make her change her mind? Why did Dolores need to keep pretending she was Hale while helping Strand find Abernathy’s “Key” when she was the one who left it in the Forge in the first place? And lastly, the biggest mystery for me, why does the Forge need a cooling system capable of flooding an entire valley? OVERCOMPENSATION MUCH?!

Last Updated: June 26, 2018

Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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