Westworld: “The Bicameral Mind” Season 1 Finale Review

Photo Credit:http://www.ign.com/articles/2016/12/05/westworld-the-bicameral-mind-review

Let’s just get one thing out of the way. “The Bicameral Mind,” like much of Westworld, is stunningly crafted and thematically rich. The pacing is pretty much pitch-perfect while the brilliant editing and beautiful score elevate the finale’s most dramatic scenes to heights the written narrative could only hope to reach. Speaking strictly on a technical level, this episode solidifies that Westworld can match Game of Thrones and other great series without batting an eye. But the finale doesn’t fix the show’s biggest problems, even making them significantly worse in one major case.

There are a number of major twists in “The Bicameral Mind,” but the one that matters the most is the reveal of Ford’s narrative. Turns out that Dr. Ford agrees with Arnold after all. He believes the hosts are alive in some manner, and has thus been writing them to start to realize it themselves. That includes Maeve, the one character Westworld really had going for it. Every move she made since truly “awakening” midway through the season has been by Ford’s design, which means that Maeve isn’t really Maeve, but the Maeve that Ford made her become. In Ford’s argument that the hosts are in fact alive, he continues to control them, ripping them of their ability to live. It’s a fascinating character defect for Ford, but it really makes any time we spent supposedly watching the hosts start to gain consciousness feel wasted.

The final moments, where Dolores resumes her Wyatt persona (truly the most shocking twist of the finale), kills Ford, and starts firing her gun into a crowd of humans, are assuredly exciting. The hosts are finally showing signs of life and fighting against their human overlords. It’d just be much more rewarding if a human wasn’t pulling the strings behind them. The same can be said for Maeve’s escape alongside Felix, Hector, and Armistice. There’s a lot of exciting action, but one of the show’s characters already wrote the ending. There’s no difference in Maeve snapping the control panel when Bernard reads off her next few actions to the hosts saying “Doesn’t look like anything to me,” when they see something that doesn’t fit in with the park. This makes many of the finale’s more exciting bits fall flat, and a lot of time is spent on these moments.

Luckily, one of the show’s more predictable reveals also takes up a large chunk of time in the first half. The Man in Black is officially an older version of William, something viewers have been predicting for weeks. This reveal is satisfying, even though we practically knew it was coming, because it completes a strong season-long arc for both young William and his older counterpart. We learn that William owns the park, but that seeing Dolores forget him after dying set him on a course for darkness. It’s a really great moment to see young William slowly put the black hat on his head before he sends Logan off. It’s also great when he appears to be delighted after a host shoots him and his blood actually comes out. In seeing that the hosts finally have the capability to fight back, thanks to Ford, William’s quest for a real challenge is over. In that same quest, he may have just aided a new species in coming into their own.

This is one of Westworld‘s most satisfying moments, which makes sense, as William is an actual human being with free will (if you believe in that sort of thing). The hosts, including Maeve and Dolores, sadly don’t come with the same satisfaction. Instead, the show tries to get away with getting us to care about characters with no bearing on their actions. This has been the show’s fatal flaw, a contradictory aspect that nearly ruins the show. Westworld may be stunning to behold, and it’s ideas are grand, but with nothing to latch onto, the twists are as hollow as the journeys the guests go on in the park. The second season has serious potential to remedy this, with Ford dead and the hosts having to live beyond his programming. It’s just a shame that season one made some wrong turns while on the scenic route. Finale Grade: B / Season Grade: B

By Matt Dougherty

 

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