Spoilers ahead for a seriously intense Westworld Season 1 finale. Do not read on until you've watched.
In Westworld, all roads lead back to Dolores, and that's fine. The farmer's daughter and one-time love of William's life is the key to Arnold's maze and in turn the secret to unlocking true consciousness in the hosts — but she isn't the only person on that journey. Over the course of Season 1 we've watched Maeve swiftly come to terms with the knowledge that her life is an elaborately-constructed lie, that she and the hosts are nothing more than pawns of the "gods" below ground.
But while this week's finale, 'The Bicameral Mind,' promised to see Maeve execute her plan to escape the park's confines and explore the wider world, what it actually delivered was a curveball. The revelation that every aspect of Maeve's escape plan — her journey to self-awareness, reprogramming her own attribute matrix, her manipulation of Westworld's deliciously pathetic lab nerds Felix and Sylvester — was in fact the product of her code being altered, presumably by Ford (or, perhaps, by Charlotte Hale, if she were clever than we've been lead to believe), rendered her journey of self-discovery just another deception and helped to explain why this show has placed the most focus on Delores all along, even when Maeve appeared to be advancing at a faster pace.
So for a huge Maeve fan like myself, the realization that her journey, like pretty much everything else in Westworld, was designed by the park's Svengali and did not represent consciousness at all felt a touch disappointing. Maeve herself looked equally dispirited, refusing to hear Bernard out as he explained what had been programmed to happen once her train out of the park reached the mainland. But nothing in this show happens without reason, and that detail — that Maeve would successfully leave Westworld — would later prove to be a game-changer.
As she sat in her blandly luxurious seat waiting to depart the terminal, Maeve watched a mother interact with her daughter, and the memories of her time as a "mother" and the desire to discover what became of her daughter overpowered both her knowledge that her history wasn't real and the escape she'd been programmed to execute. Now, armed with intel on her daughter's whereabouts (courtesy of Felix, whom Maeve seemed borderline fond of when she charmingly described him as a "terrible" human — honestly, I'm low-key shipping those two together), Maeve is truly off-course for the first time.
More 'Westworld' Reading:
- 10 Burning Questions After That Big 'Westworld' Finale
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As Arnold tells Dolores at the beginning of the episode, "consciousness isn't a journey upward, but a journey inward... every choice could bring you closer to the centre." Choices represent freedom, and the inability to make choices, to deviate from their script, is what keeps the hosts inside their prison. But now, finally, Maeve is making choices, empowered by the very thing Arnold had always known would help his creations develop consciousness — pain, loss, emotional connections.
So what's next? Now that she's broken with her destiny, Maeve will probably find it considerably harder to continue manipulating the likes of Felix in order to avoid the same fate as Clementine before she finds her daughter. In truth, though, I'm more invested in Maeve's fate than in what the future holds for Dolores, even as they take alternate paths toward the same destination. What Dolores achieved in the 35 years since her creation, Maeve has achieved in one, and that makes her impossible not to root for. In Season 2, we'll find out exactly how far Maeve's heightened survival instinct is really turned up.
Did Maeve make a mistake in getting off the train, or will she ultimately get out of the park in one piece and introduce sentient A.I. to the outside world?