‘The Passenger’ was the frustrating ending to an increasingly frustrating season, but not without some highlights.
So, everything that had been set up in the previous nine episodes has played out and audiences were brought back to the present after learning the truth behind the season’s long running mystery. Honestly, it was not worth it because much like in the first season, Westworld’s mysteries are far too drawn out.
Frankly Westworld is so obsessed with its own story structure and formalism to such a degree that it harms the show. Its non-linear structure slows down the series narrative in unnecessary ways and the plot twists take precedence over character. I watch this show for the characters and they are, in my opinion, this series biggest asset.
Maeve and Akecheta were the best part of this episode as each character achieved their final goals and it was incredibly moving. Their storylines are in sync with the show’s larger themes and are a perfect exploration of them. The characters are what make this show enjoyable, not its formalism. William’s flashback episode was amazing because it focused on his character, whereas the eight episodes that precede it just seem to position him in place for his big moment.
The episode’s ending reveals that in the far future the man in black is now a host, one forced to live out his days running the loop of everything the human version of the character experienced this season. It plays excellently into the series themes of the nature of reality as the viewer is left wondering if anything they saw happen with his character was part of a larger narrative or not.
That is a really good idea, but it came far too late as viewers were forced to slog through a dull and seemingly pointless storyline with the character this season. It is great that William’s story was building to this reveal, but it does not make his part of season any more enjoyable in hindsight. Where this fits into my problem with the show’s plot structure is that for the majority of the season, William’s storyline went nowhere because they needed to save it for this last twist in the narrative.
We have finally left Westworld as Dolores has finally arrived in the human world with plans to protect the sublime. She has changed her plans for the human made construct and has decided to protect the hosts and the cradle. This was an abrupt change for her character that felt rushed. I would have preferred that Dolores self-destructive path end in tragedy verses a revelation. The entirety of the season seemed to convey that Dolores was a poison, so seeing her become more constructive towards the end just felt odd.
Dolores’ ending scene with Bernard was also disappointing as the show never makes it clear why the hosts need both of them to survive in the human world. If anything, the second season has proved the exact opposite to be true and the finale never elaborates on this point. Dolores has proven to be just as Machiavellian as Delos so this ending seems poorly set up and does not even follow the series internal story logic. Hopefully season three makes this unnecessary exchange clearer.
Despite my issues with the show’s formalism, this episode did show the series willingness to reinvent itself. Now that the park is gone, what form will season three take to continue this narrative?
One other aspect of ‘The Passenger’ that has great potential in the finale was the notion of autonomy in relation to Dolores. She is by far my favorite character in the series and it is in her that the show succeeds where it fails with William. Dolores believes she has autonomy and that she is running her own narrative, but she uses a creation unit left by Ford. In the end she is operating within his larger plan for the hosts as well, so is she truly free?
I loved this season when it started and then my engagement began to falter as time went on — with this finale not doing much to remedy the situation. Now that the series has left the park, hopefully it can also leave behind its overly complicate plot structure. Blade Runner told a similar story to Westworld with greater depth and no need for juggling different timelines. When a show has interesting themes and great characters there is no need to be pretentious.