HBO Westworld Season 3 Ending: Did Dolores Win?
HBO's Westworld has wrapped its final season up with a major cliffhanger. What became of the war between hosts and humans, and who made it out alive?
Westworld Season 3 has been pretty different from Seasons 1 and 2 in both tone and structure, but at its heart, it's still the same conflict between humans and hosts that we've been exploring for the last several years. Dolores successfully escaped the park and sought to wreak havoc on the "real world" while Maeve and a handful of newly revealed bad guys worked to stop her--all while we, the viewers, learned some very interesting facts about how Westworld's human world works. Turns out those narrative loops the hosts were trying to free themselves from weren't exactly unique to them--people have been secretly "scripted" (or at least gently course-corrected) onto paths laid out for them by a giant super-AI named Rehoboam, which was designed to ensure the survival of the human race by eliminating risk.
Now, eight episodes later the cards are (mostly) on the table and the truth of Dolores, her allies, her enemies, and Rehoboam's plans have been revealed. Or have they? For all the differences between this season and the last, it just wouldn't be Westworld without a cliffhanger. So with that in mind, we're going to break down the ending bit by bit to see what, exactly, went down. Naturally, there will be major spoilers for Westworld's season finale, Crisis Theory, from here on out so proceed with caution.
Dolores's Plan and Caleb's Choice
The chaos Dolores wrought lead both her and her human ally Caleb (Aaron Paul) straight into the heart of Incite where Dolores is summarily caught by Serac and hooked into Rehoboam with the goal of data mining out the coordinates for the "Sublime" from her consciousness. If you remember back to Serac's early meetings with Maeve, the two of them shared a goal of gaining access to the info stored within the Sublime--Serac, for Delos's "immortality project" archives that held all the information on the park's guests; Maeve for access to the hosts that managed to upload themselves into the system at the end of Season 2 so she could be reunited with her daughter.
But Serac was horrified to learn that the key to the Sublime wasn't, in fact, kept in Dolores's mind--it was stored in Bernard's. So hooking Dolores into Rehoboam only succeeded in giving her access to the entire system, once and for all. Functionally, this "killed" her--though that's certainly up for debate--leaving her body unresponsive beneath Rehoboam's giant glowing ball, but more realistically we can assume this integrated her with Rehoboam's system however briefly, allowing her to be sent somewhere else. Before she was beamed (or burned) out of her body, however, she gave Caleb complete control over Rehoboam's systems, allowing him to use a voice command to have the system delete itself. This, of course, is bad news for Serac, who had been using the system's predictions to puppeteer humanity from the shadows for years to ensure, in his mind, a way to avoid humanity's imminent self-destruction.
Meanwhile, far from the chaos unfolding in Incite's HQ, Bernard tends to a wounded Stubbs before, apparently, uploading himself into the Sublime with the coordinates stored in his head. We see his body power down--but more on that in a second.
Dolores's last moments of consciousness were spent having a strangely telepathic conversation with Maeve where she confessed the reality of her plan. It was never about destroying humanity for revenge, it was always about cutting their strings. Humans have the capacity for horrific cruelty, she knows this first hand, but they created the hosts, and they created them with the ability to see beauty--therefore, Dolores explains, she's chosen to see "the beauty in this world" (hey, remember that from Season 1?) and would like to give humans the choice to do the same. She picked Caleb as her ally not because he was a great weapon for her arsenal, but because she trusted him to make that choice on his own--and, we can assume, that gamble paid off when Caleb had Rehoboam pull its own plug.
All told, it's a strange pivot for Dolores, who spent the season ruthlessly cutting down her enemies (and her own clones) whenever they seemed to step even slightly out of line--but that's Westworld for you. Nothing is ever what it seems, even cold-blooded murder.
The Final Moments
With Rehoboam dead, Caleb and Maeve were able to escape the Incite facility to watch the dawn of their new world--heralded by some very Fight Club-esque skyscraper explosions while Maeve gets her own Season 1 call back. She tells Caleb that in this world, "you can be whoever the f*** you want to be," before the credits begin to roll.
But the story doesn't end there. In a post-credits scene we catch up with William, AKA the Man In Black, who has found himself at Delos Dubai where he believes more hosts are being "bred." There, he finds the host version of Hale--the one who was occupied by the Dolores copy who spent her time slowly going insane as Hale's personality somehow seemed to resurface in her programming. This Hale--or is she still just another Dolores? Or something else entirely?--confronts William with a host version of himself, decked out in a call-back costume to Season 1. This ties in, vaguely, to Season 2's post-credits stinger which featured William--now almost certainly host William--waking up in the far future deep within the Westworld park. We still don't know why or how that happened, or what it means, but at least we know that William hosts are definitely real now.
Host William murders real William before one final abrupt cut away back to Bernard, still wearing the headgear and sitting in the exact position he was left in when accessing the Sublime. He's covered in a thick layer of dust, signifying that a considerable amount of time has passed, as he opens his eyes and lifts his head.
Of course, we have no way of telling just who is actually regaining consciousness here--is it Bernard? Some other host from the Sublime? Something else entirely? The same way we have no way of telling exactly what is going on with the Hale host now. How much of Dolores is left in her? Why make a host version of William? What ended up happening to Stubbs, Maeve, and Caleb? What does Dolores's "new world" actually look like and did Caleb make the right choice?
With any luck, these questions will be addressed in Season 4--which, rest assured, is definitely on the way.
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