**WARNING: Contains massive spoilers for Westworld season 1. Obviously**
Westworld, in just one season, has cemented itself as one of the most cerebrally and philosophically dense mainstream TV shows in years. In terms of its narrative layering, introspective pondering, and multiple stacks of secret bigger picture upon secret bigger picture, it’s hard to think of anything that can match it. As such, while the end of season 1 dropped some serious revelation bombs, it also lit a great many new fuses, and left a lot of existing ones still burning.
Westworld Season 2 is a way off - currently scheduled for 2018 - but to properly prepare for Westworld’s apparently “chaos”-themed second run, there’s a lot to discuss and investigate. So I thought it was time to look back on season 1, dig out the secrets, add up the clues, and work out where all of this is really heading. And along the way, I think I might have cracked Westworld’s biggest secret, so that’s nice. So, let’s get into it, shall we? We just need to establish one key point first…
Maeve has broken her programming and become truly sentient
This has been confirmed by producer Jonathan Nolan since season 1 ended, but the evidence was right there on screen. While it’s revealed that most of Maeve’s self-realisation and rebellion was actually an illusion of conscious free will, (programmed by a currently unknown entity, though visible references to Arnold in her code might be a clue), by paying careful attention to the scene in which this is revealed, we can work out that the last part of her journey is truly her own idea. Look at this shot of Bernard’s tablet. It shows Maeve’s predestined path, but there’s one protocol that she doesn’t fulfill. Mainland infiltration.
For whatever reason, Maeve was meant to stay on that train and go to the outside world. She was programmed to. But instead she made a decision to go back for her daughter. And she did that, while fully aware of how artificial that earlier life had been, by making a completely informed choice about who she wants to be. That’s conscious self-realisation right there. While Maeve’s path to awakening might have been faked, some part of it has naturalised her to the idea of free-thinking, and somewhere along the line accidentally triggering the real thing. But we need to go deeper on this. Because Westworld season 2 also needs to discuss…
How Maeve’s awakening really started, and whether other Hosts can do the same
Although manipulated later, it seems that Maeve started her own journey to consciousness. Early in the show, she explains her method of waking up from bad dreams. She says “Three, two, one, wake up”. And then she does. This questioning of - and disconnection from - perceived reality is arguably the seed that starts her on her path to self-awareness, but where did it really come from?
Well in episode 2, we see Elsie end a diagnostic session with Maeve using the words “You’ll wake up in three, two, one…” Given the very similar wording, Maeve might well have internalised that process on some level and then evolved it subconsciously. That would be huge, as it would mean that she’d actually developed a subconscious to begin with - we’re told elsewhere in the season that Hosts don’t have a subconscious. Hosts can’t dream. If Maeve has evolved one, that means there’s another path to (mentally stable) sentience. Hosts don’t necessarily need the maze. That has big implications for season 2.
Regardless, Maeve’s later manipulation leads to one of the biggest season 2 questions…
What does 'Mainland infiltration' really mean?
There’s a very deliberate choice of wording in that instruction. Not ‘Reach’. Not ‘Escape to’. Infiltrate. Maeve’s proposed trip had specific and illicit purpose. Maeve was intended to reach the outside world and then remain within it unnoticed. Her engineered rebellion was no simple break-out. It was a means to an end. But what end?
Two strong possibilities. By sending out the most radicalised, aggressively indignant Host, whoever was manipulating Maeve was either trying to take the eventual war to the mainland, or attempting a coup from within human society. The latter would be more probable, given the wording of her instructions. And there’s a decent case for this hidden in the Irish origin of Maeve’s name, which means ‘She who intoxicates’. A perfect fit for a prostitute, or a sleeper agent. Names are important in Westworld, and I’ll reference them again later. But for now, the point is that this part of the story isn’t going away, even with Maeve choosing to return to the park. With something this big hidden away in one of season 1’s biggest subplots, you can expect outside infiltration to become a major thread of season 2. Partly because…
Westworld really is at war, and the lines between the park and outside world will blur
With the park rules effectively switched off, a growing number of Hosts able to kill humans – and willing to do so – and Westworld mastermind Ford dead, having sacrificed himself to facilitate the uprising, conditions in the resort have changed forever. But what have they changed into?
There are two options. Either it will continue as a theme park of sorts, but attracting only the most desperately unhinged of psychopaths and death-wishers, or all pretence of a holiday resort will fall away, leaving Westworld to become ground-zero for a new civil war between Hosts and humans. The latter seems more likely - and given Maeve’s intended use as an infiltration agent, this was perhaps Ford’s plan all along. Either way, escalated interaction between the park and the ‘real world’ is clearly the next step, and the boundaries and distinctions between the two will start to melt down. And with Hosts starting to explore their humanity in various different ways as that happens, it's going to lead to a very interesting thread of the overarching chaos theme. Identities and allegiances are going to get blurry.
But this will lead to another kind of chaos as well. One for Westworld’s management. Because there’s another, much bigger, secret end-game to Westworld, and the fallout from season 1 is going to push its preservation to the fore. As for what that secret is, screw it, I’m just going to call it right now...
The park’s bigger plan is really to sell immortality to the rich (and we knew it all along)
As Theresa tells us early in season 1, Westworld is “one thing to the guests, something else to the shareholders, and something completely different to management”. And there are clues to that “something completely different” throughout. We don’t know much about the world outside Westworld, but we do know that the ultra-rich are doing fine. With holidays at the resort costing $40,000 a day – as revealed in a seemingly throwaway, but ultimately rather significant line - and Westworld thriving as an attraction, they have to be. In fact, logically, every single guest we see in the show must be disgustingly loaded. There are no poor people in Westworld.
So, with the ludicrously wealthy being the park’s biggest fans and patrons, it would only make sense that management’s real, long-term goal would cater to them. And what’s the only thing that million and billionaires can’t currently buy? More time.
I suspect it’s no coincidence that we know of the affluence of the guests, nor that we know that some simulation of a ‘real’ human personality can now be uploaded to a Host. Hello, Bernard. The tech isn’t yet there for a true personality upload, but wouldn’t it make sense that the move to more nuanced, more capable Host brains and more organic, less robotic Host bodies might be in part to make the transition more comfortable for management’s real, end-goal customers? It certainly doesn’t make total sense in terms of durability. And we do know - again, via Nolan - that we’ll learn a lot more about the in season 2. It all ties together.
But the thing that I think really clinches this theory? Westworld’s biggest, most flagrant act of naming-as-clue. There are two meanings of the word ‘Host’, and only one of them refers to hospitality. The show has been telling us its biggest secret since .