Dolores has brought everything full circle. In the Season 4 finale of Westworld, "Que Será, Será,” nearly every single character arc in Westworld is wrapped-up in the most Westworld way possible. The show hasn’t topped any of its infamous twists, but it has provided an ending to Season 4, which could (and probably should) serve as the cap to the entire series.
Here’s why things ended the way they did in the Westworld Season 4 finale, and also why it feels like Season 5 would be superfluous, even if it did happen. Spoilers ahead!
Westworld Season 4 ending, explained
It’s pretty easy to sum up exactly how Westworld ended things in the Season 4 finale. Everyone either died outright, was implied to have died in the near future, or was uploaded to the virtual afterlife “the Sublime.” In most cases, if you squint, you could convince yourself that all of these things were true of all the characters, even if we didn’t see it happen. Melodramatically, after an 11th-hour resurrection, Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) ends the episode by removing her own pearl from her robot head and crushing it with her robot hands. William (Ed Harris) had his robot pearl crushed by Charlotte right before that, while the Host version of Caleb (Aaron Paul) just stopped working, so his death was kind of like running out of batteries.
Clementine (Angela Sarafyan), who has been on the periphery this season, was suddenly back and ready to murder, also was killed. This might feel random and insignificant, but chronologically, Clementine has been in the Westworld mythos for a long time, making her death, kind of like the real death of the show. (In the very first episode of Season 1, “The Original,” it was made clear that Clementine was one of the oldest Hosts in the park.)
Who else dies? Again, the answer is probably everyone. Because the sound signals from the towers were still driving humans and Hosts to murder each other, Westworld makes us believe that even those who do survive the finale (like Frankie) will likely be dead within a year anyway. Presumably, the people who escape the cities can be far enough away from the influence of the towers to not act like murderers, but Dolores’ (Evan Rachael Wood) voiceover at the end seems to drive home one point: this world — the real world — is over. Speaking to Deadline just after the finale aired, showrunner Lisa Joy confirmed we’re meant to take this ending literally. “Life on Earth as we know it is over,” she said.
It’s an ending that spiritually recalls Beneath the Planet of the Apes, specifically, the moment when Taylor blows up the entire Earth. But the final twist fuses that sensibility with The Matrix and oddly, the beginning of Westworld Season 1.
Dolores reboots Sweetwater
For whatever reason, Bernard suggests that there is hope for everyone in “the next world.” There will be “one more game” and a “test” for Hosts and humans alike. In the final moments of the Westworld Season 4 finale, it's revealed that this just means a virtual version of Sweetwater, the old west town that was the setting for Westworld back in Season 1. Dolores says this will be “one more loop,” which is a strange appropriation of the idea that the Hosts were stuck in “loops” by their programmers back when Westworld was just a complicated theme park. Also speaking to Deadline, Evan Rachel Wood added, “Sentient life on Earth has ended...but some part of it might be preserved…in my world.”
It’s not entirely clear how this test would/will play out, or how long these loops could last, but the basic message is that Dolores wants to replay her origin story and see if this time things can be different and, presumably, not awful. Throughout Season 4, as the “storyteller” Christina, Dolores had all sorts of powers to just create characters both virtual (in her mind) and also control the actions of real people in the real world. Presumably, this will be the case for the new virtual Sweetwater, which appears to end the story of Westworld in a dream-like version of where it all began.
In Season 3 several Hosts were revealed to be versions of Dolores. Now it seems like the entire world is simply run by Dolores’ brain. Basically, the ending of Season 4 quite literally said: every single storyline was, is, and always will be, controlled directly by Dolores. It’s not an ending that says it was all a dream, but instead, an ending that implies it’s all going to be a dream from now on.
If you wanted to retitle Philip K. Dick’s android masterpiece Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and apply it to Westworld, seems like the title would now be: Robots Dream of Whatever Dolores Tells Them To Dream, and Also, Dolores Is Dreaming Right Now.
What does it mean for Westworld Season 5?
Because of the finality of the fates of most characters in the real world, the ending of Westworld Season 4 seems to make a hypothetical Season 5 not only bizarre but possibly unnecessary. Presumably, Westworld could do a new rebooted Season 5, set in the familiar territory of actual (virtual) Westworld. And yet, because this version would essentially be the Matrix version of Westworld, the stakes would suddenly be very different. Do we really need to see a new take on the events of Westworld Season 1, but in a simulation?
From the beginning of the series, Westworld has struggled with depicting the “real world,” going so far in Season 1 to make the basic status quo of “real life” into a mystery box season-long puzzle. (Remember those theories that Westworld was on the Moon?) While Season 2 split the difference, both Season 3 and Season 4, have felt slightly more grounded, by firmly moving the action out of any of the “parks,” and into everyday life.
But the Season 4 finale twist essentially undoes all of that. The real world just isn’t going to work out, and so, for its final moments, Westworld has retreated back into a fake one. There’s an implication here that this version of Sweetwater could be less violent and terrible than the old one, but then again, the bloodbath of the Season 4 finale makes you wonder if Westworld is capable of telling any stories without non-stop murder. As Caleb defends Frankie against Clementine, he says, “It doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to fight.”
Clementine responds glibly, “Consider it a personal preference.”
In essence, that’s the default setting of Westworld. Although Season 4 had some great moments of science fiction introspection, the season ended with everyone killing each other, presumably, the narrative preference of the series itself. And so, because Dolores seems to have a somewhat “happy” ending in the last moments of Season 4, it feels like anything that would happen in Season 5 would just start the cycle back up again, and, likely, in ways we’ve quite literally already seen.
To be clear, HBO has not told Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy if there will be a Season 5 yet. However, Joy told Deadline that she and Nolan still have more ideas for a fifth and final season of the show that would have a true ending. “We have not quite reached it yet,” she said.
But what could that be? Would it be an all-virtual season? Would fans accept that? Perhaps the show should quit while it’s ahead, and also while everyone is pretty much dead? Westworld began by telling us that “these violent delights have violent ends.” The finale of Season 4 delivered on that promise. Now that there’s nobody left to get violent with, it may be time to hang up these robot cowboy hats, for good.
You can stream all of Westworld on HBO Max.
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