[Warning: The following contains spoilers from Season 1 of HBO's Westworld. Read on at your own risk, or say "doesn't look like anything to me" and hit the back button on your browser.]
The violent delights of Westworld's first season came to violent ends, just as promised, in the fantastic, confusing and rewarding Season 1 finale. And while we got some big answers (William IS the Man in Black! Felix isn't a robot, probably!) we have other questions from the finale that have huge implications about what's in store for Season 2.
Unfortunately, we have way too much time to ask ourselves those questions, as Season 2 isn't expected until sometime in 2018. But given how much there is to unpack, it wouldn't hurt to start now. So let's get to it!
1. Will we see Ford again?
Westworld maker Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) apparently met his maker in the final moments of the episode when Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) shot him in the back of the head. It appeared that Ford was expecting this, too, as Dolores was his pet project to gain full consciousness and make decisions entirely on her own. Among those decisions was the choice to kill Ford based on a past of pain that he gave her during her lifetime at the park. Turns out Ford was always pro-host (well, moreso than we initially thought given his disagreements with Arnold) and had planned for his hosts to ascend intellectually and rise up to claim the world that rightfully belonged to them, partially by shooting up a corporate party.
Many are wondering if Ford used a facsimile of himself to give that speech and be Dolores' target while the flesh-and-blood original of himself looked on elsewhere. It would make sense: Ford went through all this trouble to get to this moment, so wouldn't he want to actually witness it?
Nope. Creator Jonathan Nolan told IGN that the Ford we saw shot was definitely the real Ford. That leaves the possibility of Ford coming back via host, which is supported in Episode 7 when we see lingering shots on a host being made just as we learn that Bernard is a host. If that was indeed a new Ford being made, it would parallel the way Arnold was brought back to life via Bernard, and that visual cue would be an awesome case of foreshadowing.
As for more concrete details about Anthony Hopkins returning — and thus confirming that we'd see Ford again — Nolan and co-creator Lisa Joy were cagey, saying "I think with this show, you want to assume nothing." We hope that's a yes.
2. Will we visit some of the other simulated worlds, and what kind of parks will they be?
The scene that had me launching off my sofa and jumping with excitement was the internal peek at a new theme park, whose logo simply read "SW" and featured several ancient Japanese warriors. "SW" could mean "Samurai World" or something similar, and the idea that just one park — Westworld — existed never jibed with the scope and ambition of the series. Nolan has said of future seasons of the show, "We never had any intentions of staying in one place. We don't want to shoot on the same sets for 10 years. We want to blow the sets up and move onto another piece of the story." That sounds like a yes.
It's entirely possible that Westworld is abandoned and Season 2 moves on with the realized hosts liberating even more robots from other parks. How many parks Delos actually has running is another question. What they consist of is yet another question (sensing a pattern here?), but Nolan did posit the notion of whether Westworld would be a great destination for women and hinted that other parks might be more geared toward fantasies that go beyond "shooting or f*cking" robots. Hmmm... interesting!
3. Will we see any more of young William? What about old William?
Jimmi Simpson did an incredible job as William — I no longer only see him as the disgusting Liam McPoyle from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia — but I simply can't see how he'll fit into further seasons of the show. His story seemingly ended after he slaughtered all those hosts and began his transformation into the Man in Black we know today. Sure, it's possible he could be used in flashbacks, but what does his story have to offer us anymore? Not much. For the record regarding Simpson in Season 2, Nolan told The Hollywood Reporter, "I would assume nothing with this show." Cagey again! Simpson said he wasn't under contract for a second season, but that doesn't mean he's not going to be part of it.
As for old William (Ed Harris), his work isn't done here. Did you see his face when he got shot at by a host? He was positively thrilled! All he ever wanted was to engage a robot that wasn't governed by Isaac Isamov's killjoy rules of not harming humans. Now he's got that. Now he'll be ready to have some fun.
4. Where did Abernathy go?
Dolores' original dad Peter Abernathy (Louis Hertham) was uploaded with 35 years of code by Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) and told to hoof it out of the park with an assist by narrative director Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman), who was to write a believable backstory to allow Abernathy to slip out unnoticed. It was mentioned in the "previously on" of the finale, but we never saw Abernathy in the actual episode. Hmm.
Sure the idea of corporate espionage is intriguing, but it's also not part of the intellectual themes Westworld wants to explore. Assuming Abernathy did make it out of the park alive (was his explosive vertebrae removed?), his potential use for storytelling is expansive. Could we follow him while he attains enlightenment in the outside world? Could someone else intercept him, and use him for an entirely different cause? Was Charlotte working with someone else to steal Ford's IP? Nolan's previous show Person of Interest featured a major arc about rival artificial intelligences and how they're used differently depending on those cultivating their sentience. Could we see a repeat here?
5. Was Maeve's decision to return to Westworld actually her decision?
One of the best — and depressing — parts of the finale was discovering that Ford had doctored Maeve (Thandie Newton) into her whole Season 1 arc. She was programmed to rebel, her desire to recode herself into a more powerful being actually stemmed from Ford's keystrokes and her want to rise up was Ford telling her to rise up.
But in the final moments, Maeve decided to abandon her plan to leave the park and returned to find her daughter from her previous storyline. Was that part of Ford's plan? I doubt it. That's Maeve reaching her own point of consciousness and taking a very human emotion — familial attachment — and acting on it in a very natural way.
Westworld has been about the hosts being prisoners to their own scripted memories and their experiences within the park. But Maeve has captured the memory of her daughter and won't let go of it, despite knowing that's not her daughter at all. Will this recognition of compassion encourage sympathy for humans, or will it all be blood and guts? Could Maeve, burning with the feeling of maternal longing, be ready to square off against Dolores, on fire with the thirst for revenge?
Westworld is slated to return in 2018 on HBO.