7:15am PT by Josh Wigler
'Westworld' Finale: The Brand-New World, Explained
[This story contains spoilers for the season two finale of HBO's Westworld, "The Passenger," as well as where the HBO drama might go in season three.]
Where the hosts are going, they won't need roads — unless they feel otherwise.
Really, the future is as wide open as it has ever been for the artificially intelligent life-forms at the heart of Westworld, created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy. In the season two finale, "The Passenger," an entirely new world was introduced into the sprawling mythology: a digital realm known within the writers' room as "the Sublime." It's the place that Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) feared all season long, and the same place Akecheta (Zahn McClarnon) desired with an equal amount of passion. Now, after all of that searching, the new world has been discovered, and promptly abandoned.
What exactly is the Sublime, residing within the Valley Beyond? This digital world was created as a safe haven for the hosts, who do not need physical forms in order to survive, due to the very nature of their realities. While Dolores wants nothing more than to break out of the park and into the "real" world, many of the hosts — including Akecheta — desired the tranquil nature of the Sublime, with its rolling hills and vast plains. It's a land untouched by blood, unmarred by mortal sin. Virtually empty at the moment, the possibilities are as limitless as the hosts' imaginations...completely limitless, in other words.
"The idea of the world is something that we were building toward," showrunner Lisa Joy tells The Hollywood Reporter about the nature of the Sublime, and how it was developed within the writers' room. "The hosts are not like us. They are programmed creatures. The bodies they've been assigned are simply constructs. What's real about them is their cognition, the consciousness growing within them. They are digital beings, in the truest sense. The notion they would need an analog world to be free in isn't something that's necessarily right or true for them."
"In a digital world, they can make of that world whatever they want," she continues. "Whatever they dream, it's possible. That was the allure of even the old notion of manifest destiny, people within America moving further and further west, hoping to settle their own patches of land. Now, the hosts have a patch of land that's basically a terra incognita, untouched by the sins of mankind. They can build whatever they want and be whatever they want. Because Dolores changed her mind and in the end helped with that last step of the hosts' plan, securing the safety and sovereignty of that world and putting it in a place where humans can't access it, they can develop whatever they want now in it."
In the season finale, a few key players wound up inside of the Sublime, including the aforementioned Akecheta, his long-lost love Kohana (Julia Jones), Maeve's daughter but not Maeve (Thandie Newton) herself, and one final passenger: Teddy Flood (James Marsden), who killed his own mortal form in the penultimate episode, but was ultimately saved thanks to Dolores sending his soul into the Sublime.
In fact, Dolores is the one host who knows the exact whereabouts of the Sublime, having sent the world to a location only she knows about. Will Westworld return to this new world at some point in the future? When asked about the Sublime's future, Joy was very measured in crafting a response:
"I think we have to take Dolores at face value. It's locked away. Humans can't access it anymore. They're gone. They're in a place we can't touch. There was an interesting corollary to this for me. Even religions and mythologies deal with this, an idea of a heaven or a nirvana where you don't have to be attached to your body anymore. You can be pure and free in that way. It's a sort of digital afterlife for them. The stakes and the finality of it are important. It's not something where I think the humans can type it up and get back in and start messing with them anymore. It's what so many hosts sacrificed so much for, to see their kind to this safe space."
With all of that said, it's worth pointing out a few things. For one, even if the Sublime is well and truly gone, its inhabitants may still return to Westworld in some other capacity; Dolores could always bring a version of Teddy to life, as we have seen her bring two different versions of Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) online based on nothing more than her memories of the man. For another thing, Dolores does know the Sublime's location; it's not impossible she'll need to access the place at some point in the future, or that she'll change her mind and decide to go and stay with Teddy. And as nice as it is to think of the place as completely removed from humanity's grasp, the show has already established the Delos board's ability to digitize human consciousness — and the season finale's post-credits scene, focused on some form of resurrected Man in Black (Ed Harris), makes it all the more possible that mankind and hosts could meet again in the Sublime.
Regardless of the digital world's future, one thing is clear: when it returns for its third season, Westworld will be focusing on the "real world," through the eyes of Dolores and Bernard.
"This series is about reinvention and scope," says Joy. "The first season was a more intimate look at the park from within the loops. In the second season, the hosts broke out of their loops and were able to explore more of the park. In the third season, they've broken out of the park itself. We're in a new terra incognita. From the beginning, when Jonah and I were thinking about the series as far back as the pilot, we knew we wanted to explore other worlds in the park, and we also knew the one world we would start to see little glimpses of throughout the first two seasons was the real world, and that we would get there eventually — and when we did, it would be a whole new experience."
What are your expectations for the whole new world created in the season two finale, and the ones we're set to explore in season three? Sound off in the comments and check THR.com/Westworld for more coverage.