There is a lot to take in for Westworld season one. If you don’t recall all of the events and don’t have the time to watch all 10 episodes before the second season premieres this Sunday, April 22, read on for a summary.
Instead of doing an episode-by-episode plot summary, we’ve decided to break down the story by what should matter most: the characters. Get caught up on everything you need to know about Dolores, William, Bernard, Maeve and all the rest of the inhabitants of the Wild West theme park known as Westworld.
“Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality?” asks a soft voice to a naked woman seated in a glass room.
Her name is Dolores Abernathy, and she is Westworld’s oldest functioning host. Dolores lives with her father, a rancher, in a house outside the town of Sweetwater. The narrative assigned to her is fairly simple: Wake up, go to town and buy supplies. There, she encounters her old flame Teddy Flood, another host in the park, for a few hours before he leaves town again.
On one of her trips, Dolores meets William, a park visitor, and the two of them fall in love. She accompanies him and his friend Logan on a bounty hunt. It’s then that Dolores begins to have visions that hint at the existence of a maze.
She and William split from Logan after the hunt goes south, and the pair end up at the remains of a church. Dolores keeps saying that a man named Arnold wants her to remember something, but she doesn’t know what.
Logan teams up with a band of wandering Confederados, a gang of sorts that roams the park, and tracks down William and Dolores. He ties William to a chair, slicing open Dolores’ stomach to remind him that she isn’t real. Dolores manages to escape and makes her way back to the town church. She discovers a secret underground lab in the confessional booth. There, she has more visions and realizes that parts of Wyatt, a host programmed to be a cold-blooded killer, were downloaded into her system. It explains why she kept seeing flashbacks of dead bodies in Sweetwater. Dolores finally remembers who Arnold is — the park’s co-creator — and that she was responsible for his death.
It’s a revelatory moment for Dolores. She also learns that the maze isn’t a place, but a path to true consciousness for the hosts. The “center of the maze” is a metaphor for the full realization that she is now in control of her own thoughts and actions. It wasn’t Arnold’s voice that was guiding her; it was her own.
After realizing this, she turns around to find a mysterious figure who goes by the Man in Black standing in the church. The Man in Black tells her that he too is searching for the center of the maze. Dolores insists that William is coming to rescue her any minute, but the man laughs and reveals that he is William, just decades older. We now learn that Dolores has been suffering from multiple, random flashbacks, distorting her timeline. This is why she seemingly saw William and the Man in Black only moments apart. It also explains why her outfits randomly change as she enters and exits certain areas, and how her stab wound from Logan somehow disappears right after her escape from the camp. She asks Teddy at one point, “when are we?” — indicating that she’s having trouble placing herself in time.
The Man in Black continues to interrogate Dolores about what she knows of the maze, and beats her when she doesn’t have a response. Teddy bursts into the church and rescues Dolores, taking her to a beach, where she dies in his arms. The lights dim and applause can be heard from the shoreline — the scene was all part of park co-creator Dr. Robert Ford’s last, new narrative. As Ford makes his speech in front of the audience, Dolores sneaks behind him and shoots him in the back of the head.
We’re introduced to Maeve, a madam host working in a Sweetwater saloon, as she’s taken out for maintenance following a series of malfunctions that affected her and another host, Clementine. She is the first host to fully understand that she isn’t human and that the world around her is constructed for the pleasure of newcomers (a term for the park’s guests).
Maeve encounters Dolores outside the brothel one day and hears the phrase “these violent delights have violent ends.” Something changes in Maeve’s face, and she begins to have flashbacks of previous attacks from guests, as well as the life she had before becoming a madam: She was living in a small house with her daughter when the Man in Black came and attacked both of them.
Maeve has a nightmare about the murder of her daughter while she’s in Delos’ maintenance bay undergoing surgery to remove a bullet. She wakes up in the middle of the procedure and sees piles of bodies; hosts being washed and operated on. Technicians Felix and Sylvester manage to sedate her, and Maeve is wiped clean once again. But the memories still seem to linger despite the reset. Curious, she takes a knife to her stomach and cuts the unscarred tissue open to reveal a bullet. It confirms her suspicion that something isn’t right with the world she’s living in. Maeve begins to understand that she’s died many times before, whether it was from being shot, stabbed or any number of attacks.
Once she understands that “death” leads to the real world, she finds ways to end up back in the maintenance bay. Maeve forces Felix and Sylvester to help her escape the park, lest she kill them. She literally takes matters into her own hands, altering her core characteristics and traits to prepare for the escape. She goes back into the park to recruit Hector and Armistice, two other gunslinging hosts in the Sweetwater narrative, and brings “awareness” to their existence.
On her way out of the facility, Maeve encounters Bernard, who warns her that her urgent need to escape is already programmed within her — it isn’t free will. She disagrees and leaves anyway. Maeve manages to board a train that will take her out of Westworld, but she begins to have second thoughts about her daughter — is she real? Does it matter? She seems to cut ties at first, believing those were just programmed memories, but eventually, she gets off the train and runs through Delos’ facility to try and locate her daughter.
Robert Ford, Bernard Lowe and Arnold Weber
Head programmer Bernard Lowe is the voice who asks Dolores if she’s ever questioned the nature of her reality, as part of a routine exam. He asks her a few basic questions to complete the diagnostic evaluation, ensuring that she’s still running smoothly. One day, he notices a few of the hosts behaving strangely, and traces the abnormalities back to special code and gestures called “reveries,” developed by Westworld co-founder Dr. Robert Ford. Wanting to deal with this quietly, he wipes the affected models’ memories, resets their diagnostics and retires them from service.
Elsie Hughes, a programmer who works for Bernard, discovers that a stray host has been sending information to an unknown outside party. She tells him that she thinks Theresa Cullen, the park’s administrator, is behind it. Still, Bernard is the one to get fired for the faulty reveries after a staged demonstration illustrates how hosts can become physically violent.
Theresa later discovers that Bernard, whom she’s having a secret affair with, is actually a host. That’s when Dr. Ford shows up. In order to keep his park and authority safe, Ford orders Bernard to kill her and make it look like an accident.
During a routine maintenance session with Maeve, a self-aware host trying to escape the park, Bernard learns that he too is a host. He confronts Ford and demands a full restoration of his previous memories.
Bernard learns that he killed Theresa and is also responsible for Elsie’s disappearance. But the most shocking realization is that he’s an android modeled after Arnold Weber, the deceased co-founder of Westworld. At first, Bernard thinks his memories of his dead son Charlie are implants, but Ford informs him that the tragic recollections are a “cornerstone” on which his personality is set. Hoping that this other version of Arnold would align better with his goals for the park, Ford created Bernard after Arnold’s death.
Right before Westworld opened, Arnold had realized that the hosts were very close to true consciousness. He couldn’t bear the weight of subjecting these sentient beings to a life of never-ending exploitation, so he merged Wyatt’s code with Dolores’ as a way to eliminate all the other hosts — and prevent the park from opening. The Sweetwater massacre ended with Arnold’s death. The plan didn’t work, and the park opened under Ford anyway.
At the end of the season, Ford tells Dolores and Bernard that he feels a sense of responsibility for Arnold’s death, and regrets not seeing the potential of consciousness in the hosts earlier. Bernard and the others thought that Ford was trying to restrict and exploit the park for his own benefit and sense of power, but it wasn’t that simple. Arnold wanted the hosts to be free to discover themselves, while Ford maintained that the hosts would never survive the outside world. As he put it, “Humans are alone in this world for a reason. We murdered and butchered anything that challenged our primacy.”
Ford wasn’t keeping the hosts on a leash. Instead, he reveals that he spent the last 35 years preparing the hosts to defend themselves against humanity. This comes at a crucial time, considering that both Theresa and Charlotte Hale, a Delos board member, wanted to oust him from the company without fear of retribution.
After a dramatic death scene with Dolores and Teddy, Ford announces to the Delos board that this will be the last narrative he creates for the park. He is later shot dead by Dolores.
The Man in Black, William and Teddy Flood
We first meet the Man in Black when he attacks Teddy and Dolores outside her home in the first episode. He drags Dolores into a barn, seemingly to rape her, and asks why she doesn’t remember him. Teddy tries to shoot the Man in Black, but the bullets have no effect. We learn that the Man in Black isn’t another host, but rather, a guest of the park.
The Man in Black is searching for something called “The Maze.” He learned of its existence shortly after murdering a little girl and her mother — Maeve and her daughter — and has been obsessed with finding it ever since. He recruits a few outlaw hosts, skilled in tracking and combat, and later finds Teddy tied to a tree, left for dead by bandits.
After Teddy says that he’s searching for a man named Wyatt, the Man in Black recruits him into the party. He recognizes the name, believing Teddy will lead everyone to the next clue to the maze. Teddy begins to recall memories of the Man in Black attacking Dolores. He interrogates the man, demanding to know where she is. Instead, the man explains his real reasons for being in the park: self-realization and true purpose. Teddy tries to kill him, but his coding prevents him from doing so.
Angela, a host who said she knew where to find Wyatt, lures Teddy and the Man in Black into a trap. She kills Teddy, saying that he’s “not ready to join [them] yet, but perhaps in the next life” and knocks out the Man in Black, leaving the him precariously hanging by a noose. He manages to cut himself down and encounters Charlotte, who was trying to gain his support for ousting Ford. The Man in Black tells her to never interrupt him in the park again, and walks away.
The Man in Black makes his way to the church while Dolores discovers Arnold’s secret lab below the confessional booth. As she turns to exit the church, she finds the Man in Black standing in the aisle. She insists that someone will come for her any minute. He laughs and tells her that he is William, the same man that Dolores keeps insisting will save her. William says he searched for her at the farthest corners of the park after she ran away from the Confederados camp when he was younger — only to become hardened, ruthless and brutal over the years.
It’s here that the Man in Black comes clean about everything. William was engaged to Logan’s sister when he first met Dolores, and it’s his fiancée’s family who owns Delos, Westworld’s parent company. But after getting to know Dolores, William realized his feelings for her were more real than anything he’d ever felt for his fiancée. When William finally does find Dolores, she doesn’t remember him. Heartbroken, he decides to seize control of the Delos company and buy out the park, solidifying the Maze as his only obsession.
Frustrated by Dolores’ lack of answers about the maze, the Man in Black fatally stabs her in the stomach. Teddy bursts in to rescue her while Ford comes to meet the Man in Black. Ford explains that the maze was never meant for humans; it was always for the hosts.
The Man in Black is last seen having a drink alone, several yards away from the Delos party in Sweetwater. Ford makes his speech while an army of retired hosts comes out from the shadows. One of them — it turns out to be Clementine — takes a shot at him, hitting him in the arm. Their bullets can now harm guests. The Man in Black smiles.
We can expect season two of Westworld to be a much bloodier, violent series of events than the first one. The hosts can finally wound guests, and it appears that the army from the shadows consists entirely of retired hosts.
In the season one finale, Delos employees find that the host storage bay is empty, and they realize what’s about to happen. The whole facility is put on lockdown after Maeve and her recruits begin to massacre employees on their way out. But when Maeve turns back to find her daughter, she passes by samurai training in a series of glass rooms. It sets the tone for what we can expect in season two: Shogun World.
With Robert Ford gone and more of the hosts becoming self-aware, chaos is definitely going to break loose. Anyone can be a target now.