No television show since perhaps Lost has generated as much collective confusion and as many fan theories as Westworld. Central among both the confusion and the fan theories has been the maze. For the entire first season, the hosts, the staff, the guests and the creators have all cryptically referred to the maze. Some, most centrally the Man In Black, have actively searched for it. Is it a literal place? Is it a figurative idea? Well, apparently the answer is a bit of both.
The following contains spoilers. If you want to read something else, head over here.
The finale of Westworld Season One answered the maze question pretty directly, but like everything else on the show, the answer is pretty complicated. Originally, the maze was a children's toy Arnold's son played with. After the child's death, Arnold used his grief and sorrow to start understanding the hosts on a deeper and different level. He wanted them to truly understand their world and their place in it. So, he added the maze as a way to help them eventually achieve total understanding of their world and how to escape it. During the Finale, Dolores made it to the center of the maze, which allowed her to excavate the toy Arnold's son used to play with: the original maze, which was buried beneath Dolores' tombstone. Confused yet?
Every single choice a host makes puts him or her either closer to or further from understanding both themselves and Westworld. The goal is for ultimately, the host to get to the center of the maze through the correct series of experiences and decisions, at which point they'll realize they are the center of their own universe. That's why the real maze is at Dolores' grave. She's at the center of her own maze. She has free will and can chart her own future. That's why the maze is ultimately meaningless for the Man In Black. He already knows he's at the center of his own universe. It wasn't put there for him. It was put there for the hosts. It's a tool of self-actualization, and the real maze is meaningless. It's only the journey to get there which matters.
No doubt many fans will be disappointed that the maze isn't a literal way to escape Westworld or that it's not some fascinating undiscovered portion of the park. Honestly, a small part of me is disappointed too, but the great thing about this maze explanation is that it really does set the series up perfectly moving forward. Through decades of struggling and making so many decisions that moved her further away from the center, Dolores is finally in a position in which she has the perspective and the mental tools to be a real threat to the humans. Ford only knows what she'll do with that power.