Leave a Comment
Spoilers below for anyone who hasn't watched Westworld's Season 1 finale.
Westworld's web of mysteries tied up some loose strands in the masterful and viewer-heavy season finale, though it also created more questions, and one of the most discussed scenes was Maeve's Big Decision on the train. It occurred after Bernard's shocking reveal that much of Maeve's seemingly independent actions this season were actually part of an updated narrative, and instead of escaping as originally intended, Maeve exits the train to seek out her daughter from her memories. You might have missed one big visual clue here that co-creator Jonathan Nolan, who also directed the episode, explained:
When Maeve gets onto that train, the Steadicam is leading her over, keeping pace with her. She makes the decision, what we understand in the moment is actually the first real decision she has made all season. Which is, she's not going to fulfill the sort-of script that she's been given [or] take this train wherever it's going, do whatever else she's programmed to do. She can get off the train, at which point we shift to handheld camera which we'd held back on up until one moment with her and one moment with Dolores.
Astonishingly, Jonathan Nolan seems to be giving audiences a flat-out answer to one of the finale's more confusing sequences in his interview on the Vulture TV Podcast. Maeve thought for a while that she was the one working with all the pieces to the puzzle, until Bernard peeled yet another curtain back to show she was still being manipulated. The troublesome part of that reveal was Maeve destroying the monitoring device Bernard was holding before he could say what the next part of the escape plan was, especially since it wasn't a move that she made of her own volition. So from that point until the last time we saw her, it wasn't extremely clear where Maeve's true motivations rested. At least, unless you were paying close attention to the camera work, which Nolan claims is the key to it all.
Part of Westworld's beauty is in its near-exclusive use of the extremely smooth Steadicam, so it was easy to miss the brief transition to the more bouncy and swaying hand-held camera as Maeve stepped off the train. (Though in retrospect, it's kind of impossible to miss, as you can see on this video.) So now we know for sure that Maeve is apparently no longer working under anyone's control but her own, though that might not remain the case forever, given how this show works. We already knew bad things were coming in Season 2, and Independent Maeve is going to be a lot of people's worst nightmare.
Like most viewers, I definitely have my own theories and guesses concerning characters and plots, but I was completely befuddled by Maeve's actions in this scene, and had no real inclination to lean to it being true free will or it being dictated by programming. Knowing what she does, going back to look for her daughter-who-isn't-really-her-daughter seemed like a default piece of programming to me, but I guess escaping on the train was the "real" narrative for her. Now I'm desperate to know what she was meant to do out in the normal world, but that might never get answered. Sigh.
Regardless of whether you're the one making the decisions or not, you will choose to watch Westworld when it returns to HBO for Season 2, which sadly isn't happening until late 2017 or 2018. Hopefully the show will continue teasing us with character fates in the meantime. Plus, a lot of quality TV is coming before then, and you can see what some of that looks like with our midseason premiere schedule.