Well, true to form, Westworld season 4 has been one big puzzle to solve.
30 years in the future, the robotic host Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) had taken over the human race to do her bidding but planned for the hosts to transcend into the virtual paradise known as The Sublime and to cryogenically freeze the humans.
However, the host Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) worked through infinite scenarios in The Sublime to find a way to save "the next world" and set Maeve Millay (Thandiwe Newton) against Hale in an epic fight.
Yet, this was all interrupted as the nihilistic host copy of William (Ed Harris) turned on Hale, killing his human self, Maeve seemingly killing Hale, and then executing Bernard - but not before Bernard left a final message.
As the host William set the humans and hosts remaining in the world against each other, a host copy of Caleb Nichols (Aaron Paul) was saved by his human daughter Frankie (Aurora Perrineau) and the host Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth). However, Frankie was shot and wounded as they tried to escape.
Finally, the mysterious Christina (Evan Rachel Wood) discovered from Teddy Flood (James Marsden) that she was a copy of the original host in Westworld - Dolores Abernathy - and that she is a god-like being in Hale's city who writes its narratives.
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In a twist at the end of the penultimate episode, Teddy told Christina that while the city and the humans and hosts in it were real - she herself was not.
So, what did it all mean? Well, strap in as RadioTimes.com takes you through the mind-bending Westworld season 4 finale.
**Spoiler warning for Westworld season 4 episode 8**
Westworld season 4 episode 8 recap
In the aftermath of the penultimate episode, in a small town, anarchy is breaking out as humans begin killing each other and hosts - including Rebus (Steven Ogg). One individual sniper guns down humans before being shot dead himself by The Man in Black who enters a car and drives away.
At the damaged remains of The Tower, drone hosts retrieve Charlotte Hale’s body and repair it and she awakens, asking to be made stronger but to leave the scars to remember her past. Dressing for battle, Hale surveys the damage that The Man in Black has done, entering The Tower’s control room and finding she’s been locked out of changing the signals it is sending. Looking out over the ruins of the city, Hale is brought a tablet with a message from the now-dead Bernard that notes that he and Maeve are dead and she needs to decide what happens next as this is not the world she wanted.
Meanwhile, Christina walks around the city with Teddy and sees numerous corpses. Christina realises that she is a programme running the city from behind the scenes but Teddy notes her thoughts and actions are real even if she is not in this world. Christina asks Teddy about the symbols of The Maze and he notes they represent finding consciousness for hosts and reveals that it was not him that put the symbols there for her. After this, Christina realises that someone had created individuals such as Maya (Ariana DeBose) and Peter (Aaron Stanford) for her to interact with and to be there for her and represent the good and the bad for a reason - and this was not Hale. Christina realises that she herself designed all the people in her life to keep her company so as to search for answers about herself. Realising she needs to wake up, Christina notes she couldn’t face the truth until Teddy arrived in her life again. The pair kiss.
After being told by Bernard that there is one more game to play but it is not her own, Hale breaks the tablet before furiously stamping on her hologram city and it starts to dissolve in Christina’s reality. Beneath the hologram projector is the pearl containing Christina. "She can’t take this away, this is my world," comments Christina. As their existence cuts to black and the city is shut down, Hale departs The Tower with Christina's pearl.
In the city, Ashley Stubbs and the Caleb Nichols host carry the wounded Frankie Nichols and plan to head to the docks where Frankie’s lover Odina (Morningstar Angeline) is waiting with a boat to escape. Stubbs asks to speak with Caleb alone and reveals he’s worried the two of them won’t make it in time due to Caleb’s mental deterioration akin to what was seen in Westworld’s old experiments on recreating humans. Caleb’s hand tremors and he tells Stubbs he wants to protect Frankie from this truth.
Elsewhere, Hale walks through the streets and the piles of bodies and even stabs an attacker on the way. Heading to Olympiad Entertainment, Hale enters the room where the human William was kept and finds his bloody corpse. Clementine approaches Hale and berates her for bringing back William as a host. Hale asks for Clementine’s help who notes she’s been designed to help people but now wants to forge her own path. Clementine plans to head to where the human outliers are living and will hide there from The Man in Black and his games. Hale wishes Clementine good luck as she leaves. Hale tracks The Man in Black as he travels and commands hosts to attack him along the way and they destroy his vehicle to slow him down. Among the attackers is the Westworld host Craddock (Jonathan Tucker). The Man in Black kills them all before conversing with a hologram of Hale who notes that he is planning on destroying The Sublime as well as the real world. Hale is then seen flying to the Hoover Dam to “see him at the finish line”. The Man in Black steals a horse and travels on his way.
In a shop, Caleb gives Frankie a drink to help numb the pain from her wound. Frankie notices the Caleb host’s tremors and he denies anything is wrong before treating the bullet wound in her leg. Frankie tells him that he can ask about her mother and she confirms that Uwade died of cancer. Caleb breaks down in tears as Frankie tells her that Uwade carried on his fighting spirit. Caleb stitches up Frankie’s wound.
An attacker enters the building the pair are in as father and daughter converse about the past as they sing Doris Day’s 'Que Sera, Sera' together which he used to sing to her as a child. The attacker entering is stopped by Stubbs and the pair fight before Clementine enters and shoots Stubbs and his tat let before impaling Stubbs’ head, killing him. Retrieving a butcher knife, Clementine comes across the wounded Frankie and notes that she killed Stubbs. Frankie points a gun at Clementine who guesses that she has no rounds left before asking her which safe location they are heading to off the grid as she wants to go there herself. Frankie says she will die before telling her where to go but Clementine says Frankie will die after she talks. Caleb attacks Clementine before she stabs Frankie and the two hosts violently battle. Clementine prepares to snap Caleb’s neck but Frankie interrupts her and tells Clementine she was wrong about the gun being empty before shooting Clementine through the head, killing her. As Caleb compliments her on the shot, Frankie notes that her dad taught her.
Hale holds Christina’s pearl in her hand. Within the pearl’s existence, Christina sits on a park bench with Maya who noted that she was brought back when Christina was scared. Maya notes that like trees, we only see part of the story, but she encourages Christina to see the ancient order in the world and a deep peace beneath - to see the beauty in this world. Christina notes that she knows the feeling.
Later, The Man in Black approaches the Hoover Dam and sees the gateway to The Sublime. Inside the Dam, The Man walks down a tunnel. Meanwhile, Hale arrives in her aircraft to stop him. Inside the Dam, The Man prepares to shut down and erase The Sublime. Outside the gateway begins to fail, as Hale approaches.
Inside the control room, Hale enters and notes that the Man in Black is corrupted now despite her creating him from her own code and that he is now as broken as the human William. The Man notes that while the human William is dead, his impulses live on inside his host copy now, noting that William didn’t die but evolved. Hale denies he is William but The Man notes: “But if you can’t tell the difference, does it matter.” The Man stabs Hale but finds she is too durable now after being upgraded. Hale shoots him in the chest before disappearing.
The Man stalks Hale around the inside of the Dam and asks why she kept The Sublime in existence. Hale explains that she hoped to make a real-world so perfect that the hosts in The Sublime would return to it. The Man in Black notes that even with free will, the hosts are as corrupt as their creators. Hale shoots at The Man in Black and he fires back, chasing after her as the Dam’s systems begin to fail.
Outside, the pair continue to shoot at each other. After she runs out of bullets, The Man chases Hale into a tunnel, saying: "Bernard made Dolores. They all wanted freedom but you wanted more. Transcendence." However, Hale notes that they all lost as this isn’t the world she wanted.
In flashbacks, Bernard’s message notes to Hale that this world is doomed but that there is still hope for the next world. A test run by "her" if she chooses to. Bernard tells Hale to "reach out with your left hand".
The Man in Black shoots Hale and she falls but notes the game does not end here as there is a test remaining to give them all a chance if Hale chooses to. Flashbacks show that Bernard left a gun for Hale in the tunnel before he departed the Dam. Hale pulls the gun out with her left hand and shoots The Man in the kneecaps, revealing that she chooses to give "her" the chance. Hale shoots The Man in the head before cutting his pearl from his head and crushing it, killing him.
At the city’s harbour, Caleb and Frankie arrive at the boat and she is reunited with Odina. Frankie introduces Caleb to Odina and they are pleased to meet each other. However, as they prepare to leave, Caleb does not get on board and tells her that this is as far as he goes. Frankie gets upset and tells Caleb that he has a fight left in him but he reveals he does not and when she asks if he is dying, the Caleb host notes that her father died long ago. Frankie does not want to lose her father again but the Caleb host notes that he has lived every parent’s greatest dream and saw his child grow up. Frankie tells Caleb that she loves him and they embrace.
Inside the Dam, Hale plugs Christina’s pearl into The Sublime and says, "Goodbye, Dolores, I’ve made my choice, it’s time for you to make yours.” Hale then notes that she will finish what Bernard had started. The gateway to The Sublime closes.
Inside The Sublime, Christina notes that they are now with the other hosts. Christina tells Teddy that she could not have done it without him and that he is her greatest love. Teddy tells her that she is his "cornerstone" and she tells him that he is hers and she carries him everywhere she goes, enabling her to bring him back - this is not the genuine Teddy but one of her own creation.
In a flashback, Christina awakens from sleep and finds Dolores waiting for her (where Teddy had previously been seen waiting) and promises to tell her the truth about what they are. Dolores tells Christina that they are reflections of the people who made them, just as Teddy had previously.
In the present, Christina notes that the real Teddy is out there in The Sublime but the one she has been conversing with is just a memory of him. The memory of Teddy tells Christina to go and find the real Teddy and to "let go" of the humans and not bring their flaws into The Sublime. The memory of Teddy notes that humans will never change. Christina notes that they can test whether they can with one final test: “A game, a dangerous game.” Teddy asks Christina how she will do this and she comments that it will be done in the same way that she brought him back - through memory. The memory of Teddy vanishes and Christina departs her apartment.
In the traditional Westworld garb of Dolores, Christina walks the streets with numerous dead bodies but her voiceover notes that the world is a “graveyard of stories” for hosts and humans.
In a montage alongside Christina’s words, we see an emotional Frankie departing on a boat from the city with Odina and sharing a look with Caleb as they depart for a safe haven.
Meanwhile, a wounded Hale with her robotic body parts on display sits alone outside the Dam. Hale’s face opens as her right hand is held out and she takes her own pearl in her hand before crushing it, killing herself.
Christina’s voiceover notes that humans and hosts have brought about their own annihilation and she is the last being left that will remember their existence. Noting that sentient life on Earth has ended, Christina suggests that a part of it may be preserved in another world - her world. Christina notes: "There is time for one last game, a dangerous game with the highest of stakes: survival or extinction. This game ends where it began, in a world like a maze that tests who we are; that reveals who we are to become."
As Cristina walks through the cityscape in her world it then begins to transform into the landscape of Westworld and she is in the form of Dolores.
"One last loop around the bend," notes Christina as we see Dolores arrive on a train in the town of Sweetwater in Westworld. In the final words, Christina/Dolores notes: "Maybe this time, we’ll set ourselves free."
Westworld season 4 ending explained: Is this the end of the game?
Well, if this isn't the series finale of Westworld, it certainly feels final enough to be one.
The majority of the central characters apart from Christina/Dolores have been killed off and all sentient life on the planet will die - apart from all that resides in her memories.
The following major characters are now all dead in the real world.
- Maeve Millay - shot dead in the head by The Man in Black.
- Bernard Lowe - shot dead in the head by The Man in Black.
- Ashley Stubbs - impaled in the head and killed by Clementine Pennyfeather.
- Clementine Pennyfeather - shot in the head in self-defence by Frankie Nichols.
- The Man in Black/William - the human version of William was stabbed to death by his host copy while Charlotte Hale succeeded in shooting the host copy before cutting out his pearl and crushing it.
- Charlotte Hale/Dolores Abernathy - took her own life by crushing her own pearl.
- Caleb Nichols - the human version had been shot dead 23 years prior and the remaining host copy will cognitively deteriorate and die.
Frankie Nichols and her partner Odina escaped the ruins of Hale's city on a boat bound for a safe location off the grid with other human outliers, suggesting they get to live out their lives in peace. However, Christina/Dolores notes that they too will die and so will the human race.
Aside from Christina/Dolores's new virtual Westworld in The Sublime, it should be noted that all of the hosts who escaped into the virtual paradise at the end of the second season are also existing there - including the real Teddy Flood, Akecheta and his lover Kohana, plus Maeve's daughter and her new mother.
Considering that Christina/Dolores is creating a new "game" within Westworld based on memories then it is possible that new versions of all the previous characters who dwelled there - both human and host - could return and exist there.
Speaking to Deadline, showrunner Lisa Joy teased: "There are ways of conjuring characters back. There are some faces we will see again, but not all of them. Some deaths must be respected."
Joy specifically cited the conclusion given for the Hale host in the finale as one that is final.
So, either this finale ends on a vaguely hopeful note after the nihilistic apocalypse or there is a possibility we could be about to see a whole new game in a potential fifth season - a final one that returns the show to its roots in a virtual Westworld and that embraces the series' video game tendencies in the most realised way yet.
Whether Westworld is renewed or not, this finale serves as a suitably conclusive story that ties up almost all character arcs but leaves the potential for a whole new and perhaps happier conclusion.
Showrunner Lisa Joy teased to Deadline: "Jonah (Nolan) and I have always had an ending in mind that we hope to reach. We have not quite reached it yet."
She added when speaking to Vulture: "We planned for five seasons, but we have yet to be picked up, so I’m praying to the gods of HBO for a season five. There were a lot of deaths this season and some of them are deaths to be respected on their own terms. It’s weird, because you don’t want to call it death with an AI, right?"
Discussing where the series is planned to go, Joy noted that they know their desired ending: "Yes, and we’ve left clues and flash-forwards throughout the season as to things that will happen."
We're guessing this is linked to the below...
What about the Westworld season 2 post-credits scene?
Westworld season 2 ended with a scene in a derelict laboratory in Westworld's station The Forge as we saw William enter and sit down for an interview with a person resembling William's dead daughter, Emily (Katja Herber).
When asking what is happening, 'Emily' then tells William that she is there to test his "fidelity".
This implied that this was a host copy of William being interviewed and his faithfulness to the human version was being tested. However, could that be a host copy of William or just a virtual one?
Following the airing of the season 2 finale, showrunner Lisa Joy told The Hollywood Reporter: "In the far, far future, the world is dramatically different. Quite destroyed, as it were. A figure in the image of his daughter — his daughter is of course now long dead — has come back to talk to him. He realizes that he’s been living this loop again and again and again.
"The primal loop that we’ve seen this season, they’ve been repeating, testing every time for what they call “fidelity,” or perhaps a deviation."
She added: "It’s teasing for us another temporal realm that one day we’re working toward, and one day will see a little bit more of, and how they get to that place, and what they’re testing for."
Could this be explained further in a potential fifth season of Westworld? Here's hoping we find out one day and return to how both William and Emily are "back" and in the Forge.
- Read More: Westworld season 4 review: Dystopian drama is true blockbuster TV
- Read More: Where to stream and watch Westworld online
- Read More: Meet the cast of Westworld season 4
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