Tue. Jul 14th, 2020

Westworld’s Dolores Abernathy and her path to the end of the game

This article contains spoilers up through the finale of season 3.

Westworld possesses everything the viewers want – the American Old West, a futuristic dystopia, and well-crafted characters alongside ferociously composed storylines. The series focuses on displaying a human appetite for ultimate control. It all starts with a Wild West-themed amusement park, Westworld, where rich people lose all sense of limits and can do anything they want to the parks’ hosts. Hosts are lifelike robots created to play a particular role in one of the many narratives. The HBO original series, based on the 1973 film of the same name (written and directed by novelist Michael Crichton) and created by Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan, has many plotlines and timelines. Still, it all revolves around a female host, Dolores Abernathy. The character, portrayed by Evan Rachel Wood, is the first host that was ever made, designed by co-creator of the park, Arnold Weber (Jeffrey Wright). Her long, blonde waves of hair and blue dress attract many people from the outside, especially William (Ed Harris) – a human and a frequent guest. The man becomes a constant in her life. 

But let’s go back to the beginning and refresh the memory of Dolores Abernathy and her journey throughout the series. When we meet her, her narrative is about living everyday life with her father in the Wild West of the 19th century. Dolores is a rancher’s daughter, and she goes to the city every day, buys the same items, and meets the same people. She’s programmed to live in the loop and meet all the needs of the park’s wealthy, often very brutal guests. But enough is enough. Just as the finale of the season one reaches its climax, Dolores becomes self-aware. She’s tired of being a typical “damsel in distress,” frustrated with the constant time loop. At that moment, her life drastically shifts. Throughout season two, she evolves and prepares the revenge that was long coming: “I used to see the beauty in this world. And now I see the truth,” she says in one of the first episodes of season two. The pain and the brutality she endured breaks her. Dolores leads the host uprising, killing the guests in the park, including Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), co-creator of the Westworld

The host craves one thing and one thing only. Dolores’ desires to take control of her narrative and become an independent being, free of pain. She ultimately escapes the island in the body of Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson), Delos executive. She enters the real-world, the futuristic year of 2058, and is capable of recreating her body in Arnold’s cabin. Then, Dolores multiplies herself into four different individuals. Her mission is to take control of humanity and take revenge on those who hurt her in the Westworld. Her character development manifests in not only her attitude but also her appearance. It’s pointless to look for a long-haired, blonde woman in a long blue dress. Dolores’ hair is now shorter while she dresses in mostly black, leather jacket and black pants. Her posture, formerly modest, is now upright, brave.

The real question that Westworld poses with regard to Dolores Abernathy is whether she’s a villain or a hero. Even Ford says, “I wonder. If you did take on that bigger role for yourself, would you have been the hero or the villain?” The entirety of season three revolves around this theme. To fully comprehend the host’s personality and struggle, one needs to watch Westworld from the beginning to the end. The metamorphosis of Dolores and an incredibly strong desire for retaliation didn’t just happen overnight. She’s brutalized on a daily basis, humiliated, and beaten. The park doesn’t consider any of her rights or the rights of other hosts. Delos, the company that owns Westworld, believes that they are their sole property. But is Dolores a villain or a hero? Do we even have one ultimate good and evil person in the Westworld? The creators carefully thread over this conundrum throughout the series and don’t pick the side. 

It’s the most critical issue of the series and I’ve been thinking about this matter a lot when it comes to the main character as well as the other ones. Dolores admits that she’s neither a villain nor a hero. She’s merely a being that wants to hold a right to decide about her fate. It turns out to be a challenging task because in the new reality, 2058, she not only has to fight Delos but also the company called Incite owned by Engerraund Serac (Vincent Cassel). Incite develops a computer, Rehoboam, that can foretell and thoroughly affect the lives of people. That, in turn, lets it control the human race entirely, just as the people previously owned hosts in the Westworld. The truth changes Dolores’ view on the human race. She discovers that humans are deprived of their free will. Every decision, every action is carefully designed by the system, and they are in no different situation than hosts have been in the Westworld

After this realization, Dolores selects Caleb (Aaron Paul) – a veteran, an outlier, a person who simply doesn’t fit in the system’s careful calculations. Rehoboam estimates that his life ends with suicide, and it condemns him to failure. The host takes control over Rehoboam and leaks the information about supervision to the people. Them, as well as Caleb, discover the dark truth about their predetermined lives. Dolores is now thoroughly convinced that people have the right to know about their fate.

When riots start, Dolores and Caleb have to find Serac (who has Maeve on his side) and stop him. Played by Emmy winner Thandie Newton, Maeve is the yin to Dolores’ yang. The question that remains in the latest season is, why did Dolores pick Caleb of all people? In the finale, we finally get the answer. She selected this individual, not because of his capability to kill (as we all assumed), but his capacity to choose. While he was in training, she was there in the simulation with him, and he spared her the cruelty. She noticed Caleb’s kindness and remembered it. She ultimately “chose to see the beauty in the world of ugliness and disarray.”

The character of Dolores and further events stimulate questions about body autonomy and freedom. Throughout three seasons of the series, we experienced the ultimate control over hosts, then the people in the new world’s order. But the uprising led by Dolores, her moment of self-awareness, and fight for the freedom escalate, and we end up rooting for Dolores. Although she previously killed and murdered whoever did her wrong, she believes that everybody, without exception, has a right to know and decide about their fate. 

In the final episode of the last season, the main character persuades Maeve to stand by her side. While Serac erases her data, Dolores conclusively sacrifices herself for everybody to have a free will and ability to choose – humans and hosts, who are now in the real world. Caleb terminates Rehoboam while Maeve assassinates Serac. In the end, he and Maeve walk out to the world full of chaos and fire. “This is a new world,” Maeve says, “and in this world, you can be whoever the fuck you want.” 

The fourth season has recently been announced, and we don’t know what’s going to happen. Dolores, as we all know, is gone. They may reboot her, but she will be a completely new individual without her memories and personality. Charlotte Hale carries the only remains of Dolores. She murders Willian and replaces him with his copy of the Man in Black. We realize that this version of Dolores took on an entirely different path. The experiences she endured and the people she met on her way led to the diverse evolution of the character. What’s going to happen after the end of the world? As Bernard holds the key to the Sublime, he’s the only one that will discover the answer. 

Dolores did what it was needed to be done. She sacrificed herself for the greater good of people and hosts. “I chose to see the beauty,” she tells Maeve when they see each other for the last time. Does that mean that Dolores is a hero? Maybe. I still believe that she was just an individual that wanted to decide about her body and bring justice. In the end, it wasn’t about her revenge on people but about discovering the truth and fighting the system.


Zofia resides in Los Angeles and is a film and television critic. She has previously written for The Mary Sue, First Showing, Film Threat, In Their Own League, Film Inquiry, and more. She loves the Scream movies, Carol, American Horror Story, and Schitt’s Creek. Her Twitter – @thefilmnerdette


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