Updated June 25 at 2:55p
Westworld, Episode 210: "The Passenger"
Original airdate: June 24, 2018 on HBO
Spoiler warning: This page contains descriptions of events in this and previous episodes.
HBO's sci-fi hit Westworld wrapped up its second season on Sunday night with a 90-minute episode (including the major post-credits sequence) written by series creators Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joy and directed by Frederick E. O. Toye. A third season has been ordered, though there's no word yet when it might air.
How are critics responding to the finale? Below, we survey their responses to the episode, and/or the second season in its entirety. (Click on any publication name to read the full review.) Note that while we have grouped the reviews into rough categories beginning with the most positive, scores are displayed only in those cases where a reviewer has specifically indicated a score. Those scores have been converted to a 0-100 scale when necessary for purposes of comparison.
Extremely positive reviews
For a show that struggled in its first season to keep its secrets from the clever brains of fans and those who obsess over such things, this season was a marked improvement. ... And what a season finale! The Passenger threw in twist after twist and loaded revelations on top of each other, but for the most part made sense and drove things forward while showing off some truly beautiful cinematography and its cast's typically fantastic performances.
I said in my episode 9 review that despite its positives, Westworld season 2 was going to have to pull off something pretty incredible in its last episode to save the season - and boy, did it! Finally, here is the Westworld we remember from season 1 as all the stories somehow manage to come together and conclude in a thrilling and satisfying way, while still teasing something completely WTF for season 3.
Liz Shannon Miller
On a narrative level, it does hold together remarkably well. The weakest part of “The Passenger” is, probably, the shifting choices of Dolores, which are a bit more show than tell, mostly expressed through dialogue and occasionally hard to track. Otherwise, a whole helluva lot happens in these 90 minutes, with the complex mingling of timelines not proving to be impossible to track.
Bernard’s question, we were told again and again, was the essential question of the second season finale. But it was also, as I wrote a year and a half ago, the question of the first season finale. It’s really Westworld’s core drive: asking whether people have a choice.
After a mixed season with some exceptional emotional storytelling and a lot of detached meandering, we get what really happened in the final forty minutes of an hour and a half long episode. Here’s the story you’ve actually been watching, the writers rush to inform us. Here’s everything we were holding back from you, so we could get to this point and you would be amazed. And sure, on some level, it works. There are some decent twists here. ... But we’ve been here before.
"Westworld" closed a chaotic second season with a finale that encapsulated it -- combining operatic highs, thoughtful dialogue and time-bending twists. The ungainly mix of those elements, however, has made the HBO series near-impenetrable -- a show that's alternately too blood-soaked, convoluted and cerebral to keep its elaborate machinery running smoothly. ... While the show has its loyalists, the finale reinforced the sense that it hasn't established a clear path forward to make "Westworld" the must-watch obsession that -- with its star-studded cast and intriguing subject matter -- it had the DNA to become.
Den of Geek!
In tonight’s 90 minutes, there are many moments of transcendence, including Bernard finally deciding where he stands, Maeve going Old Testament, and Charlotte Hale revealing the best twist on television this year. Westworld Season 2 was drunk on ambition. As such, it stumbled and staggered from time to time when it thought it was waltzing, however when it did find its groove, the rhythm unto itself had its own kind of intoxicating witchcraft. One that casts a spell better than most of television and still worth following into that new dawn.
Westworld season 2 was at times brilliant and provocative and existentially thoughtful. Other times, the drama felt frustrating and difficult to follow. There were clear highs (that incredible James Delos “fidelity” storyline, the Akecheta-focused episode) and lows (Maeve stuck on a table for three episodes, all those protracted battles with unimportant hosts). The finale was, for me, a clear high — pulling off some very tricky storytelling and setting things up for radically different third season.
It certainly makes it feel like there was little forward progress in this entire season. ... At the very least, Westworld ends at a promising place for a third season, which we can expect to probably not happen for a long time.
The Westworld season 2 finale was a crazy, emotional ride. It sometimes felt like it was trying too hard to be “epic”, but it was ultimately an entertaining finale that raised a lot of questions for next season.
The Hollywood Reporter
Maybe your appreciation of Westworld comes down to what you can tolerate. Or what you're looking for to begin with. While I've loved both seasons and didn't mind the complicated time jumping in the first season ... the second season was a dollop more frustrating, if only because it seemed to double down on "when is now" and then, by the finale, had quadrupled down on it. I love a good puzzle but sometimes I just don't want to work that hard. On the other hand, this second season of Westworld took some very intriguing leaps, creatively, and those mostly masked my growing frustration with having to over-think the timelines I was witnessing. ... What did work was the set-up to the next chapter, as the finale did in fact open a door to a perhaps more compelling leap for Westworld next season, and I'm going on that ride until it makes me get off.
This season's insistence on maintaining a nonlinear narrative - plus several more dueling timelines - resulted in a story that seemed unnecessarily complicated, if not purposefully incomprehensible, in places - and that was especially true of "The Passenger." ... While "The Passenger" had moments of undisputed brilliance and poetry, much of the emotional impact was blunted by the needlessly convoluted timeline and its desire to shock us with twists.
Up to this point, the season had excited me and bored me to tears. ... Fortunately, the show stepped up. The feature-length finale, 'The Passenger', paid off all of its stories and then some, providing a much-needed sense of closure on so many aspects of the show while opening avenues for new intriguing possibilities.
I enjoyed the finale and all of season two, although I think we can all agree that season one ended a lot more neatly and thoughtfully. But honestly, despite all the remaining loose ends, this finale still managed to wrap up a lot more things than I expected it to, although it did so in ways that were often ridiculous.
That’s a more satisfying place than many of us could’ve dreamed this show would’ve left us. Or, at least, it would be if Westworld could leave well enough alone. A final fuck-you assures us that no matter how well the show delivers some closure, it can’t get its rocks off without mystery for mystery’s sake.
A twisty, shouty concluding instalment. Season two, episode 10 was an orgy of exposition, the multitude of loose ends tied up with almost sadistic gusto. Far from leaving us in the dark – a widespread fear as the series spun through increasingly complex loop-the-loops this year – Westworld was exiting in a blaze of over-explanation. Many viewers will have staggered away in need of a lie down and/or battery recharge.
My biggest concern is that by losing the focus on humans and what they could discover as a result of visiting the parks and mingling with the hosts is that Westworld will become Humans, and that series already airs on AMC. ... I was hoping for more worlds, not a leap into this one.
I'm not sure exactly how I feel about "The Passenger" other than utterly overwhelmed. It wasn't so much an episode of television as an explosion, packing so much information into 90 minutes that even a dedicated fan might be forgiven for rewinding and re-watching some of the dense scenes. ... By moving out of the park and killing off a few characters, "Westworld" writers have put the show in a good position for Season 3 next year, when (I hope) they can simplify the plot and explore the weird sci-fi future outside of the park's confines.
There’s something soothing about being led on. Even the fact that timeline jumps erratically backwards and forwards in time becomes more appealing when it comes with the assurance that in Westworld’s universe, there is a future to flash forward to. And most importantly, Westworld withstands that large-scale dissection.
Season 2 finale “The Passenger” ranks with the show’s most confusing episodes. Much is revealed and many more mysteries are generated. But what impresses most about “The Passenger” is how well particular scenes and fragments of scenes work as character drama.
But when you’re trying to thread the needle of a narrative about AI fighting human oppressors, and the story’s solution is to (temporarily) extinguish 90 percent of its main cast while shuffling the identities of its remaining players around, the story’s emotional core starts to feel like it’s being hidden under a cup and balls trick. ... Still, there were a lot of enjoyable things about this episode, and a lot of my previous guesses about where the plot was headed were nicely upturned.
For the most part, I liked “The Passenger.” ... But I can never really escape the thought that the show’s story is told the way it is because it wants to keep me in the dark, wants to trick me. And sometimes, as with the Charlores twist, being tricked is a lot of fun. But most of the time, it just feels like pulling strings that don’t connect to anything else, in the name of pulling strings.
By the time it (kind of) became clear what Bernard was doing in his various iterations this season, I didn’t care. It’s exhausting as a viewer to feel like you’re never fully in the loop, and that you never will be. Not to mention that the lack of clarity most of the time was contrasted with thunkingly obvious expositional dialogue in scenes where the show decided it did want you to know what’s happening. ... It’s frustrating, because Westworld had so many striking individual moments this season.
The New York Times
The Season 2 finale may not be the best “Westworld” episode, but it’s certainly the most “Westworld” episode ... After two lead-in episodes that allowed for more personal, bite-size adventures to slip through the show’s sprawling landscape, the finale goes for a mind-expanding, budget-busting maximalism that overwhelms — and exhausts — the senses.
Sean T. Collins
["The Passenger"] is stuffed with enough timeframe shifts and shocking revelations to keep Reddit busy for ages. ... But it's hard to escape the sense that all this storytelling flim-flam has a core drive of its own: to obscure the show's countless weaknesses and dilute its few undeniable strengths. ... The funny thing is that despite the length of the finale and the glacial pace of most of the preceding episodes, Westworld Season Two still feels like it just barely got started.
The show feels, weirdly, both necessary and disposable, fascinating and forgettable. Like most of its characters, human and host, Westworld provides a notable simulation, in its case of entertainment itself.
“The Passenger” is a big, exhausting episode. To its credit, it moves at a clipped pace, making great use of its one hour and thirty minute runtime. The Charlotte Hale twist is a nice touch, and I loved the moments where the hosts escape into the beautiful Valley Beyond. At the same time, I can’t help but feel like a large portion of this season was ultimately useless.
Film Crit Hulk
We have come to the end and I have to admit that this finale is not only my least-favorite episode since the season-two premiere, but also that I’m a bit perplexed. ... I’m wondering about the overall storytelling approach. What should feel like a cathartic release, or a dagger to the chest, instead largely feels like a dreamy act of treading water – one where I couldn’t help but find myself feeling disaffected by the majority of it. Perhaps it’s that the episode has no real dramatic pacing, rhythm, or crescendo, feeling hurried and yet static all at once, especially as it goes through a lot of purposeless cross-cutting. Or perhaps it’s just hard to watch an episode that’s constantly explaining itself as it goes along, just as it’s hard to watch an episode stretched out to 90 minutes be full of relatively dead air.
I genuinely could not puzzle out some of the stuff that was going on here, to the point that I began to wonder if Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy had gotten tangled up trying to construct a finale that none of the eagle-eyed Redditors could see coming.
The Daily Beast
Listen, we endorse any bold project that challenges its audience to think. But after watching every minute of both seasons of Westworld, studying the various dissections of each episode that crop up each week, interviewing several members of the cast, and watching the finale twice, we will concede that it is absolutely ridiculous that we have no idea what happened.
It turned a cast of interesting figures worth fighting for into a grotesque crew devoid of anyone you’d cross the street to spit on. That’s not always bad. Antiheroes can be great fun, but Westworld seemed allergic to hope or joy or sarcasm or anything that might have made the ride compelling. ... It feels like the show is retconning everyone as it’s being written.
Westworld's second season has been a journey of peaks and valleys. After a confident, momentum-building start, the show fell into the same traps which hindered the first season - patience-testing stalling techniques, pointless meandering, groan-worthy dialogue, and way too many cross-cutting narratives. ... When the show put emotional depth above coded trickery it was unbeatable. Unfortunately, the season finale features many of Westworld's worst habits.
[The finale] felt bloated and indulgent. ... The show would be a lot stronger, in my opinion, if it focused more on plots like Maeve’s heroic journey to save her daughter. Want me to wrestle with the idea of what does or doesn’t constitute a person? I’m far more likely to do it while watching a badly damaged robot sacrifice all for the assemblage of circuitry she’s been led to believe is her child than I am while witnessing androids vaguely speechify about in which world they belong.
What do you think?
What did you think of the finale, and of the second season as a whole? Let us know in the comments section below.