Westworld season 2 episode 5 ended on a rather spectacular and gruesome action set piece, but watching the Shogun getting slowly decapitated wasn’t the most shocking scene in this episode.
Maeve is now able to control hosts with her mind; making her the official Professor X of Westworld. It was a turn we weren’t expecting, but the sort of thing we’ve been longing for since this series began.
Finally, we can get back into exploring fight for sentience that was established in Westworld season one. While series two has been great, much of it is focused on conflict and backstory, rather than the nuances that made the first season such a cut above the rest.
With all that we’ve now learned, Final Boss take a look at Maeve in a bit more detail, from her ‘witch’ powers to her rise to a conscious being.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room:
How Does Maeve Control the Hosts?
This question is both easy and impossible to answer.
In an earlier episode Bernard explains that ‘all hosts have a subconscious link to the closest host around them’.
Basically, every host in Westworld is connected by a wireless neurological network; a hive mind. Clearly, Maeve has been able to access this hive mind and use it to influence their decision making.
But how is she able to do this?
Some have theorised that this is due to her enhanced abilities, having had Felix whack everything up to 11. But we have at Final Boss have another idea: We think Ford designed her with access to the network, as part of him charting her rise to sentience.
As of Westworld season 2 episode 5, we think she’s still caught up in a narrative he designed.
Is Maeve Sentient?
As defined by the show, Dolores became sentient through hearing her own inner voice. She gained a sense of intuition. However, she didn’t just get to this stage on her own.
Arnold developed this intuition within her. He cultivated it through a series of events and narratives that eventually allowed the machine brain he’d built to process its own sense of self.
In essence, Dolores couldn’t have done it alone. She needed help, as does Maeve.
Arnold wasn’t the only one working to build consciousness in his creations. Ford was intent on giving the hosts conscious mind, too. But, in order to do that, he needed to follow in the footsteps of Arnold’s success. He needed to create a scenario in which a host mind could develop beyond its own design.
He needed to bootstrap consciousness.
Maeve is Not Sentient… Yet
From what we know of the show, and how sentience is perceived in Dolores, we don’t think Maeve has truly achieved a sense of self. She is off her narrative loop, improvising, but as Felix displayed last season even if she thought she was thinking freely, she wasn’t.
She still followed her programming, as displayed by a predicted conversation.
Now, we know what you are going to say. The creators did discuss whether or not Maeve is following her own free will at this point. They claimed that her decision to get off the train in the season finale was her own, and that she’s no longer on the path programmed within her.
But like hosts, people can deceive…
Until we get concrete evidence within the show that she’s following free will and not still bound to a narrative, we’re not convinced.
Everything that is happening to her now — finding a woman exactly like her, learning how to manipulate the world around her, searching for her daughter — it all seems like a story designed with Maeve at its heart.
Maeve Is Evolving
In nature, to get from point A to point B, evolution must take place. This is what happened to Dolores, and this is what is happening to Maeve.
Ford designed a narrative that would break Maeve free of her programming, but it was never going to be easy. It took Arnold years to crack Dolores. Ford didn’t have that kind of time, so he made the situation more extreme.
In Westworld season two, episode 5, Maeve mentions hearing a new voice, not unlike Dolores; an indicator that something has changed within her. This comes after she gains her witch powers to control other hosts.
What Is Ford’s Plan for Maeve?
Using the network of connected hosts, he’s given her the ability to access their code and change it to suit her needs. By doing so, he separated Maeve as an individual from hosts as machines.
He demonstrates that she is different; that she is a being with control over these robots, very much like a human.
Forcing such a disconnect between her and her kin will place Maeve in a situation where she must consider what she is. Instead of merely focusing on a narrative-like story of finding her daughter, she’ll have to question where she stands in this world. If all those around her, even the likes of Hector, can be influenced by her voice, is she really one of them?
As many of us with conscious thought experience, Maeve is heading for a true existential crisis. Not simply a question of am I real, but a question of who am I and what is my purpose?
By being made to consider her own sense of self, we believe it is Ford’s hope that he would be able to ‘bootstrap consciousness’ and create another sentient host.
Ford’s narrative is driving Maeve towards true sentience by forcing her to confront all the truths of her own existence as Arnold did for Dolores. She cannot simply break her loop, improvise and gain true consciousness, she needs to be pushed to her limits and define herself.
Question for Final Boss fans:
Are the hosts capable of consciousness as a human mind is, or is this just a programming dream of Arnold and Ford designed to mimic true free will?