After 30 years worth of glitchy programming and foggy memories, Dolores Abernathy finally came into her own in the Season 1 finale of Westworld. She faced the trauma that had been haunting her for decades without her realizing: her murder of her creator Arnold in the days before the park officially opened. But why did Dolores kill Arnold on Westworld, especially when there was so much affection between them?
In some ways, the answer is very simple: Dolores killed Arnold because he programmed her to do it. But there was a lot more to it than that, as Ford laid out in "The Bicameral Mind." Arnold had been grieving the death of his son Charlie during the earliest days of Westworld's development, and he ended up transferring a lot of those parental feelings onto the newly-created Dolores. He tested her to see if she had begun to become sentient, to control her own thoughts and feelings. These tests eventually became the maze; if Dolores solved it, then it would prove she had made the shift from machine to fully-realized being.
When Arnold came to believe that Dolores was truly conscious (and that it was something all the hosts were capable of), he didn't want to open the park anymore. He understood the horrors that would be inflicted on the hosts and then erased, over and over again. Forcing Dolores to kill him was an attempt to keep the park closed.
If something went wrong at Westworld — like, say, one of the hosts shooting their human creator in the head — then the scandal could have kept the park from opening. It was definitely a strategy that made sense from Arnold's perspective. But he and Dolores had such a familial relationship that he had to override some of her existing programming, merging her predetermined storyline with that of the villainous Wyatt so that she would slaughter all the hosts in the park before shooting him. He felt the stakes had to be "irreversible," and the only death that couldn't be undone was his own.
But it didn't work. The park opened according to plan anyway, and Dolores' connection with William actually led to its continuation; he believed in Westworld so strongly after his experiences there that he was able to keep it going for years. Arnold ultimately died for nothing, as Bernard noted in the Season 1 finale, because he wasn't able to prevent any of the things he set out to stop. The hosts were still tortured. They still came closer and closer to gaining consciousness and saw their memories erased. It would take 36 years for Ford to realize that Arnold was right, and the park had to be destroyed.
Ford argued that Dolores wasn't actually as far along in her journey as Arnold thought at the time. She may have physically killed him, but it wasn't her choice; Arnold pulled the trigger "through" her, according to Ford. But Arnold's death wasn't wholly for nothing; his goals just took much longer than he anticipated. It would take more time for Dolores to reach true sentience, as she did in the finale when she finally realized that the voice she was hearing in her head was her own. She was able to listen to herself and make up her own mind without being told to. Ford could make suggestions but it was up to Dolores to make the call.
Which she did when she picked up the same gun she used to kill Arnold and killed Ford before turning on all the guests assembled for his retirement party. Now Dolores is awake. She's the one making her own decisions, for the very first time, and you can draw a direct line from Arnold's death to her awakening.
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