Season 2 of Westworld is nearly here, well over a year after the season 1 finale, so you may need a reminder of the major mysteries and twists - in particular, the nature of the Maze, and the somewhat confusing multiple timelines. The show is based on the 1973 sci-fi movie of the same name, about a theme park filled with extremely lifelike androids, who break free of their mental restraints and unleash hell on the park's guests. However, with much more time to explore the concept, Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy's TV adaptation of Westworld has gone deep into the idea of artificial intelligence, consciousness, free will, and the dangers of humans playing god.
At the heart of Westworld is Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), a humble rancher's daughter who also happens to be the oldest "host" in the park. Season 1 was a journey of self-discovery for Dolores, as she slowly peeled back the veil of her reality to find the horrid truth underneath. Programmer Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) was also shaken to his core when he discovered that he himself was a host, designed by the park's co-founder Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), and that his grief for his deceased son was actually just a backstory borrowed from Ford's partner, Arnold.
Another major player in the game is Maeve (Thandie Newton), the madam of Sweetwater's brothel, who discovered the true nature of her existence and manipulated two employees into helping her escape - only to turn back at the last minute and return to Westworld to search for the daughter she'd had in a previous build. Finally, there's the Man in Black (Ed Harris), head of Delos, Inc. and effectively the owner of the park, who became obsessed with finding the "Maze" that he believed had been hidden in it. Season 1 dropped the bombshell that the Man in Black is actually the older version of William (Jimmi Simpson), a guest who fell into a brief but intense romance with Dolores during his first visit, and grew embittered when he returned to find that Dolores didn't remember him.
This Page: What is the Maze?
The mystery of the Maze was resolved in season 1, and Westworld's showrunners have said that season 2 will instead focus on something called "The Door." Still, it's worth recapping what the Maze was, since it proved to be a crucial part of Westworld's mythology.
Clues to the Maze were scattered all over Westworld, but particularly among the Native American hosts. Near the beginning of season 1, the Man in Black scalped a Native American croupier called Kissy (Eddie Rouse) and found the pattern of the Maze - a circular puzzle with the figure of a person at the center - inside the skin of his scalp. It later emerged that the Man in Black's first introduction to the Maze happened when he killed Maeve and her daughter, in Maeve's previous life. Maeve refused to die at first, and instead staggered outside with her dead daughter and collapsed in the center of a pattern in the dirt: a Maze.
During his quest to find the center of the Maze (which he believed was part of a secret level of the game of Westworld), the Man in Black was repeatedly told by hosts that the Maze wasn't meant for him. In the season finale, we were finally given an explanation for this. The Maze isn't a physical place, but a model for how the hosts could achieve consciousness, designed by Arnold. Arnold at first thought of consciousness as a pyramid that his creations had to ascend, and so he used his own voice to give the hosts an inner monologue - effectively "bootstrapping consciousness." However, Arnold later realized his mistake - as he explained to Dolores:
"When I was first working on your mind, I had a theory of consciousness. I thought it was a pyramid you needed to scale, so I gave you a voice, my voice, to guide you along the way. Memory, improvisation, each step harder to reach than the last. And you never got there. I couldn't understand what was holding you back. Then, one day, I realized I had made a mistake. Consciousness isn't a journey upward, but a journey inward. Not a pyramid, but a maze. Every choice could bring you closer to the center or send you spiraling to the edges, to madness. Do you understand now, Dolores, what the center represents? Whose voice I've been wanting you to hear?"
The Maze pattern that the Man in Black keeps finding was actually just taken from a puzzle game that belonged to Arnold's son, Charlie (Paul-Mikel Williams). Dolores finally reaches the center of the Maze when she realizes that the voice she has heard guiding her is her own voice - not Arnold's, or anyone else's.
For much of the season, it seemed like Dolores was undertaking this journey at the same time as all of the other events in the show. It wasn't until the finale that Westworld revealed we'd actually been seeing Dolores in three different time settings that span 35 years.