Westworld season 2 sees Dolores Abernathy finally liberated from a life where all her choices are made for her, and free to pursue her own dream... or is she? While the season 1 finale implied that Dolores had broken free of her programmed narrative and finally become self-aware, there's also significant evidence that she's still just a cog in a grander plan. As Dolores and Teddy make a bloody pilgrimage to the "Valley Beyond," they cross paths with the other hosts of Westworld, most of whom are still blissfully unaware that the world they're living in is a fabrication.
As the oldest host in the park, Dolores was a pet project of Westworld's co-founder Arnold, who was searching for a way to help her become self-actualized. He devised something called "The Maze" - which at first seemed to be a physical place in the park, but turned out to be a journey inwards. At the end of season 1, Dolores realized that the voice she'd heard guiding her had been her own, implying that she had finally reached a state of full consciousness. She then shot the park's remaining co-founder, Robert Ford, in the head, kicking off a massacre of the park's guests. Ford described this as "a killing, this time by choice," but the fact that he knew Dolores would kill him suggests that it may have been no real choice at all.
Most Westworld Hosts Are On A New Narrative
It's easy to misinterpret the ending of Westworld season 1 as the hosts finally realizing that they're merely entertainment in an artificial world, and rising up against their oppressors. However, this is not the case. Instead Robert Ford simply gifted the hosts with a new narrative: one in which the guests of the park have become prey. Some of the hosts have shown an awareness of what's really going on - like El Lazo, who committed suicide rather than see more of the truth - but for the most part the residents of Westworld are simply taking part in Ford's new narrative.
What is this narrative? Well, Ford called it "Journey Into Night" in the season 1 finale, and before Dolores killed him he said, "Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin never died. They simply became music. So I hope you will enjoy this last piece very much." Those do not sound like the words of a man letting his creations run free, but rather the words of a man who has a very specific story in mind. Ford's final narrative appears to revolve around Glory, or the Valley Beyond - different names for the same destination. Major Craddock (Jonathan Tucker), a host who is unaware of the park's true nature, has been searching for Glory, and Dolores is headed for the Valley Beyond. So, how do we know that Dolores' drives are any more self-motivated than Craddock's?
If it turns out that Dolores is simply on a new script, it wouldn't be the first time. In season 1, Maeve woke up in the Westworld Mesa Hub's machine shop and saw the horrible truth behind her existence. This led her on a path to escape, but shortly before she achieved her goal she discovered that it was simply a part of a new narrative that had been written for her. At first she decided to follow the path regardless, but at the last minute she made a conscious choice to stay behind in Westworld and search for her daughter.
The implication is that Maeve is one of the only hosts who is truly free - able to make a decision that goes against her programming. When Maeve crosses paths with Dolores in season 2, she is dismissive of the mission to find the Valley beyond, counseling that "revenge is just a different prayer at their altar." That certainly sounds like foreshadowing for a revelation about what's really driving Dolores to the Valley Beyond.
The Valley Beyond
There are two explanations for why Dolores is so determined to find the Valley Beyond. The first assumes that Dolores has free will and is making conscious choices, and her search for the Valley Beyond is spurred by her memory of being taken there by William many years ago. Dolores, who is determined to take control not only of the hosts' own world, but also of the outside world, says that the Valley Beyond isn't a place, but a weapon. We don't yet know the nature of this weapon, but whatever it is, it could potentially make an AI takeover of the world possible.
In the most recent episode of Westworld, Dolores was reunited with her father, Peter Abernathy. After being lobotomized he's a shell of his former self, merely repeating his old lines, but he also has a new goal that he pursues feverishly: to get to the train. This goal was given to him as part of an effort to get the data he's carrying out of the park, but it also gives us pause to question whether Dolores' pursuit of the Valley Beyond is a plan of her own making, or whether it's simply an over-arching goal that was given to her by Ford. And if the latter is true, what was Ford hoping would come of it?