With my broad, “balanced” opinions out of the way, there’s a lot to complain about in just about every facet of this season. So here’s where I complain about Maeve.
She was compelling in season one as she began to remember her past stories and was almost driven mad with grief at what had been done to her and her daughter. Season one was about discovering that abuse and positioning herself to set out and do something about it. All good stuff. With no disrespect to Thandie Newton, she was a drag for this entire season because they never figured out anything interesting to do from where season one left her.
A big part of the problem wasn’t limited to her, the whole season struggled with reconciling the hosts memories of their stories with their “enlightenment”. The finale really leans on the idea that ultimately, humans are the “passengers”, locked into their lives by simple, powerful drives, and what makes the hosts (potentially) superior is that they can truly change. But up until the finale, this season was leaning heavily the other way—on the pathos and drama of Dolores (sorta), Teddy, Maeve, and Akecheta righting the wrongs of their stories, getting their revenge, doing exactly what the last minute pivot suggests is a very human limitation.
Akecheta’s tale fully embraces the redemption of his past life, giving him a reunion with his lost love. Teddy takes a darker turn, but is ultimately rejecting his enlightenment as well as he opts to kill himself because he doesn’t like what he’s become. Dolores’ arc is the only one in line with the finale, she starts very strongly driven by concern for her “father” but slowly moves past that attachment, embracing the freedom she’s discovered and driven ultimately just to secure and spread that freedom.
Maeve’s is just this wishy-washy middle ground, but with a whole bunch of screen time. She’s never able to move past her past, but it’s never resolved in a satisfying way (like Akecheta), and it drags out much longer than Akecheta or Teddy’s stories. She spends the whole season in pursuit of her daughter (or pursuing her daughter’s safety), but she knows it’s not really her daughter, but she’s still determined to “save” her, but then it’s not always clear from what. And sometimes Maeve seems like a force of nature who will not be stopped by any power of host or human, and sometimes Maeve seems tragically resigned to inaction, and it’s never clear why (never mind the hazily defined powers she has that seem to ebb and flow with the potential for a threat to be milked for drama).
So in the end, she gets this little girl host into The Sublime, but they try to make it like some heroic connection, when it’s never really clear that the “daughter” feels anything toward Maeve—does she love her new mother? Does she remember Maeve as powerfully as Maeve remembers her? Maeve telling her she will be with her rings hollow—does this girl even care, or is she just happy this crazy lady held off the zombies long enough for her to escape?
They’d better have a hell of a justification and compelling, focused story to tell if they bring back Thandie Newton for season 3. Given her profile on the show, I’m almost certain she’ll be back, and given the writing of season 2, I’m almost certain it’s going to suck again.