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The midpoint of Westworld’s fourth season arrives with an episode that delivers dramatic deaths and resurrections, while finally revealing the multiple timelines we’ve been watching all along. In other words, it’s vintage Westworld. Let’s break down what we’ve learned this week, and how things are left standing as the story begins to accelerate into its second half.
In the last episode, we left humanity’s hero Caleb (Aaron Paul) with one of Charlotte Hale’s (Tessa Thompson) flies crawling into his ear canal, which would be downright unsanitary even if it wasn’t about to infect him with Hale’s patented mind-control goop. That’s where his story picks up, after a brief flashback to Caleb and Maeve (Thandiwe Newton) storming the final Rehoboam installation in commando gear, like all of Christopher Nolan’s James Bond fantasies come to life. Caleb wakes up to find Hale watching over him and manages to gather his wits enough to elucidate her nefarious plan: she’s going to use her flies to infect visitors to her new Golden Age park with the mind-control goop, and then they’re going to spread it across the planet. “Welcome to the superspreader event of the century,” smirks Hale, somewhat jarringly. “You’re the first wave.”
Hale’s smug grin is soon wiped off her face by Maeve, who hacks into the mind control system’s speaker tower and uses it to launch a sonic attack that knocks out Hale’s host bodyguard William (Ed Harris). Caleb and Maeve escape through the Golden Age park with Hale in handcuffs, eventually arriving at a construction site from where they hope to be rescued. William catches up with them, and a gunfight ensues between Maeve and the Man in Black. Both are badly injured, and Maeve decides to sacrifice herself: hugging William close before detonating the construction site’s explosives, burying the pair of them.
Caleb remains defiant despite Maeve’s apparent death, telling Hale that he will keep the planet safe for his daughter: “Frankie will not grow up in a world where she is controlled by you.” That’s before it’s revealed what’s actually happened: it was Hale’s men, not Caleb’s rescuers, who arrived first at the construction site. Hale came out on top, and is now making a host version of Caleb (she thinks he’s the 278th version) relive these painful memories far in the future (23 years have passed, so we’re now 30 years on from the events of season three).
In distress, Caleb runs out of Hale’s interrogation room and out through the lobby, which reveals that they’ve been in the offices of Olympiad Entertainment (the same company that Evan Rachel Wood’s new character Christina works for). Outside, all the people on a busy street freeze around Caleb as he looks on, aghast. Hale asks him, “Do you understand now, Caleb?” and he can barely reply, “You won.” The smugness of victory is back in Hale’s voice as she tells him: “Welcome to my world!” On the horizon, her huge mind-control tower looms over the city.
Given what we’ve just learned about Olympiad Entertainment, it now seems probable that Christina’s story also takes place in the Hale-controlled future 30 years on from Westworld season three. That would also explain why Christina’s roommate Maya (Ariana Debose) keeps having nightmares about being attacked by swarms of flies. As to why neither of them have ever spotted that whopping great mind-control tower, it doesn’t seem too much of a stretch to imagine that Hale would mind-control her obedient populace not to notice they’re being mind-controlled.
In better news, Maya’s attempts to set up Christina on a blind date have improved since the professional gambler she gave the brush off to in episode one. Her beau this week is James Marsden’s mysterious new character, who identifies himself as “something of a bounty hunter with a heart of gold”. Both sense they have some sort of shared past. He says, “I feel like I’ve known you lifetimes”, and later she asks, “Have we met before?” What the future holds for them remains unclear, but it’s at least looking hopeful they’ll both be able to delete their dating apps.
Bernard’s buried treasure
Out in the desert, Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) convinces mysterious curly-haired revolutionary C (Aurora Perrineau) to help him dig for a weapon buried in the sand. In the process, C reveals that she’s also looking for the body of her father, who she believes to have been killed somewhere out in the dunes. Bernard discovers something even more revelatory. “I’m sorry C, there is a body but it’s not your father’s,” says Bernard, brushing sand from Maeve’s long-dormant face. “Caleb isn’t here, but that weapon I promised you is…” It’s an explosive moment that reveals, in a stroke, both the fact that Bernard was in the Valley Beyond for 30 years, rather than seven, and that C is in fact Frankie (perhaps taking her new name from the initial of the missing father she’s been searching for). As for the weapon Bernard’s been digging for? Presumably that has to be Maeve herself. Now, does anybody remember where we left her charger?
‘Westworld’ season four episode four is available on HBO Max in the US from Sunday 17 July and Sky Atlantic in the UK from Monday 18 July