Gone is the location hopping – instead we’re fixed in one place only, with the Wes Humphrey and Lisa Joy-written episode focused on exploring Charlotte Hale’s new world order, setting up the final three instalments in the process.
It’s because of this, then, that the episode feels more informative than entertaining (and a little cold). Still, it’s a necessary watch that answers some questions and clicks a few previously uncertain details into place.
Below, we break down what we learned in “Zhuangzi”, and what exactly these answers could mean for the remainder of the season.
New world order
Episode four ended with the reveal that the storylines involving Christina (Evan Rachel Wood) and Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) were set 25 years in the future, and that evil puppetmaster Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) was ultimately victorious in turning civilisation into her very own Westworld. In episode five, we learn more facts about what’s gone down in the intervening years thanks to scraps of dialogue from several characters. First up, as Caleb (Aaron Paul, absent in this episode) experienced last week, Hale is keeping the now-enslaved humans under her spell thanks to a loud groaning noise that’s blasted out via a tower that stands tall over the city. This tower is invisible to all the humans, and ensures they remain programmed to follow “pre-scripted loops” (think the actors in The Truman Show, only everything they do is against their will). Hale’s intention is to “keep them busy so they don’t question their realities” – much like the humans did with the hosts in Westworld. The ultimate payback has been enacted! However, something is very wrong...
In the first episode, a man named Peter (Aaron Stanford) harassed a confused Christina about this tower as well as his theory that she had somehow been controlling his life. Following this, Christina herself started to question certain things about the world she lived in. This week, we discover, thanks to an informative chat between Hale and host William (Ed Harris), that there has been a worrying increase in “outliers”, AKA humans who realise their existence is a lie. What’s more concerning for Hale is that, following a small encounter with these people, hosts are becoming suicidal. Hale deploys host William to take out one of these “outliers” – cue the arrival of Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) and his team, sans Bernard, who arrive in the enslaved city to retrieve the very same “outlier”. It’s crucially revealed here that Stubbs and co are “the last free humans” left standing – which suggests Hale’s dominion isn’t just over the city previously known as New York. Their mission is interrupted by host William who, after spotting them, blasts the mind-control noise, which makes all of the imprisoned humans target the rescue team (this moment feels like something straight out of Inception’s dream sequences). Stubbs’ team is, very conveniently, successful in their rescue mission, and sail away with the “outlier” safe and sound.
William + William = rebellion
When Hale orders William to kill the “outlier” Stubbs eventually saves, she warns him to avoid any interactions with them; she’s worried he will suffer the same fate as the other suicidal hosts. To lose William would be a disaster for Hale – after all, he’s a lapdop programmed to do her bidding. William ends up failing in both aspects of the mission and, with a few terse exchanges with Hale weighing on his mind, pays his human counterpart a visit; Hale has kept the real William alive via an Austin Powers-style cryogenic tank, meaning he hasn’t aged a day despite 25 years having passed. Host William is having an existential crisis of epic proportions. “What am I?!” he bellows to his human self, concerned he’s been infected by the outlier’s virus. Then an intriguing interaction happens:
Human William: “What do you think of your world?”
Host William: “This isn’t my world; it’s hers.”
Human William: “Maybe it’s time you questioned the nature of your own reality.”
It seems like human William is sowing the seeds of (another) rebellion within the mind of the one closest to Hale – which could be very helpful for Bernard and his newly-acquired weapon.
Suddenly, Wood’s new character name makes much more sense. It’s been a slow season for the actor so far, with much more screentime given to Thompson, Paul, Harris and Thandiwe Newton (who will surely make her grand return as a revived Maeve in the next few episodes). But, Wood is back in the spotlight, with her story clicking into focus thanks to a little push from Teddy (James Marsden). She soon realises she has the power to control those around her and that the narratives she’s creating at Olympiad correlate to the citizens who live around her. As Teddy tells her, “In this world, you’re a God.” (CHRISTina – get it?) After this, she returns to work and searches for a name that’s been rattling around her mind: Dolores Abernathy, who viewers will remember as the host she played in the first three seasons.
It turns out that name is classified as a restricted search in Olympiad’s servers and, after a menacing conversation with her boss (”Do you know what would happen if she knows you reached the walled garden?”), Christina holds her hand up and shouts “stop”. To her surprise, he freezes, leading Christina to come to a realisation – in this world, she is a “storyteller”, and is in control of everyone’s choices. Leaving to meet Teddy, she spots the tower for the first time, now completely aware of the nature of her reality. “Who did this to me?” she asks Teddy, visibily disturbed – to which Teddy responds with a bombshell: “You did.”
It seems flashbacks might fill us in on what exactly happened after Dolores’s memories were wiped by Rehoboam at the end of season three.
1. Where exactly is Caleb? And what is Hale’s purpose for him? After questioning whether there is a flaw in host William’s system, could it be that she’s lining him up as his replacement? It would be interesting to see Paul show his villainous side having built up Caleb as one of the only decent humans on the show. Or perhaps she’s kept him alive on the off chance something goes wrong with Christina – let’s not forget the two had a close relationship in season three. And, as Christina’s boss tells her, Hale is “already suspicious” of her.
2. There are some big questions surrounding how Teddy came to be aware that Christina was the one “who did this” to herself. He was totally absent in season three, having had his pearl (AKA his host brain) uploaded to the Valley Beyond by Dolores after his death in season two. It’s uncertain that Hale would have wanted Teddy to be a part of her new world order, considering Dolores’s romantic link to him, so did she intentionally write this development as a part of his narrative? Or did he merely gain consciousness after an encounter with an “outlier”? I’m leaning towards the first.
3. Where is Bernard with Maeve’s body? Whatever he is planning will obviously play a part in the season’s endgame – and considering host William’s existential crisis, it certainly seems as if the tables are drastically turning on Hale without her realising. The now-escaped “outlier” that Stubbs and co saved might be key in reviving Maeve in some way.
‘Westworld’ season four, episode five is available on HBO Max in the US from Sunday 24 July and NOW in the UK from Monday 25 July