Westworld Finally Remembered How to Blow Your Mind

Ed Harris as Westworld's Man in Black.

Photo: John Johnson/HBO

If you thought Westworld peaked in season one… you’re probably right. But if you’ve been waiting for Westworld to give you a great twist again, or perhaps despaired that the show would never thrill you like it used to, or that it had completely lost its way during the mediocre third season, tonight’s episode proved otherwise. And if it didn’t match the greatness of season one, it came pretty damn close.

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Attention: if you care at all about Westworld, I highly recommend you not read this or any recap before watching “Generation Loss.” I’m serious enough to deliver a second spoiler warning. (Also, try to stay off the internet entirely until you’ve viewed it.)

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Remember how I’ve been praising Westworld season four for being so refreshingly straightforward? I take it all back. “Generation Loss” pulled off the show’s biggest twists since the near-perfect first season, including a major time-jump that pulled the rug out from the last three episodes. While it deftly edited the season’s three storylines together to give its “holy crap” moment, we can begin with Christina’s, since hers still feels like it’s set in some other world (and maybe it is).

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After painting the enigmatic Tower, seemingly in a daze, Christina (Evan Rachel Wood) is dragged out for another night on the town and another blind date by her increasingly fishy roommate Maya (Ariana DeBose). But this time, her blind date is Teddy (James Marsden)—or rather, that guy who looks exactly like Teddy—and their conversation is absolutely dripping with barely disguised subtext about Dolores and the Westworld park. They both make multiple references to being trapped on paths, like the routines the Hosts were programmed to follow. Maybe-Teddy says he was a “bounty hunter with a heart of gold,” which was his role in the park. Dolores even asks, “Have we met before?” But my favorite detail is how the date starts; Christina drops her lipstick and Maybe-Teddy picks it up and hands it to her. It’s the same way Dolores and Teddy were programmed to meet in Westworld, except with a milk can. Suffice it to say, the date goes well.

The adventure of Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth), meanwhile, gets stymied when C (Aurora Perrineau) and the militia leader J (Daniel Wu) argue about whether they should go ahead and murder our dynamic duo. C wants the weapon Bernard says he knows how to find, while J wants them dead. The compromise is that J takes Stubbs as collateral, while Bernard leads C to the weapon. (It’s a bummer that they’ve split up because Bernard is still being obnoxiously enigmatic and needs to be given crap for it.) After grabbing a vehicle that has a giant industrial fan on the back, Bernard and C set out into the desert.

Aurora Perrineau as C.

Aurora Perrineau as C.
Photo: John Johnson/HBO

The Maeve (Thandiwe Newton) and Caleb (Aaron Paul) storyarc is where the real action is, literally and figuratively. After a flashback reveals that Caleb was indeed wounded when he and Maeve destroyed the last Rehoboam computer, we’re back to the present, where Caleb has just been infected with one of those human-controlling flies while Hale (Tessa Thompson) gloats over him. The good news is that it takes a while for the parasite to grab the reins, so when Maeve makes a very destructive distraction by turning the weird sound-cone thing (that gives orders to controlled humans) to max volume, Caleb grabs Hale, and they and Maeve escape to Mobworld… where the already infected park-goers have been ordered to gun them and seemingly everybody else down. Although Caleb has a close call and nearly shoots Maeve himself, the three of them manage to steal a car and drive out of the park to be rescued by an extraction team. It is probably worth noting that Delos’ newest park went to hell and got many, many people killed on its very first night.

During the drive, Maeve explains what happened when Caleb got wounded during the final Rehoboam mission—despite it looking like Caleb must have died in seconds, Maeve managed to get him to a hospital, where she left him so he could enjoy a normal life. Alas, years later, Maeve decided to check on him, which is when she wrecked the power grid and alerted Hale and the Man in Black to their locations, as seen in the season’s first episode.

Arriving at a demolition site, Caleb drags Hale to a control room and calls his team, but the Man in Black (Ed Harris) arrives and battles Maeve. Caleb is again ordered through the sound-thing to shoot Maeve, but to Hale’s disbelief he manages to resist the order again and opens fire on the MIB. Although shot himself, the MIB also manages to shoot Maeve, who takes control of the nearby explosives and detonates them, sacrificing herself to take Hale’s most formidable minion off the chessboard, so to speak. Caleb blacks out.

Wild, right? The (apparent) deaths of two of the show’s most important characters are nothing compared to what’s next. When Caleb awakes, Hale is free and smug, asking him, “Do you even remember how you got here?” The confused Caleb suddenly remembers getting gunned down by Hale’s goons in that very control room. “You died,” Hale confirms. Meanwhile, Bernard and C drive into the same demolition site, now barren. As they dig, it’s revealed that C is searching for her father in that same location, although she doesn’t believe he’s truly dead. “They say it happened here,” she says. “If it’s true, there’ll be a body.” My friends, C is Caleb’s now-adult daughter Frankie, and time has officially jumped.

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Photo: John Johnson/HBO

“Generation Loss” still isn’t done. Hale reveals that this is the 278th time Caleb has gone through his attempted escape from the park. Why? Fidelity, of course. Yes, Caleb is now a Host (making me retroactively correct, which I will take), and Hale goes into true supervillain mode. Gloating, she reveals it’s been 23 full years since the real Caleb died, and Hale now controls the world. Especially the children, since their growing brains were so malleable. Some adults are outliers, which obviously make up the militia. In this present, Bernard uncovers the weapon, buried in the sand. It’s Maeve’s body.

Caleb wakes up in a testing area and runs outside into a plaza only to see a tower—the Tower—which contains a massive version of the sound-cone device. Just in case there was any doubt, Hale activates it and every single human being in the plaza freezes in place. “You won,” Caleb croaks. “Welcome to my world,” Hale replies, relishing his despair. Oh, by the way, that testing area? Why, it’s inside Olympiad Entertainment, the same place Christina works at, writing narratives about side characters in video games. And one of Hale’s masked minions? Why, she’s one of the bartenders who served Christina and her roommate during her date with Maybe-Teddy.

Damn. Excuse my breathless excitement, but “Generation Loss” had so many major revelations I suddenly liked last week’s dull episode because it gave this episode even more impact. And to think we’re only halfway done with the season! I can’t imagine what surprises are left, other than the Christina situation, but I suddenly have a lot of confidence Westworld has more secrets it’s hiding. Maybe this is it and the show won’t be able to stick the landing, but I’ll still appreciate how often this episode blew my ding-dang mind. In the worst case, Westworld made me feel how I did when I watched that first magical season. And I’ll appreciate that no matter what happens next.

Assorted Musings:

  • It makes a ton of sense that there would be back-up Rehoboam computers scattered throughout the world, but that completely contradicts Serac’s devastation when Caleb erased one of them in the third season finale. But I suppose it’s best to not think of season three at all.
  • Caleb’s voice when talking to Hale in the lab underneath Mobworld is so low and gravelly it’s absurd. He might as well have been dubbed by Christian Bale doing his Batman voice.
  • The reason Hale kept Caleb alive, then bothered to turn him into a Host, is because Dolores and Maeve were so interested in him that she “wanted to see what all the fuss was about.” That tracks.
  • This means Bernard and Stubbs’ storyline is set 23 years after what we thought was the present, which certainly explains all that dust. That also meant Bernard essentially spent 23,000 years trying to figure out ways to stop Hale, including finding Maeve’s body by “trial and error.”
  • Bernard endangers himself to save a bug. If this turns out to be a key moment in the mission to save the world, I will not be pleased.
  • It has come to my attention that the city Mobworld is set in is called Temperance, which means the park I’ve been calling Mobworld could be named Temperance. It’s not used much nowadays, but it means an ability to moderate yourself, particularly in regard to total alcohol abstinence. Definition aside, it is my opinion that it is a dumb name for the park and Mobworld it shall continue to be.

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