Caleb and Maeve are seemingly trapped in the hallways and labs beneath the revived Westworld complex, with an ‘infected’ Caleb’s life (so far) flashing before his eyes. But he and Maeve are not to be underestimated and defying Hale’s control, they are able to fight their way out of the complex. However getting out is one thing… but battered, bruised and injured, were can they go next?
Bernard and Stubbs head out with the rebel named ‘C’ to uncover the site of a potential weapon to use against Hale, though ‘C’ is also interested in tracing her father who whose last known location was the desert wastes beyond the city.
Will Maeve and Caleb’s mission connect or clash with Bernard’s plans and what is their link to an abandonded relic that lies beneath the sand?
Okay, buckle-up, buttercup, things are about to get complex (again)!
Though the current Westworld has been relatively easier to follow, in proportion to previous runs, the latest entry is both the most confusing and the most revealing in its examples of explanations (and lack of them). Filling it in just a bit of the lost time between seasons, we see a gravely-injured Caleb (Aaron Paul) barely surviving his battlefield injuries and Maeve (Thandiwe Newton) leaving him in a hospital to make sure she’s not making him a target, claiming in the ‘now’ that she wanted Caleb to have a normal life – which he did, or at least as ‘normal’ as PTSD’d soldier has in a world that still has a Host threat looking for him! In the resumed ‘now’ and after escaping the Westworld facility by turning the tables on Tessa Thompson’s Charlotte (and taking her as a hostage) Caleb (once again injured) and Maeve (as proficient as ever, but still wounded herself) seem to come to an unexpected sad end during a quarry-side encounter with both Charlotte and the host-version of William (Ed Harris in full Yul Brynner mode). Maeve sacrifices herself by blowing up the quarry (and herself) to stop ‘William’ but just as Caleb is about to finish Charlotte (or deliver her to the enemy), she reveals that the events Caleb is experiencing are a replay of old events in which he died. What’s more, they are actually in a facility off the coast of New York and in the heart of a city full of Hosts. The truth is that for all the action-filled battles we’ve seen, Charlotte ‘won’ the war years ago and the earthly dynamic is now reversed, the synthetic creations in abundance and flesh and blood humans on the run or in blissfully-unaware servitude. And it’s in that world in which Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) are to be found…
Are we good, so far?
By now, we’re a little more familiar with Westworld‘s sleight of hand tricks regarding the what, whom and most importantly when of the narratives being played out. Just because one scene follows another it doesn’t mean they’re happening in close physical or time proximity. But while many people have looked at the current Christina arc (in which Evan Rachel Wood’s ‘new’ character seems somewhat bemused about her pedestrian potboiler writing life) and presumed that it wasn’t happening in the same world as some of the other story-arcs, the show slyly pulled a fast one by playing out that trick elsewhere/when in another thread. Kudos to the Powers-that-Be for not stretching it out too long, but we do now know that rather than the season’s stories being about seven years removed from the end of the last run, it’s over three times more: the rebel soldier known as ‘C’ (Aurora Perrineau), with whom Bernard and Stubbs linked up last week, is actually the grown-up daughter of Caleb, aka little but smart Frankie (originally played by Celeste Clark) twenty-three years hence. Bazinga!
It’s a teeny bit harder to fully follow Caleb’s arc than everything swirling around him. It seems, if we can trust our eyes and ears, that the original Caleb died in the original play-out of his escape and the character we’ve been following was leading up to that event until the final moments where the Caleb we now see is a years-removed copy of the original, undergoing ‘fidelity steps’ to ensure how he will respond to situations and only now aware of the repeating arc in which he seemed to be stuck. The events we saw in the Chicago-themed Westworld complex did happen all those years ago, with Hale creating and priming the ‘super-spreader event’ with her nanobot flies to start spreading the virus that would subjugate humanity and – as she explains – finding that it would work best on children and therefore taking a generation to fully take hold. Caleb’s bloodline appears to be less receptive to the control, hence her specific interest in him.
We get a smaller sampling of Christina’s world in this chapter, going out on a blind date with James Marsden’s un-named character, one who acts like he knows everything we do about ‘Dolores’, though she merely sems a little bewildered by his insight. It’s a quieter and more intimate moment in an otherwise busy episode and works well. Elsewhere there are brief moments with Nozipho Mclean as Odina (what did happen to Caleb’s wife in the now missing years between events?) and Daniel Wu as on of C’s fellow rebels (hopefully he gets more screentime soon).
Reversing the polarity of the traditional Westworld flow and its synth/human balance is an interesting move, ambitious but hardly unknown for a show that thrives on big-sky thinking and risk-taking. It certainly opens things up creating the feel of a show somewhere between the original source material and the likes of the revamped Battlestar Galactica‘s musings on artificial life. (Co-showrunner Jonathan Nolan also worked on the AI-tinged Person of Interest). The reveal makes the battle more overt, but with a big ‘prestige’ an ‘flourish’ of it out of the way, the show’s core-programming and story, rather than its decorations, will be the key to keeping it interesting.
As always, everything looks exquisite – from the sweeping vistas, future-architecture through to post-apocalyptic and dystopian fashion. Westworld is one of the most expensive shows on television, but every cent shows.
- Production Design / VFX10