This Westworld review contains spoilers.
Westworld Season 4 Episode 2
One of the biggest strengths of the first season of Westworld was its massive ensemble cast. Some of them were known performers taking on new characters, with established actors like Ed Harris as the mysterious Man in Black and Anthony Hopkins adding a little class to the story of a very adult theme park full of robots just waiting to go kill-crazy. However, the performers who weren’t as well-known stood out because they all had very distinctive looks, and few characters in Westworld stood out quite like Angela Sarafyan. With her striking, wide-set hazel eyes, Sarafyan’s Clementine Pennyfeather was undoubtedly a favorite of guests of the park, if only because of her kind heart and assigned profession. The “hooker with a heart of gold” trope brought to life.
Clementine always had a dreamy sort of innocence, if only because she kept routinely malfunctioning due to customer abuse. No surprise that she drifts through life hiding out from William’s assassins in Mexico, and no surprise to find her overwhelmed by the Man in Black almost immediately and given a death just as cruel as any she received during her time in Westworld. If there’s one thing William can’t stand, it’s a rogue host. The ones working for him, however, not only get a pass, but get an upgrade, new Clementine variants included.
As it turns out, William isn’t simply trying to wipe out the remnants of his past, he’s trying to create a new future with assistance from people like the returning Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) AKA the Dolores that turned on the other Dolores in Season 3. Delos will be opening a new theme park, and this time it’s going to be on American soil, with upgraded hosts and a brand-new experience that gets back to the roots of Westworld without the pesky travel time. The only problem is pretty much everyone in authority knows this is a terrible idea after the massacre, and even William’s bottomless coffers can’t buy high level support. Good thing he’s got Clementine around to kill for him, and Charlotte around to conduct creepy mystery experiments on the humans who have been replaced by Hosts.
The senator-turned-host Maeve interrogates confirms as such. He’s part of a new world order, designed to make the world a better place for hosts with the addition of Hale’s experiments to make human beings into better neighbors. That triggers a solid Maeve (Thandiwe Newton) quip, and then it’s off to the races to chase down leads and figure out just what is going on, and just what the opera Don Giovanni has to do with anything. At least this season is significantly more straightforward than previous seasons; there are still a few unanswered questions from Season 3 that remain, but a lot of them have been ticked off in this episode, and the connections between Charlotte Hale’s plot and the mysterious Christina are beginning to take shape.
It’s interesting stuff, and perhaps deliberately there to plant seeds in the minds of viewers to make them/me connect dots that aren’t actually there. Are Charlotte and Christina both working towards Dolores’ grand vision? Is there still an original Dolores out there somewhere, making her puppets dance? The performances of Tessa Thompson, all cool malevolence, and Evan Rachel Wood, both curious and troubled by the violence around her, don’t give anything away, but the script from Matt Pitts and Christina Ham seems to lead towards some connection between Charlotte’s likely mind-control program involving flies going into people’s eyeballs (in a scene Lucio Fulci would be proud of) and the way Christina’s sadder and more violent scripts seem to be playing out in the lives of real people.
Director Craig William Macneill makes great use of Ed Harris, both when he’s the Man in Black hunting down Clementine, when he’s selling investors on a new Delos theme park not too terribly long after the last one ended in tragedy, or when he’s the captured William being held in carbonite for Charlotte’s amusement. He’s so great at subtly adjusting his cadence and body language to play these various roles; just him sitting in a chair in the dark, or wearing a suspiciously Stetson-like golf hat is enough to create a feeling of tension. That tension is only ratcheted up higher when Maeve and Caleb (Aaron Paul) end up getting on a train ride that takes them from a speakeasy beneath the Angeles Arts Pavilion and into the heart of Delos’ newest theme park.
Out of the frying pan and into the fire, yet again. Maeve spent her time out of the park either chasing a killer or trying to avoid them, and now she’s back in the same old loop. No wonder she tried to disappear off the face of the earth. Caleb might have made a noteworthy attempt at moving on with his life, but given the way his life looked prior to the revolution, Maeve is correct when she says that improvement is a low bar to hurdle. Caleb is tired of war, but clearly war isn’t tired of him.
Perhaps an unplanned trip to a Delos-brand wonderland will hePerhaps an unplanned trip to a Delos-brand wonderland will help him rest and relax? It might be a fun change to be beaten up by hosts you know are hosts, rather than hosts pretending to be government officials for once. Games are always more fun when you know what you’re playing.