This Westworld review contains spoilers.
Westworld Season 4 Episode 4
I freely admit, I’m a mark for all of the twisting and turning plot lines happening on Westworld. Since the very first episode of the show, the more chronological twists and turns, the more diverging plots, the more surprising Host reveals, the better. I’m fully on board for wherever this thing is going, and I just want to see how it gets there no matter how circuitous and maze-like the route becomes. “Generation Loss” certainly lives up to the maze-like qualities of the first season.
Of course, at this point in Westworld‘s run, you almost have to expect some kind of time line shenanigans, right? Certainly, there were clues there, but exactly how things were going to shake out at the halfway point of the fourth season were still kind of a mystery, at least to me. I’m not the sort of person who actively tries to guess where a show is going or how it’s going to get there, so when the dominoes started to fall at the end of episode 4, my response was almost as stunned as Caleb’s was as he realizes just what his fate turned out to be. As always with Westworld, the true shocking reveals are the friends we made along the way, or at least the fun action sequences that get us to the shocking ending.
One of the best elements of Westworld‘s fourth season has been the slowly developing friendship between Maeve and Caleb. Certainly, it’s a little strange that he’d go from serving one host on a mission to serving another, but it’s not like he’s got anything else going on aside from the war on Rehoboam, and while being an unpaid mercenary isn’t a great long-term career, it’s at least a good excuse to keep busy traveling to exotic locations and shooting security guards in the back. Granted, Maeve does most of the work, but clearly Caleb contributes to the team, if only so Maeve has someone to talk to on drives and, perhaps, to give Maeve someone to fight for in much the same way Caleb ends up with a family he’s fighting for when they reunite eight years after the end of Rehoboam’s reign of banal evil.
The two share some good character-building moments. Thandiwe Newton remains a remarkable actress, capable of hiding toughness and vulnerability beneath tart words and sarcasm; her bond with Caleb is clearly growing with every adventure they share, and as Charlotte points out, she keeps going back to save him time and time again. Aaron Paul is no slouch either; he’s got a bit less to play with, but he’s able to keep up with Newton well enough and the two have a nice lived-in energy. You can tell Caleb is used to being smacked around while fighting alongside a literal killing machine, and yet he keeps sticking around because he knows the job has to be done.
It helps a battle to have stakes. Caleb has to fight to protect his family from Charlotte’s mind-control bugs. Maeve has to fight to protect Caleb from Charlotte and other people who want to kill him because he’s allied with her. The reveal that she’s the one who got him to pop up on Hale’s radar with her first episode power surge isn’t surprising, but what is surprising is that Maeve wanted to check up on him and put herself at risk to do so.
It’s surprisingly sweet, as are the scenes in which she watches Caleb recover from his initial gunshot wound. She saved his life once, and thus, got a glimpse of just how fragile humans are, and how her life as a host will be spent mostly watching the humans around her die off, either from misadventure or simple aging. Kevin Lau and Suzanne Wrubel’s script does a good job of making Caleb’s two stomach wounds complementary enough to think that if he’s able to survive a gunshot, he can survive a knife wound.
Paul also does a solid job of communicating physically the lack of control offered him once Hale’s mind control bug slips into his brain and starts going to work. It’s interesting to watch him struggle to fight off his new programming, but it’s much more chilling to watch Caleb and Maeve attempt to escape the Golden Age when every guest turns to face the three of them, draw weapons, and give chase with the park’s governor removed. It’s chilling to watch humans act like hosts, even as Maeve uses the hosts as a line of defense against the attacking humans. It’s a clever twist on the massacre in Sweetwater; as Maeve says, Golden Age is just a cheap copy of Westworld, and she’s able to use that knowledge to her advantage once again to escape the park and get to the construction site where help can be called for.
That help, of course, never arrives. The people that show up aren’t Caleb’s friends, but Hale’s, and we get a second shocking reveal. Caleb isn’t simply exchanging banter with the villainous Hale, he’s being tested for fidelity. Lau and Wrubel deserve credit for sneaking that little reveal in; for once, the villain’s monologue has a point beyond simple gloating and it pays off beautifully thanks in no small part to clever writing and Tessa Thompson’s sheer cold malevolence.
Of course, a lot of the credit for the episode’s success goes to director Paul Cameron and the masterful way he uses the crowd in street scenes. The escape from Golden Age is wonderfully done; it echoes Sweetwater perfectly. The fight between Maeve and the Man In Black is very well constructed by the second unit, with them working around the necessary stunt performers beautifully; the shots of MIB’s confusion at Maeve’s final death hug is wonderfully put together, and a brilliant bit of Ed Harris character work. There are multiple sweeping drone shots, particularly of Maeve and Caleb, that function beautifully to give scale to the world. They’re just two people, tiny, against the golden hour sunset or the sweeping sands of the beach at Rehoboam’s final refuge. Two people, locked in a death struggle with the battle already won. Two people struggling to overcome the machine and, ultimately, failing.
That point is hammered home in a beauty of a crowd shot as Caleb flees Olympiad’s office building (thereby connecting the mysterious Christina to Hale officially). Caleb, pushing his way through the crowd of people in uniforms of tan, black, and gray. A signal from Charlotte, and everyone not Caleb freezes eerily in place, mirroring the shots of hosts frozen in place upon hearing the command “cease all motor functions.” The shoe is officially on the other foot for humanity, and that’s not good; Cameron and the actors absolutely smash that reveal home, and it’s as much of a solid shock as the Statue of Liberty was to Charlton Heston in 1968.
But Bernard has found a weapon that just might give people a fighting chance 23 years after Caleb’s final breath as a human.