This Westworld review contains spoilers.
Westworld Season 4 Episode 6
Anyone who has ever played video games can empathize with Caleb (Aaron Paul) during “Fidelity,” the sixth episode of the fourth season of Westworld. I was never the kind of person who could sit and do a speed-run of any game, probably because I didn’t have the hand-eye coordination necessary to succeed, and I tend to like to explore games rather than just going from point A to point B as quickly as possible. Give me side quests. Give me Easter eggs. Give me time-sucking distractions. Granted, I’m generally not playing video games in an effort to stay alive, but my video game method looks very similar to the way Caleb slowly builds his way to an attempted escape from Charlotte Hale’s secret facility in Delos’s Manhattan headquarters.
This isn’t Caleb’s first escape attempt, and with every attempted escape, he leaves behind a breadcrumb for the next version of himself. A scratched marker on a metal grating. Hand prints on the wall in soot, then blood. It culminates in a literal collection of dead and dying Calebs clustered around the last big obstacle separating Caleb from the outside world. His daughter is alive, and he’ll do anything to get to her, much to the chagrin of Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson). All she wants to know is what the deal is with the outliers, and Caleb seems to be her only clue into the way those people think, given Caleb’s long history as a hunter of outliers for Rehoboam and the way he resisted her initial parasite control method. Somewhere in the recesses of his digitally-copied mind is an explanation, she just has to pry it out of him.
That prying has not gone well. Charlotte might have hundreds of Calebs to try and get the information out of, but each one lives for a limited amount of time and, quite frankly, Charlotte is impatient and struggling with the relationship some Hosts have with humanity. She doesn’t understand it, and the more she thinks about it, the more her own quirks (reminder: she’s just Dolores with Charlotte Hale’s memories superimposed over her own) all the more apparent. Perhaps Hale is pushing for answers because she knows her own time is growing shorter. As seen in the many failing Caleb clones, there’s always problems when you try to put a human personality into a Host pearl, and those problems just increase when you start tinkering with a Host’s fidelity to allow them to pass more easily for a living human.
What Caleb has done over 279 builds and what Bernard did in 8 years in the Sublime, Frankie AKA C (Aurora Perrineau) has only had one life to learn. To her credit, she’s done a great job at picking up all of the lessons her mother Uwade (Nozipho McLean) and (especially) father taught her about surviving and thriving in a mind-controlled world. She’s been doing this, rescuing outliers and teaching them how to fight, since she was a small child and Caleb went off to war with Maeve (Thandiwe Newton). He never came back, but she never gave up hope, and that hope is what drives her to keep struggling alongside her friends and allies in the resistance, even when there’s a mole in the group working counter to their interests.
The parallels between Caleb and Frankie’s stories are really well done, with Andrew Seklir and the show’s editing crew doing a wonderful job of match-cutting between the two (and Bernard) while also smash-cutting between Caleb’s reality in a cold, white box and his core memories of his daughter, running with him through a field. Her importance has become the defining element of his character, his hook, much in the same way Maeve’s daughter resonated with her throughout a few job and programming changes and Hale’s dead child and ex-husband seem more like an afterthought. Granted, she does mention her loss—and it’s clever that screenwriters Jordan Goldberg and Alli Rock remembered that little detail—but that feels a little less important coming from her lips as it does for the flesh-and-blood father Caleb and Maeve; as Frankie said to Bernard, Charlotte’s love of her children is only part of her programming, it’s not a core memory like it is for Caleb and Maeve.
Seklir and company make wonderful use of the show’s conceits, particularly during the rescue sequence that shows young Frankie (Celeste Clark) learning at her mother’s side during some pretty intense on-the-job training. Whenever a whole group of people freeze in place, right down the the people pouring wine that spilled all over them and children slowly coming to a stop on a swing set (a shot that’s held for long enough that viewers can see the children are actually coming to a stop in mid-play), it gets me. It works especially well in “Fidelity” because Frankie and her friends attempt to fool the Host blanks sent to catch them by freezing in place themselves. That’s a very tense scene that rivals anything that Caleb gets up to, and that surpasses the latter scene in which Frankie has to fight off a Host posing as one of her resistance group members while hearing bits of her father’s very sweet message back to her.
It’s a clever set-up, and a good fight, hearkening back to Westworld‘s third season in which Hosts were taking over for humans on a regular basis. Further back, it brought up memories of The Thing, only without a flamethrower test to determine whether or not someone in a Host. Frankie only has to go on her own knowledge of the people around her, and Bernard’s helpful suspicion (and less helpful hints) to expose the Host in their midst, and she does so with a minimum of bloodshed either for herself or for her friends. All those years of pretending to be a mindless drone apparently paid off, because she’s able to keep up the act until the last moment before dropping the hammer on the electronic dangers she’s put good people at risk over.
It’s a very tense scene before it erupts into violence, and most of “Fidelity” is crafted for tension that pays off in a couple of good moments. Aaron Paul does wonderful physical work as the various Calebs in differing stages of decay, and his final radio address to his daughter is a beautiful bit of business delivered very well by the actor. Ditto Aurora Perrineau’s MacReady impression while walking around the creepy remains of Delos’s long-abandoned Golden Age park. The tease between the two potential replacements is very well done, with Frankie’s nonviolent handling of that situation done very well once she realizes just who the Host replacement isn’t.
That ability to sense who is a Host and who isn’t prior to the bullets flying is going to serve Frankie well going forward. Charlotte Hale has seen the power of love, and while she can’t get Caleb to spill his guts on how he was able to resist her mind control, he’s got other potential uses, should she be able to get him to cooperate (or should she just want to duplicate herself in his body like her progenitor Dolores). Maybe the only way to resolve a situation is to do it personally, rather than through intermediaries. Or, technically, through intermediaries that are also you.