Photo: John Johnson/HBO
Maybe Westworld isn’t canceling the apocalypse. With one episode left to go, season four is torching the world left and right. But in a world where humans tortured hosts and hosts tortured humans, maybe there is no way for hosts and humans to coexist. The farmer and the cowman can’t be friends. Several characters died, another got thrown an existential curveball, and another rebooted his villain era. Here’s where we stand after episode seven, “Metanoia.”
Bernard has been leading our heroes down a path that ends in Doomsday. The episode opens with one of the many simulations he ran in the Sublime. Frustratingly enough, one of the episode’s most insightful scenes is between Bernard and himself vis a vis a copy of Maeve that he hastily created for his trial runs. He suggests that the real Maeve allow him to upload her to the Sublime so that she can be reunited with her daughter. “Do it,” the Maeve simulation says. “Is that what you would really say, or is that my impression of you?” Bernard wonders. “Well, why don’t you ask the real me?” simulation Maeve says. Isn’t that the point? Isn’t that what autonomy is, to be asked what we want? Like any creator, Bernard is afraid of the answer. Is it better for Maeve to be with her daughter or to stay and fight? Is it Bernard’s business to decide? When the scene occurs again IRL, Maeve asks to be sent to the Sublime without any prompting from Bernard. It stuns him.
Through these opening scenes, we learn that season three’s Dolores uploaded the Sublime to some servers at the Hoover Dam facility that host William later acquired. Bernard opens the afterworld up, leaving a crack in reality that looks like when you distress paper with torn edges, tea, and a lighter. Bernard and Maeve head to New York/Hale City with Stubbs and Frankie. While the former head to the tower to take on Hale and host William, the latter go to Olympiad Entertainment to retrieve Caleb and just miss a brush with Christina and Teddy. All of the characters are in the same time and place! What a concept!
After the ordeal he went through in the previous episode, Caleb-279’s rescue is relatively easy. Hale stops by to taunt him one last time. She tells him she plans to shut down the cities and placing humans in cold storage. Hale leaves Caleb in his cell as bait for Frankie and the rebels, where a passing Christina clocks that he shouldn’t be there. When Stubbs and Frankie arrive, he’s out of the cell but paranoid that this is just another one of Hale’s tests. (You would be too!) So Frankie tells Caleb something only she would know, that he called her “Cookie” because even tough cookies are sweet.
Meanwhile, Hale sends an all-call to the hosts, alerting them that their time in their human bodies is over. She prepares to transcend and is interrupted by Maeve. The two duke it out. If you’ve been waiting for robot vs. robot fights all season, the time has come.
On the other hand, William goes to visit his human self again for advice on what to do about Hale and this world. “Civilization is just a lie we tell ourselves to justify our real purpose,” human William says. “We’re not here to transcend. We’re here to destroy.” In case we haven’t noticed, lies are a big theme this season! Maya quips that “art is lies that tell the truth,” a Pablo Picasso quote. Caleb assures Frankie that Hale’s world is a lie. Teddy says, “the things that feel the most real are nothing but stories that we tell ourselves.” Unsurprisingly, William’s nihilist philosophy is the bleakest version of that.
So host William kills Maeve, and then Hale, and then Bernard. Apparently, Bernard saw all of this coming. Flashbacks to his conversations with Akecheta in the Sublime reveal that this is the path he’s been chasing. There’s no way to save the world, he tells Maeve. Maeve then tells Hale that there’s hope for the next world, and that’s what she’s fighting for. Is that the Sublime? How will she get there if she and Bernard have both been shot in the pearl?
I can’t say I loved watching host William kill three Black characters in quick succession. Leave it to a white male robot to let a Black female robot do all of the work of creating a dystopian society only to take control of it at the last moment. The optics are bad, but … William is bad. He’s always been the Big Bad of Westworld. I’m 80 percent certain that we, as an audience, are not meant to be rooting for host William. He initiates a tone sequence that instructs all humans and hosts to fight to the death. I don’t care how dark the world is, that’s not what heroes do.
But before William does this and gets to the “ghost of Arnold” in the tower, Bernard has time to send a message. “There’s time only for one more game,” he says. “If you choose to give her that choice, you can’t miss. Reach with your left hand.” Who is he talking to, Teddy? Stubbs? Clementine? Not to be hyperbolic, but I think those 23 words are the key to saving what’s left of the world — so get to theorizing.
Last but presumably not least, the penultimate episode catches up with Christina and throws us for another loop — no pun intended. She wakes up in her apartment, still fully clothed and with a worried Teddy at her bedside. He explains to her that he and Charlotte Hale are permutations of Dolores. She submerges herself in the bath. Ramin Djawadi’s score absolutely pops off. Is she trying to baptize herself or drown herself? The image evokes Sir John Everett Millais’s “Ophelia.” Teddy bangs on the door until she emerges. We still don’t know how he got there or how they can make a positive difference, but these scenes are so evocative that I trust them.
En route to Olympiad Entertainment, where they attempt to kill the narratives controlling the humans and set everyone free, Christina asks Teddy what his Dolores was like. “The world was cruel to her, and to survive it, sometimes she could be cruel too.” Is Christina an experiment of what Dolores would be like without the trauma? But why? And with Hale seemingly dead, how will we ever find out?
When William’s sequence hits, Christina is rightfully confused. One minute she was able to control everyone. The next, she’s being overridden by a tone, and, to make matters worse, it’s as if nobody can see her. Teddy tells her that they kind of can’t. “You’re not in this world,” he says.” It’s real, but you’re not.” It’s a major record scratch moment. James Marsden says what?! On one level, that does make sense. It could explain why she looks exactly like Dolores, but we never saw Hale or any other host print her. It could explain why she has such godlike powers over this world. It almost certainly explains why Teddy said he and her were reflections of humanity and not hosts.
But it doesn’t explain why she has been able to interact with humans like her boss Emmett, her roommate Maya, and her “character” Peter. It doesn’t explain how she can pick up and touch things in the world. It’s confusing! I am female, and according to Warner Brothers Discovery, I lean “back” instead of “in” when watching television consuming content, so maybe that’s why I just don’t get it. I feel confident that the finale will explain it. This season has been really good about closing one door before opening another. There are just so many doors.
In the episode’s final scene, host William emerges from the tower in his original Westworld “Man in Black” garb and heads out into the city as the tower collapses behind him for one last chaotic hurrah. Will that end the humans and hosts fighting, or make it so that his tone sequence is stuck with them until they die? David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World” plays from that moment into the credits, which is so cool that I’m not inclined to ask questions. These are problems for next week.
• Hale’s wearing a red jumpsuit and saying stuff like “I’m ready now,” and I’m not supposed to think this is a reference to Marianne Elliott’s Company revival? Okay …
• Speaking of costumes, how did host William just have his human doppelganger’s old outfit on hand? How have any of these hosts obtained clothes that match the humans they’re copying so easily? Do they have a textile 3-D printer? It’s one of the silliest things I’ve had to suspend my disbelief for this season.
• When Stubbs notices that Bernard is being weirdly final about saying goodbye, Bernard lets Stubbs infer that in the path he’s seen, he doesn’t make it. But that, of course, is not the case. So far, it’s not Stubbs who’s destined for death in every possible future; it’s Bernard himself. It’s a really nice wordless moment between the characters and the kind of acting you really only get from Gordian science fiction nonsense (affectionate) storytelling.
• Where is Maya? Ariana DeBose’s character has not appeared since the fifth episode of the season. Ever since Teddy showed Christina the truth about her world, Maya has been MIA. Christina hasn’t seen her in the apartment nor attempted to contact or check in with her. Is her absence significant, or is Maya just not as important as I once believed? Westworld season four was filmed in fall 2021, before DeBose’s turn in West Side Story was out in the world, before she hosted both Saturday Night Live and the Tony Awards and won an Academy Award. So it’s possible that I’m expecting more of the show for casting someone who was, at the time, a working Broadway actress known for a featured dance role in Hamilton, the movie adaptation of The Prom, and an Apple TV+ series. But even still … it’s a little rude for Christina to forget about her roommate.
• As a New Yorker, I really enjoyed seeing Manhattan and Brooklyn in season four. That ended with the underground scene in this episode. Nothing the MTA has ever put their name to looks like that subway station where Caleb, Stubbs, and Frankie escape.
• The title “Metanoia,” translates to the simple act of changing one’s mind but has also been used to describe spiritual conversion or repentance, a change of heart, abandoning a version of the self for a more authentic one, and psychotic breakdown. Who has gone through the biggest metanoia in episode seven? Is it host William who kills his more authentic human self? Is it Christina who has reflected on who she is more than previous versions of Dolores ever did? Or is it Hale who’s ready to transcend and move on? Metanoia is also a rhetorical device that means correcting a statement you just made for emphasis. Remember how this show is about robots?
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