Is Westworld even Westworld if it’s not trying to break your brain? It’s a valid question, and I think “no” would be a valid answer. But since the show left the park at the end of season two to explore the dystopia of the real world, the third season felt like everything was a mystery until the final pair of episodes, which left the answers feeling either unsatisfying or unearned. Now that season four has arrived, it seems clear the show knows it can’t be completely baffling and must parcel out some answers to be satisfying. Which, while great, is not nearly as satisfying as where the show goes.
Actually, it’s kind of impressive that “Well Enough Alone” is as great as it is when it primarily focuses on only three characters and two storylines, being William (Ed Harris) the Host (minion of the human-hating, Dolores-corrupted control unit inside the body of Charlotte Hale) and then the further adventures of Maeve (Thandiwe Newton) and Caleb (Aaron Paul). There are a few brief check-ins with Dolores lookalike Christina (Evan Rachel Wood) where she hears an unhoused person on the street ranting about a tower, much like last week’s stalker-turned-suicide Peter did in the premiere. Then Christina checks in her work’s archives and discovers she very much did write a story about a man named Peter who lost everything, became obsessed with a woman, and killed himself. Finally, she visits the hospital Peter left his money to, only to find out that the hospital has long been abandoned, and the annex’s wing funded by Peter and dedicated to him was built even earlier than that.
It’s a mystery to be sure—along with whatever the hell Christina’s relationship to Dolores is—but the other two storylines are full of answers, beginning with William visiting Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) the Host, who’s been living quietly in a Spanish-speaking country… until the Host in Black tracks her down, demands to know where Maeve is, and then shoots Clementine in the head when she doesn’t answer.
Soon, Maeve and Caleb visit a senator and his wife only to discover they’re both secretly Hosts working for William and Hale (Tessa Thompson), but who have been upgraded so Maeve can’t use her tech magic to mentally shut them down, at least not easily. The Host wife is killed, and Maeve searches through the Host senator’s memory banks to discover William had the original senator killed; the wife was about to be murdered too, except Hale arrives and ominously said to bring her to the barn out back, as “livestock” for an experiment the Host leader wanted to try.
Maeve and Caleb head to the barn, where they only see the results of this experiment, and they are bleak. The senator’s wife has been butchering all of her horses; when Maeve and Caleb snap her out of it, she doesn’t remember doing it. But then she gives the duo a message: they’re invited to a meeting as their “old friend” Don Giovanni wants to meet them. When Caleb declines the wife’s request to put her out of her misery, she attacks Caleb with a knife until Maeve shoots her in the head.
If I had to guess, Hale was trying to figure out a way to program and control humans just as humans had programmed and controlled the Hosts. It wasn’t a full success in that the senator’s wife’s mind was broken by the experiment, but obviously Hale has no concerns about collateral damage, especially to humans.
After a clearly reprogrammed Clementine turns away an angry Deputy Assistant for Counterterrorism from meeting with William, none other than the Vice-President of the United States personally comes to visit the Delos head honcho on his golf course with a polite request to knock off his activities, such as buying the Hoover Dam and surrounding properties. (The Veep implies that William is building a new park, but this time in America instead of safely offshore where its depravity and mayhem can be more easily ignored.) When William unsurprisingly tells him to blow it out his ass (I’m paraphrasing), the Veep threatens to leak information that would ruin the Man in Black… but then he turns around and sees Clementine has killed his Secret Service bodyguards, and William smashes his head with a golf club. As for the Deputy Assistant, Hale later shows up in his car, holds him down, and lets a fly crawl in the man’s eyeball. When the Veep and Assistant show up later, they—or, obviously, their Host replacements—have approved of everything William has been doing, and Hale’s plan proceeds forthwith.
Although the role of the flies is still baffling—and extremely horrifying—and we don’t know exactly what Hale’s specifically planning, she does let us know what she’s hoping to achieve: to make a world where her “children” are safe from humans. She doesn’t want to kill all humans or replace all humans with Hosts, as that would be pointless—but she’ll kill as many humans in power and replace them with Hosts under her control as necessary. And she tells all this to the real William (or probably real William, but definitely the same William who decided his mission was to kill all Hosts and got his throat slit in the season three finale). He’s alive and thoroughly trapped in some kind of sci-fi suit held by one of the Host-making rings. And then Hale drugs him and puts him back Westworld’s equivalent of carbon freezing.
It’s good stuff, but it can’t match the thrill of what happens when Maeve and Caleb attend the mysterious party in Los Angeles. It’s a fancy, ritzy cocktail bar full of equally fancy, ritzy humans, but no Hosts. The two of them are baffled until the bar suddenly lurches, and Maeve quickly understands exactly what’s happening—they’re on a train to a park. And not just any park, but a brand-new park built by William based on the 1920s and the mobsters that dominated it.
There’s so much to like about this! It was a surprise to discover Maeve and Caleb had unknowingly entered a train to a park, it was unnerving to realize this very secret train was in downtown Los Angeles, and seeing the 1920s skyline was a thrill, even if we knew a visit to this particular park was on the way. But what I especially liked was bringing back Lili Simmons (who played “New Clem” after the original Clementine was removed from the park in season one) in the role of the Host who greets park newcomers—like the character played by Talulah Riley who initially welcomed young William and Logan back in season one. She leads Maeve and Caleb in a replica of the same registration room we saw in the series’ second episode, except this time it has more 1920s-appropriate clothes and weapons. However, it still has the same choice: White hat, or black hat? Caleb’s choice: “I’m not really a hat person.”
I don’t think Westworld can be truly judged until the end of the season, as the episodes usually end up totaling more than the sum of their parts. That said, I’ve really enjoyed these first two episodes of season four, and since they make up 25 percent of the eight-episode season, that’s not insignificant. I’m grateful we’re getting enough answers to feel the story is truly progressing, while still being tantalized with enough mysteries to keep viewers invested in finding out what’s going on. The show has struck an excellent balance between the two, leaving viewers satisfied but also tantalized. I don’t know if the season’s big mysteries—mainly, of course, what the hell is up with Christina—will be worth it at the end, but I have hope. See you next week... in Mobland.
- Mobworld? Mafiaworld? Gangsterworld? The Roaring’20sworld? I’m guessing Mobworld.
- The Senator tells Maeve and Caleb that there are currently 249 Hosts like him in the world. Do you think he just means Hosts in total, or Hosts commanded by Hale to bring about her “New World”? I assume the latter, which is extremely bad news.
- Ed Harris is the MVP of the episode, just massively entertaining from start to finish. When the (real) senator tells his the old “Happy wife, happy life!” saw, the way he utters “My wife’s dead” is perfection.
- I’ll credit this to the writers, but the golf scene is also perfect. The Vice-President is chiding William when the latter hits a hole-in-one. The Veep’s jaw drops, completely impressed with the shot. As the conversation escalates, William hits a second hole-in-one, and the Veep stares at it in disbelief. And when the Veep starts making outright threats, William hits a third hole-in-one—and the Vice-President slowly realizes no human could make three holes-in-one in a row. So good!
- It was cool to see the hat choice back, but I don’t think many people wore white hats back in the 1920s. Certainly not nearly as much as black.
- Just a reminder that I totally called William being alive after his throat was slit in the season three finale and I’m not above gloating about it.
Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel and Star Wars releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.