Bernard’s back, baby! After leaving him in a motel room in the season three finale, waking up from his VR trip to the Sublime, and waking up absolutely covered in dust, tonight’s episode reveals exactly what happened to everyone’s favorite Host, and it’s quite strange. Doctor Strange, one might say.
The Sublime, for those who may have forgotten, is the cloud-like data server where most of the Hosts in Westworld uploaded their consciousnesses in the season two finale, foregoing their physical bodies. We’ve never seen inside the Sublime until tonight’s episode, “Années Folles,” and it’s not what I or Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) expected. When Bernard first arrives, he ends up in a business conference room and is greeted by Akecheta (Zahn McClarnon), the former leader of the Ghost Nation in the park, who explains the Hosts inside can create their own worlds—something that Bernard will also need to do if he’s going to learn how to save the real world.
So that’s what Bernard was doing the year-plus he was connected to Sublime—running scenarios to figure out a path to keep the world from ending. And because time moves differently in Host Haven, Bernard spent the equivalent of a millennium there, effectively checking out different timelines to see how to proceed. It’s almost exactly like Doctor Strange in Avengers: Infinity War, although Bernard’s lucky enough to find multiple ways to save the world. Unfortunately, to succeed in any of those scenarios, he’s also going to have to die, much as Strange did.
Somehow, this means Bernard is basically aware of everything in the future: what people are going to say, what they’re going to do, and how they’ll react. Annoyingly, he resolutely refuses to give out any details about how or when the world will end, or why he’ll need to die to save it. Frustratingly, he won’t even explain what he’s doing in the moment—like say, suddenly beating two men in a diner parking lot unconscious and severing one of their heads—and about the only reason it’s bearable is because it annoys Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) immensely. Yes, thank goodness, Stubbs is back, despite having been gunshot and left dying in an ice-filled motel bathtub before Bernard took his trip to the Sublime. He’s been taking care of Bernard’s body (but resolutely not dusting him, which is hilarious to me), and joins him in his quest to save the world, mainly because he has nothing better to do.
That quest begins with the severed head and a woman (Aurora Perrineau) who pulls up to the diner who was supposed to meet with the two men. Instead, Bernard gives her the bag, revealing the men were in fact Hosts sent to infiltrate the woman’s group, a militia that lives in the desert of the “Condemned Lands,” which implies something extremely bad happened there between now and the 2050s. (Honestly, is anyone surprised?). All we know about these people is that they presumably hate Hosts, they don’t trust Bernard or Stubbs, and they’re looking for a weapon in the desert—a weapon that Bernard knows where to find, of course. I don’t have the faintest idea how these people are involved with the end of the world or what role they’ll have in the show, but right now, they’re too vague to be interesting.
The rest of the episode focuses on Maeve (Thandiwe Newton) and Caleb’s (Aaron Paul) time in Mobworld (or whatever the show eventually decides to call it). It’s kind of a disappointment because the pair spend more time below the park than above it, trying to figure out what William and Hale are up to rather than enjoying various gangster shenanigans. It’s also, humorously, a disappointment for Maeve, as the park is just a rebranded version of Westworld with the same locations, the same characters, and even the same storylines. The Hosts are wearing different faces and have been dumbed down, according to Maeve, to prevent any unpleasantness like the Westworld massacre, but there’s still a Dolores-ish character who drops her can, hoping to entice a guest into her adventure. However, the lack of creativity in the park means Maeve knows exactly when Hector (now a gangster instead of an outlaw) will burst into the new Maeve’s speakeasy/brothel to rob her safe. When the park attendants (disguised as undertakers) collect the Host corpses, Maeve and Caleb sneak aboard.
The only major difference between Mobworld and Westworld is this: it includes a storyline where new Dolores gains fake consciousness and goes on a fake rampage killing fake Guests, allowing the real ones the pleasure of taking out killer robots. (As before, the Hosts’ guns don’t work on guests.) This Delos has created an entire fake Delos floor beneath Mobworld for guests to sneak into, meaning Maeve and Caleb need to sneak to an even lower secret level where all the park functions are controlled.
It’s also where Hale (Tessa Thompson) is running her current pet projects, which are 1) infecting large numbers of flies with black goo, and 2) controlling humans like humans controlled the Hosts. Maeve and Caleb watch in horror as a group of test subjects very unwillingly shoot themselves in the head in response to a sound generated by… some kind of device. Then Caleb is extra-horrified to discover his daughter, Frankie (Celeste Clark), is one of the new group of test subjects. Maeve manages to override the Delos system at the very last second to open Frankie’s cell door and allow Caleb to wrench the gun from her hand, also at the very last second, but that’s when things break bad. Not only does William (Ed Harris) show up to fight with Maeve (a fight he quickly loses, only to stand back up and accost her again), but that’s not Frankie at all, of course. It’s a Host whose face blossoms open releasing a swarm of flies—one of which crawls directly into Caleb’s ear.
After two episodes that gave us as many answers as it did mysteries, “Années Folles” wasn’t dire, but it was frustrating. It also didn’t feel like much happened. Sure, Bernard woke up and has a mission, but we have absolutely no indication of what his plan is or what the militia’s deal is. Caleb and Maeve snuck into Delos, but we already knew Hale was controlling humans and making flies that love crawling into human orifices. The only true development is that Caleb now has a fly stowaway of his own. Plus, Mobworld was kind of a bust.
Of course, that’s no reason to write season four off or fret that the next episode will also spin its wheels. But if Bernard doesn’t do some explaining soon, I hope Stubbs shoots him in the head.
- The episode title, “Années Folles,” is French for “the crazy years.” It’s what Americans call the Roaring ‘20s.
- The tower that Peter and the unhoused man ranted about appears to be in the Sublime! I am very interested to see how this figures into whatever the hell Christina’s deal is.
- A Host’s gun failed to harm Caleb, so my theory he’s a Host is kaput.
- There was a C-storyline about one of Hale’s goons trying to kidnap Caleb’s wife and the real Frankie, but it was only so the show could trick you into thinking the real Frankie was in the cell. It didn’t work and they escaped anyway.
- I had forgotten that Hosts could split their faces into quadrants, and it was truly horrifying to see. The flies did not help.
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