How weird that two installments in franchises initially adapted from Michael Crichton’s intellectual property — Jurassic World: Dominion and Westworld season four — both landed on bugs as a doomsday device. In the former, genetically engineered locusts are used to control the world’s fuel supply. In the latter, as we confirmed in the third episode of the fourth season, Hale has developed a way to mind-control humans using goop-infected flies. How odd is that? Like two railroads reaching a junction. Besides that creative coincidence, Westworld’s tertiary episode slowed down to make room for a new storyline.
At long last, the episode opens with Bernard in the Sublime, or the Valley Beyond, or Robot Heaven. He wanders through some of his partial human counterpart Arnold’s memories, some of his own Westworld memories, and apocalyptic visions of potential dystopian futures in the human world. In one of those, he stands at the base of the very tower “Christina” keeps hearing about. Walking into the building, he meets Akecheta (Zahn Mcclarnon). In Westworld, Akecheta was the leader of Ghost Nation and one of the oldest hosts in the park. In the Sublime, where at the end of season two he is reunited with his one true love, he gives Bernard an exit interview and levels him up with the ability to run simulations of how certain events may play out in the human world.
Bernard then wakes up dusty, where we found him at the end of season three. Right on cue, his personal bodyguard Stubbs is there with a quip. Bernard has leveled up and can now finish sentences. The two embark on a Tarantino-esque quest where they wait for a mystery woman in a diner and beat up (I’m guessing) William’s robot cronies to the beat of Blondie’s “Call Me.” Jeffrey Wright’s character has always been cool, but this effortless fight is a new kind of cool.
Bernard, à la Doctor Strange in Avengers: Infinity War, has looked into many possible futures and determined which sequence of seemingly random Butterfly Effect–y events needs to happen to trigger the specific variant future he wants. Akecheta warned him that “past a certain point in [the real] world, all paths end in destruction.” Yikes! That’s simple enough to understand and adds necessary stakes to an adventure that would otherwise be boring with an omniscient robot prophet.
The mystery woman shows up, played by Aurora Perrineau. It appears she’s in some kind of rebellion, based on her paranoia and the cool way her crew rolls up later in the episode. Bernard asks to go to “the condemned lands,” where, according to his infinite wisdom, a weapon is buried in the sand. There, we meet an unnamed rebel played by Daniel Wu (Into the Badlands) and the rest of these mysterious Lost Boys (like Neverland Lost Boys, not the vampires The Lost Boys).
Meanwhile, in Midwest World, Maeve and Caleb’s journey quickly goes from pretty delightful to pretty terrifying. They start out above ground in Temperance, the Roaring ’20s Chicago adjacent version of Sweetwater in Delos’ new theme park. They head to the Butterfly Club (instead of the Mariposa Saloon) and wait for the safe heist narrative to begin. There, they encounter new versions of familiar hosts like Dolores, Teddy, Maeve, Clementine, Armistice, and Hector. Seeing the Hector stand-in gives our Maeve a melancholy pause, but only that. She knows he’s not the real deal.
This is a particularly fun aspect of the show that I’m glad we’re getting back to in season four after a brief respite last season, both as a Westworld fan and as a film fan. The season-two episode “Akane no Mai” used the plagiarized narratives in Westworld and Shōgunworld to poke at how, in the real world, Hollywood Westerns borrowed heavily from samurai films. Now, with Temperance, those familiar tropes and stolen plots are applied to gangster films. While we technically saw a new park in season three, the Casablanca-esque Warworld, it was part of a simulation built for Maeve and therefore didn’t get into any genre parallels.
Once the robbery causes a decent amount of carnage, Maeve and Caleb play dead so they can be taken backstage with the other hosts. Or so they think. The new park has a twist that audiences inundated with reboots and meta-everything won’t be surprised by. Now, you can “play” a fictional version of the real Westworld massacre and escape from “self-aware hosts.” This was the goal for Deborah, the gore-thirsty guest played by Liza Weil. Of course, Delos is capitalizing on a traumatic event only seven years after it happened.
The two slip away from this nonsense and find something even darker as they get deeper into this Delos facility. Another level down, drone hosts are infecting flies — the same flies we’ve seen buzzing around the real world — and running mind control experiments on unsuspecting guests or captives. There’s another hum, too, coming from a device that looks suspiciously like a tower that only hosts like Maeve seem to be able to hear. Could this be the sound that Christina’s High Line dweller spoke of? We’re getting closer and closer to the answer.
Maeve and Caleb watch as human test subjects are forced to do a puzzle and shoot themselves in the head. Well, most of them are humans. Caleb falls right into a trap and, believing that his daughter Frankie has been captured, runs to save her, only to be attacked by the flies. Thankfully, I remembered the image of Host Frankie’s head cracking open and bugs flying out of it from the Westworld season-four teaser seconds before it happened on the show and was able to prepare mentally. Jump scare averted. Before she unleashes the flies, she tells Caleb that Hale is waiting for him. As both Caleb and Maeve suspected from the moment they arrived at Don Giovanni, this has all been a trap.
Finally, the episode’s C-plot tells us what really happened to Frankie and her mom. They were supposed to escape with one of Caleb’s friends, Carver, but Carver was replaced with a robot mid-mission. Frankie figured this out, warned her mother, and the two of them were able to take down Carver and run. I have some serious questions for these hosts. Carver slipped up big time. Not only was he bad at improvising when Frankie asked him to show her something the human Carver mentioned minutes before, but he handed a young girl a bloody teddy bear like she wouldn’t notice. Maybe they should spend less time making sure their outfits match the humans they’re replacing and more time studying basic interpersonal behavior.
But while Frankie and her mom are safe for now, and Bernard is offering hope to some cool rebels, everyone else ends the episode on a sour note. Caleb’s in a tight spot with the flies, and he’s not the only one who ends the episode on a cliffhanger. An already incapacitated Maeve finds herself face to face with William’s robot doppelgänger. Can they get an assist from the robot prophet, like now? Anytime, Bernard!
• The episode title, “Années Folles,” is the French term for the Roaring ’20s, when surrealism and the avant-garde took off.
• Is Perrineau’s character Frankie grown-up? It wouldn’t be the first time that Bernard’s scenes have been taking place in the future.
• Mazes abound in this episode, particularly in Bernard’s storyline but elsewhere too. He found the 3-D model of the infamous Westworld map in the sublime, much like the one Christina found on her fire escape and the one handed to Perrineau’s character to gain her trust. It’s a symbol of the rebellion, seemingly. He’s also navigating a maze of potential futures. Meanwhile, Maeve and Caleb find themselves in a maze of Delos making as they try to find William in the center of Delos’ new park.
• If anyone else is on color costume watch: the waitress at the diner where Stubbs and Bernard eat is wearing a yellow dress, but still pretty much everyone else, including the Mad Max–esque group of rebels, is wearing shades of white, black, and gray.
• Which would you add to a wedding cocktail-hour playlist, the jazzy cover of Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” from this episode or the jaunty string cover of “Bad Guy” from Bridgerton?