I knew the Vessel was up to no good. It felt fitting that the ominous, dystopian final shots of New York City in the fourth episode of Westworld’s fourth season featured the silliest feature in Hudson Yards on the West Side of Manhattan. Almost all hope is gone at the midway point in Westworld season four. This hour felt a bit rushed as three separate storylines funneled into one and skipped over decades of potential story. There’s an entire season’s worth of television at least in all of these time jumps, buried like a body in the sand. Less telling us what has happened and more showing us what’s happening, please! We know what the Big Bad’s evil plan is now because it has already succeeded. That said, “Generation Loss” does push the story forward to a compelling place and gives us a lot to chew on.
Before we get started, here’s a refresher on the timeline thus far. Maeve and Caleb’s mission has been taking place seven years after the events of season three and at the beginning of Hale’s fly-goop program. We then jump forward 23 years, bringing Maeve, William, Hale, and Caleb up to speed with Bernard’s desert adventure with Caleb’s grown-up daughter Frankie, who goes by “C,” and Christina’s romantic comedy/noir mystery. Going forward, I think it’s safe to say that we will remain in “Hale’s world,” and everything will take place more or less at the same time.
The episode’s opening sequence also filled in some of those gaps with a flashback to the “Lighthouse” incident that Maeve and Caleb alluded to in prior episodes — the end of the war against Rehoboam. We knew Caleb almost died and that Maeve abandoned him soon after. But in this scene, as Caleb is bleeding out, Maeve hacks into an electronic in his mouth (!) and shows him her farmhouse narrative like a Vulcan mind meld. That initially confused the heck out of me. How is she doing this? Has he been a host this whole time? Was his life with Frankie not real and rather an invention of Maeve’s? It made my brain hurt like I had been infected with fly goop. Then I Googled and remembered that, in season three, we learn that Incite (the company behind Rehoboam) put implants in human mouths to monitor and control them. May this be a lesson that not everything on Westworld is meant to disorient the viewer.
Later, while Maeve and Caleb drive Hale to the demolition site, we see more of what transpired after the Lighthouse via flashback. She took him to a hospital, where he met his future wife, Uwade, and Maeve left them to let Caleb lead a normal life, which he did until Maeve got curious and used her brain internet superpowers to find him. That led Hale and William to them. Think about that the next time you go to Facebook stalk someone. Social media cleanses save lives! Maeve and host William face off a third time, and Caleb successfully resists the fly goop telling him to shoot Maeve. Then Maeve is shot and sacrifices herself by triggering the explosives on site.
Then, to put it bluntly, Caleb blacks out and wakes up in New York City two decades later as a host. Only he doesn’t realize where or what he is just yet. Hale’s fidelity interviews aren’t like every other girl’s fidelity interviews. She’s giddy. She spins around in her chair. She makes Caleb relive his own death before revealing that 23 years have passed, she’s now in charge of humanity, and he is the 278th version of his host self. While she initially wanted to keep Caleb alive and study him, her host replacements of Caleb’s team had other plans and shot him dead upon arrival. Now he’s a different kind of experiment. Caleb runs out of the very Olympiad Entertainment building where Christina works and into Manhattan, like Steve Rogers at the end of Captain America: The First Avenger. We also see, very clearly for the first time, the tower that has been haunting Christina and controlling the infected humans for a generation.
Last, we need to talk about Maya. Christina and her roommate’s morning routine, as we’ve come to know it over the last few episodes, is disrupted in this episode. Both women overslept. Christina stayed up late painting the tower, and Maya dreamed about her family getting attacked by flies. Knowing what we know now, that is almost certainly a memory. Maya must be one of the children Hale bragged about being able to control. It is sadly poetic that flies, which used to be a symbol of liberation on Westworld, are now being used to oppress and subjugate.
Christina asks if her painting looks like anything to her. Maya pauses while all of us at home point to the screen like Leo and resumes her mission to get Christina to go on the blind date she’s set up. “Christina,” she says, “Seriously. I need a night off. Come with me.” Set aside all of the time jumps and mind control and science fiction, this is the seemingly innocuous thing that made me lean forward the most in the whole episode. What does it mean?! What does she need a night off from? Is Maya’s core drive, for lack of a better term, to find love for Christina? What happens to her when she doesn’t? I also noticed that when she waits for Christina at the bar, she’s posed not unlike Maeve would be at the Mariposa in Stillwater. Maeve and Maya are similar-ish names too. Maeve and Dolores never had that kind of relationship in Westworld, but it’s something to consider.
The real star of the bar scene, however, is James Marsden. Even though his appearance in season four is all suave and no substance until we learn more about what’s going on, it’s so satisfying to see him in scenes with Evan Rachel Wood again. Almost satisfying enough to distract from the grim world around them. He doesn’t name himself, but all of the “Teddy” moves are there. He picks something up that Christina dropped and says his signature, “just trying to be chivalrous.” He talks about his past as a bounty hunter with a heart of gold. The two can’t help but feel as if they’ve known each other forever. But the last we saw on Westworld, Teddy is as dead as a host can be. His pearl was uploaded into the Valley Beyond. This is, if anything, just a copy.
We still don’t know who Christina is, for that matter, or whether she is controlling Hale’s world and why she resembles Dolores Abernathy in both the narrative arc and genetic makeup. Westworld co-creator Lisa Joy told Deadline that Christina is human and not a reboot of Dolores, but I just don’t think that’s possible. There are too many similarities and too many coincidences. Even if Hale had grown her in a test tube, she would have done that well before Caleb and Maeve infiltrated Temperance. Plus, Joy said this in the Deadline interview, and it couldn’t be more sarcastic, in my humble opinion:
“I wanted a really great actor to play this girl, Christina, and I’m hoping people don’t notice because I changed her hair color, but we just cast Evan again. I’m thinking the hair color is going to fool them. They probably won’t recognize her.”
Hopefully, now that we know some other Westworld characters are in Christina’s orbit and her blissful ignorance continues to break, we can put that to the test and start to get some answers. This episode provided a lot of answers, after all. Where does this leave everyone else? Hale has locked up Caleb. Presumably, host William, who was little more than a lackey in this episode, is with her. It’s also possible that the human William is with them too. I shudder to think what it would be like if OG William and nu Caleb linked up. Meanwhile, Bernard is across the country with Frankie and her rebel army — and Maeve, the weapon that will hopefully save us all.
• The term “generation loss” means a quality drop every time something has been copied. A lot of things have been copied on Westworld. Narratives have been copied from park to park. Hale is a copy of a copy of a copy of Dolores in a copy of Charlotte. Caleb is now on his 278th copy. But in the case of Westworld, it also refers to the amount of time Caleb has lost since he died — 23 years is approximately a generation, and Hale says it took a generation to take control of the human world. Clever, that!
• Maeve seems confident that she can maneuver Temperance because she knows the Westworld narratives like the back of her hand. But Caleb is right to be worried. It’s not the hosts that pose a threat; it’s the fly goop-infected guests. Plus, Hale started as a version of Dolores Abernathy and has, therefore, also played the Westworld game. I’m as confident as Bernard is that Maeve can help win the war, but she made some arrogant miscalculations, and I’m not surprised that she lost this particular battle.
• Hale saying “welcome to the superspreader event of the century” took me right out of the episode, but Westworld made up for it with James Marsden’s “you wanna hit on me, I’m okay with that.” Sometimes corny is cringe, and sometimes you’ve just gotta embrace it.
• The Lighthouse attack was giving me major Tenet vibes in its aesthetic. I half-expected Robert Pattinson to saunter out and assure me that the whole thing was a temporal pincer movement.
• At the demo site, Caleb sends his team his location — which, if I’ve calculated my latitude and longitude correctly, is in Simi Valley outside of Santa Clarita. That’s a far cry from Las Vegas. Were they really driving for hours?!