After a two -year hiatus, the complex sci-fi world of Westworld is back with familiar faces, new motives and shadowy puppet masters. In a change from season 3, Dolores isn’t the center of the action in the season 4 debut. Instead, we’re treated to a menacing and determined host version of the Man in Black looking to build an army, settle old scores and perhaps reverse the societal revolution caused by Caleb and Maeve’s dismantling of the Rehoboam machine.
The Man in Black’s first moves have been securing scores of barren land surrounding a turbine-powered dam facility near the Mexican border. The dam facility is owned by the cartel, who are amused when the Man in Black proposes they sell the entire operation to him. When rebuffed, he offers a final warning — get a good return on your investment today, or give it to me for free tomorrow. The cartel members choose the latter, and are exterminated by one of their own Board members that the Man in Black psychically gains control of.
These leads us to Dolores, now under a different name and living a simple life as a writer for virtual games with no memory of her season three past as a militant revolutionary. If not for her outgoing roommate (Aurora Perrineau), this reclusive version of Dolores would be a homebody, admittedly disillusioned with a world she feels is broken and views her the same way (“Real life can be disappointing… there should be more to it.”). It doesn’t appear the dismantling of Rehoboam has delivered supreme enlightenment to society. Escapism through drugs and virtual worlds are still the rage even seven years after the revolution, as evidenced by a suitor of Dolores recommending she take drugs to ease her depression. And even more condescendingly, he adds on that perhaps her woes are due to not yet finding the “right man.”
The only hint of her past life comes from a stalker, who harrasses her via repeated phone calls. It’s implied that Dolores’ unfulfilling writer career perhaps has more real-world influence than she knows and may be dictating the future of people’s lives much like Rehoboam did.
The episode highlight was the reuniting of Maeve and Caleb, who’ve went in polar opposite directions over the last seven years. Caleb has become a family man but struggles to let go of the past, living life with PTSD and the belief danger will return at any moment. His wife bemoans his paranoia, viewing it as detrimental to her daughter (“You don’t fear war, you miss it. This life is too ordinary for you.”). Maeve preferred living off the grind, believing isolation would keep her safe. After both narrowly survive assassination attempts and fingering the Man in Black as the ringleader, Caleb and Maeve realize going on the offensive is the best choice, setting the stage for a showdown that’s sure to be the prominent storyline for this season.
As with any debut episode, there’s pressing questions as we head into episode two and beyond:
1. The obvious first question of any Westworld scenario — who’s in the real world and what’s simulation? So far, the biggest potential simulation looks to be Dolores life with possibly her “day job” as a virtual storyline writer having an effect on society’s outliers previously controlled by Rehoboam or even hosts. And even if her roomie isn’t a flat-out host, there’s a good chance she’s some type of agent in place to keep Dolores contained.
2. Is the Man in Black’s Charlotte’s puppet? Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) is still unseen, but remember it was her who dispatched the human Man in Black in the season 3 finale. What’s her motivation for going after Maeve and Caleb when both were dormant?
3. What the hell is going on with those ominous buzzing flies the Man in Black used to take out the Mexican Cartel?
4. No Bernard appearance yet but let’s hope he’s cleared off the debris and left that dusty hotel room. I’m convinced this happened since season 3 confirmed Bernard tapped into the Sublime and this episode ended with the shocking return of [HIGHLIGHT BELOW FOR SPOILERS]
Teddy, the true love of Dolores’ life. Without Bernard breaking into the Sublime, there’d be no way for Teddy to make this return.
Episode 1 airs Sunday June 26 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO and HBO Max.