Westworld Season 4 Episode 1 'The Auguries' Present A Mystery Within A Mystery

"Westworld" is back, which means it's time for more mysteries, more masterfully crafted metaphors, and probably some more frustration. Many fans of the series, myself included, know that the series is likely to be hindered by a reliance on mystery-box storytelling, with careful story reveals intended to inspire the most Reddit threads and online think-pieces predicting the possibilities. While guessing at the mysteries back in season 1 was a lot of fun, a little straightforward storytelling couldn't hurt now that we're in season 4 of the HBO series, when things have become so complicated that it would take real scholarly effort to piece it all together. Fans trying to make sense of "Westworld" can often look and feel like Charlie Kelly trying to explain Pepe Silvia with a corkboard full of clues, and season 4 is no different. In fact, the questions left at the end of season 3 don't get any answers, just brand new questions to make them even more complicated. 

How is Evan Rachel Wood back if Dolores was permanently erased? How is James Marsden finally back? What happened as a result of Caleb shutting down Rehoboam and giving humanity free will once more? Let's see if we can make heads or tails of the season 4 premiere, "The Auguries."

Spoilers for season 4, episode 1 of "Westworld" from here on out! 

More questions instead of answers

The premiere begins with the host version of the Man in Black (Ed Harris) attempting to buy some property from a drug cartel near the Delos parks, though he meets some resistance and the cartel boss refuses to sell. The boss goes into his closet and discovers an infestation of flies, then he goes and kills all of his associates in seemingly cold blood. The flies seem to be some kind of mind-control parasite, but how they work exactly has yet to be seen. Following this violent scene, there's a cut to Evan Rachel Wood with brown hair in almost the same exact position we watched her awake from again and again in season 1 as Dolores Abernathy. Now she's a video game writer named Christina, though clearly, not everything is as it seems: her roommate asks her to pick a pair of shoes for a double date that night and they're identical except for shade, mirroring the black hat/white hat choices from season 1. Dolores tended to be white hat and Wyatt, her vengeance personified, was a black hat, but Christina picks the white shoes, meaning this hopefully is a kinder incarnation of the character. She's not excited about her blind date and complains that "setups are so awkward," which is pretty wild given that her entire life before had been written for her. 

The episode titles in "Westworld" have always provided insight into the episodes themselves, so what exactly is an "augury"? Augury is another word for "omen," foretelling or prophesying some future event. It turns out that Christina is writing omens unaware, as her video game narratives are mirroring someone's life. That someone begins stalking her, calling her, and begging her to stop writing his life. She's shaken but tries to keep at her job, and that brings its own frustrations; her boss wants her to write stories full of tragedy and violence but she wants happy endings. This season isn't afraid to get really meta and reference back to the ideas from season 1, but in the first episode that meta-analysis stays pretty surface level. Christina is writing narratives the way Dolores' narrative was once written, placing her in a very different position to create change. "Westworld" has always been concerned with free will for both hosts and humans, and questioning whether Christina is influencing some random man's free will is certainly an interesting idea. 

Next, we see Maeve (Thandiwe Newton) in a remote cabin while Jimi Hendrix's "Castles Made of Sand," about the inevitable passage of time, plays in the background. We see timeline hops through her memories and she reaches out to Caleb (Aaron Paul), seemingly not having spoken to him since the events at the end of season 3. Caleb has a daughter now and she's outside, practicing shooting cans. Maeve heads back into civilization, visiting the local general store, and we discover that it's been 7 years since the end of season 3 and she's been living quietly in the woods since. The shopkeep tells her that some "friends" were looking for her, and she buys a hatchet just in case. Black military-clad types descend upon her cabin but she manages to escape and kill them all with a sniper rifle from a hill in the distance before heading off into the woods. 

Cannon fodder

The story pops back over to Christina, and she's explaining her job as an NPC programmer to her blind date, who says "most players just see those as cannon fodder." Knowing how people treated the "NPC" hosts in the Westworld park, his comment seems particularly glib. Christina is frustrated by it and ends up questioning the nature of her situation: "What if I'm not the one that's broken? What if it's the world that needs fixing?" She doesn't get much time to ponder that existential crisis, however, because her stalker gives her another phone call and is standing on a nearby rooftop. He asks her if she wrote his suicide or if it was up to him, questioning free will once more, before plummeting to his death.

Back in Caleb and Maeve-land, the mystery assassins come for Caleb and his daughter but Maeve saves them both in the nick of time. Caleb and Maeve team up to go figure out what it is that the mercenaries want, because they're likely in league with the Man in Black and Hale (Tessa Thompson), who have become the series' big bads.

We return to Christina one last time, standing on her patio and speaking into her phone:

"Record pitch: I wanna write a new story, about a girl. A girl who's searching. The girl doesn't know what she's searching for, she just knows there's an emptiness in her life. Or maybe it's inside her; and when she finds the thing she's searching for, everything will make sense. I want a story with a happy ending... stupid stories nobody wants to hear..."

She begins to cry, and footage of Caleb's daughter, Maeve, and Caleb's wife are all juxtaposed over her words before we see a familiar face looking up at Christina from the street — Teddy (James Marsden) — and the episode cuts to black. There aren't any answers about who Christina is, why Teddy appears to be back, or what the mercenaries want with Caleb and Maeve, and other than mentions of a mysterious tower that only certain people see, there's no telling how much has changed since Caleb shut down Rehoboam. The premiere is stacking mystery boxes like matryoshka dolls, so here's hoping they can get to the center at some point. It's just like the maze in season 1, just much more unnecessarily complicated.

New episodes of "Westworld" premiere Sundays on HBO and HBO Max.