In Westworld Season 4, Episode 4, 'Generation Loss' Gains New Meaning

The first few episodes of "Westworld" season 4 have been kind of a mixed bag, delivering some great character moments while still getting stuck in mystery box storytelling. Each episode has several storylines running through it, chopped to bits and interwoven with one another to create a confusing but sometimes compelling narrative. The catastrophic events at the end of season 3 were never fully explained, the timelines are all fuzzy, and the ambiguity of everything can be a bit frustrating. I love "Westworld" and am along for the ride no matter how convoluted it gets, but it's not hard to understand why some viewers jumped ship long ago. 

Episode 4 of this season is called "Generation Loss," and whether or not it was intentional, the title has a meta meaning. Generation loss is a concept in technology that refers to loss of fidelity when copies are made of something. A copy of a copy of a copy is going to be missing some bits from the original, and the further down the line you go, the less accurate the copy becomes. That certainly has implications in the episode, but it also speaks to how the series has tried to replicate its first season over and over again, experiencing some generation loss of its own. Episode 4 finally delivers some answers without setting up a whole list of new questions, delivering us on what seems like a fairly straightforward path from here on out. Then again, this is "Westworld," and nothing is ever as it seems. 

Spoilers for season 4, episode 4 of "Westworld" ahead.

Surviving Hale with Maeve and Caleb

Last week, Maeve (Thandiwe Newton) and Caleb (Aaron Paul) were dealing with a lot of problems after breaking into the newest Delos park, complete with a "Westworld massacre" Easter egg narrative for visitors. They managed to get down into the basement levels of the park and discovered the parasite inside of flies that Hale (Tessa Thompson) is using to begin to control humans, but then Caleb was swarmed by said flies. Episode 4 begins with a flashback to the end of season 3, when Maeve and Caleb blew up the supercomputer Rehoboam, and Caleb was shot. He tells Maeve that he's sad he'll never know life after the war, he'll never know freedom, and she hacks his brain implants to show him memories of her own freedom with her daughter in the fields. 

The flashback is revealed to be a dream, as Caleb comes to and Hale is standing over him. "Wakey wakey," she taunts, before informing him that she made him her pet, and intends on doing that to all of humanity, using the parasite. Caleb asks about his wife and daughter and Hale informs him that they're "still somewhere out there alive," but she doesn't care because soon she'll have everyone under her control. Every visitor to the park will be a carrier of the parasite, and they will spread it among the human population until Hale has the ability to control anyone using those weird sound waves. 

Meanwhile, Maeve and host William have a little fight, but she gets away and manages to gain control of the sound machine, overwhelming it and piercing the ears of the hosts. It eventually shatters all of the glass in the underground lab, giving Caleb a chance to get away. He grabs a shard and holds it to Hale's throat, then Maeve shows up and they start heading for the door. They handcuff Hale, but she manages to get the sound machine working again to some degree and all of the hosts around them start going berserk. Maeve stays calm because the hosts are all copies of Westworld hosts, and she's "lived this a thousand times." Things seem to be going alright for the duo, then Hale manages to get into Caleb's brain a bit and orders him to pick up a gun and aim it at Maeve. He fights her enough to not shoot, but it gives a random host opportunity to stab poor Caleb. Maeve rescues him but just barely, and they drive off into the desert in an old truck full of moonshine.

Caleb is losing a lot of blood, and he asks Maeve if she's going to abandon him again. She explains that she didn't abandon him after Rehoboam, but that she sat at his hospital bedside for weeks. She understood mortality for the first time, and it scared her. She realized that in order for Caleb to be free and happy, she would have to remove herself from the picture completely:

"Our kinds are locked in a perpetual struggle. I wanted you to do more than fight to survive. I wanted you to have something to fight for. I had already known the love of a daughter, and I planned on spending eternity holding it dear. I knew that if I stayed put, no harm would come to you. You deserved to have something real to hold onto. That's why I left. And it would have been fine except one day I got curious. So I reached out through the grid to find you, and..."

And, Maeve now knows, that's how Hale found both of them. If she had never reached out, Caleb and his family would still be safe. That has to weigh heavily on her, but they have to keep moving. They head to a construction site and unfortunately, William is waiting. (That guy just will not die.) Maeve hands Caleb her gun and he warns her not to trust him with it, but she laughs and says "I just did." He calls his team of mercenaries to come pick them up and finds out that his wife and daughter are safe. Hale starts getting into his head and forces him to aim the gun at Maeve, but then he turns and shoots William at the last moment. The victory is short-lived, however, as William shoots Maeve from his spot lying on the ground and then gets up once more. Maeve walks over to William and wraps her arms around him, telling him that in the park she learned to "always insist on mutual satisfaction." She has armed a bunch of explosives in the ground, and sets them off, killing both her and William.

This is where things start getting wild. We barely have a chance to grieve Maeve, one of the best characters in the series, and Hale starts questioning Caleb about his memories. We watch as Hale's men arrive and Caleb is shot repeatedly. Hale explains that the human Caleb died that day, and that the Caleb we're watching is a host. Not just a host, but the 278th version of Caleb that Hale has made. "It's part of an interview, to establish a baseline. Fidelity." We see that Caleb and Hale are in one of the rooms from the first two seasons where Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and her handlers would interact. It turns out that Hale's parasite didn't work on adults very well, so she had to wait for the next generation to become adults, all infected with the parasite as children. It's been 23 years since Caleb died in the park. He escapes the room and is in the building where Christina (also Evan Rachel Wood) works. He runs outside and sees the Tower, then Hale makes everyone stop except her and Caleb. He realizes what that means, that the world has been lost to Hale, and it has some truly terrifying ramifications. 

Christina experiences a familiar love story

Dispersed throughout Caleb's story are scenes with Christina, who we now know is living in Hale's controlled future. Christina is potentially some version of Dolores, a chance for the innocent, empathetic host to finally experience joy without all of the horrors of the park. That explains why she's writing narratives, and it also explains how some of her ideas are so closely related to Dolores. She's sleeping, posed similarly to Dolores waking up throughout season 1, and her roommate comes in to check on her. Apparently, Christina was up all night painting, and her painting is of the Tower. Her roommate tells her about a nightmare where flies were attacking her family and then her, and it's hard not to wonder if she's a human and that dream isn't a dream at all but a repressed memory. 

The next time we see Christina, she's out at a nice restaurant with her roommate. She drops her lipstick and Teddy, (James Marsden) or some version of him, picks it up and hands it back to her. "Don't mind me, just trying to look chivalrous," he says, mirroring his dialogue from back in the park when he would hand Dolores her dropped can. It turns out that he's her blind date, and they have a great time together, talking about his job (he's some kind of bounty hunter?) and the idea that stories can be more real than reality. Christina asks if she's ever met him before and he teases her about being corny, but they seem to be having the kind of experience that they always deserved in their past lives and never had a chance to enjoy. 

Back to the future with Bernard

It turns out that Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) isn't technically in the future, but is in the same timeline (and "when") as Christina and Caleb. Caleb and Maeve's adventures were just taking place in a memory of the host Caleb, who is now firmly in the present. Bernard is out in the desert with the human resistance, who we now understand are fighting against Hale, her host army, and the people controlled by her parasite. There's talk of extracting someone before "they get to her," but that line of dialogue goes nowhere because the young woman who Bernard says is going to save the future, C (Aurora Perrineau), begins arguing with the leader about Bernard's fate. Another woman (possibly named Yolanda?) gets involved and convinces the leader to let C take Bernard looking for the weapon against Hale. The leader keeps Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) as collateral, which C agrees to. C and Yolanda sneak a kiss before C leaves and have a quick chat about being careful, then Bernard, C, and some of her crew head off into the desert.

They head into what looks like a quarry, with paths going downward into man-made valleys. Bernard says they're getting close to the weapon and C spots a drone flying overhead. They throw sand-colored tarps over their vehicles and hide beneath them in order to trick the drone, but Bernard walks right out to look at it. C tackles him and throws a tarp over him and the drone moves onward. Bernard recognizes the ridge ahead and tells C that the weapon is right over the hill. When they begin to dig she questions how he knows and he cryptically replies "we dug everywhere else first," because he has the memories of every possible scenario in his mind from his time in robot heaven. 

It turns out that C is Frankie, Caleb's daughter, and she's looking for his body as much as she's looking for the weapon to stop Hale. "They say it happened here. If that's true, there'd be a body," she explains, desperate to know what happened to her dad. They do end up finding a body, but it's not Caleb's; it's Maeve's, and she's the secret weapon they've been looking for. 

There's a lot of potential fun to be had with this setup. Maeve and Hale can face off in a Hale-controlled world, Dolores/Christina can "wake up" in an entirely different kind of timeline, and Caleb, formerly a human, is now a host going through everything Dolores and the other hosts experienced back in season 1. It's a little frustrating that these four episodes were told in this way in order to set up the time-jump reveal, but now that it's clear, the events of the previous three episodes at least make more sense. They also are more enjoyable on the second watch, because you can enjoy the narrative instead of trying to figure out its mysteries. Hopefully, this is the beginning of a less intentionally vague "Westworld" season, but I'm not going to hold my breath. 

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