Warning: The following contains full spoilers for the Westworld Season 4 episode “Fidelity,” which aired on July 31 on HBO.
To read our review of last week’s Westworld episode, “Zhuangzi,” click here.
Westworld’s fourth season has bubbled up into something very special (and sinister) but one of the best things it’s accomplished, story-wise, was taking seemingly sidelined characters — Frankie and her mom, Uwade — and giving them a meaningful, impactful arc. At first, it seemed like they were just going to be the family Caleb left behind while he went off to fight the war, but instead they became his successors. “Fidelity” was a tremendous chapter that showcased this legacy while also playing into Aaron Paul’s strengths as an actor (which is to be put through the freakin’ wringer).
Caleb, as one of the heroes on the series, has been traditionally stalwart, though he’s mostly experienced, and journeyed through, rote beats as the human caught up in a war between stubborn A.I.s. (now just mostly a war between humans and a singular, evil A.I.). “Fidelity,” which piggybacked off the crucible he went through twenty odd years ago, in “Generation Loss,” was the most unique and absorbing Caleb’s ever been.
As Caleb-278 — aka “the furthest Caleb to ever Caleb” — Paul was phenomenal here, playing through the pain as someone caught in a nightmare, and a time crunch, realizing he’s already tried to escape Hale’s clutches countless times before. His quest was desperate, emotional, and driven by a love for the daughter he sadly left behind (no thanks to dying) decades earlier.
The push here, for Caleb to just go a bit farther than his doomed predecessors, all while crawling past completly those obliterated versions of himself, made for a wonderful flip side to Maeve’s revival, which was happening over in the old Golden Era theme park. Our two main warriors of the old resistance, having perished at the same time, were experiencing new life, but while Maeve’s going to carry on Caleb was passing the torch to Frankie (Prodigal Son’s Aurora Perrineau). We saw Hale making a new Caleb at the end so it’s doubtful this is the last we’ve seen of Aaron Paul, but if it was Paul’s final bow Caleb definitely got a meaningful and riveting end.
In the midst of all this, “Fidelity” also had time to explore Frankie’s inner life, in the form of a mini-mystery. Who was Hale’s mole? Granted, the flashback at the top of the episode, showing Uwade and Frankie rescuing a young Jay when Frankie was still young, kind of gave it away, but overall the Jay reveal — and that’s Into the Badlands’ Daniel Wu, who was also in Lisa Joy’s Reminiscence, as Jay — landed well and helped elevate and add layers to Frankie as a character. It also helped Frankie, and the rest of the rebels, understand who Bernard was and trust him (even though they may not understand his de facto pre-cog abilities).
Side Quest: Good on Uwade for bringing young Frankie along on such a dangerous mission. She’d always objected to Caleb teaching her to be a warrior so it was cool to see that, off screen, she’d had a huge change of heart. I guess a cyber-apocalypse will do that to a parent.
Sticking to two main stories, mostly, per episode has helped Season 4 feel like a tighter story even though it contains the largest scope and most expansive dystopian imagination the show’s ever had. “Fidelity” also gave us an answer, more or less, to what’s causing the hosts to bug out and take their own life. Hale, convinced it’s an outlier-born virus, one that Caleb may have started when he was still alive, toys with Caleb, quite cruelly, in order to get answers. The truth though is that the hosts are just being felled by the unpredictable slings and arrows of immortality.
Westworld hasn’t quite been able to hone in and fully explain this existential ennui through dialogue yet — except to direct our attention to “the maze” — but let’s hold out hope that it’ll be able to get more succinct with its loftiness. Jonathan Nolan’s previous A.I. adventure, Person of Interest, managed to wonderfully pin down a few sentiments about the meaning of life and how connecting to, and helping, others allows us to sidestep traditional notions of death, but Westworld has been dealing with the nature of existence itself from the get-go. They might need to send a poet.