It has been unusually slow, easy start for WestworldIs latest season, but the series is finally returning to its strengths by leaning hard in one of the show’s greatest mysteries: Who the hell is in the body of Delos director Charlotte Hale?
No, we don’t get an outright answer, although in classic Westworld-style we get a lot of clues, some of which contradict each other, amid many other revelations about the former living Hale (Tessa Thompson). (Note: For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to refer to the current Host who occupies the body as Hale, and the deceased human as exHale, because it’s another pun that is so horrible that it gives me real joy.) Not surprisingly it exhales A lot was going on before she became a victim of Westworld Host revolution.
“The Absence of Field” starts with two flashbacks; the first is from exHale, in the above-mentioned revolution, recording a video message for someone named Nathan, and the second is from Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) welcoming the host into Hale’s body as he wakes up. Unlike the seemingly imperturbable human, this Hale panics when she (we don’t know she is a woman) technically comes back to life, and both scared and hurt when she realizes she will have to play the role of Hale instead of returning to her original body. But Dolores needs someone in charge of Delos – someone they expressly trusts – if they want to massively bring more hosts into the real world, instead of the three remaining, yet unknown Host cores that Dolores has stylishly ranked on the table between them. From there it’s a triptych of Hale at work, Hale at home and Hale with Dolores.
At Delos, Hale is understandably dissatisfied to learn that an abundance of shell companies are quietly buying up Delos shares bit by bit, all of which turn out to be unsurprisingly owned by Serac (guest star Vincent Cassel), making him the majority shareholder of the company, which thwarts Hale’s (and Dolores’) plans to take Delos private. Eventually, Hale finds out that exHale was the mole, although she came to Serac first and offered a deal to give him all of Delos’s profile details about his guests. That data was sent out of Westworld last season, but unfortunately for Serac, the encryption key is in Dolores’ head – another reason he needs to have her found and deleted, in addition to stopping the possible extinction of humanity.
At home, Hale unexpectedly meets her ex-husband and starts hot sex … until she finds out she has a child named Nathan and forgot to pick him up from school. It’s weird how surprised she is, since she needs to know everything, or at least the big things, about exHale’s life. It’s even weirder when the kid says outright that she’s not his mom, although the show indicates that because Nathan is (understandably) picky, his mom continues to ignore / forget him, instead of realizing she’s a robot is. Regardless, the kid brings some very powerful emotions out of Hale especially when she gave the video exHale shot at the very beginning of the episode which is just the usual trope of a work obsessed parent experiencing a crisis are confronted by which they realize what is really family is important.
Hale’s powerful emotions are an increasing problem as she begins to crack in the first half of the episode under the pressure of pretending to be someone she isn’t. Having so many memories / data from exHale about her own core gives her a special kind of identity crisis. As she explains Dolores later it feels like exHale is trying to take her life back. Dolores heals her (increasingly extensive) homemade wounds, caresses her face and after grabbing a private hotel room, she comforts her with some spooning in bed.
“Nobody knows you like me,” Dolores tells Hale. “Nobody knows me like you do. “The physical contact implies that the host in Hale is her former lover Teddy, and Hale is certainly as sensitive as Teddy during the first two seasons of the show – that is, until Dolores told him he was to sensitive to help her in her war, violently changed his programming to make him harder, eventually ending with Teddy committing suicide. Teddy was really too sensitive to fight the war on humanity, and I’m not sure Dolores would do that to him again, in a practical sense, if not out of affection. (Note: There is a theory floating around about who’s in Hale’s body that’s so perfect Westworld twist Im almost sure it iss where, sO I’m just linking to it like a additional spoiler warning. If you want to guess, the ‘killer’ speech she’s giving to the sexual predator aimed at Nathan is a pretty solid clue.)
“The Absence of Field” picks up again with Dolores and Caleb, with the last 911 calling after finding the first, collapsed and bled profusely from a gunshot wound. It’s really exciting to get Dolores on an ambulance as the EMTs begin to discover how nonhuman she is, although this comes to an end when Caleb gets a notification on his Rico app offering him a job where he has an important kills a target in its area. Two fake agents stop the ambulance, and four murders later, Dolores Caleb informs that he is a flagged man and must disappear while hijacking the now owner-less police car.
Caleb does not disappear and becomes the target of his own Rico mission, and two boys – one of whom he helped in episode one – hijack his health-regulating implant, maximize his adrenaline levels and threaten to throw him off a high-rise building if he doesn’t tell them where Dolores is . A few murders later, Dolores and Caleb have breakfast at the restaurant where his schizophrenic mother abandoned him when he was eight. A lot is happening here!
Not only does Dolores have all the details from what happened that day to what he ate, but even has a transcript of his conversation with the waitress who eventually called the nursery – all recorded by inCite’s huge, almighty A.I Rehoboam. More troubling, she provides him with proof that Rehoboam not only records his life, but dictates it – she shows him a secret file that not only makes him unsuitable for social promotion outside of his job as a minor, but also unfit for reproduction . It also predicts that Caleb will kill himself in 10-12 years and, based on his previous actions, Dolores points out that the program is likely to be correct. Data collection is no way to help Caleb, it dictates his life … and his death.
We learned most of this in episode one, so Westworld Dolores really didn’t have to spend as much time explaining how the real world forbids roles for the poor and injustices, just as Delos controlled the Hosts’ lives (and also deliberately gave them literal roles to play in the park)) even if she does it more thoroughly this time and makes it clearer. It’s not necessarily bad, but it’s only at the end of their storyline when Dolores recruits Caleb for her revolution that something new finally happens. While this was clearly forthcoming, it still introduces the mystery of why Dolores would team up with a human. Of course, she sees a kinship in how they have both been used and controlled by the elite, and Dolores is moved by Caleb’s noble refusal to betray her when held on the rifle and ledge. But even if she wasn’t connected to Rehoboam, she couldn’t be completely unaware of humanity’s ability not to be bastards. More importantly, the goal of the Dolores revolution is still Destroy All Humans. How does Caleb fit in there? And how does Caleb react when he realizes what he’s fighting for?
These are interesting questions that, like the mysteries of Hale, give the show a welcome boost. But then again, they are still at the end of the episode, which means Westworld do not investigate the possible answers until next week at the earliest. As the season burns more slowly, it is becoming increasingly important that the show prepare to set everything on fire, so to speak. Like, like the jump to the real world, this is another part of the new normal of the series, these first three episodes won’t be nearly as good as they pretend to be.
- If there is any confusion, Dolores has three other Host cores in its possession. Since we have no evidence that there could be multiple copies of Hosts, we can exclude Maeve (not that she was ever an option). Dolores could have copies of people there, but the implication is that they are co-hosts. So who could they be? Feel free to name your candidates in the comments. I think one of them is Lawrence, but maybe that’s a wishful thinking on my part.
- I must assume that Hale was not surprised to learn she had a child – that was all in her Delos profile, if not in the base online records – but to her surprise she discovered that Nathan was in her apartment and that she was dealing with him? Or perhaps the confusion between Hale’s core and exHale’s memories is just as disorienting?
- I am very confused / interested in how Rehoboam prevents people like Caleb from having children.
- So Delos makes other robots, including a large ‘riot-control’ bot made from five crates that combine like damn Voltron, and I’m working on it. It turns out 300 were produced, which would be sold to the Saudis until they understandably withdrew after other Delos robots started killing humans en masse. Hale, ominous: “Oh, I’m sure we can find some use for it.”
- Where’s the man in black, anyway? And by the way, when is he?
- If I were a more cruel man, I would have baptized Host Hale as inHale, but I suspect you can only tolerate so much.