By James Hibberd
March 29, 2020 at 10:00 PM EDT
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John P. Johnson/HBO

The real world came into focus in Westworld’s third episode of the season, “The Absence of Field,” which cleared up some key questions of this new world Dolores is exploring/invading. Namely, what’s the deal with Incite and its AI ball, what’s going on with Charlotte (or, at least, what we’re supposed to think is going on with Charlotte), and how Caleb is going to fit into the show’s overall storyline.

This week left behind Maeve and Bernard and instead focused on Charlotte and Dolores. Or, more likely, Dolores and Dolores.

Let’s talk about that first. Because it’s difficult to discuss any of the Charlotte scenes without first dealing with who is in there. The obvious idea is that this is a copy of Dolores, that she cut and pasted herself into a Charlotte body and is now having a bit of a breakdown at being in the wrong skin. That’s at least what I think we’re supposed to think. “It’s like she’s trying to take back control, like she’s trying to cut her skin and rip me out of her head,” Charlotte says. So at first I thought what’s in Charlotte is like a more basic version of Dolores, a season 1 model if you will, but at the same time, she seems to have memories of what went down in season 2.

Another possibility that makes sense is Teddy, who killed himself in season 2 and was uploaded into the sublime (Dolores could have, I suppose, made a copy). There’s a weakness and neediness to this “Charlotte” that reminds me of him. Some of the lines exchanged such as “no one knows me like you do” and “you belong to me, you know that right?” and Charlotte asking Dolores to stay with her in the hotel bed — that all feels more like a lover than a copy of Dolores. This seems particularly true if Dolores is also in Connells, the Scottish corporate fixer guy, who seems to have no problem whatsoever living in another person’s body. Basically, it seemingly doesn’t make sense that whatever Dolores put in her copy of Connells was also put in her copy of Charlotte, unless there’s something else going on with the process of replacing humans with hosts that we don’t understand.

Then again, in that scene where Charlotte confronts and kills the pedophile creeper in the park, she says, “The harder I squeeze [your neck] the more I remember. I remember what it’s like to be me. You’re not the only predator here.” That feels like Dolores. Though Teddy is not unfamiliar with killing sprees himself. Unless it’s Charlotte literally taking over?

At any rate, there’s a strong Charlotte sequence where she arrives home and has to navigate the real version’s domestic life. The scenes with her former husband and son have twists and turns with each line of dialogue as we watch Charlotte try to quickly piece together the real Hale’s situation. She keeps making wrong turns and recalculating. The concluding moment where she slips into bed with young Nathan, a robot imposter pretending to be his mother, is super creepy.

Eventually, Charlotte meets up with Serac and realizes that Hale has been conspiring with the man looking to take over Delos and plays along with that too. Presumably, she’s relaying all this to Dolores —that Maeve is on the loose and that he’s trying to hunt her down.

One more nugget that’s clearly setting up something for later: Charlotte being introduced to the giant red “riot control” robot. We learn there’s 300 of them and they’re like robot…robo… robo-cops. Those are definitely going to wreak havoc at some point.

Meanwhile, we pick up with Caleb and Dolores in the ambulance and are introduced to a couple more nifty technological advances — the paramedics refusing to treat somebody without the onboard computer telling them what to do, and cops having the ability to remotely pull over any vehicle. Both of those ideas feel like spot-on predictions.

What follows next is a bit unclear: Dolores is seeming severely wounded and can’t move. Then Caleb tries to save her. Then she springs back into action and saves them both. It feels like Dolores keeps being just as incapacitated as the story needs her to be.

Later, Dolores comes to Caleb’s rescue when henchmen threaten to throw him off the building where he works. We learn that Caleb has a bit of built-in robot technology, military implants that can remotely control certain aspects of his body while in combat. It seems Caleb had these deactivated, despite there being some apparent benefits to having them on that we haven’t seen yet.

Dolores explains to Caleb what Incite is up to and why it’s bad. Complicated exposition is always tough to deliver in shows and Westworld deftly wraps this bit around Caleb’s backstory to show the audience what’s going on rather than Dolores merely speechifying. Basically, Incite collects so much data that it’s able to predict and control the future. If you know enough about a person’s past you can know what they’ll do next (or as Serac put it last week, for the first time history has an author). Caleb realizes the reason he can’t get a job is the system has already pegged him as a loser who’s going to kill himself in 12 years anyway.

Dolores offers him a choice of as much money as he wants or to join her rebellion to overthrow the system. “You were the first real thing that’s happened to me in a long time,” Caleb says. “I’m a dead man either way… At least this way I get to decide who I want to be.” Or Caleb, you could take that money, get some therapy and a boat, and then decide who you want to be — but that admittedly wouldn’t make for a good season of TV.

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