By James Hibberd
April 05, 2020 at 10:47 PM EDT

With its new world and storylines now established, Westworld got down to business with its most action-packed episode of the new season so far, “The Mother of Exiles,” which had all the rogue hosts beginning to converge.

The episode’s big reveal was that Dolores’ robot minions haven’t been familiar characters from previous seasons after all but rather, simply, copies of herself. Charlotte Hale? Dolori! Conells? Dolori! Musashi/Sato? Dolori! Dolori! Dolori! It’s still unclear why the Hale bot went through such an existential arm-slicing meltdown last week (which made me wonder at the time if she might be Teddy) and the other two apparently did not, but perhaps that answer is forthcoming. Point is, Dolores used her Delos annex Kinkos to copy herself into those pearls, which means a fair portion of the Westworld cast now has to pretend to be Evan Rachel Wood pretending to be Dolores pretending to be other people, which must be a bit exhausting and result in interesting conversations during their lunch breaks.

We also had the return of the Man in Black, who has been having a mental breakdown and identity crisis wondering if he’s secretly a host (frankly, we all could turn into William pretty easily if we just spent our weeks/months of social distancing staying at home and playing Red Dead Redemption 2 over and over). William is also mourning the loss of his daughter, who he killed last season thinking she’s a host. “So which is it: Are you free and evil? Or blameless and helplessly enslaved?” his spectral daughter asks, which rather perfectly sums up his crisis — William is damned either way. Of course, somebody with William’s resources should be able to find out pretty quickly if he’s really a host or not, there have to be all sorts of body scanning ways of telling if you’ve got that mechanical core.

Credit: HBO

“Charlotte” visits Williams and explains Serec is plotting to take over Delos and she needs him to get cleaned up and act like a proper board member again. He momentarily points a gun at her thinking she’s a host, which of course she is, and Charlotte tells him she’s “real enough to not want a gun pointed at my face” — a rather accurate way of putting it. We eventually learn this is all a ruse to get William committed to a mental institution, which would transfer his board seat to Charlotte. Dolores also pinpricks his neck, drawing blood, so who wants to bet that she’s going to replicate him now too?

William ends up institutionalized and this is positioned as a punishment. But honestly? She’s doing him a favor. The man needs a mental hospital. He’s left to wonder about his reality as a hallucination of Dolores taunts him, telling him that is the end of the game for him and perhaps it is. We’ve previously had a scene at the end of season 2 of William stuck in a fidelity test, and it’s still unclear where that is on his timeline.

Elsewhere, Bernard and Stubbs are back on the mainland. The scene of Stubbs wearing a tacky tourist T-shirt drinking a beer in a dingy apartment looks like very authentic Stubbs to me — this, not pretending to be a security chief patrolling the theme park, seems like Stubbs’ natural habitat. They assume Dolores’ ex-bf trust fund executive Liam has been made into a host so their plan is to kidnap him and get him to tell them where the other Dolori are.

Meanwhile, Dolores and Caleb go shopping and we get one of those future tech details that Westworld has been delivering this season — that mirror that allows you to see what you look like in any outfit seems like a wholly credible and rather handy idea. They pull off a bank heist to get access to Liam’s funds in a sequence that wrings watching people scan their thumbs for all the suspense you can get from scenes of watching people scan their thumbs.

Team Bernard and Team Dolores clash at an event that’s somehow both a brothel and a charity fundraiser. Dolores looks around at the silent commodified sex worker statues and comments that the real world is just like Westworld after all. There’s a lot of action that gets a bit confusing as Stubbs fights Dolores and Caleb stands off with Bernard and Liam and Conells and you’re going, “Wait, so Conells is actually Dolores and Bernard is Bernard but Dolores also brought Bernard back to the mainland for some purpose and Liam used to be with Dolores but he isn’t now while Caleb is helping Dolores so … who wants what in this scene now?” Then it ends with everybody just scattering off. The main point of this sequence is probably Bernard confronting Dolores and verbalizing the reveal that she made copies of herself.

And then there’s Maeve, who gets recruited by Serec to take out Dolores. We get an intriguing flashback to Serec’s childhood that shows Paris getting nuked. Between this and Caleb’s extremely vague wartime experience, I’m starting to think there’s an important reveal being set up here about the real world’s past. We keep getting hints of a past war without clear details and in Westworld, whenever you see a deliberately drawn curtain it’s a safe bet that something important is behind that curtain.

Anyway, Serec makes it clear he’s a legit bad guy by killing a helpless “identity broker” while at the same time insisting his goal is to help humanity and that our biggest threat is ourselves. Or in the words of Dr. Horrible: “The world is a mess, and I just need to rule it.” He gives Maeve a choice of returning to a virtual cage or going to, uh, another virtual cage — only the other one has her daughter in it. I suppose when you’re a host everything is just data anyway so being in a real-world vs. a virtual world doesn’t make a whole lot of difference.

Basically, Dolores has the key to both unlock the virtual Eden that the hosts escaped to, which is what Maeve wants, and the key to all the secret data Delos was collecting on its guests, a “map of the human mind,” which Serec wants.

Their interests aligned, Maeve tries to hunt down Dolores and finds her — well, one of her doppelgängers, anyway, in the guise of ShogunWorld’s Musashi, now a Yakuza boss named Sato. Why Dolores needs to impersonate Sato moving forward is a part of her master plan we’re not yet privy to. Sato kills Maeve but has to leave as Maeve was being tracked, so she’s presumably going to get yet another life to continue her quest.

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