Beautiful lies are revealed.

Westworld (TV series)

S4 E5

In season 4, episode 5 of Westworld, "Zhuangzi" — written by Wes Humphrey and Lisa Joy, directed by Craig William Macneill — the gods of Olympiad Entertainment toil amongst the mortals, questioning the nature of their realities.

We join the Host in Black (Ed Harris) as he toys with a wealthy couple at a posh restaurant, disabusing them of the notion they are the masters of the universe they think they are. "You have no control and yet you're so assured that you do … A beautiful lie." As he demonstrates just how little control they actually have, Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) interrupts. He's needed elsewhere — a colleague's appetites have become unsustainable.

They arrive at an apartment building and follow a trail of bodies inside. They confront a host named Hope (Nicole Pacent), who Clementine informs us won a mysterious game, and was supposed to "transcend," but instead has gone on a killing spree. HiB reprimands Hope for being so careless with the humans. "Care and subtlety" went into each and every one of them, "they can't just be replaced." She can enjoy them, but not waste them. There are no rules here — that's the point — but there are also no rules for what he can do to those who don't respect this place. It seems our villainous black hat has developed a soft spot for humanity.

The next day, Halores (Tessa Thompson) is in the city, sadistically making a street full of people dance for her. When the Host in Black expresses his surprise to find her here — in a place she calls a "s---hole" — she explains that she is a bored God. "Bored. Bored. Bored," she says from a throne made out of compliant humans. She doesn't understand why they are still coming here and bothering with all this. It's a drug they can't get enough of, a place to indulge themselves with humanity, the way humanity did with them. It's been years. She thought they would have moved on by now.

They take a walk to Tower Island where we learn a few more things about how this new world order has been working out. As they wax philosophically through the levels, we see hosts give up their bodies and upload their cores (or "transcend") into what I'm assuming is the Sublime. This would track with HiB gaining control of the back-up system at the Hoover Dam in the premiere, and why the architecture of Tower Island is identical to the place where Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) met Akecheta (Zahn McClarnon) in episode 3. Halores hoped their species would aspire to more than just "turnabout" on humanity. She wanted them to grow, to change. Surrender the flesh and pursue ultimate truth and beauty. But she won't force her species to do what she wants — that's "what they would have done."

In addition, we learn "the game" is a contest where hosts hunt outliers — people for whom the tone has mysteriously stopped working. Hope was one of 38 hosts who went on a killing spree, then took her own life, after contact with an outlier. They don't know why this keeps happening.

Finally, she is not happy with our Host in Black's inability to solve this problem, screaming that his "predecessor would've never f---ed up like this. He was human but at least he was effective." She built him to be better, stronger, smarter but maybe there's a flaw in his programming. He notices she is once again scratching at her skin (like in season 3), and she sends him off to take out the latest outlier. Seems like the pressures of godhood are getting to Halores, and he isn't the only one who's flawed.

J (Daniel Wu), Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth), and the rest of the rebels arrive in the city, also searching for the outlier. J explains they find them by using reprogrammed drones to track when a person breaches their pre-scripted loops. This is how they located her but they need to hurry; the hunt is already on. As they make their way through New York, they are spotted by HiB, who uses the tone to command pedestrians to attack them.

J races to get to the outlier before she's killed. HiB finds her first, on a rooftop staring at the tower. She asks if he sees it too and he hesitates. Her ex-husband used to rant about it all the time before he was killed and she thought he was crazy. He must have felt so alone. If I'm reading this scene right, her ex-husband was the same outlier Hope killed, who was also the unhoused man on the High Line in episode 2.

 She can see in HiB's eyes that the world doesn't make sense to him either. "You're not alone," she says as she lays her head on his shoulder. He appears momentarily moved, but quickly regains his sense of self and prepares to shoot her just as J arrives in the nick of time and shoots him instead. J, the outlier, and the rebels escape.

The Host in Black, now infected like the others, has awakened the real William from his forced cryo-sleep, and demands to know what part he plays in Halores' "perfect" world. William tells his artificial doppelganger that maybe it's time he questioned the nature of his reality.

Over in a different part of town, Christina (Evan Rachel Wood) is still on Cloud 9 from her date with Teddy (James Marsden), and Maya (Ariana DeBose) still struggles with her fly-filled nightmares. When she gets to work, Christina starts writing a narrative suspiciously like Dolores' in Westworld. Her boss, Emmett (Michael Malarkey), catches her writing this unassigned storyline, but before he can press her any further about it, they are interrupted by a phone call from Teddy. He instructs her to say something personal came up and come meet him.

When she meets Teddy, he tries to make her see the tower, and she suddenly realizes he is the man who rescued her from Peter (Aaron Stanford) in the premiere. At first, she accuses him of being another stalker, but he convinces her to let him show her the world is a lie. He knows she feels on some level that her place here is not what she thinks it is. He asks her to concentrate and change the story of two lonely women in the park. She is shocked to find the experiment successful. He and Peter tried to tell her — in this world she's a god.

Before she can fully process what's happened, she receives an alert reminding her of a lunch date with her "old college roommate." Teddy insists she stick to the schedule. Pretend everything's normal and trust no one. Anyone could be one of "us."

She meets up with the old college roommate who is none other than Charlotte Halores. She presses "Chrissy" throughout the lunch, asking what she's been up to or if she's met anyone new. Tessa Thompson does a wonderful job of adding sinister layers to these innocuous questions. It's an incredibly tense sequence. Chrissy, catching on that something isn't quite right with her "friend," uses her newfound ability to cause a distraction at the restaurant, and abruptly leaves to head back to work.

At Olympiad, she searches the character files for Charlotte Hale and is relieved to find she isn't in there. Then, still curious, she looks for Dolores Abernathy and sets off an alert that signals "illegal activity." Chrissy! Never search sensitive information on your work computer! That's Office 101! So of course her weirdo boss calls her into his office and begins to question her. He insists she has an important job to do, and he isn't the only one concerned about her performance. "Do you know what would happen if she knew you'd breached the walled garden? She's already suspicious." She asks if he means Charlotte and he becomes very aggressive. She uses her narrative powers on him, making him tell her where the walled garden, this "closed system," is. He replies, "everywhere. You just have to see it." She instructs him to go home to his partner, and as he leaves, a door reveals itself to her. It leads to a hidden control room with a holographic map of the city. She commands it to show her all her narratives and the map lights up with an overwhelming number of them. Horrified, she realizes this world is just a story and she's the storyteller. She can see it all so clearly now.

She finds Teddy and asks him who built this? "Who did this to me?" "You did," he answers.

Well, Halores might be bored, but I'm certainly not. 

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Westworld (TV series)

Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy's ambitious sci-fi thriller is based on the 1973 Michael Crichton film of the same name.

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