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Westworld Recap: God Is Bored

Season 4 of "Westworld" chugged along smoothly for the first three episodes before all heck broke loose in Episode 4, "Generation Loss." Episode 5, "Zhuangzi," starts to bring the season's three concentric storylines to a meeting point while still doing its best to keep viewers on their toes. 

Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) and host William (Ed Harris) are frustrated and dissatisfied with the world they have created and are starting to have some technical issues with the fly-jacked humans who now inhabit New York City. While Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and Frankie (Aurora Perrineau) are nowhere to be seen in this episode, Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) and resistance leader J (Daniel Wu) invade the city to rescue an outlier who is about to be terminated by Charlotte's William-bot.

But the biggest moments in "Zhuangzi" are saved for Christina (Evan Rachel Wood) and Teddy (James Marsden) as he gently clues her in to how much power she wields in her world. While Season 4's three main plot threads finally get tied together in Episode 5, the way it happens — in typical "Westworld" fashion — leaves viewers with more questions than answers.

Everyone is back in their loops, right down to their dialogue

In Episode 5, writers Lisa Joy and Wes Humphrey bring back some of the series' oft-repeated lines. In two separate voiceovers, host William talks of beauty in this world, invoking Dolores' dialogue from the original park, and he and Christina are both asked if they have ever questioned the nature of their reality. These moments in particular give the episode the feeling of one big fidelity check and raise the familiar question of who is human and who is a host. 

Perhaps Joy and Humphrey infused the script with familiar lines to ground viewers as things get disorienting, like a live band scattering their classic hits among less familiar fare, but it's more likely they're trying to signal to viewers that what we think is reality may be just another simulation. There are undeniable indicators that all of our main characters now exist in the same time and place, but it has become hard to trust any obvious road that "Westworld" appears to be leading us down, and the writers scattered plenty of hints that we could be dealing with two separate realities.

A bored Charlotte Hale could mean more trouble for humanity

A restless Charlotte is proving to be dangerous for everyone, commanding her minions to dance for her as her piano player literally hammers the keys until his fingers bleed. Perhaps the series' most delightfully odd moment comes when she issues the command "chair" and three hijacked humans lock arms and legs to form a throne for her from which she declares, "God is bored." Her need for revenge may have provided the motivation she needed to conquer humanity, but her ennui and inability to control the outliers could unravel the world she built since the deaths of Caleb and Maeve (Thandiwe Newton) a generation ago.

Hale has gradually introduced more shades of gray into her fabricated universe, where prior to Episode 4 everyone was clad in white or black like guests at the original "Westworld" park, in the roles of hero or villain. The only outlier from the black-white-gray convention thus far in Season 4 has been Christina, who often appears in shades of dark green or blue. Perhaps it's an indicator of agency — although Christina is just now discovering hers – or a signal that this world is separate from the one Hale has crafted, or both.

Stories within stories are slowly being revealed

The episode title, "Zhuangzi," refers to a 4th Century BCE Chinese philosopher who wrote thought-provoking parables and influenced modern Buddhist and Daoist traditions. Christina is clearly the Zhuangzi here, even muttering to herself after a moment of discovery, "This world is just a story. I'm the storyteller." That realization cuts immediately into William's second monologue about beauty in the world, echoing Dolores' refrain from her original role in the park. He then wakes the real William from cryo-sleep, who closes the episode by advising his host counterpart to question the nature of his reality.

Christina's boss Jack (Evan Williams) confronts her earlier — in yet another scene that feels like a fidelity interview — and warns her about Hale's power and intentions. At one point he seems to glitch and his voice deepens, immediately raising the question of who Dolores pulled from the server to code his brain pearl. While his warning to her would make it seem that his programming is that of someone she trusts, like her father Peter (Louis Herthum) or Bernard, his paranoia echoes that of host William as the episode winds to a finish.

One mystery solved, several more introduced

Fresh on the heels of the powerful revelations from Episode 4, Teddy drops a couple more on Christina: she not only has control over others, she actually created the world they're in. Here's where things get truly Westworldian.

If Christina created her world, including Charlotte in it seems as foolhardy as Little Red Riding Hood inviting the Big Bad Wolf to dinner. Since the only spillover into Christina's reality so far has been Hale, it's possible that Charlotte has discovered whatever server Dolores' simulation is running on and managed to get herself programmed in as a spy. Or it could just be that the bits of code from Dolores' original brain pearl that Christina and Charlotte share keep them tethered together in any virtual world either of them inhabits. 

The always looming mystery of who is human and who is a host is somehow becoming both simpler and more complicated at the same time. The only true humans left seem to be those in the resistance movement — the rest have been turned to compliant mush by Charlotte and her fly army. 

There used to be a distinction that helped make things clear: only hosts or outliers could see the giant sonic control tower off the southern end of Manhattan Island, but Teddy somehow brings Christina into a state of mind where she can suddenly see it too. It's a pivotal moment for her character but a disorienting one for the rest of us, and another indicator that Charlotte may have some power in her world.

When does Westworld Season 4, Episode 6 air?

"Westworld" Season 4, Episode 6, "Fidelity" will air on HBO on Sunday, July 31 at 9pm Eastern, and HBO Max subscribers can also view the episode beginning at that time. 

The most burning questions remaining for characters and viewers alike are with regards to the nature of the reality before their eyes.  While Hale claims to have conquered humanity, so far, we have only seen the people of New York under her thumb. Is she limited because she is in a virtual world of Dolores' creation? Are we dealing with one New York or separate virtual and material versions? 

Like Dolores before her, Christina has become aware that she dwells within a story, and that realization made the sweet farmer's daughter turn bitter and homicidal. While Christina seems gentler than Dolores and has certainly been victimized less, her erupting into violence would be a nifty change in tone for that part of the story — and par for the course given the wild turns "Westworld" has taken in the last two episodes.