I’ve tempted fate during each of these reruns so far, noting how linear and straightforward this season seems. But we always knew it was going to be a mirage; enough characters were in their own bubbles (spatial and temporal) that it was only a matter of, yes, time, before west world went full west world and felt the need to mess with everything we thought we knew about the timelines. You should have seen my face when Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) told Caleb (Aaron Paul) not to ask where he was but when he was. I mean, I knew this moment would come. As in previous seasons, things that we thought were happening simultaneously turned out to be happening years apart. Familiar faces must now come to terms with who and what they have become. (Oh yeah, my face? It was something between a smug “I knew!” and an exasperated sigh.)
But let’s not get too far ahead. Especially since “Generation Loss” begins with a flashback to the final moments between Maeve (Thandiwe Newton) and Caleb before they were reunited years later in that secret attack we saw in episode one, which ended with Caleb being nearly mortally wounded in the belly . You know, kind of like the attack Maeve and Caleb just started at the park that ended with (surprise!) Caleb being stabbed in the stomach. west world is very much a show about narrative loops, but rarely has it been so candidly explicit about that structure. Like it or not, these two are reliving their previous team-up and discover that they may not come out as the best this time. (And that’s before we add how their stories are clearly driven by a dedication to their daughters; west world wants us to see them as complementary characters mirroring each other in decidedly melancholic ways.)
But can they really be stuck in a loop where they triumph like they did all those years ago? After all, when, they were against people. Now they’re fighting hosts – and not just any hosts. William (Ed Harris) and Charlotte are still proving that they are even more dastardly than anyone we have yet to meet; their cruelty is cowardly and ruthless.
“No one knows this game better than I do,” Maeve tells herself, but soon realizes she may not be in her element, even though she manages to foil William, take Charlotte hostage, and take an injured Caleb to a scrap yard. where she hopes she can finally finish what she started years ago.
Oh, but not before we get a rather brutal montage in which Maeve reminisces about how she came into close contact with Caleb’s mortality. Newton can sell me any voiceover monologues, but I admit she almost lost me with this more sentimental take on Maeve. But that’s probably because I enjoy her performance more when she’s fully in Take-no-prisoners mode. As when confronted with the inevitability of dying itself, she clings to William and buries after an explosion she herself causes. She is nothing but a perfect martyr.
This brings us to the twist, an expected but nonetheless shocking twist (actually, if we had to talk about that one shot that made me audibly gasp, we’d be here for hours describing the pain of watching Maeve go through William was shot as she looked blissfully at the camera when she saw Caleb fending off Charlotte’s orders). By the time Charlotte informs us – and Caleb – that he has indeed died… that demolition site. He’s now living in that moment as a way to create a foundation for his story and personality (echoes from seasons one and two!)/ You’d be forgiven for being as disoriented as Caleb because what does this revelation mean for everyone else?
For starters, that means Frankie is now an adult in this timeline. It turns out she’s there with Bernard, looking for a weapon that is Maeve herself. It also means that Charlotte has managed to spread her “disease” among the park’s willing participants, and that she can now control the entire world at the flick of a finger. “Welcome to my world‘ has never sounded more like an ominous last line of an episode.
- I’m glad we probably won’t spend an entire episode without Maeve on our screens because, Could you imagine? I enjoy the whole a lot of teamworkbut you have to admit there is none west world without Maeve.
- Try whatever Thompson does, a line like “Welcome to the super spreader event of the century” will always to be like a slip stitch on our timeline. (See also: The moment William revealed the newest park in an earlier episode and referred to the pandemic that ravaged the human population in the 21st century). I appreciate the show trying not to? will dispel COVID and its many metaphors, but it still feels too early.
- I shouldn’t be relegating our Teddy/Dolores reunion to… mere stray observation, but their cute date (including a recall to their looped meet-cute, this time with a lipstick) was a cutie detour from the bigger story. It was lovely to see Evan Rachel Wood and James Marsden together again, as they spat out the show’s most compelling philosophical questions about what is real (hint: the stories we tell ourselves).
- At this point we shouldn’t be wondering where Christina is, but when she is. If we hadn’t heard Maya’s name, I could have even imagined she’s Caleb’s daughter Frankie.
- Speaking of Christina and Maya (Ariana DeBose), they’re clearly in a loop too, Turn right? How else can we explain the rigid structure of their days? But also: Is Marsden’s new beau a way out? or an anchor to further hold Christina in any simulation of the reality she finds herself in, one that haunts her through the infamous tower views we saw in the episode’s closing moments.
- Much like using New York City’s High Line to traverse Christina’s almost dystopian urban environment, how perfect is it to find The Vessel (those stairs to nowhere in Hudson Yards) as a backdrop to the crushing realization that Caleb is now in a world ruled by brazen hosts who see people as nothing more than fodder for their own reality? Kiss from the chief.