‘Westworld’ Season 4 Premiere: A World Without Happy Endings (RECAP)

Evan Rachel Wood in Westworld
Spoiler Alert
John Johnson/HBO

[Warning: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for the Westworld Season 4 premiere.]

Everyone who thought this season was going to deal with the apocalypse, raise your hand.

After concluding Season 3 with some massive explosions and an implied “end of days” scenario for humanity, Westworld has again flipped its own script. Instead of showing society collapse, the Season 4 premiere introduces viewers to a mysterious new world (or multiple worlds) where Caleb (Aaron Paul) has a family, Maeve (Thandiwe Newton) is living in a cabin in the woods, William (Ed Harris) — or more likely, the host version of him — is up to no good, and Evan Rachel Wood is back as a new character, Christina. Here’s how it happens.

Evan Rachel Wood in Westworld

John Johnson/HBO

World #1: Caleb, Maeve and William

The episode opens with William touring a data storage facility. Apparently, something was stolen from him eight years earlier by a “she” — Maeve? Hale-Dolores? At this point, it’s all part of the mystery — and he wants to buy the place to gain access to it. Initially he’s refused, but that won’t stop him. “You and your friends in the cartel give me this lump of concrete today, or you give it to me for free tomorrow,” William threatens his tour guide.

When that man goes home that night, he’s infected by what looks like black flies crawling all over his bathroom. He goes back to his business partners the next day and kills them all, and then himself after William tells him he can “rest.” So, in the end, William did get that “slab of concrete”… for free. At this point, it’s not abundantly clear what was stolen, why it matters to William, or if he’s still on Hale-Dolores’ side.

Ed Harris in Westworld

Courtesy of HBO

In the same reality, Caleb has gone back to working in the construction business. It appears this relatively prosperous timeline is post-post-apocalypse, and the apocalyptic event teased in Season 3 is what happened “eight years ago.” Caleb’s wife — yes, Caleb is now married and has a daughter — makes mention of him having PTSD from fighting and tells him not to teach their child how to shoot a toy gun because they’re all safe now. Those types of words are usually uttered on shows only to be immediately disproven, and they are. That night, Walter (Timothy Lee DePriest) shows up at their home, gun in hand, and nearly kills Caleb and his daughter. Maeve comes to the rescue, stabbing Walter through the heart.

Now, a brief pause to explain what Maeve’s been up to. Before saving Caleb, she’d been living in a cabin in the middle of the snowy woods, re-living her memories of her daughter, of Hector, and of what sure looks like Caleb dying (and in doing so, blowing her cabin’s power supply). (Is Caleb a host now? With this show, you never know.) Her small-town routine is disrupted when a group of hosts descend on her safe haven, and she has to take them down one by one. It’s Maeve, so of course she succeeds. She decapitates the leader and removes the pearl from his head, then she rifles through his memories to discover who sent him: William.

Back to their meeting: Caleb’s visibly shocked to see Maeve, saying he “thought [he’d] never see her again.” She tells him she’s still “disposing and dismembering, just like the good old days.” Yeah, these two obviously have a history. She tells him William’s back at it, and Caleb decides he has to leave his wife and child for their own safety. After he says his goodbyes, Caleb gets a team together to go to see a senator in California, who Maeve says William was also after. With her driving, he stares out the window forlornly.

Ariana Debose in Westworld

John Johnson/HBO

World #2: Christine and… Teddy?!

Yep, James Marsden is back. No, it’s not clear who he’s playing. But a lot happens before he shows up, and there’s already a pretty good amount of evidence that this timeline isn’t “real.” As our first glimpse, we meet Christina. She’s an introverted storyline developer for NPCs at a video game company, where she wants to give all her creations happy endings… and her boss wants more tragedy, guts, and gore. The parallels to the first season are palpable, no?

As if that wasn’t bad enough, poor Christina has started getting calls from a mysterious man who claims her company’s games are ruining his life. This guy follows her after a disastrous date, introducing himself as Peter (Aaron Stanford), then he attacks her and demands she “leave [them] alone.” Apparently, her stories cost him his job and his wife, and “all these people do what [she] wants them to.” Christina maintains she didn’t do anything to him, but he says he needs the ending to be different. He nearly kills her, but someone (who looks mysteriously like Teddy) steps in to rescue her just in time. She never sees his face.

And now, for the evidence that this world isn’t real. As some fans have already noted, Christina’s roommate asks her to choose between a pair of white and a pair of black shoes — a bit like white hat or black hat, no? When Christina goes out onto her balcony at one point, the maze is drawn there. As she walks through town, a group of men marvel about “not believing this place.” At her work, the storyline she creates bears resemblance to her former life in the park with her father. She awakens in the same position every day, just like before. Peter tells her he “didn’t think she was real.” Westworld is hitting viewers over the head with the non-reality of Christina’s reality, and it’ll be interesting to see what’s really going on there.

The next day, Peter calls Christina from the top of a building and then jumps, killing himself. Christina’s left rattled, and that night she talks through a new story with her high-tech earpiece. With a gorgeous instrumental cover of “Video Games” by Lana Del Rey in the background — thank you, Ramin Djawadi! — Christina insists she wants a story with a happy ending. “The stupid stories no one wants to hear,” she says. As tears fill her eyes and she takes out her earpiece, Marsden’s character looks up at her from the streetlights below. Who is this mysterious man, and when will he meet his true love, Dolore — er, Christina? We don’t know, but we can’t wait to find out.

Westworld, Sundays, 9/8c, HBO