Maeve Millay Deserved Better Than the ‘Westworld’ Season 4 Finale
[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for Westworld Season 4.]
It’s established fact on Westworld that Maeve Millay (Thandiwe Newton) is an expert at death. As she herself says, she’s “f–king great at it.” She’s died a million times and come back a million and one. It never seems to stick. Unless… this time, it has.
Given how the Season 4 finale leaves her, it’s frustratingly impossible to say. “Que Sera, Sera” offered one of the show’s most shocking twists in not resurrecting Maeve, instead leaving her body floating in the pool where The Host in Black (Ed Harris) shot her. For Maeve to not rise from the grave this time was jarring—and given that the show’s future is in question, it may end up serving as a grim and unfairly tragic end to her story.
Granted, the finale episode of Westworld’s fourth season kind of killed… everyone. Pretty much the whole main character slate is now dead or fated to soon die, except Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood). But even among all those violent ends, Maeve’s feels unfitting. While other characters like Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) and Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) got a handful of moments to shine in that last episode, Maeve, a central character since the show’s first season, wasn’t given that. Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), the other major character to die in “Metanoia,” still appeared in the finale via recorded message to drive Char-lores’ (Tessa Thompson) change of heart. Where was Maeve?
The problem here isn’t that Maeve’s arc cannot end in death. In Season 2, it seemed perhaps it had. But the difference between her Season 2 “death” and her maybe-permanent end in Season 4 comes down to character growth and overall significance. In “The Passenger,” Maeve sacrifices herself so her daughter can enter the Sublime. It’s a meaningful (and visually gorgeous) moment—a realization that she has to let her daughter go, paired with a decision to give up her own life in order to save her child. Even Maeve’s last words, an “I love you” whispered to her daughter just before she crosses the barrier, feel right for the character.
Maeve’s ending in Season 4 falls flat in comparison. Her death in “Metanoia” has all the hallmarks of the random, ultimately meaningless times she’d died—temporary ends viewers had long been conditioned to believe she’d bounce back from. That gunshot was sudden, jarring and strange, holding little narrative weight. Pouring salt into the wound, it came at the host-hands of the man who tormented her and her child in the park. There’s something awfully bitter about the possibility that Maeve never triumphed over The Man in Black in the end, and that ultimately, her story could conclude with a mirroring of her most traumatic experience. That just feels wrong.
Then again, Season 4 didn’t only do Maeve wrong in death. For all the hullaballoo about her being Bernard’s “weapon,” she wasn’t given the chance to do much besides getting into a fight with Hale-ores and throwing around a few well-timed quips. Her always-enthralling powers went unused in the final battle save for a single riot-control bot. Bernard was insistent that he and the rebels needed her, but why? Almost anyone could’ve done what she did. She was brought back online and killed again in less than a full episode.
Maeve’s existing relationships, too, had little payoff past “Generation Loss.” Clementine is featured in the season, but despite the strength of Maeve’s bond with her, they never meet again. Her closeness with Caleb (Aaron Paul) winds up mattering very little as well. In the early episodes their connection builds as an unexpected and sincere host-human bond, but in the final two, any potential they had unravels. Maeve’s decision to leave him after the war is played as a key moment for both characters; he’s still hurt by it after seven years, and she misses him enough to reach out through the grid to find him, even though it puts her in danger. Yet, for all the significance of his mortality in their story, she’s never given the chance to discover he becomes a host. Worse, for all Caleb ever knows, Maeve never came back to life after she died to save him. Their connection was genuinely endearing—a standout among Westworld relationships—and for it all to come to nothing in the end is quite sad. (I, personally, am rooting for a Season 5 reunion.)
If Westworld gets a fifth season, it’s a darn-near certainty we’ll see Maeve there. But even then, what version of her will we get in the Sublime? Will she be the same character viewers have followed since her days at the Mariposa? Or, will she merely be Dolores’ memory, missing key developments and experiences from previous seasons? Her pearl was never uploaded to the Sublime on-screen, so it’s hard to see how the same exact Maeve who died in Season 4 would come back in Season 5. But then again, this is Westworld. Characters regularly survive the un-survivable—unless cancellation, perhaps the only thing that can destroy a host, is in store.
In the end, it’s hard not to feel that Maeve deserved better in Season 4. I’m hoping for a fifth season so her story ends on a more satisfying note. As it stands, the lack of a renewal announcement threatens that being unceremoniously shot in the head might be how her story wraps up, permanently. And for a character as strong, formidable and unforgettable as Maeve, that’s just ridiculous, darling.
Westworld Season 4, all episodes now streaming, HBO Max