January 30, 2023

“These violent delights have violent ends.”

Westworld’s latest episode, “Metanoia,” is a chaotic, densely packed gem in a season that I believe is the very best since Season 1.

Metanoia is an obscure word that means “change in one’s way of life resulting from penitence or spiritual conversion” and clearly that’s an important theme throughout the episode, but especially in the interaction between Host William (or the Host in Black) and William (or the Man in Black) both played by Ed Harris at the top of his game in tonight’s episode and throughout Season 4.

We may as well start with the villain. The first villain who, it appears, will finally return to his rightful place on the throne.

William The Conqueror

One of the goals Delos set out to achieve with the Hosts was to somehow transfer humanity from the mortal flesh of a human into the body of a host. Not merely to make a copy of a real person, but to actually transfer the consciousness of that human into the Host.

This proved a difficult task, and one that was stymied by meddlers like Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and Maeve (Thandiwe Newton) not to mention the collapse of the park itself into violence and anarchy.

But here, as Hale (Tessa Thompson) prepares to ‘evolve’ the Hosts and put the brainwashed vestiges of the human race into cold storage, finally William finds a way.

When Host William, bothered by Hale’s decision to end the cities, visits his human counterpart, he seems uncertain. He doesn’t know what to do. But OG William does. He tells Host William that he’d pull the plug on the entire world if he could. “Culture doesn’t survive,” he says. “Only the cockroaches do.”

OG William tells his copy that he’s infected him, that he’s like a cancer inside him, growing. “You know what you need to do,” he says at last. And Host William does. He stabs the original through the heart, and OG William smiles—at last released from this mortal coil. There are echoes of Robert Ford’s (Anthony Hopkins) death here, as Dolores and the hosts begin their murderous rampage. William, in his tuxedo, faced with imminent death . . . just grins.

There are many echoes of the past in this episode. William, his human and Host selves now merged, regains his confidence and his sense of purpose. He has a plan and it’s not so different than Dolores’s in Season 2: Burn the world down until only cockroaches remain.

Bernard The Prophet

Lots and lots of stuff outside of this incredible William arc takes place in “Metanoia.” Let’s go through it one piece at a time.

We open to a scene with Bernard and Maeve heading to the Hoover Dam where the Sublime is stored and powered. Maeve quickly realizes that they’re actually in the Sublime, merely part of one of Bernard’s infinite simulations. Bernard tells Maeve that no matter what, the world will end but if she wants he can save the two of them by uploading them into the Sublime where she’ll be able to see her daughter again. She says that this is what she would choose. Then a mecha breaks through the windows and the scene cuts to black.

Bernard is then once again in the Sublime speaking with Akecheta (Zahn McClarnon) and the two of them discuss the path forward and Maeve’s part in it. Maeve needs to choose to stay and fight, which means that Bernard needs to figure out the right moment to give her this choice. It’s not at the dam.

We once again find ourselves with Bernard and Maeve in the same scenario, and while from this point onward it seems as though we’re in the ‘real’ timeline, it’s impossible to know for sure whether this is all happening, or whether the entirety of this episode is part of Bernard’s simulations, or if just some of what’s going on is real while the rest is a simulation.

This is made more confusing in the end when we have a somewhat shocking revelation about Christina/Dolores. We’ll get to that in a moment.

Bernard and Maeve head to the City on a mission to stop Hale and destroy the Tower. , Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) and Frankie (Aurora Perrineau) also travel to the City, but their mission is to find Frankie’s dad, Caleb (Aaron Paul) who was able to send Frankie a transmission in last week’s episode (in what turned out to be a rather sadistic and deadly game Hale constructed to use Caleb as bait for his daughter).

It’s here, in the City, that Bernard finally tells Maeve that she can make a choice to stay and fight or leave and go to the Sublime to be with her daughter. She decides to stay and fight, tracking down Hale just as the Queen of Hosts is about to transfer her ‘soul’ into a weird, armless, spindly-legged robot thingy—apparently part of the ‘evolution’ process she’s designed for her kind, though why no arms is beyond me (seems like a pretty clumsy design flaw, if we’re being honest).

The two talk then the two fight and then William shows up and puts a bullet through her ‘pearl.’

“This time we play the game my way,” he tells Hale. “And what game is that?” she asks. “Survival of the fittest,” he says and then puts one right between the eyes.

Satisfied with his handiwork, he heads to the Tower. Bernard is there, holding a screen and talking to . . . I think himself. Standing by the red 3D digital model of the City, Bernard says “There’s time only for one more game . . . If you choose to give her that choice . . . You can’t miss . . . Reach with your left hand.”

I really do think these are two Bernards, though I’m not sure if there are two in the same “reality” or what. It’s all a little confusing. And things get more confusing—or at least more curious—shortly thereafter.

The Man In Black shoots Bernard twice. Outside, the city is pristine. Blue skies over glistening skyscrapers and the glimmering water.

The scene cuts back to the Sublime, where Bernard and Akecheta stand staring out at the same skyline, only at night, fires burning amidst the cityscape.

“Do you understand now where all this is going?” Akecheta says.

“I do,” Bernard replies.

“Do you think you can save them?”

“I’ve seen a path.”

“Do you see how it ends?”


The scene returns to the Tower where Bernard lays bleeding to death. “I’m going to give this world the meaning they’ve been asking for,” William says. Outside it’s nighttime.

This is important. Moments before, when William shoots Bernard twice in the chest, it’s daytime. It’s partly cloudy but mostly sunny and blue skies. There’s a flash to the Sublime and when we return, just moments later, it’s night.

This is no accident, no editing or filmmaking flub. Rather, I think we’re viewing two different events. Perhaps one is a simulation. Perhaps both are. It’s impossible to say.

William turns the dial up on the Tower and sets the station to ‘total mayhem’ sending the people down below into a mad, murderous frenzy. “One last game,” he says, echoing Bernard’s words from moments before. Everyone will fight to the death until nobody remains “except the cockroaches.”

Back in the Sublime, Bernard answers Akecheta’s question: “In every scenario I die,” he says. But we all know that’s not entirely true. In Westworld nobody is truly dead forever.

“We’re finally living up to our potential,” the Man in Black says sardonically. “It’s a shame you’re going to miss it.”

Dolores The Ghost

Stubbs and Frankie manage to make it into the Olympiad offices at around the same time Dolores and Teddy (James Marsden) get there.

Dolores and Teddy head upstairs where she has a writer trigger the fire alarms to get everyone to leave—except for the writers, who she tells to destroy not just their stories, but the office itself. She has a security guard unlock all the doors, freeing Caleb who she saw on the way to the security office. “Who is that poor man?” she asks Teddy, who tells her he’s a “ghost.”

This is convenient timing for Frankie, who is suddenly face to face with her father—though he’s not a day older than when she last saw him decades earlier.

After a brief moment of tense confrontation—Caleb thinks she’s another of Hale’s games—the three make their escape. Stubbs is worried that he’s not going to make it after Bernard says an ominous farewell prior to the mission. But Bernard never says Stubbs is the one who will die and I have faith—hope?—that he’ll survive. After all, Stubbs hasn’t died yet. He may be the only Host who’s escaped that fate entirely if I’m not mistaken.

They get out of the office building but things go sideways fast when William’s new Tower transmission sets everyone on the street into frenzied murder mode. Frankie is shot, though not seriously, and the three of them manage to make their escape. Stubbs seems genuinely delighted when he isn’t hit by any stray bullets.

Dolores, meanwhile, is trying to make everyone stop. She tries to give the orders that worked only moments before, but she can’t. She’s suddenly, bizarrely impotent. In fact, nobody even seems to notice her.

“Why can’t these people see me?” she asks Teddy, desperation in her voice.

“Because you’re not in this world,” Teddy replies. “It’s real . . . but you’re not.”

Talk about turning Season 1 on its head. Then, Dolores was real—or very nearly so—but the world she lived in was a facsimile, a fraud.

David Bowie’s song The Man Who Sold The World begins to play as a shocked Christina/Dolores stares into space.

We see the Man In Black, his black cowboy hat once again perched atop his balding pate, stroll out of the tower. He walks across a long bridge as the tower explodes behind him. “You’re face to face with the man who sold the world,” Bowie croons as William struts into the dark.

This could easily have been the Season 4 finale and I think everyone would have been pretty happy with it. I’m honestly surprised we have one more episode to go given how very final this episode felt, while also leaving us hanging with some Very Big questions.

So here are some thoughts:

  • Dolores has been in a simulation this whole time but it’s different than the ones Bernard has been in. Dolores is a simulation that can inhabit the real world and affect it, but when the Tower goes haywire, she ceases to exist within the real world. People can no longer hear or see her.
  • This could mean that Bernard is running a sim-within-a-sim of sorts, or it could mean that simulation Dolores is being run by someone else entirely. Hale is aware of her, after all. Could she be behind simulation Dolores’s existence?
  • Is Teddy even actually Teddy or is he a manifestation of Bernard sent to ‘rescue’ Christina/Dolores from the simulation and show her the truth, because somehow she’s going to be a necessary part of how this all plays out in the end.
  • Whichever answer is correct, it stands to reason that somehow Teddy / Bernard will bring Dolores back into the fight. It was her against William in the beginning, and it will be her against William in the end, though neither will be quite the same as when this whole story began.

Of the ‘dead’ characters I doubt we’ve really seen the last of any of them, both because history teaches us this and because of some clues.

  • Maeve’s pearl was not used to bring her back from the dead. Bernard said it was toast and he’d have to make a copy. He could have been lying. He could have made a copy because he knew she would die, and he’ll be able to bring back the real Maeve later. Besides, didn’t Maeve seem a bit . . . off to you this episode? Not quite herself? Maybe I’m imagining things.
  • Bernard will be able to do this because even though he’s dead, he isn’t the only Bernard. Again, Bernard has been copied in the past. Why not again? I do think he was talking with himself over that screen and that he’ll somehow find a way to bring both Maeve and Dolores into the final showdown with the Man in Black.
  • Hale might be dead, actually. It’s a shocking way for her to go down, or at least very abrupt, but she wasn’t really Hale to begin with, but rather a spinoff of Dolores. She had her time. She made her cities and found out how to brainwash most of the human race. She wanted to evolve the Hosts, but William is the true villain and he doesn’t want to evolve anything. His is the path of cockroaches and fire.

I’m curious to see what happens with Caleb and whether he’ll be able to survive longer than the other copies of himself, or whether it will be tearful goodbyes with his daughter. I have to admit, I’ve really enjoyed Aaron Paul’s performance this season and especially these last two episodes. I thought he seemed a little ‘fish out of water’ in Season 3, but he’s really given a strong performance this time around.

Speaking of Aaron Paul, read my review of the latest Better Call Saul episode right here.

In any case, another brilliant episode in the best season of Westworld since the very first. We seem to be coming full circle in many ways, with the MiB emerging as the final boss and Dolores, perhaps, as the protagonist we’ve been waiting for. We only have one more episode left this season and I suspect it will leave us with as many questions as it does answers. Hopefully the wait for Season 5 will not be quite so long.

Here’s the teaser for next week’s episode, “Que Será, Será” (which means “whatever will be, will be”):

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