The following contains spoilers for Westworld S4E6 “Fidelity” (directed by Andrew Seklir and written by Jordan Goldberg & Alli Rock)
Westworld S4E6 “Fidelity” digs deeper than I thought the show would go in its focus on who exactly suffers when the “bad guys” win. Because of the thematic nature of the episode, which I’ll get to in a moment, I loved it, but I did miss Christina-Dolores and Teddy this week.
However, after taking last week off, the narrative returns to Caleb, who we find in some sort of prison cell, with Charlotte angrily wanting answers from him. It’s confusing at first, but slowly, it becomes clear. Charlotte is still unsure why some host-humans are waking up. She believes it must have something to do with a virus (my word) that they carry within them, which is now starting to affect the hosts as well.
She’s held onto something Caleb told her long ago, about how humans have something her kind will never have. Charlotte has been making host versions of Caleb for some time, determined to discover just what that something is. She allows him to escape and waits for him to get as far as he possibly can. As we follow this current version of Caleb, we see other versions of him who clearly failed, their dead bodies left there by Charlotte to make Caleb question himself.
The questions are: will he continue on, or will he give up and return to his cell? I’m sure Charlotte knows, and I’m certain we know, that Caleb will continue. And he does arrive at his destination, which is a communications tower. He uses it to send a message to Frankie, who he was told is still alive. We’ll get to Frankie in a moment, but I want to stay on Caleb and Charlotte.
At this point, Caleb is no longer human, but he did begin his life as one. This is different from Charlotte, who began life as a host. In fact, she’s not even an original host. She’s a copy of Dolores. It’s fascinating to watch these two confront one another in the climax of “Fidelity.” Even as a host, Charlotte considers Caleb human, and she wouldn’t be wrong. As such, his behavior just doesn’t make sense to her.
Why does Caleb need to send a message to his daughter, knowing Frankie may never get it? Why is that message mostly an apology for something that happened decades ago? And what does any of this behavior have to do with why Caleb’s able to resist her commands, like the outliers who eventually wake from her Matrix-like world?
Caleb has an answer for that last one. He gets right in her face, and the two have this exchange:
CALEB: We didn’t infect your hosts.
CHARLOTTE: You don’t say. Who did?
CALEB: You. Your hosts would rather die than live in your world. They’re not infected. They’re just trying to get away from you.
With that, Charlotte loses it and snaps his neck. As unhinged as ever, Charlotte looks out onto her world, which might as well be her prison.
The thing is, Charlotte can’t seem to understand humanity’s need to wake up. When her hosts become aware of this by proximity to these outliers, they understand the truth as well. We see this as hosts come face-to-face with outliers. Something happens to the hosts’ minds, and they soon begin to question their world.
The beautiful lie of Charlotte’s world is simple: she controls everything and everyone, and no one knows this. At least, no one knows until they’re able to wake up and resist her commands.
She’s not all different than those who made her and her kind. Like the humans from Delos, she creates hosts and host-humans and makes them do what she orders. This is bizarre to me, though, because her hosts should be given free will. I understand that, from her perspective, humans should be kept in control. She’s doing to them what they did to her kind. However, she extends her control to her kind. What’s that all about?
Charlotte is sort of in a prison of her own making. When she won, she had the ability to create a new world. What did she do? She created a world where humans suffer for eternity, but they never know that they are suffering. If they ever do become aware, they wake up and fight back. So, Charlotte made hosts whose purpose was to keep outliers in line (or executed).
She controls everything in her world. As such, she can never walk away from it all. Charlotte is trapped. Her world must continue to properly function, and she believes she’s the best host for the job. After all, if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. But even if Charlotte left things to, say, William, she won’t let go of finding out what humans have that she’ll never have.
And what do they have? Is it a soul? Is it the ability to have consciousness? Maybe it’s love. Or, perhaps, it’s free will. Real free will. Perhaps, no matter how much or how long Charlotte tries, she’ll never be able to control every human.
She’s not the only one in Episode 6 who is in prisoner in this new world.
Bernard seems to be a prisoner of his own fate, making choices of his own free will but only in service of a specific end. If one knows the end of their journey, are the choices made along the way exercises in free will, or does one simply go through the motions? Bernard seems to constantly be making choices, knowing which choices will allow for the best of all possible futures and which will not. At the same time, he seems to know the endgame to all of this, so it appears that he’s not actually free. He’s surrendered his free will for the greater good. At least, he hopes so.
His narrative in “Fidelity” is tied in with Frankie, who, even as she helps Bernard with rejuvenating Maeve, is losing her patience with and trust in him. With Zen-like calm, he continually reassures her that things are happening the way they should. Bernard doesn’t explain himself in much detail, but it’s clear his intentions are to help.
Things change as each decision is made, but Bernard is able to keep track of where he believes things should end up. When he mentions that one person in her group has been replaced by a host version, he can’t tell her who it is, because it varies. It could be Jay or her girlfriend. Thankfully, the episode doesn’t drag this out too long, because, given the opening of Episode 6, it’s pretty obvious that it’s Jay.
When they first met, Frankie was a little girl, helping her mother get outliers out into the desert where Charlotte’s commands cannot reach. Frankie was excited at the possibility of Jay becoming a brother to her, but he didn’t want that. In the present, the host version of Jay gives himself away by saying she’s like a sister to him.
The fact that she knew he was a host and not the Jay she’s always known by how this version assumed the real Jay would consider her family is kind of heartbreaking. The real Jay never did, and although Frankie has a romantic partner in her life, she seems like a lonely person. She still holds out hope that her father will somehow contact her, sending messages via a specific frequency.
And wouldn’t you know it, before Maeve shows up and saves Frankie again, Caleb’s message comes through the radio. They’re able to hear a little of it before host-Jay destroys it. After he’s dispatched, though, Maeve and Frankie decide it’s time to put an end to all of this.
Maeve is the only main character in this episode who isn’t presented as a prisoner of some sort. Charlotte is trapped in her world and held prisoner by her need to find out what makes humans so special. Bernard is trapped in ensuring the best possible outcome for the world. Frankie is trapped in a world where she sends communications to a person who is most likely long gone from this world. Maeve, however, does what she wants.
Though she’ll always love her daughter, letting her go to the Sublime has taken away any real possibility of a reunion. Maeve, then, has freed herself from anything or anyone who might impede on her choices, unless her attachment to Caleb ends up being her kryptonite this season, but that remains to be seen.
For a long time, she seems to have had free will. She got to the end of the maze and gained full consciousness of herself. It makes sense then that the first person in this episode to exercise complete, and real, free will is her. And she immediately uses it to save Frankie, essentially freeing a human from a prison. Aside from her strength and ability to give her own commands, is this how Maeve is a weapon? Is she meant to free the world from Charlotte’s tyranny?
Free will has always been an important theme to Westworld, but Season 4 has focused so much on it. I’m not complaining. Even as “Fidelity” slowly burns through the first half, it’s great to see an episode of television be so forthright in its philosophies, whether the ideas are deep or not. I mean, on the safe house walls in Episode 6 are the words “free will.” This is front and center.
This makes sense to me. If the show is taking ideas from The Matrix films, why not take more than just the plot and story? If those films utilized philosophy to an elevated degree, then this show is allowed to do so as well. When Westworld first began, the hosts had no free will and humans did (in varying degrees). At this point, who has the freest will?
Charlotte? Bernard? Maeve? How about Teddy or Christina-Dolores? After this week, I’m interested to see how they figure into the whole prisoner/free will theme. Maybe I’m entirely off base, but for my money, the show is headed in a direction where we’ll see just what it means to be truly free, whether one is a host or a human or both.