Wow, this episode of Westworld was a doozy, chock full of sublime, Byzantine intel that when it came to telling the story of a solider’s PTSD and dissociative memories, “Passed Pawn”, written by Gina Atwater and directed by Helen Shaver, made Adrian Lyne’s 1990 film Jacob’s Ladder look like child’s play.
Let’s see what we can make sense of here:
Remember that Sonora, Mexico location that flashed up on the screen last Sunday when the hospital was doing a diagnosis of Ed Harris’ Man in Black? Caleb (Aaron Paul) and Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) horseback ride to that locale, which we learn is not only the place that inspired Delos’ Westworld park, but it’s where season 3’s new villain Serac and his bro are housing Rehoboam’s supercomputer predecessor, Solomon. Important to note Solomon is an insane form of A.I. designed by Serac’s brother, who Dolores says is schizophrenic. Dolores takes Caleb here so that he can learn more about who he is (“the people who destroyed your life,” she says), and she can advance her revolution to secure her host-people. Also, “I want a place for my kind, for all of us, to be free,” she says.
As Caleb and Dolores access Solomon, he tells them that the former is part of a ‘U series’. Also Solomon doesn’t recognize Dolores “because she’s Delos product made to imitate a human being.”
Cut back to the asylum lab where Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) is running a diagnostic on what they were doing to the Man in Black. Turns out Halores injected the Man in Black “with a virus of sorts” says Bernard, “once your blood was sent to the lab, she was able to track it and infiltrate their system. She was looking for some kind of facility.” Hence, what led Dolores to Sonora, Mexico.
Soon after we learn that Caleb is part of the U-series, Bernard reveals that the Man in Black is part of that line as well. Both Caleb and Man in Black are outliers per Serac’s supercomputer classification. They were subjected to revolutionary treatment, sometimes it worked, and sometimes it didn’t for those people who underwent. When Serac couldn’t save humans, “he tried to re-program them like hosts…but he needed high-grade biometric data,” says Bernard, which Man in Black says he sold to Serac for big money.
Hence, it’s at this point where we can argue that both Caleb and Man in Black are humans, just re-programmed by Serac. However, remember, this is Westworld, so another piece of intel or Easter egg could feasibly kill this theory down the road, but it’s a fair assumption to make at this point. Some may counter and exclaim, ‘Wrong! Man in Black and Caleb are part of a competitive host line made by Serac!’ Hmm, we’ll just see about that. The U-series, in Darwinian fashion, saw that the stronger killers, like Caleb, were programmed to take out the other outliers, one of them being this season’s new cameo character Whitman, played in flashback by Veronica Mars’ Enrico Colantoni (more on him in a bit).
Man in Black and Caleb, though, have two very different agendas despite both being part of the ‘U series’…
As Solomon jogs Caleb’s memory, we learn that he actually killed his partner Frances, which was typical attrition in the outlier program. And before Caleb kills Whitman (who the former believed was an insurgent in a Crimea mission), the guy reveals that he himself is an outlier, a pharmaceutical rep who asked too many questions about the tabs which Frances and Caleb are continually ingesting. Those tabs “tune reality out” per Whitman, hence why Caleb has trouble remembering.
Disruption comes in the latter part of the episode as Maeve (Thandie Newton) arrives, samurai sword in hand, to kill Dolores. Clearly, she’s been programmed with Serac’s agenda and can’t really see eye-to-eye with Dolores’ POV, which is to preserve all host-kind. Before losing her arm in a battle with Maeve, Dolores tells Caleb to “take whatever” Solomon gives him “and lead.” Caleb demands from Solomon, “How do I kill your creator?” and the supercomputer gives him a computer drive.
Leaving the lab, Man in Black tells Bernard and Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) that the one big piece of clarity he received while in the asylum was that his “original sin” was in creating the hosts and that his one mission is “to wipe out every host, beginning with you two — so kill me now or kill me later.”
Bernard tells Stubbs, “We may need him.”
In the final sequence of Maeve and Dolores’ face-off, the latter hits the “Engage” button on Solomon (this is after Caleb grabs the drive), un-powering both her and Newton’s character.
At a deserted gas station, where the Man in Black says he has to “take a piss”, Bernard explains to Stubbs that “Dolores was made with a poetic sensibility, she won’t destroy humanity” but Caleb will. At which point Man in Black returns with a gun, exclaiming, “You should have killed me when you had the chance.” Gulp.
In the final moment, we see Caleb walking away from Solomon, and discovering Dolores’ dead body, with the supercomputer having the final words of tonight: “Hello, Caleb, I have some instructions for you.”
Takeaways and questions: Remember, Solomon is a schizophrenic computer, so Caleb is arguably armed with the mission of taking Serac out (and humanity per Bernard). Will he encounter and fight the Man in Black who is planning another host-killing spree? Do Dolores and Maeve power back, and will the latter become an ally? After Dolores hit the ‘Engage’ button, did she force Solomon to power down all versions of herself who exist in other Westworld beings? Including Halores (who we see still lives, burnt, at the onset of this episode)?
Tune in next week, cowboys and cowgirls, for the next episode of Westworld, “Crisis Theory” written by Denise Thé and Jonathan Nolan and directed by Jennifer Getzinger.