is a show that thrives on constantly reinventing itself, but as a famous pop band once told us, every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. For all that leading lady Evan Rachel Wood is technically no longer playing Dolores Abernathy, the story beats that her supposedly “new” character—a woman named Christina who seems to exist in a world entirely removed from the rest of the show—follows are the same, right down to her morning wake-up routine and penchant for blue. For every new park the show introduces, each piece of lore it drops, or shocking twist it reveals, there are repeating patterns, recurring symbols, trippy time shifts, and all sorts of signposts that remind us that try as we might we, and the show itself to some extent, are all still on our loops. Nothing’s really changed that much. Or has it?
Though Season 4 features plenty of familiar story beats and character moments, it’s the relationship between Maeve (Thandiwe Newton) and Caleb (Aaron Paul) that stands out as something that feels entirely fresh and new within the world of the show. Both born survivors willing to do anything to protect the people they care about, they each have a unique understanding of the pain the other has endured. And their bond has become truly fascinating to watch unfold.
The odd-ball pairing of these two characters is striking for many reasons, but especially because it simply could not have existed in the show’s earlier seasons. Maeve, a Host who once served as the madam in Westworld’s Mariposa Saloon, and Caleb, a human construction worker who is slowly drawn into Dolores’ revolution outside the park, would probably have never met in the world that existed prior to the so-called robot uprising; and if they had, they likely would have immediately been set at odds against one another. (And for a hot second in Season 3, they actually are, at least before Maeve decides to join Dolores’ cause.) They certainly would have never been allowed to build the charmingly offbeat relationship the two now appear to share
“I love Thandiwe [Newton, who plays Maeve] so much,” Paul tells Paste. “I respect her so much as an artist but after getting to really know her in Season 4, I just respect her so much as a human being. I didn’t get to work much with her or even really be around her at all during Season 3—I mean, we had a little bit of interaction towards the end, but that just set up everything for Season 4 for us.”
Though Maeve spent most of Westworld’s third season at odds with Dolores, she eventually ends Season 3 standing alongside Caleb, a man she has just met, looking out onto echoing one of her earliest lines. “This is the new world,” she says. “And, in this world, you can be whoever you fucking want.” Yet, we don’t see what is actually next for either Maeve or Caleb, where they went after the fall of supercomputer Rehoboam, or how their relationship evolved from that point forward. We only know that now, seven years later, they have the easy shorthand of people who share a deep bond and it seems obvious that two of the least sentimental figures in Westworld’s universe have genuinely come to care about one another.
“It was interesting because right when we started our interactions in Season 4, [it was clear] there was so much history there, which was so fun to play with,” Paul explains. “Us, as actors, we really weren’t sure what that history was—we knew it was seven years [since the Season 3 finale], but we weren’t really sure how things ended with her and I. We knew that we were separated, but how did that happen? It was just so, so beautiful to be able to go toe-to-toe with her and slowly reveal what our history actually was. And it’s a pretty intense one.
We’ve seen various kinds of relationships between Hosts and humans before: Caleb was fairly close with Dolores himself once, while Maeve convinced several of the Delos park technicians to help her on her quest to escape Westworld. And, if we’re honest, there’s a fairly decent argument to be made that that connection between Dolores and William remains the primary emotional driver of Westworld entirely.
But Maeve and Caleb’s bond is the first that has taken place without any sort of subterfuge or manipulation behind it. Neither is trying to pretend to be something they aren’t, and both are fully aware of just who and, perhaps more importantly, what the other is. But it’s equally clear that neither are particularly bothered by the differences between them, and the fact that one is human and the other a Host is treated almost like an afterthought. (Aside from the fact that Maeve can get shot repeatedly, and Caleb can’t.) It appears they have not only developed a real respect for one another, they genuinely seem to like each other, too. The two feel like actual friends, in a way that few other relationships in the world of Westworld have managed.
“It was important to us to have a relationship that did blur those boundaries, to really have a dyad on the show of host and human, just as we’re, in a larger societal sense, struggling to see the potential of a different kind of dimension [between them],” Westworld writer Alison Schapker says. “Aaron and Thandiwe brought such soulfulness to their performances and their relationship that’s… it was awesome to see them embody it. And I think it was really important to the show to make sure we were making space for that.”
Perhaps most importantly—particularly in the world of a show that often features uncomfortable gender and power dynamics—Maeve and Caleb’s relationship is also one of equals. There’s no romantic or sexual aspect to their partnership, and neither views the other as somehow weaker or lesser than themselves. Their trip together into the new 1920s-themed park The Golden Age allows Caleb not just to experience the depth of the worlds Delos created, but the awful loop it made specifically for Maeve, which forced her to basically endure harassment and violence every night for the entertainment of rich businessmen. (Temperance is essentially a reskinning of Sweetwater, right down to the wide-eyed blonde ingenue who artlessly drops a can in the street.) For her part, Maeve witnesses—and tries her best to prevent—Caleb nearly losing his daughter the same way she lost her own. Different stories, perhaps, but all on the same loop.
Though much of Westworld has set humans and Hosts at odds—from casting Hosts as essentially disposable murder toys within Delos parks to treating them as a dangerous threat to destroy—the show has also always been clear that there aren’t as many differences between the two as either “species” might like to think.
“As writers, we sought to explore the questions of can humans and hosts really cohabitate on this planet, or will there always be a struggle [between them]?” Schapker says. “Can hosts ever get beyond the fact that they’re reflections of humans, these flawed creatures and creators who made them? And can humans ever evolve past their embedded desires and impulses and all the other stuff that we’ve seen?”
If Maeve and Caleb’s relationship is anything to go by, it seems like the answer to the question is a definitive yes. But whether that will ultimately be enough to save Host or humans from the traumatic end Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) saw during his trip to the Valley Beyond—well, that’s still anyone’s guess.
Westworld airs Sunday nights on HBO and streams on HBO Max.
Lacy Baugher Milas is the Books Editor at Paste Magazine, but loves nerding out about all sorts of pop culture. You can find her on Twitter @LacyMB.
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