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Westworld Season 4 Episode 5 Review: ‘Zhuangzi’ Explained

Westworld Season 4 Episode 5 review (HBO)

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Westworld Season 4 Episode 5, “Zhuangzi,” hit the storyline out of the park yet again. Last week I couldn’t write a review of S4E4 due to illness, but this week I’m excited to get back to reviewing and explaining S4E5. The highlights of the episode were the Ed Harris vs Ed Harris scene, and the familiar nostalgia of seeing Teddy with Dolores. But every scene was “sublime” this week. 

This review has SPOILERS for Season 4 Episode 5 of Westworld. (Don’t forget to join us on Facebook for more discussions or subscribe to our email list.)

First, exactly what does Zhuangzi mean? According to Wikipedia, Zhuangzi refers to an ancient philosopher and an ancient Chinese text from 476-221 BC. It’s one of the “foundational texts of Taoism.” 

Everyone Is on a Loop

Charlotte (HBO)
Charlotte (HBO)

Throughout the entire episode, we’re continually reminded that everyone is seemingly still on a loop, somehow tied back to their original programming. In fact, at one point Dolores-as-Charlotte (aka Halores) bemoans this reality to William. She complains about how the hosts simply can’t break free of their human ties or change their programming. But in the end, it seems that Halores is still tied to some loops herself. 

The episode begins with Host William confronting a human “host” couple in a very menacing way, reminding them that they aren’t the leaders they believe themselves to be. His callous and frightening way of dealing with them is very reminiscent of how Human William treated the hosts in the Westworld park. 


Next, we see a host who went off the rails just before transcendence — torturing and killing an outlier. Host William reminds her that there are no rules to bind her or him in this world, but it seems quite obvious that there really are rules — they are just unspoken ones. 

At first glance, transcendence appears to involve sending a host’s consciousness into the Sublime. But we know that Halores never obtained the keys to the Sublime, since they’re still locked with Bernard. So either transcendence involves entering a new digital Sublime that Halores created, or it involves leaving their human forms and entering some other type of host body entirely. 

Halores Is Constantly Repeating the Past

Halores (HBO)
Halores (HBO)

Charlotte (aka Halores) seems to be on the strictest loop of all the characters, in a way. She’s created Olympiad, but it’s mostly just a copy of Delos. As we saw previously, the “Golden Age” park simply repeated the same storylines used in Westworld. 

Yes, she’s definitely broken past the programming in some meaningful ways. She’s turned the humans into hosts, and now the hosts are playing the roles of humans. But the storylines are still very much the same. 

Now we see that she’s still repeating the past. The dancing scene where she controls every move the human hosts make is highly reminiscent of the dancing scene in Season 1. And in this world, Christina wants to create stories of beauty (just as Ford did), but she is pushed by Olympiad to create stories with blood and horror, just as Delos did to Ford. 

Halores is essentially caught in a loop. 

In fact, her system of containing the outliers is a carbon copy of what Rehoboam had done to keep humanity in check in Season 3. But this time, rather than having outliers hunt down outliers, she has hosts hunt down outliers. The hosts are told not to speak to the outliers, just like Caleb was not supposed to speak to the outliers he hunted. And if things get too dicey, the hosts’ minds are rewritten — just like Rehoboam did with Caleb. 

Interestingly, it seems that the “human sickness” that’s infecting the hosts is some type of empathy. It’s causing them to kill themselves, possibly out of despair. This is reminiscent of the glitch that the hosts used to suffer in the Delos parks. In the words of another post-apocalyptic show that I loved: “All this has happened before and will happen again.” 

But there are even more layers to Halores than just these. We know that she hated Hale’s sociopathic nature, and like Dolores she desired to see the beauty in the world. But after her human family was killed, all of that got twisted. She no longer cares about beauty. She just wants the hosts to evolve into something beyond humanity. But I think part of her hates what she has become — hence the way she tears at her own skin still. 

Ed Harris vs. Ed Harris Was Fun to See

Ed Harris as Human William and Host William killed it in this episode. As Host William, he can’t seem to live up to his human counterpart’s legacy. He feels limited and unsure of who he really is. 

But in reality, all of that is exactly in line with what Human William struggled with. Host William is simply caught in the same “programming” that caused Human William so much angst. 

In fact, the outlier that Host William briefly listened to (against Charlotte’s wishes) before choosing to kill her looked strikingly similar to Human William’s wife. I have to wonder if this was on purpose, as part of a test by Halores. 

Here’s the outlier: 

Outlier (HBO)

And William’s wife: 

William's wife (HBO)
William’s wife (HBO)

They resemble each other enough that I think this could have played a role in Host Williams’ hesitancy to kill the outlier. 

William (HBO)
William (HBO)

Finally, William vs William was a fun scene near the end. I can’t help but think about how comfortable Human William seems to now be with simply being cryogenically frozen most of the time. I don’t think Host William is the “fidelity” William that we saw at the end of Season 2, however. I think that William is still part of the future. 

Christina & Teddy Brought Much-Needed Nostalgia

Christina & Teddy (HBO)
Christina & Teddy (HBO)

Christina and Teddy were the heart of the episode. Seeing them together brings back much-needed nostalgia from Season 1. It’s Teddy’s job to open Christina’s eyes to the reality around her — to get her to “question the nature” of her reality. 

Just like in Season 1, Christina begins on a routine loop.  Then Teddy encourages her to see beyond the nature of her reality. In Season 1, she eventually came to understand the fullness of her untapped power. Here, the same happens, but in a different way. 

Christina (HBO)
Christina (HBO)

Every story that Christina has written has dictated the lives of the human hosts in her city. She has truly been rewarding and ruining lives with every “pen stroke,” so to speak. I believe others are writing too (I think), but Christina is unique. With just a thought, she can control what human hosts do in real-time (much like Maeve could do in Delos.) 

My guess is that not every host can affect humans this way. I believe this power is unique to Christina because she, like Halores, has a Dolores pearl. So ultimately, she has the same power as Halores. But Halores has either lost her creativity or simply has no desire to write the storylines, so she passed that job on to her other self. I do believe that Christina is OG Dolores, but with a mind wipe. 

Of course, this begs the question: how is she Dolores? When Season 3 ended, Dolores was basically killed after all her memories were deleted by Rehoboam. 

There are a lot of theories that could explain this. One is that Halores utilized some of Rehoboam’s code to create this tower-controlled world, and she was able to retrieve Dolores from the code. Another theory is that Halores simply used another Dolores pearl that wasn’t damaged. 

Some fans think that Dolores is in a simulation of the real world. They believe the Charlotte who visited her is a simulation of real-world Charlotte.

I personally don’t really buy this theory, because Teddy was eventually able to help Christina see the real-life tower. And if this was all a simulation, then Christina’s control of the human hosts wouldn’t be a big deal. 

So Christina is in the real world. Christina is Dolores. The only question is “how.”

This leads us to one more question: how did Teddy end up here? The last time we saw him, he was in the Sublime. Some fans believe that Bernard brought him back, to help in his battle against Halores. Another theory is that Ford brought him back, since Ford may be uploaded into the code in some fashion.

Although I’d love the Ford theory to be true, I think the Bernard theory is more than likely the correct one. 

But is Ford still around in some form? Is the loop that Halores finds herself stuck on simply being stuck on Ford’s Wyatt programming? 

Only time will tell. One thing I do know is that I’m loving Season 4 of Westworld. It really does feel like the old days. 

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    Stephanie Dwilson started Post Apocalyptic Media with her husband Derek. She's a licensed attorney and has a master's in science and technology journalism. You can reach her at [email protected].

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