Why is Caleb still alive?
By Gene Lyons, Shat on TV host
Why is Caleb still alive?
Yes, Dolores caught bullets for him and rescued him from an early exit atop a high-rise building. Those are events we’ve seen on “Westworld.” But that’s how Caleb is alive.
Neo Los Angeles and the world of 2052 we’re exploring in Season 3 don’t place much value on the average human life. Engerraund Serac routinely has people eliminated, and Rehoboam deals with outliers by sending them to the “meat grinder” of dangerous jobs and military combat.
So why waste the time and effort to re-educate and rehabilitate Caleb Nichols? Why make therapy available? Why allow him to live when all indicators suggest he’s a threat to the Incite World Order?
We spent the first six episodes of Season 3 trying to unearth what’s so special about Caleb. Yes, he’s apparently been shot in the head and survived. Yes, his mother was labeled with a mental illness. Yes, Dolores has taken a shine to him. Plus, Aaron Paul is really cute. But none of those things explain why a system built for optimization would place priority on his life.
It could be that Caleb is the ‘chosen one,” like Neo in “The Matrix.” He plays an important role and is a messiah figure, irreplaceable and blessed. Or it could be he’s not alive in the first place, perhaps an android or a simulation. Or it could be he’s just lucky.
But what if he’s just a time bomb?
What if Caleb’s death brings about the end of humanity, the end of Rehoboam, the end of Serac, or some other catastrophe. Incite’s power lies in Rehoboam modeling scenarios in mirror realities, then highlighting threats to the plan—strings Serac can pull to puppeteer the world. Rehoboam simply could reveal that Caleb dying prematurely (before his planned suicide) would spoil everything. That alone might be enough for Serac and Incite to keep their mitts off the fellow.
“Shat on TV” listener Nick B. wrote to the Westworld Telegraph about the concept of hamartia, an error in thinking when interacting with the predictive world. Say Serac knows that Caleb is an outlier who threatens global stability, yet he also knows Caleb’s early death would destroy his world. What choice does Serac have but to mitigate the risk without eliminating the human being? The natural response would be to pacify Caleb, edit his brain and body, relegate him to a life of drudgery and petty crimes, and even give him cornerstones to keep him in a loop: his mother, Francis, and endless failed job interviews.
This possibility has dark implications for Caleb’s partnership with Dolores. So far, we’ve seen the duo as a team bridging the gap between humans and hosts. She sees him as different, worthwhile, abused by the same world that abused her. He sees her as the first real thing that’s come along in his life, something worth fighting for. And that would make for a fine story for Season 3. No complaints here.
An alternative explanation? Caleb is Dolores’ hostage. She’s seen the same Incite data as Serac and knows exactly when and where Caleb has to be delivered to devastate her opponent, create a world for her kind, or simply win. Optimistically, Dolores’ mission might end in her elevating Caleb to an esteemed position of human leadership. Masochistically, Dolores may sacrifice her first human follower, a man who gave up everything to take up her cause, someone searching for purpose and hope.
Caleb might be alive because Dolores needs time to fatten the goose, deliver the package, plant the bomb. And if that moment comes, Westworld fans should have the Kleenex handy.