'Westworld' Reveals Aaron Paul's True (and Terrifying) Purpose

Westworld - Publicity still - H 2020
John P. Johnson/HBO

[This story contains spoilers for season three, episode seven of HBO's Westworld, "Passed Pawn."]

There's good news and bad news when it comes to Westworld newcomer Caleb Nichols, played by Emmy-winning Breaking Bad alum Aaron Paul. The good news: He's not a secret robot. The bad news: He's something much, much deadlier.

In "Passed Pawn," the penultimate installment of Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy's third season of the HBO genre-bending drama (already renewed for a fourth season, with two additional seasons likely in the works), Caleb's true purpose becomes known: He's an outlier, one of the many human beings Engerraund Serac (Vincent Cassel) deemed dangerous enough to his predictive model for mankind's future. What's more, Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) has enlisted an earlier version of the Rehoboam computer called Solomon in helping her defeat Serac — and the plan she has in mind rests in Caleb's hands, especially now that Dolores only has the one. (Her arm, much like Ingrid Bolso Berdal's Armistice back in season one, is long gone, with Thandie Newton's Maeve not only present this time, but directly responsible for the loss.)

Dolores doesn't just want Caleb to help Solomon with whatever human-defeating plot it concocts; she sees Caleb as the person directly responsible for carrying out the plan. As Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) tells Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth), Dolores was built with a poetic sense of irony in mind — and that drive is why she recruited Caleb, the man predestined by Solomon to directly destroy mankind.

The twist, followed by Dolores triggering a device that brings both herself and Maeve offline (but only temporarily, one assumes), sets up Caleb's true purpose on Westworld. Through much of "Passed Pawn," Dolores hypes Caleb as someone who could rise up and lead mankind alongside Dolores and her vision for the hosts' future. But if her real purpose is to use Caleb as a queen-making pawn (as the chess term in the episode title implies), then perhaps the easiest way of looking at Paul's character is through an oft-cited pop culture touchstone for the HBO series: Terminator. Caleb spends much of "Passed Pawn" being set up as the John Connor of the Westworld universe — when in fact, he's the man hitting Skynet's "on" switch.

Before the season, speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Paul hinted at the possibilities for his character's role in the remainder of Westworld, referring to it as "complicated and messy."

"For the most part, it felt like they were pretty upfront when I sat down with Lisa and Jonah, which I was so excited about, just to see where they were taking the show," he said. "The idea that they saw me as very much a part of the future of Westworld was incredibly exciting to me. When I sat down with them, they gave me the broad strokes of who Caleb was and what his backstory was. He had a history with war, with guns, an interesting relationship with his mother, and then they gave me the broad strokes with what's happening with this season and beyond."

Whatever happens with this season, Westworld viewers won't have to wait too long. Beyond, on the other hand? A bit longer — but at least there is a beyond.

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