We’re greater than midway by way of the brand new season of Westworld, the dystopian sci-fi drama from writer-producers Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Pleasure primarily based on Michael Crichton’s 1973 movie of the identical title. And the present is much from the halcyon days of its preliminary reputation.
Over the course of three seasons, Westworld has reworked right into a joyless puzzle field of competing timelines and revelations nullified by the convolution and redundancy of their very own execution. Whereas it was a meditation on recreation design, the mythologizing of the American frontier, and the character of humanity and free will, now it’s simply… lots. However now persons are speaking about it once more — is it lastly time to revisit Westworld? To inform the reality, the reply to that query relies on what, if something, drew you to the sequence within the first place, with this newest season streamlining the general plot of the sequence whereas on the identical time indulging as soon as once more within the convoluted mystery-box reveals of its more and more sophisticated chronology.
To place it frankly: I’m of two minds with regards to Westworld season 4, so I figured one of the best ways to sum up my ideas about this season to date is to simply put these two minds (i.e. myself, and a robotic host model of my very own consciousness) in a room collectively and have them duke it out.
[Ed. note: Spoilers ahead for Westworld season 4.]
Toussaint: Convey your self again on-line.
Host Toussaint: You already made that reference within the subhed of your Westworld season 3 recap. It wasn’t intelligent then and it isn’t intelligent now.
Toussaint: Says you, asshole. Anyway, that’s neither right here nor there. We’re not right here to be our personal worst critic, we’re right here to speak about Westworld. So let’s get right down to it: What do you consider season 4 to date?
Host Toussaint: Westworld season 4 is sweet to date. The present’s writers have put sufficient house and time between the final season and this one to permit the implications of Rehoboam’s destruction to settle and higher set up the brand new established order for the present going ahead.
The plot is healthier paced and extra streamlined; starting with two alternating tales informed from the perspective of returning protagonists Caleb (Aaron Paul) and Maeve (Thandiwe Newton), together with a bunch model of antagonist William (Ed Harris) and a mysterious new character named Christina (portrayed by sequence common Evan Rachel Wooden), that briefly blossom into three with the return of Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) in episode three earlier than converging again into roughly two storylines on the finish of episode 4.
We see the return of the parks within the type of a brand new Delos vacation spot that resumes the present’s deconstruction of recreation design that we noticed again in season 1 with a intelligent nod to the follow of asset flipping located alongside a humorous, albeit temporary, exploration of how resistance to exploitative methods could be defused, assimilated, and subsequently reworked into leisure.
Toussaint: Yeah, that was cool. I bought my very own ideas on the brand new Delos park, however I’ll save that until it’s my flip. Please proceed.
Host Toussaint: For positive. The place was I… Oh yeah, after which we get to the mid-season twist, which is probably the most thrilling twist the sequence has accomplished because the first season of Westworld and blows up all the things we thought we knew and understood about considered one of this season’s characters in a approach that centralizes a serious idea that was first launched all the way in which again in season 2.
Toussaint: You didn’t assume that twist was too busy?
Host Toussaint: Eh, form of? I’ll admit, it didn’t fairly land with the emotional drive of its intent, however I loved it for the way it upended the established order of our preliminary impressions of this season and opened the door to this complete new world of post-human prospects. The fifth episode, “Zhuangzi,” form of jogged my memory of that one episode from the fourth season of Fringe, “Letters of Transit,” the one the place they present the longer term the place the Observers have taken over and Peter’s caught in amber?
Toussaint: Dude, I used to be considering the precise identical factor! I really like Fringe!
Host Toussaint: Yeah, it’s a enjoyable present. Anyway after three lengthy seasons, it lastly seems like Westworld has began to course-correct itself and tie all these disparate threads collectively in an intriguing new path shifting ahead. All in all, I land fairly soundly on the facet of pro-Westworld season 4. What do you assume?
Toussaint: So, Westworld season 4 is… advantageous. I might not go as far as to explain it as “good.” My reservations lie squarely in the truth that, for a present that makes an attempt to probe on the query of how its characters, each human and host, are ensnared in cycles of repetition and failure born out of their very own nature and design, the present itself follows within the very patterns it ostensibly is critiquing.
You’ll be able to solely have so many variations of the identical scene with totally different characters asking each other, “Have you ever ever questioned the character of your actuality?” earlier than it loses all novelty and as a substitute curdles into redundancy for the sake of arbitrary rug pulls. Dr. Robert Ford actually summed up all the thesis of seasons 2 and three all the way in which again in episode 8 of season 1, “Hint Decay,” when he stated, “We stay in loops as tight and as closed because the hosts do, seldom questioning our selections, content material, for probably the most half, to be informed what to do subsequent.” So… what precisely are we doing right here that complicates or advances that concept?
Host Toussaint: However see, I really feel just like the twist on the finish of episode 4 of this season does complicate and produce that concept full circle in a pure and thrilling approach. Ford was proper; people seldom ever query their very own selections, similar to how we the viewers by no means thought to query or mistrust the obvious stability and nature of this new future we noticed on the opening of season 4 regardless of the dramatic occasions in the course of the conclusion of season 3.
The reveal that the Caleb we as soon as knew in season 3 is useless, and the Caleb we now see on this new season is a bunch, dovetails fantastically into the query of what significant distinction if any, aside from the plain reality of biology, separates the hosts from the people. Taken under consideration with host William’s identification disaster with regard to his human predecessor and his host grasp Dolores-Hale, and Bernard’s persevering with arc of self-actualization, and I feel you’ve bought a strong trifecta of tales centered on the hosts asking the query of who they are aside from their human forebears.
Toussaint: I agree that the twist in episode 4 of season 4 is fascinating, although it didn’t fully land for me till after I mulled it over for a couple of minutes whereas the credit rolled. However even then, the twist that the Caleb we’ve seen for the whole thing of this season has been a bunch simply seems like a variation on the massive twist again in season 1, that the Man in Black was an older model of William all alongside and that the timeline the place we see a younger William meet Dolores for the primary time the truth is takes place previously. The identical could be stated of the next reveal on the finish of episode 4 that the setting that audiences had been led to imagine was the “current day” is definitely the previous, and that the season’s precise present-day storyline takes place in 2083, over twenty years after the dying of the unique human Caleb and Dolores-Hale’s subsequent subjugation of the human denizens of New York Metropolis and, presumably, all the world. The writing for this season is working in circles, directly turning into a cleaner, leaner model of the present than any we’ve seen previously couple seasons whereas on the identical time counting on the identical ol’ bag of methods, simply with totally different characters.
I additionally agree that the brand new Delos park primarily based on the Roaring ’20s launched on the finish of episode 2 is a welcome return to the present’s roots in season 1. It even lampshades the sequence’ tendency to recycle plot factors by way of Maeve’s commentary on this new park’s similarities to the unique Westworld. My largest criticism is that this new setting is promptly dropped one episode later, which is attributable extra to the narrative priorities and the construction of the sequence as an entire than anything. As humorous at first blush it’s to see Westworld contact on the follow of asset-flipping, the sequence already roughly did this precise joke earlier than within the fifth episode of the second season, “Akane no Mai.” Once more, one other case of a good suggestion drawn out well past its expiration date.
Host Toussaint: Oh wow, you’re proper! I forgot all about that “Akane no Mai” episode however yeah, they did just about do this very same gag approach again in season 2 — albeit in an Edo-period simulacrum.
Toussaint: Yeah, to be honest, a lot of stuff occurred in that second season. And one other factor — I’ve seen defenders of Westworld say that detractors of the sequence simply need a dumb motion present with cowboy robotic shootouts as a substitute of a deep, philosophical sci-fi parable about consciousness, free will, and the malleability of sin. However I don’t assume that individuals who’ve grown bored with Westworld have uncultured tastes, nor do I imagine the present is anyplace as deep or profound because the present or its advertising and marketing would purport itself to be. Frankly, Westworld is a traditional instance of science fiction that thinks it’s smarter than it really is, and it exhibits by way of the drained, trite, Abrams-esque “thriller field” model of writing that insists on repeatedly circling across the identical questions, oftentimes verbatim, for the sake of eleventh-hour twists as a substitute of evincing any new insights into the thoughts or perspective of the characters to whom these questions have been requested.
Additionally — and admittedly this criticism is minor and kinda petty — the present in its latter seasons simply feels prefer it was written by a stereotypical, hoverboard-riding, West Coast tech yuppie who simply heard about this cool new band referred to as Dying Grips and really believes with the entire of his coronary heart, thoughts, and soul that the “blockchain” is the way forward for all the things. If that’s not cringe, I don’t know what’s.
Host Toussaint: Ouch. Properly, why do you retain watching Westworld then? What precisely is maintaining you coming again to look at this new season each Sunday?
Toussaint: A sunk value fallacy? [Both Toussaints laugh] Nah, however critically, what’s really maintaining me coming again to Westworld each season is the present’s manufacturing design. I really like the creepiness of the drone hosts, which seem like the Putty Patrollers from Mighty Morphin’ Energy Rangers however imagined with the sinuous musculature of a Physique Worlds exhibit and the milk-blood androids of Ridley Scott’s Alien and Raised by Wolves. The design of the Delos eVTOL aircrafts is incredible, as are the cumbersome riot-control robots launched in season 3 that remind me of the Boxguard safety robots in Deus Ex: Human Revolution. I simply want they inhabited a extra fascinating world, y’know? HBO actually should get round to releasing an artwork guide for the sequence already.
Writing apart, I actually benefit from the performances of the solid themselves. Evan Rachel Wooden, Thandiwe Newton, and Tessa Thompson are great, and Jeffrey Wright continues to be the driving coronary heart and soul of the sequence, with Bernard’s arc arguably being probably the most compelling of all of the principal characters to this point.
The rating for the sequence continues to be considered one of Westworld’s robust factors, with composer Ramin Djawadi persevering with to search out new and creative methods of iterating on modern pop and art-rock tracks past the anachronistic phonograph and participant piano covers of the primary season. That stated, I do imagine that the present depends too closely on these covers to contrive pathos, reminiscent of Westworld’s famous overreliance on Radiohead and the plaintive string cowl of Lana Del Rey’s 2011 single “Video Video games” on the finish of the season 4 premiere.
Host Toussaint: Hmmm. So what’s your verdict to date? No extra splitting hairs; would you really suggest this new season or not? Even with all that’s been stated, I nonetheless really feel fairly constructive about Westworld season 4 and would suggest somebody who fell off in season 3 to at the least watch the primary two episodes of this season and see what they assume.
Toussaint: See, for me, it will depend on who’s asking the query. Westworld season 4 is admittedly the very best the present has been since season 1. Sadly, Westworld continues to be… effectively, Westworld, with all the great and unhealthy that entails. To grasp what’s occurring on this season calls for an understanding of a number of key occasions from season 2 and season 3, which, as somebody who has watched these seasons, I can’t suggest in good conscience. It’s only a whole slog to rewatch them. If you happen to’ve already knuckled your approach by way of season 2 and gritted your enamel by way of season 3, or on the very least are keen to brush up with explainers of season 2 and season 3, then I assume my reply could be sure, you need to give this season a shot.
However if you happen to’re in search of the present to lastly begin shifting right into a extra thorough exploration of why its human and host characters proceed to be trapped in methods and behaviors that contribute to their very own degradation past sophomoric “we stay in a society” philosophizing, effectively… it’s fairly late within the recreation and I simply don’t assume that’s going to occur, irrespective of how a lot I need to imagine that Westworld’s characters, and the present itself, can get away of the cycle of their very own unhealthy habits.
Was there anything you wished to speak about relating to Westworld season 4?
Host Toussaint: Nah, I really feel like we lined all the things. You good?
Toussaint: Yeah, I’m good. Till subsequent time, might you relaxation in a deep and dreamless slumber.
Further reporting by Host Toussaint.
New episodes of Westworld are launched on HBO and HBO Max on Sundays.