If, like me, you dutifully watched everything? west worldthe third season of the third season (and maybe even, like me, did an entire podcast about it) and yet have virtually no memory of what happened during the muddled series of episodes, i highly recommend you check it out before the season a sort of video recap to watch-four premiere (HBO, June 26). Otherwise you are completely at sea; Lisa Joy and Jonathan NolanThe knotty sci-fi thriller leaves little time for catching up and rehash.
Once you’ve found your way, however, Season Four proves to be much more inviting, readable, and gripping than the previous season, which significantly changed the series’ DNA from terrifying psycho-philosophical reverie to pre-apocalyptic action.
The series is still very much about consciousness and self-determination, as a slew of robots and fleshy, mortal humans struggle for control of their destiny. The new ideas introduced last season – a massive techno conspiracy that threatens the world beyond the titular Android theme park – have been crucially honed and clarified for this new batch of episodes. (Or at least in the first four episodes, that’s all that’s been made available to critics.) You can miss the intriguing narrative loops and inner fugues of seasons one and two, which kept things mostly character-driven and thus more emotional. rewarding. But there’s still hair-raising fun to be had if west world imagines what was probably the inevitable result of all this tinkering with synthetic thinking.
Season four could be called more elegant Terminator movie, with what Blade Runner and Body Snatchers thrown in. Humanity is on the brink of a takeover led by Tessa Thompson‘s Charlotte – once human, then a robot implanted with a version of the consciousness of the avenging hero Dolores. Since then, she has evolved into her own totalizing being, threatening her once human oppressors with crushing domination.
Dolores, played by Evan Rachel Wood, is also still in the picture, although she has lost all memories of her crusade to liberate Westworld. She’s stuck in some sort of prosaic human life, living with her roommate (recent Oscar winner Arianna DeBose) and go on gloomy dates, but feel a faint tingle: the murmur of a buried consciousness, a hidden reality just out of her reach. Meanwhile, her frenemy Maeve (Thandiwe Newton) is brought back into action after a few years of peace, again along with human Caleb (Aaron Paul), which was probably the worst invention of season three. However, their collaboration took on a new flavor in season four, and Paul’s moody histrionics have, thankfully, been dulled to manageable scale.
A few other beloved characters resurface, although I won’t reveal who they are. In short, this season of west world is more interested in repeating the lore of the past than season three, which the show can do more nimbly now that the recast is complete. These recalls sometimes serve as bitter reminders of the glory that once was. But otherwise, they’re welcome bits of symmetry, cleverly reconnecting us to the show’s original existential struggles.
Lying under everything west world‘s increasing indulgences (and its increasingly cracking attempts at clever reunion) is the same fascinating idea that led seasons one and two, a vision of a new species entering our ecosystem and fighting to preserve itself. The original west world The film was, of course, written and directed by Michael Crichton, who later revisited the same basic idea for: Jurassic Park, a novel that spawned a movie franchise that still rips through multiplexes. Obviously, it’s enduring speculation that we could simply be ushering in our own top predator demise. Watching west world season four, that all seems a little less fantastic, with natural disasters gripping our world and talking about a metaverse and artificial intelligence creeping closer and closer to the center of the tech news cycle.
The episodes I’ve seen take that paranoia and turn it into something robust and compelling. The writers try the same trick they did in season two: confusing us with what appears to be one timeline, but turns out to be at least a few. The deception is now more apparent, which might disappoint some theorists who like to puzzle things out. However, for the more casual viewer, season four is easy to decipher after an hour or so of disorientation. As the series has gotten more compact with plot, it has somehow thinned out too. That might be a loss in some ways, but at least it makes the show easier to consume — which is sort of guilty relief for those of us just trying to enjoy a little summer Sunday TV.
As always, west world looks mind-bogglingly expensive: both sleek and dusty, all shiny buildings and ghostly desert. New York City features prominently this season, giving the production the opportunity to film in the development of Hudson Yards – our city’s very own version of an infernal theme park, complete with the menacing, tragedy-colored Vessel structure. That’s a pretty local joke (if it’s a joke at all), but it’s a funny suggestion of how we might already have one foot in a bleak future – aesthetically at least.
Complementing the technical merits of the show is the cast, all of whom work in peak snarling, purring, joking form. (Newton is the most valuable player as usual.) It’s good to see them all again. The first cool shock of west world has passed, and now, six years since the show’s premiere, we can settle for more of the comfortable familiar. Albeit with a few new tweaks that, ably enough, approach the thrill of true innovation.