The following is a review of the third season of HBO’s Westworld — Created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy.
I wish I had more nice things to say about this latest season of Westworld. This is a show that I have loved for a very long time. In the past, I have spent a lot of hours online reading theories and speculations about the series. In the past, I would discuss the show with friends and family. In the past, I would nerd out about the show. In the past, it never wore me out. I would spend each and every week writing recaps and reviews of each and every episode of the first two seasons. But, unfortunately, season three of Westworld was the one that convinced me to stop reviewing the series episode by episode. It, honestly, shocked me to find out that a show that I had loved so much could lose me so easily.
The outstanding first season was everything I wanted it to be, and, while the follow-up season received mostly mixed reviews, I even enjoyed the second season a lot. I loved the environment, the atmosphere, the themes, the characters, and the concept. But by the end of the second season, it became clear that the series was getting ready to blow up its own concept. Things were changing. Years passed and suddenly a third season was ready. Trailers gave us glimpses of a futuristic reboot in which a few mostly vengeful ‘hosts’ — i.e. what they call the series’ robots — had reached our world.
The ending of season two reminded me of Alex Garland’s Ex_Machina, which excited me, and I had hoped that the third season would perhaps simplify the series’ concept and turn the series into, perhaps, something slightly more romantic. Perhaps the addition of a new series regular played by Aaron Paul — who plays a disillusioned human character — could thaw up the icy heart of Dolores Abernathy (played by Evan Rachel Wood). But, well, that’s not exactly what happened. Not only did I continue to struggle with caring about Dolores, but, although I am a fan of Aaron Paul, the new main character never lived up to his potential. The exciting addition of Aaron Paul didn’t really do anything good for the show, which is a shame.
Although the third season absolutely was a reboot with new locations and a new concept for the series, the third season inherited some of the series’ previous issues. Once again the series was needlessly overcomplicated. One step forward, two steps back — some might say. But, in reality, I think the reboot of the series — this act of blowing up the concept — has rid the series of its charm. I really miss the robot park, and I really miss human characters that are easy to root for and care about.
Instead, characters are now bulletproof, icy-hearted, broadly characterized, or straight up uninteresting. Dolores’ motivations and the true identities of the remaining hosts were made needlessly complicated, and the subplots involving Charlotte Hale (played by Tessa Thompson), William (played by Ed Harris), and Bernard (played by Jeffrey Wright) were largely unengaging. To add to that, Maeve (played by Thandie Newton) became a one-note assassin.
It says a lot about the current state of the once incredible series that the single most exciting moment over the course of the eight-episode-season was the moment in which Game of Thrones‘ polarizing showrunners appeared on-screen alongside a computer-generated dragon. It speaks volumes that the most interesting development in the season finale happened in a post-credits scene. It is such a shame that what was once clearly meant to be HBO’s new top series has become a weak and stale imitation of better properties. A show previously best described as Jurassic Park with robots has now turned into a Terminator-like copycat with Fight Club-aspirations.
This messy third season lost me more than once, and every time I tried to buy into the plot something else would bug me. It pains me to say that Westworld may have lost me, and, unfortunately, I think that the show has also lost its way. Hopefully, the writers can salvage the show in the fourth season, but if they are unsuccessful, then, to quote the show, it doesn’t look like anything to me anymore.
– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen.