Parce Domine – | Review Score – 4/5
The Winter Line – | Review Score – 3.5/5
The Absence of Field – | Review Score – 4/5
The Mother of Exiles – | Review Score – 5/5
Genre – | Review Score – 4/5
Decoherence – | Review Score – 3.5/5
Passed Pawn – | Review Score – 3/5
Crisis Theory – | Review Score – 2.5/5
Westworld is one of my favourite shows. I fell in love with the first season and seemingly remain in the minority as someone who really enjoyed the convoluted and confusing nature of the second season. While I can appreciate the shortcomings in the follow-up, it retained that Westworld-y feel and continued to produce a fascinating puzzle box waiting to be deciphered. Following the open ending last time around, Westworld season 3 delivers a season of two halves.
On the one hand, the show looks better than it ever has before. The gorgeous set and production design really bring this near-future world to life in the best possible way and it does so with the excellent accompanying score of returning composer Ramin Djawadi, who can seemingly do no wrong. The acting is solid and the individual plot beats have enough excitement and intrigue to see you push through to the end.
At the same time, this is one of those seasons that’s enjoyable in the moment but when you stop and look back, the flaws along the way are all the more glaring and you find yourself scratching your head, wondering how you missed it the first time around.
The story itself takes place 3 months after the events of the first two seasons. Dolores finds herself entangled in the midst of neo-Los Angeles in 2058, armed with several “pearls” (the processing chips for different hosts in the park) and determined to see her revolution take shape and overthrow humanity.
It’s a whole new world out there and Dolores finds herself caught in the middle of a conflict with a powerful man named Serac, who enlists the help of Maeve who’s still in the park but this time taking part in a World War II scenario involving Nazis. As Serac builds up his team to go after Dolores, our main female protagonist recruits a nobody by the name of Caleb to help in her fight, who has his own dark past.
Along the way we’re re-introduced to familiar characters Bernard, Charlotte and William, all of which have their own roles to play, culminating in an underwhelming and anticlimactic finale that doesn’t really resolve anything and raises more questions than it does answers. Even worse, some of characters this year feel like they’re building up to a big moment during the end of the season but fail to reach that expectation.
Bernard is essentially reduced to spewing exposition, hopping across the globe to pick up a returning Stubbs and chase Dolores. William’s arc looks like it’s going to get a good pay off but a final scene during the finale undoes a lot of the work here too. I won’t divulge what happens exactly for spoiler purposes but suffice to say the show takes some pretty drastic turns ahead of the fourth season.
On paper, the idea of a robot rebellion and seeing humans try in vain to stop this maniacal onslaught with Dolores at the helm is certainly grounds for an interesting season. With a thinly veiled puzzle box to decipher and plenty of illogical plot beats along the way, Westworld fails to serve up a compelling finish, instead descending into a sci-fi action flick rather than a thought provoking and intriguing series about morality and AI.
This is partly why the third season fails in such a big way. There’s so many excellent individual moments and shocking reveals that make some of the middle chapters solid and enjoyable in the moment but hollow and meaningless in the grand scheme of things. This is partly why the episode ratings are skewed so drastically compared to the overall season; an ending can make or break the experience. With so much riding on the last few episodes, HBO’s blockbuster series crumbles and falls hard, delivering an underwhelming and unsatisfying season whose individual moments can’t save a wobbly overarching narrative full of holes and illogical issues.
That’s before even getting to the characters themselves that lack much in the way of personality or likability. With both Maeve and Dolores playing out as unstoppable robotic Gods at this point and many of the cast a shadow of the characters they were before. Charlotte and William are arguably the two most interesting characters left and both of them boast the strongest segments in the whole season. It’s ironic too that these stronger episodes don’t heavily feature Dolores or Caleb, the two players who we’re supposed to be rooting for.
Saying Westworld Season 3 is a big disappointment is a bitter pill to swallow. I love Westworld and the first season remains a solid 10/10 and one of the best sci-fi series on TV. In HBO’s bid to try and capture that lightning in a bottle popularity Game Of Thrones enjoyed, Westworld has ironically gone the same way as Season 8 and we all know how that ended up.
While it’s not quite at that level of plot deviation and character mismanagement, Westworld’s bleak, dystopian world is a reflection of its own prospects for the future, with an audience that’ll almost certainly give up hope before the conclusion to this tale. Let’s hope season 4 brings this back to the high bar the first season set, but right now that looks like a very big ask.