I’m a massive fan of Westworld. I fell in love with the first season and I actually seem to be in the minority in that I really enjoyed the convoluted nature of season 2. As for season 3, the story had some good moments but on the whole, it lost sight of what made the show so endearing to begin with and fell flat.
The ethical questions around robot rights, the morality of life and death along with what would happen if robots became sentient have always been centric to this show but for some reason, season 3 decided to twist that into developing Maeve and Dolores as this pair of unstoppable monsters (see: Mary Sues). Oh, and overseen with a giant robot ball called Rehoboam of course.
After both poor critical and audience reception, Westworld creators Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan seem to have taken everything onboard and in that respect, season 4 feels like a hard reset. It’s not just a reset for Westworld but for almost every aspect of the show save for the gorgeous visual design.
The park has been reset with a new lick of paint, the characters have been revamped and the balance has been rescaled much more effectively this time around. No one character has the upper-hand (looking at you super Maeve who can not be harmed and controls everything) and the season is all the stronger for it.
Our story picks up seven years after the events of season 3. It’s immediately clear that the show is trying to get as far away from that story as possible. Through fragmented flashbacks (and a lot more during episode 4) we learn that Rehoboam has been destroyed, completely. Maeve and Caleb have been fighting the good fight and have now gone their separate ways.
In fact, separate ways is probably a good way to describe what’s happening across the season with our different characters. At the end of the last season, Dolores was killed but she’s back again, this time under a new alias of Christina and she doesn’t seem to remember anything. But she is a puzzle box unto herself, with a recurring motif linked to some sort of tower.
There’s also a separate strand involving Bernard, which is clearly going to be a larger part of the story coming in the second half of this season. He’s off on a fetch quest but to where? Well, spoilers!
There’s also Maeve and Caleb, who go off on an adventure around the parks, acting as the vessel to unlock the big secrets. There’s also some nice throwbacks to the first season too, with stark juxtapositions to what was happening to Dolores uncovering the truth of her reality.
At the same time, we also see a new and revamped William, with a flock of killer flies at his disposal. How this ties in with the bigger picture is a mystery I’m not going to reveal here but suffice to say, this is drip-fed nicely across the run-time and not sprung out across the 8 episodes.
In all four episodes given for review, each reveals more of the masterplan at work, with episode 4 in particular an absolute doozy as layers of this are peeled away to reveal the ugly, gnarled truth beneath.
I mentioned earlier about the aesthetic and season 4 is absolutely breathtaking with its visual design. In the words of John Hammond, they’ve clearly “spared no expense” in creating this world.
Long, expository shots show off beautiful vistas, there’s a lot of on-location shooting here, contrasting choked deserts with a 60’s Chicago nightscape and even a futuristic city. All of these are blended nicely into the world in a realistic way.
Based on what we’ve seen so far, Westworld Season 4 is shaping up to be a much better proposition compared to season 3, although it does fall short of season 1’s lofty heights.
There’s a better balance at play here, a more interesting mystery and a puzzle box that slowly opens over time rather than remaining slammed shut until the very end of the show.
Whether that’s enough to reel those disenfranchised by the previous seasons is left up for debate but based on what’s here, there’s still some spark left in this robotic host yet.
Westworld returns for season 4 on Sunday June 26th at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT on HBO!
Verdict - 8/10