Westworld (Season 3) Review
by E. McDonnell
**** 4 Stars
‘The series keeps its surprising storytelling, indulging in character development that had made the previous series so exciting to watch, setting up mysteries to work out and detailed worlds, completely changing the story with every new piece of information.’
Directors: John Nolan and Lisa Joy
Producer: JJ Abrams
Cast: Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Tessa Thompson and Aaron Paul
Synopsis: In a near future world, an ex-soldier tries to come to term with his new technology controlled world and becomes wrapped up in a rogue host’s plan, from the recently destroyed Westworld, as they try to determine the future of their species in the ‘real’ world.
*Spoilers for Seasons 1, 2 and 3 ahead, so don’t read on unless you want Westworld to be spoiled for you – you have been warned!
Westworld, the critically acclaimed and extremely popular sci-fi series is back for its third season. Except, this time Westworld is exploring something fresh, something new – a whole new world for the characters and viewers alike. And, after binge watching the first 2 series in self isolation to get up to scratch, I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised and thrilled at what the new series has created…
It was always exciting in previous series, when sequences took place outside of the park itself. These glimpses set up a place outside the Westworld that we were accustomed to seeing, though implying that this was a seemingly technological, claustrophobic and dull world that the rich could escape by going to Westworld. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. This new setting is so fascinating, it leaves you amazed at how such an unreal place can feel so real, similar to how the hosts and lands of Cowboys and Samurai looked so authentic in previous seasons.
The visuals are simply stunning with a seamless blend of fascinating locations, and special effects. With everything from the futuristic and exotic Los Angeles, the neon and vibrant nightlife of future London and the realistic and mind-blowing architecture of Singapore. The set pieces of drones as big as buses, and self-driving motorbikes, and taxis, and the amazingly put together shootouts are just as thrilling as the Western action of previous series. But while there are a lot of insane and well executed set pieces, amazing visuals and pinpoint effects, the story is kept grounded and feels surprisingly real. The high-tech clubs and streets aren’t too hard to imagine in the near too distant future. Moreover, the introduction of the compelling new characters keeps the story grounded on a human level.
The episode centres around Caleb, who acts as a guide for the audience into this new world. Caleb is an army veteran, now working alongside robots, doing construction in a futuristic Los Angeles and barely getting by, especially as he needs to pay for the care of his debilitated mother. The only way Caleb can get money is to use an app that shares out criminal work such as blowing up ATMs and delivering suspicious parcels to certain high-tech businesses. Although “no personals” is his rule, this seemingly ‘everyman’ gets wrapped up in something bigger than himself by the time the episode wraps up. What we learn about him, especially from his military past, makes it clear that he is as trapped by this world almost like a host playing cowboy in Westworld, changing the idea expressed in the previous seasons that humans are the bad guys and that good ones are the exception- this new series spins this idea on its head with this new fleshed out character. The show has always managed to keep a good blend of ‘character study’ and ‘world building’ that so many series fail to do, bringing emotion and shock to seemingly straight forward and dark subject matters, and there is no let up from the series so far.
As for our other main characters, the series begins with Dolores Abernathy, three months after the events of Season Two. She is hunting down shady investors and previous guests of the park like a terminator, in order to gather files from INCITE, a tech company involved with Delos and the creators of the park. We follow her as she tries to uncover information about these companies, making friends along the way such as Liam, who is the son of the companies’ creator and ‘figurehead’ of the company, although he has no control over it. Delores commits some ‘light’ espionage, all hidden behind her new human glow up. Although her efforts are thwarted when the companies’ members, including a very gruff Scottish fixer (guy from Braveheart), aren’t too happy about this. The company is loosely explained, also through the fake website set up to market the series, but not too much is given away and will probably be explained over the course of the season. We also briefly see Charlotte Hale — or whoever is impersonating her, as she plans to reopen the parks immediately, and keep the Delos corporation private so that they don’t have to deal with any increased scrutiny and can keep making hosts, although her long term plan is unclear; another mystery for the series…
As well as all of this, we find a ‘buffed up’ looking Bernard, now working as a labourer on a fresh-looking eco- farm. Despite him laying low and trying to avoid the authorities, as he is being framed for the uprising at Westworld that happened in the last series, some of his not so friendly co-workers are starting to find out who he really is. The series manages to introduce new elements whilst also building on its main characters. An interesting way this is done is through how Dolores is established as a grey character. She’s a villain, killing and manipulating people for her own gains in order to continue her plans of host supremacy. However, as has been shown, she’s got legitimate grievances with the human race from her time as a host; she’s seen people at their best and at their worst, but usually at their worst. It’s strange to feel so conflicted about the main character but it offers something very different from your standard character type and serves as a great counterpoint to Bernard, who Jeffrey Wright portrays with real heart. He is a host that just wants to be human and not become like Delores, or a pawn in her game, only using his power to defend himself. The acting, as always is first class: Dolores brought to life though the performance of Evan Rachel Wood, who changes from the farmer’s daughter act, to hard faced terminator, to blank faced host within a scene. Jeffrey Wright too, manages to turn off Bernard’s emotions at the press of a button. It is exciting to see characters in a new modern environment instead of as cowboys and see how the new world will react to them.
The series keeps its surprising storytelling, indulging in character development that had made the previous series so exciting to watch, setting up mysteries to work out and detailed worlds, completely changing the story with every new piece of information.
Establishing a world in an hour is a difficult task but the opening episode does really well at telling a singular narrative as well as setting up the main premises for the upcoming season, without giving too much away. Overall, the introduction of the new characters and this new world is expertly done and makes for an engaging and immersing episode that should make fans very excited for the new series.
Westworld is currently available on Sky and was rated 18 by the BBFC – be warned, this show is not suitable for younger people.