By David T. Valentin
After the events of season three of Westworld, I wasn’t entirely sold on watching another season of the show. Westworld has always had many of the problems season three had—meandering characters to a grand, season finale revelation; quick gotcha moments; long, winded monologues; and characters trying to kill each other but not being able to kill each other because the plot demands them to live—but those problems were never so obviously integral for the plot to happen. Despite these problems and my extreme dislike to season three, I decided to go ahead and watch season four, and I have to admit, I was impressed by their recovery at the disaster that was season three.
Season four follows several years after the events of season three. Humanity has recovered from the self-prophecy AI of Rehoboam and has settled into a world much like our own right now. The elites are getting richer and the everyday person continues to get fucked over. But unlike our world (I hope) behind the scenes, Charlotte Hale and a host William seek to take over the world by slowly replacing the most influential and powerful people in society with hosts while infecting humankind with a mind-control virus. So, it is up to Caleb and Maeve to take down Hale and her Man in Black before it’s too late.
This season, like every other season, took a different turn in genre. While season three was heavy into sci-fi and existential philosophy of freewill (as Westworld always is), this season started off almost as a James Bond-esque Mission Impossible vibe with Caleb and Maeve as the leading man and woman, to only then deep dive into post-apocalyptic territory and returning to its dystopian roots. In other words, it picked up some of the more interesting parts of season three and followed it up with season four while time skipping the boring parts and sprinkling in some Mission Impossible.
Not only was the tone of this season delivered with precision and creative fun through the pacing and the set, but it was also equally delivered by the stunning cast of actors, both returning ones and new. While that is to be expected from Westworld at this point with actors such as Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Wright, Evan Rachel Wood, Tessa Thompson, Thandiwe Newton, and Ed Harris (and that’s only a handful), you can tell the writers of this season really wanted to showcase their talent front and center first, and then the flashy Sci-Fi stuff second.
While individual actors did an amazing job at having us believe their characters are real, the remarkable chemistry and history between the actors and characters really came through and delivered some of the most compelling of scenes in all of Westworld to date. At the heart of this season was Caleb’s love for his daughter, Frankie, and many of the character’s drive to feel something real and true to their heart and I feel that was the anchor to which much of the writing attached itself. Pair that with Ramin Djawadi’s genius composition (this season being arguably his best composition thus far for Westworld) and you really feel the pursuit of beauty each character, and the plot, is trying to reveal.
Despite their recovery from the disaster that was season three, the writers still managed to fumble at the finish line—deciding to start with a bang and end with a fizzle. In recent years, it seems writers have had the sudden need to present twist and turns and gotcha moments to audiences despite no actual buildup or foreshadowing; moments that only the satisfy the writer and a certain smugness in not exactly giving the audience things to look out for, but more so giving the audience something to be confused about. In a way, we have Game of Thrones to thank for that. Not saying Game of Thrones did that poorly (only in the later seasons, perhaps), but that writers feel they expected to create these big twists and turns to have their stories feel “compelling” or “real” only for it to fall flat and have the audience confused and dissatisfied.
But even with season four’s stumbling at the very, very end, I think this season was certainly the strongest of the seasons in Westworld. Besides the ending and most of Dolores’ storyline stumbling at times, I felt much of the plot easy enough to follow but challenging enough and satisfying enough to pay close attention to detail to leave me wanting more all while crying, laughing and shouting at my T.V..
I have to say season four was certainly my favorite because the writers really did succeed at giving every character the screen time and development they deserved, I couldn’t help but be disappointed that the feeling of finality season four gave to me—that this is the true end for this story and its characters—was really not the end the writers seemed to promise to viewers toward the middle of the season.
If they’re really gunning for a season five, I really hope they can outdo themselves leaping off from season four, because it really was some of the best writing Westworld brought to the table thus far.