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Westworld (HBO Show)
Full Westworld Spoilers

Westworld, Season Three (2020)

[Image: WW.png]

My take on Westworld S3 closely tracks that of The AV Club's Zack Handlen: it starts strong, but trips, falls, and stumbles across the finish line. There are two main problems: one, the threat of Rehoboam's "world without choice" is never quite clear, and is too silly to really take seriously. (What, are there no poor people outside its reach? Where are all the poor people, anyway? Do nations not compete against each other anymore, or can it account for that, too? Has climate change been solved?)

Two, the reveal that Caleb is practically a host himself, thanks to brainwashing, and was specifically chosen by his secret prior acquaintance Dolores to be a leader for humanity, completely robs him of the unknown-quantity factor that first made him interesting. (And what if he'd been shot in the head during one of their many battles? What would all Dolores' grand plans have amounted to then?) Annoyingly, Rehoboam ends up falling for the oldest trick in the book, the same invasive virus ploy from Independence Day and Star Trek: Voyager's "Endgame." (When you find yourself paying homage to blooming Voyager...) Finally, about those awesome mechs teased throughout the season: only one of them shows up in the finale to... stand still and lob some tear gas? Talk about a Chekov's fail.

The season certainly looks amazing throughout - or almost throughout, with the final two episodes taking place in generic abandoned warehouses, streets, and dark offices. In a year that saw lots of ethnicity-based international protests, the very vaguely anti-establishment demonstrators (shades of the other Nolan brother's TDKR) not only fail to feel contemporary, there's an ugly cynical strain in the idea they can be reliably and easily controlled with electronic cash deposits. The actors are giving it their all, and I'm still interested in seeing what Bernard and Stubbs do next, but, as awesome as Thandie Newton is, as well as Evan Rachel Wood, I'm about done with her/their vaguely motivated, poorly defined revolutionary spirit. And that goes doubly for Caleb.

Worth reading: a piece on several 2020 sci-fi shows by Entertainment Weekly's Darren Franich. A choice excerpt:
Quote:I get it: We are all scared of phones, and bots, and the Algorithm. Yet by demonizing technology, these projects oddly exonerate the people behind that technology. CEOs with tragic origin stories in Westworld or Devs are puppets for machines they can't control. Higher-tech powers in Brave New World and "You May Also Like" control whole civilizations comprised of unaware humans.

 I'm reminded of how people in Silicon Valley have lately become fixated on dark prophecies about the singularity, the moment when A.I. will evolve beyond humanity. Those concerns always sound handwashy to me, a way for unbelievably powerful rich people to worry about something cool when they could be worrying about income inequality, social-media-enabled totalitarianism, or all the other problems their industry's success directly propagates. Consider A.I. skeptic Elon Musk, who recently complained loudly about coronavirus stay-at-home orders. His Fremont, Calif., Tesla plant reopened — and employees started testing positive for COVID-19. Wouldn't evil A.I. be smart enough to listen to Dr. Fauci?

The most hopeful thing I can say for the greenlit fourth season is that it almost certainly can't repeat the same "trapped in a preordained cycle" motif of these first three seasons - but, then, it didn't initially seem as though either the second or third seasons would have done so, and they did. There was certainly enough incredible technical filmmaking and top-notch acting to make the show up 'til now worthwhile, but it's time for a new vision, as this season's halved ratings (even with a global pandemic keeping everyone at home) attest.

S1: B+
S2: B
S3: B-

Series so far: B

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