A lot was expected of the HBO show Westworld when it first hit the small screen back in late 2016, and it would be fair to say that the show had struggled to make the impact it had hoped when Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy created it, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not enthralled it’s loyal audience over the run of its first three seasons.
Season four launched on the 26th of June, and Westworld’s showrunners will hope to drive viewing figures in the right direction for fear that a continued slump might prove fatal to the show’s overall lifespan.
Westworld: What’s It All About?
For many, the airing of the first season of Westworld may have appeared as something of a wholly original undertaking, and that’s due to the fact that the source material it’s based on, a 1973 film (written and directed by Michael Crichton, the creator of Jurassic Park and ER) that wasn’t a massive success originally but became a cult classic, may not have been known to many.
It’s a science fiction show based on an intriguing premise. Sometime in the not-too-distant future, in the 2050s, a mammoth corporation named Delos runs a number of theme parks that offer rich visitors the chance to experience life as it would have been in certain periods of history.
The TV series focuses on one such theme park that is rooted in the American Old West and is populated by a super-advanced android, or “Hosts,” which the guests then interact with in various, sometimes unseemly, ways.
In season one, we get to know all about how the company and its theme parks operate and the guests that frequent them, and we delve into the mind of the co-creator Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins). Most importantly, we see how the “Hosts” are mistreated, leading to them looking for emancipation from their masters.
Season two sees “The Hosts” leave their particular park and find other worlds, as well as the ‘real world.’ Season three brings the story to 2050s Los Angeles and introduces to us Caleb, a well-meaning human who helps their cause.
Is Westworld an Original Idea?
The show, though not original, certainly impressed many viewers and critics with its stylized approach to the original source material and season one proved something of a success, but there were some concerns about the longevity of the show and what roads it would take.
A lot of money was invested in the show, and the production values are very impressive indeed; no need to use copyright free music or stock footage here and the slick nature of the opening episodes certainly attracted a great deal of interest.
Who’s Returning for Season Four and What to Expect
Season four is reportedly set seven years following the events of series three and sees the return of the lead characters from the previous season, including Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright, Tessa Thompson, Aaron Paul, and Thandiwe Newton. James Marsden, who played Teddy Flood in seasons one and two, is also back.
Series three ended with Maeve and Caleb (Newton and Paul) seeing off Serac, the custodian of the AI system Rehoboam, while Delores has her memories entirely wiped, but Evan Rachel Wood will return to series four as a new character, Christina.
The series will continue to explore the idea of sentience and the way in which the “Hosts” continue to evolve. The new season will also feature a new theme park, this time one that is modeled on a stylized 1930s America overrun by the mafia.
On the potential avenues the show might go down, star Jeffrey Wright, who plays Bernard Lowe, stated;
“Season 4 is going to be more of the Westworld you’ve come to expect and more digging down into some issues and some technology that is going to look familiar to us, as always. It’s gonna be exciting. I’m not sure exactly when we’re to air, but within the coming months, certainly.”
Now that the show is not only rooted in its theme-park surroundings, but the scope has also expanded, and the new season is far more futuristic in its design, and there is hope from its creators and fanbase that Westworld will build back its narrative in a way that will engage a new audience.
To help in this endeavor, the show does have the Man in Black, Ed Harris, to call upon with the key character who is very much still capable of wreaking havoc of all kinds.
Beginning of the End or a New Beginning?
Season three wasn’t all that well-received, especially the closing episodes. There is a sense that all the stops must be pulled out if Westworld is going to either go out on a bang or secure enough interest to greenlight a fifth season.
For all its positives, and there are many to note, including the quality of performances from the show’s leads to the complex nature of the questions being asked, there is a nagging sense that the show is falling short of its own lofty goals.
Season one was quite thought-provoking in terms of the direction it was taking the viewer in, and the concept was exciting enough to make up for any less telling concerns. Season two didn’t exactly reinvent the wheel and the last season was pretty much a mess from start to end.
One could argue that this is down to the source material not being strong enough to mount a multi-season narrative on, but that’s not really an argument one could make.
One certainly hopes that season four will start to get things back on track, but there’s every chance that more unanswered questions are what lay in store for viewers as they sit down nervously for season four.