Westworld season four review – nothing but a monotonous comedy-drama about sad bachelors | Television & radio

Oestworld once wanted to be the biggest drama on television. Not the most popular – it’s always been too complex and ambitious to sweep as many viewers as Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead. But when it was created, it intended to be the prestige box set with the widest reach, asking the most important questions about humanity and technology, requiring the deepest commitment to keep up with its leaping intellect. .

As it returns for a fourth season, however, it feels small. Boring, even. The season four opener is the least chaotic in the show’s history, with signs that Westworld has succumbed to the fate that befalls all but the best high-concept sci-fi stories when they’re too long: each massive idea and reality-changing twist has been another step in an ever-tightening maze of the show’s own mythology. Now the big point that Westworld was originally making is no longer in sight.

Recap seasons one through three is tricky, as their intention was to have more plot nuances than there are grains of sand on a beach, but quickly: the first season was set in a future park in theme where humans were allowed to abuse realistic robots. It didn’t create memories or feel pain, but then these “hosts” — specifically Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Maeve (Thandiwe Newton) — reached sentience and rebelled. The second season was a battle between hosts and humans, with many people we thought were humans having turned out to be hosts, with the hosts’ ability to download themselves into new bodies – allowing the writers to kill characters before bringing them back, sometimes played by a different actor. Along the way, we learned that the park was less about entertaining humans and more about studying them.

The third season was the one where many viewers gave up: it featured a new theme park but was mostly set in dark Los Angeles, with a society on the brink of collapse and a wacky billionaire trying to do something funky with artificial intelligence. Dolores, Maeve, and a kind human, Caleb (Aaron Paul), stopped him in the name of free will, a quality the formerly enslaved hosts greatly value, but Dolores was seemingly permanently removed in the process.

Hard to care more… Thandiwe Newton as Maeve Millay and Aaron Paul as Caleb in Westworld. Photography: HBO

And now? After a pleasantly unsettling pre-credit sequence confirms that the Man in Black (Ed Harris) – a surviving icon from the original 1973 film – is still around and incredibly powerful, season four takes a disconcerting deceleration. We’re certainly still in the future, as smartphones are transparent, cars are weird and window blinds have become obsolete, but the societal collapse that was supposed to be inevitable has not happened. In what is ostensibly New York, fire escapes rise above cafe terraces decorated with artificial grass and asymmetrical jazzy lampposts. Young professionals walk there.

A woman named Christina, however, does not walk as long as she trudges. She stagnates at work, writes nonsensical stories for minor characters in video games, and morosely resists when her most bubbly roommate (Ariana DeBose) tries to pressure her into dating again. Surely Westworld hasn’t gone from a daunting philosophical treatise on what it is to be human, and whether our conception of it can survive a hyper-algorithmic techno-future, to a monotonous comedy-drama about singletons sad in your twenties? That seems to be the case, though Christina’s interaction with a disturbed player reinforces what we’ve known since we first saw her: she’s played by Evan Rachel Wood and so must, in a way, , be Dolores.

The episode’s final shot brings back another beloved character who was thought to be dead, but since season two did 14 times a week, such resurrections aren’t too exciting. In the meantime, we catch up with Maeve, still a sword-wielding outlaw, and Caleb, who annoys his patient wife with his sinister belief in chemtrails, government cover-ups, and other sinister forces she doesn’t. can’t see. Oddly enough, since the series feels bored and unsure of what to do next, several other main characters we expected to appear are, for now, absent.

Where are they? What will Maeve and Caleb do next, what is the Man in Black planning, and how much of Dolores is Christina? Viewers who have come this far might not be able to resist sticking around for answers, but these are all teasers the show lays down for itself, from its own inscrutable lore. These big questions are passed over in silence.

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