The HBO series is six episodes into its eight-episode third season, with its finale scheduled for Sunday, May 3. The show was renewed for a fourth season on April 22.
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NOTE: The content below contains mild spoilers going back to the first season of "Westworld." Continue reading at your own risk.
“These violent delights have violent ends.”
The quote belongs to William Shakespeare, originally scripted for Friar Laurence to say in the 16th century play “Romeo and Juliet.” But unless one is a bardolater, the line is now likely more synonymous with viewers of “Westworld,” a sci-fi series which airs Sunday nights on HBO.
When Shakespeare’s line is first uttered in an early episode of “Westworld,” it’s spoken by Dolores Abernathy, an android — otherwise known as a host — who looks and behaves like a human. She’s from an expansive theme park in the 2050s that's owned by a conglomerate called Delos that catered to rich clients who were looking to indulge in their fantasies in an 1800s American western setting until disaster struck the park at the end of season one. Dolores is played by Evan Rachel Wood, and featured since the show’s inception. She has endured a path that’s often relatable but difficult to discern, making it tough to decide whether she’s a hero or villain.
If all the characters of “Westworld” are meant to populate a chess board, Dolores is one of the game’s queens. Who is the king she represents? That’s debatable. What’s certain is that Maeve Millay is queen on the other side of the board. Portrayed by Thandie Newton, Maeve is seductive, powerful, and she seems to be the only host capable of challenging Dolores.
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The first episode of “Westworld,” titled “The Original,” premiered on Oct. 2, 2016, kicking off a 10-episode first season that’s based on Michael Crichton’s 1973 movie of the same name. Now — three and a half years and 26 episodes later — just two episodes have yet to debut this spring. A fourth season was announced on April 22.
Given the show’s usual production timeline, with development of the series beginning in 2013, and projects that series co-creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy are committed to developing, it’s reasonable to suggest the fourth season will likely debut sometime in 2022.
Nolan and Joy, who are married, inked a reported five-year, $150 million contract with Amazon Studios a year ago and are developing programming for Amazon Prime Video via their production company, Kilter Films. In addition to their commitments to Amazon, Joy wrote and directed “Reminiscence,” a sci-fi film that’ll be distributed by Warner Bros., starring Newton with Hugh Jackman and Rebecca Ferguson. That feature is scheduled for release next April.
With new urban landscapes juxtaposing the theme park setting that’s prominent throughout the previous two seasons, the show has taken several turns since returning this year. It’s now more dystopian and a lot less western, and though it remains visually stunning with dynamic visual effects and vivid landscapes, the primary motivation of the characters in the series has shifted as what hosts remain have broken free of their digital shackles to inhabit the reality outside the park that Nolan and Joy have created.
The Delos of old is also emphatically different, as it’s now vulnerable — having been infiltrated to setup a hostile takeover bid. Another key difference from prior seasons is the shuffling of characters — both inside and outside of Delos — and how new relationships have been cultivated to form new alliances targeted for survival.
The narrative structure of the show has also pivoted, with new episodes — for the most part — taking place in linear order. In prior seasons, plot threads were interwoven into multiple story arcs and timelines that could be both fun and difficult to keep up with.
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There are also new cast members. Newcomers Caleb Nichols and Engerraund Serac, played by Aaron Paul and Vincent Cassel, respectively, provide new depth and obstacles as Dolores pursues her agenda on a global scale. Caleb provides companionship and security to Dolores, much like James Marsden’s Teddy had in years past. Serac, meanwhile, is the counterpoint to both Dolores and Delos, gobbling up assets such as Maeve to do his bidding.
Though the current season of “Westworld” comes with a new coat of paint, a simplified narrative structure, and new personalities and cityscapes to engage with that spark new life, there are a few blemishes.
The fifth episode of the season, titled “Genre,” aired on April 12, and provides some of the show’s biggest moments to date but it also serves a hefty dollop of exposition onto viewers’ dinner plates as Serac overpowers the episode with the narration of his backstory. He offers filtered glimpses into his past, and while some of those moments help fit him into the show’s larger narrative puzzle, the scenes lack tension and sometimes cohesion. Directed by Anna Foerster with a script from Karrie Crouse and Nolan, the episode misses the finesse of prior episodes which is a shame given its intended scope and ambition.
The most recent episode, “Decoherence,” aired this past Sunday, and subjects Tessa Thompson’s Charlotte Hale to Serac’s expansion of power, offering unique opportunities for Thompson to explore different facets of her character that she hadn’t been able to in prior seasons. Directed by Jennifer Getzinger with a story from Suzanne Wrubel and Joy, the episode glides at a slow pace, but it lights the fuse of a bomb that’s likely to blow big in the next two episodes.
Co-starring Jeffrey Wright as Bernard Lowe, Luke Hemsworth as Ashley Stubbs, Simon Quarterman as Lee Sizemore and Ed Harris as William, the Man in Black, the series has music from Ramin Djawadi and is the winner of nine Emmys.
Just like Friar Laurence suggests in “Romeo & Juliet,” disaster seems imminent. Let’s just hope the next two episodes fulfill their promise to ease the wait until the fourth season premieres.