Doesn’t look like anything to me.
HBO’s robot sci-fi hit “Westworld” is back for Season 4 after a two-year break (Season 3 aired in the spring of 2020).
Season 4 (premiering Sunday, June 26 at 9 p.m.) takes the action out of the Western adult theme park in which past seasons were set and lands in what appears to be the real world, in a futuristic version of New York City. (Future New York also appeared in Season 3, but Season 4 picks up a few years later.)
There’s not much orientation into this new world, since the series simply throws the audience into the middle of several characters’ stories — and it’s up to us to make sense of where they are now.
Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) is living her life as a meek woman named Christina with a friendly roommate, Maya (Ariana DeBose, “West Side Story“). Christina doesn’t seem to remember her identity or her previous life, and she spends her days scripting stories for an entertainment company about background characters in video games.
She wants to write about romance, but she’s told that she needs to give her characters more violent ends. She’s also getting strange phone calls from a man who seems to think she’s controlling his life, and she wakes up every morning in the same position (which is a callback to the “loop” she was on in past seasons, at the park).
So, it seems likely that she’s living in another loop right now, with the winking bit of irony that she’s now in the position of the writer instead of a background character herself, albeit without realizing it. Of course, this begs the questions: who is controlling her loop? (if she’s in one), why is she in it? and who else around her is a robot?
Other plotlines set up similar cryptic scenarios that leave us with more questions than answers. William, aka The Man in Black (Ed Harris), is still violently wreaking havoc, with a nefarious yet vague end goal. Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) is still scheming and there are lots of symbolic images including flies and mazes. Mave (Thandiwe Newton) and Caleb (Aaron Paul) team up on a mission — but Caleb (a Season 3 addition) also now has a family with a wife and daughter, while Mave has been living a survivalist lifestyle alone in a remote cabin.
Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) is back, and so is Teddy Flood (James Marsden), Dolores’ stalwart cowboy love. He died in Season 2 and wasn’t in Season 3, but when you’re a robot, apparently death isn’t permanent.
In typical “Westworld” fashion, it’s not quite clear where this is all going, or what’s happening. It’s all interesting, though.
At its best, this show is thrilling, thoughtful and intriguing, blending an addictive plot with philosophical undertones. At its worst, it’s smugly self-serious, ponderous and seems to believe that being convoluted is akin to being smart. While Seasons 2 and 3 fell victim to the latter, so far, Season 4 intrigues. Yes, it’s confusing, but there are enough pieces of information for us to begin making sense of the storyline as it unfolds and leave us wanting more.
This feels like a return to form for “Westworld” and also feels new with the futuristic New York City setting and its characters in different narratives.
Even if you were frustrated with Season 3, this new ride is worth checking out.
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