Westworld is a series with excellent acting, unique photography and soundtrack, and the old story of Power destroying the soul, what a world dominated by artificial intelligence will be like, who will really win to dominate technology, etc. The award-winning (justifiably) HBO Max franchise, debuted with a complex non-linear narrative, mixing the timeline in the presentation of the characters and the purpose of each one. There were exciting and surprising twists in the first two stages and, while visually stunning, a bit tricky to understand or connect to in the third. That’s why this fourth phase is very different from all of them, especially in the narrative. In just two episodes, we already know who’s who, what’s going on, and what each side wants (it’s a bit of a short story of exemplary good guys). A radical change that simplifies the series in everything.
Before the series premiered, I made a point of watching the 1973 film of the same name, the embryo of everything we’re seeing and starring Yul Brynner (in the role that is now Ed Harris). It’s a suffocating film, dated in terms of special effects and very strange even almost 50 years ago.
The original Westworld was the first film directed by the writer Michael Crichton. It was written as a screenplay, but released as a book in 1972, before hitting the screens in 1973. With only 107 pages, the proposal could seem simple (or short), which didn’t take away from its depth. In Brazil, it got a spoiler subtitle: Where Nobody Has Soul.
The work has impacted many artists, including director John Carpenter, who created his iconic psychopath Mike Meyers, from the Halloween franchise, inspired by the man in black, as well as James Cameron recommended Arnold Schwarzenegger to think of Yul Brynner‘s character to create The Terminator. That’s right, William has repercussions on some of the most famous characters in pop culture.
Thanks to critical acclaim, Westworld got a sequel, Futureworld, which didn’t have the same impact. All the innovation of showing the villain’s point of view (literally) and special effects (which we find almost comical today, but were groundbreaking half a century ago) turned the movies into a cult, but it was with HBO Max’s inspired-by-reboot that finally, the story gained the scope dreamed of by the author. In those 50 years that separated the original from its revisit, Michael Crichton revived the concept of the “amusement park gone wrong” to transport us to Jurassic Park, but that’s material for another (and promised) post.
The HBO Max series appears to have taken a nosedive in season 3, when it left Westworld park and transported the fight of the androids, which we call “hosts”, to the real and futuristic world. Although experts and YouTube channels proliferate to theorize and explain the non-linear narrative, the plot is left with an apparent lack of purpose and is full of twists. The number of hosts and true humans has gone gray, and the study of the destruction of the soul of an initially well-meaning man (William) has lost some of its connection with the public. So we come to the 4th part of the story with a big “so what?”, in a war virtually impossible for humans to win. The decision was to simplify everything.
In terms of expectations, we have well-defined sides, even though we still have a lot to answer for. The evil version of Dolores, Wyatt, is now embodied by Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson). Her human version, as far as we can tell, was murdered by her host. “Charlotte-Wyatt” goes ahead with the plan to eradicate human life from the earth. To prevent William (Ed Harris) from exterminating them earlier, she managed to have the human version of the man “killed”, at the post-credits of the final episode of the last season. Then, Charlotte multiplied William into a host even more vicious than the tortured character. The big reveal of episode 2 of season 4 is that we learn that William is not dead after all (apparently the androids have him as a backup plan of some sort) but for now is trapped and frozen somewhere, with his perfect copy continuing the criminal life he began in the premiere season.
Maeve (Thandiwe Newton) and Caleb (Aaron Paul) are the (violent) good guys, as well as Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), who we still haven’t found, and only in the third episode will we know how he can help. Dolores, now Christine (Evan Rachel Wood) is apparently out of the amusement park, but clearly monitored and controlled. She seems to be back to her original game level, where she lives in a lukewarm reality with a few flashes that something is out of order. We know Teddy (James Marsden) is back and around too.
With everything laid out in the open, the hosts want world domination, the big turning point of the season was transporting Maeve back to the park, where although she is still powerful, she’s not fully sure of the rules once the system has been updated and she is no longer an integral part from the Web. They dropped us off in 1930s Chicago, a violent, crime-ridden city like the original Westerns were. Tying it all together will be less complicated than before, at least, but still potentially surprising.
In Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan‘s version of Westworld, the difference from Michael Crichton‘s story was to turn the host androids into the sometimes empathetic victims of a world created and dominated by human arrogance, greed, and cruelty rather than shallow villains out of control. In common, history holds the revolt against the exception and how the ways to reimagine the world still reflect the violence of an oppressive reality. As we know, it can get more “simple”, but never less profound.