Westworld season 4 premieres on HBO Sunday, June 26th. I was recently given the opportunity to screen the first 4 episodes for review. Spoiler warning below for past seasons as I give my thoughts on the next one and the series overall.
HBO’s Westworld has had a bit of a shaky run. Adapted from the 1973 movie of the same name, Lisa Joy & Jonathan Nolan’s series has had 3 seasons and 28 episodes released thus far (adding up to a terrifying 29 hours of showtime).
Season 1 was a beautiful story easily described as “50% Jurassic Park, 50% Blade Runner.” Season 2 switched it up a bit, getting more narratively complicated but doubling down on most of the same themes. Season 3 then switched it up a lot, becoming unrecognizable in most aspects and taking a surprising dip in quality.
First thoughts on Westworld Season 4
I think the approach to season 4 is best represented in Evan Rachel Wood’s character, Christina. It’s a fresh start and a new beginning. At first, it seems like Christina is someone completely new, but the parallels to Wood’s previous character Dolores are obvious. The framing of the bed when she wakes up every morning is the same, and Christina has a knack for painting just like Dolores did.
But as I said, it’s still a clear reset of the status quo. Instead of a girl in the country living with her father, she’s living in a small apartment in the big city with her roommate (played by the wonderful Ariana DeBose).
It’s a much-needed breath of fresh air after the last two seasons where we saw Dolores on a relentless mission for revenge and dominance. As much as I disliked season 3, it did a lot in terms of putting our characters in compelling places – specifically with Caleb and Maeve.
They spent a vague amount of time between seasons together making sure Rehoboam was offline, and in that time they grew together. But by the time we catch up with them, they’re in completely different places. Maeve is trying to stay off the grid and Caleb is working in the city, having built a family.
These are just a couple of examples of how the show reinvents itself. The characters are recognizable but new. The growth they went through off-screen is reflected in their actions and their choices. It’s a sign of maturity for the show, knowing exactly what is and isn’t necessary to experience for the story they want to tell. It creates a great sense of efficiency and movement for the world and story.
Compared to past seasons of Westworld
I also want to point out just how perfectly done episode 1 of season 4 is. One of my biggest gripes of season 3 is that it gave the audience very little time to adjust to the new world and dynamics laid out in front of us. They just thrust us right into the conflict with no time to adjust to all the changes made.
Season 4 doesn’t make the same mistake, and in fact, they spend lots of time laying out this new world and narrative. They get you comfortable with the status quo before the story kicks off and gets going. It makes all the difference to get the audience grounded before sweeping them up in the forward-moving story.
That rock-solid foundation set in episode 1 makes the rest of the season much more enjoyable as a result. All the story beats, decisions made, and even the twists and turns feel so much more clearly defined. It’s organic and natural the way the story moves and grows; it almost gets into a kind of rhythm. It allows me to patiently sit back and let the story come to me instead of me constantly begging the story to move forward.
While watching season 3, I constantly found myself wishing I could just inject the knowledge of what happened into my mind rather than having to sit through all 8 episodes. But watching season 4 at no point did I find myself impatient for what was to come.
Season 4 may help 3 seem better
How seasons 3 and 4 interact with each other isn’t all that dissimilar from the way that seasons 1 and 2 intertwined. Season 1 worked to establish the world and the status quo before tearing it down, and season 2 wallowed in the fallout of season 1. I think the same can be said about seasons 3 and 4, though to varying degrees of success.
Season 4 doesn’t take place directly in the aftermath of 3 like 2 did for 1, but the parallels are there. I even think that should season 4 continue at such a high level, it could work to make season 3 better in hindsight for me. Better understanding the outcome of things set up in 3 could birth a new desire to revisit 3 and understand its intentions and executions more deeply.
Season 4 has been a vast improvement over the flat and uninteresting season 3. It’s taken everything season 3 offered and executed it at its fullest potential. It feels like the creative beast that Westworld used to be is finally back.
But on top of that, it’s just fun to watch these wonderful actors perform to their highest levels. Tessa Thompson, Jeffery Wright, Ed Harris, Luke Hemsworth, Aaron Paul, and Thandiwe Newton are all seriously fun to watch work and they’re given excellent stuff to work within these episodes.
Are you excited to see season 4 of Westworld? Let us know in the comments or on social media!