May 4, 2020

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Finale Review: “Westworld”


Do Westworld‘s creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy have free will?  This third season of HBO’s was supposed to be fundamentally different from the first two, and certainly things changed in some key ways.  The action was set almost entirely in the “real world” and not the titular park, there were important new characters played by Aaron Paul and Vincent Cassel, the issue of who was and wasn’t a robot “host” was minimized, and the storytelling (despite the beliefs expressed throughout the season by Reddit) was essentially linear throughout.  And yet the series creators seemed incapable of escaping their destiny, and Season 3 was for the most part as emotionally barren, humorless and puzzling for the sake of puzzlement as the series has been all along.

The season finale, written by Nolan and Executive Producer Denise The, and directed by Jennifer Getzinger, took a couple of stabs at being more than a mystery box.  First, there was an almost throwaway scene where Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), the robot version of the Westworld park’s co-creator Arnold, paid a visit to Arnold’s elderly widow to apologize for what “he” had done to their marriage.  More importantly, the confirmation of the fan theory that the seemingly random meeting early in the season between Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Caleb (Paul) was anything but, came with the reveal that Dolores had chosen Caleb as her human avatar because while in the park for military training years earlier, he had convinced his fellow soldiers not to rape her and the other female hosts, providing evidence of humanity’s ability to choose good.

But the show’s heart barely seemed to be in those moments.  Much more of the season was devoted to detailing the ways in which even the human characters were basically a combination of implanted memories and manipulated destinies, all supervised by the mega-computer known as Rehoboam, which controlled every aspect of existence in order to keep mankind from destroying itself.  Even the show’s nod to having a human super-villain in the person of Serac (Cassel) turned out to be a fake-out, with the trillionaire literally speaking the lines Rehoboam provided into his ear.

The driving storyline of the season was Dolores’s plan to … what exactly?  Even with the entire season in the books, it wasn’t entirely clear.  Apparently she devoted all her efforts to bringing down Rehoboam in the hope that mankind would in fact kill itself off, even if that took decades, leaving the planet free for hosts.  It also appeared that Rehoboam/Serac’s goal to acquire the records of every Westworld guest in order to further perfect its precognition abilities was another fake, since that data never appeared.  Instead, Bernard carried in his CPU a copy of the “Valley Beyond,” where all the other hosts had been given a heavenly home in Seaosn 2.  Maeve (the dazzling Thandie Newton), forced into servitude by Rehoboam/Serac against Dolores, had almost nothing to do during the season except be cool until her inevitable turn against Rehoboam/Serac late in the finale, and Jeffrey Wright and Ed Harris (as William aka the Man In Black) were even less developed, although Tessa Thompson as Charlotte, a clone of Dolores who developed her own point of view, had a somewhat meatier role.

Season 3 was always watchable, with major action set-pieces in each episode, and all the production values that a key to HBO’s vault could provide.  The cast, however little they had in the way of material, was never less than impeccable.  It was as always fun to try to anticipate the show’s endless supply of complications.  But as with Seasons 1 and 2, the overall effect was less than satisfying.

The Westworld season ended with a couple of post-credit sequences that suggested a further reboot may be in the works for the Season 4 that’s already been ordered.  In one, Charlotte was creating a seeming new horde of hosts, including the host version of William (who promptly murdered his human counterpart).  In the other, we saw a Bernard who had returned from what appeared to be years or even decades in the Valley Beyond, which may foretell a major time jump.  Even with a the promise of an entirely new world to depict, however, can Westworld ever overtake its programming?



About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."