March 16, 2020

SHOWBUZZDAILY Season Premiere Review: “Westworld”




With most other forms of new entertainment content sidelined for at least the next several weeks, television is likely to be even more at the center of our culture than it already is, and Season 3 of HBO’s WESTWORLD, with its dense mythology and high philosophical ambitions, seems well-placed to be a significant player.  It helps that as HBO’s promos have been making clear, this season is something of a reboot of the series, which among other things no longer takes place (at least for now) in Westworld.

The Season 3 premiere, written by series creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy and directed by Nolan, entailed quite a bit of refreshed table-setting, and even with a 70-minute length, it spent the bulk of its time with only three of our protagonists, two holdovers and a newcomer.  The newbie was Caleb (Aaron Paul), a former soldier now living in Los Angeles, troubled by his memories and eking out a living as a construction worker by day and a sort of gig economy criminal by night.  Caleb isn’t a fan of artificial intelligence–he rejects the “therapy” offered by an AI replica of one of his dead military buddies–so at some point he’s going to be surprised to learn that the woman he rescued at the end of the episode was none other than Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood).  She’s on a mission (bankrolled by blackmailing some very bad tycoons) that involves contact with a massively powerful algorithmic predictive model known as The System, which has already led to an assassination attempt.  Meanwhile, Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), blamed in his human form for the disaster at Westworld, was trying to live his life undercover (rather pointedly as a butcher), but by episode’s end he had been forced to flee and was making his way back to the park, possibly to find Maeve (Thandie Newton), who was glimpsed only in a post-credit sequence in what appeared to be WWII World.  We also briefly saw Charlotte (Tessa Thompson)–or whatever persona is currently occupying her body–in the Delos boardroom, determined to keep the park open and the company private.  There was no sign at all of William aka The Man In Black (Ed Harris).

The new Westworld is sleek and futuristic, and seems to have been financed virtually without limit by HBO.  The storytelling is streamlined, with what appears to be a single timeline that picks up 3 months after the events of Season 2, and we’re apparently out of the game of guessing who’s a host and who’s a human.  Compared to previous seasons, there’s a dearth of biblical and mythological references.  All of it makes for a more broadly entertaining watch, with Terminator-like action sequences spearheaded by Wood, and with Paul as a more sympathetic leading character than the show has offered in the past.  All that being said, Nolan and Joy keep the tone as humorless and generally brooding as ever.  In addition, some fans may find the lack of deep content to interpret causes the new inarnation of Westworld to be somewhat less distinctive than it’s been in the past.

Even if this Westworld is a more familiar sort of sci-fi thriller, it’s still loaded with great performers, and with production values many big-screen spectacles would envy.  (It looks better than Bloodshot, one of the last big-studio movies to open in theaters last weekend.)  Its 8-week length may be just what’s needed to help us get through our nationwide quarantine, and while killer robots may conceptually be something to worry about, they seem downright enjoyable compared to the real-life science stories of the moment.




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."