Nearing the end of Westworld

Westworld Season Four, Episodes 1 -4, 2022, 4K UHD

Part of the appeal for me of Westworld is its obvious Replicant = Host parallels with Blade Runner, and the ‘what-is-reality?’ question that runs throughout so much of author Philip K Dick’s work- in some ways the show has always seemed as much an exploration of Philip K Dick’s oeuvre as it is Michael Crichton 1973 film Westworld. Indeed, as the show moved away from its Wild West-inspired theme park it became a temptation to think its what a Blade Runner 3 might have been had a film followed-up the Replicant rebellion plotline from Blade Runner 2049, or perhaps some precursor to what the Blade Runner 2099 TV series will prove to be. Leaving the theme park setting antagonised and frustrated some fans, who might have preferred something a little more… not routine exactly, but a season set in Futureworld or Medievalworld. Instead the showrunners, for good or ill, had other ideas, grander ambitions, taking it out into the real world beyond and a future apocalypse, a cautionary warning about technology and AI and the dangers they bring for a possibly obsolete humanity that’s part Terminator, part Blade Runner.

Its the end of the world, and its the end of the series.

I’m four episodes in now, at the midway point, so that end is getting near. Probably, its going to be a non-ending.  Maybe the cancellation by HBO changes nothing- if ever this maddeningly brilliant, maddeningly infuriating series was going to be so ordinary and mundane as to give us anything like a definitive ending, but hey, I guess we’ll never know now. So watching this season is a strange experience of watching the clock, desperately hoping the series isn’t going to waste any time on superfluous plot points, knowing there’s only so many episodes left, and hoping that whatever season ending these eight episodes arrive at, it somehow works as an overall ending for the series as a whole. Too much to ask for? Probably. But I am enjoying this last ride .

Because its pretty damn good, still full of lofty ideas but somehow easier to digest. After the muddled third season (I quite enjoyed it for the inevitability of some of its technological ideas, but I know it had its issues) this show is back on track. While its not as nuanced, sophisticated or balls-to-the-wall ambitious as the show’s tremendous first season, there’s possibly an argument to be made that instead its clearer, more defined, maybe a little bit more traditional, mainstream, which seems a deliberate choice by the showrunners. Maybe an admission they took everything a little too far in turning its plot into a narrative Rubiks cube? Oh the irony that just when the show got a little less obtuse and toned down some of its elements that alienated the mainstream crowd, it got cancelled.

While its a pale shadow of its tremendous first season (and to be fair, that was one of the best seasons of television drama ever made, so that was inevitable really), the fourth season of Westworld looks to be absolutely splendid and having reached the midpoint its clearly a definite improvement on the third season. Unfortunately, the series cancellation looms every episode, every plotline, so watching this season is a strange experience of watching the clock and hoping that whatever season ending these eight episodes arrive at somehow works as an overall ending for the series as a whole. Too much to ask for? Probably. But I am enjoying this last ride (hell, its worth it just for every minute of Ed Harris’ Man in Black).

But how maddening will the end of this journey prove to be?

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