Westworld is back with a more or less dreaded season 4, after a very disappointing season 3. What is the first episode of the HBO series still led by Evan Rachel Wood worth?
The summary of season 3 of Westworld to navigate.
Ratings drop season after season, (apparent) public excitement soars year after year, but HBO clings to Westworld. Adapted from the movie Worldwest by Michael Crichton, the series by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy returns for a season 4, still led by Evan Rachel Wood and Thandiwe Newton. And among the familiar faces there is also that of Aaron Paul, who arrived in season 3 and is obviously central to the story to come.
After leaving the park at the end of the beautiful season 2, and at the end of a deeply wobbly season 3, where can Westworld ? Few answers, but many fears in this first episode of season 4, entitled The Auguries.
Seven years after the revolution that broke out in season 3, seven years after the destruction of the Rehoboam magic ball, seven years after Dolores’ ultimate sacrifice… not much has changed in the world of Westworld. The streets of the big cities still look like a PS-EELV brochure of central Paris, the characters still border on depression, and Evan Rachel Wood is still there.
Dolores is no longer Dolores (unless yet another surprise). She is Christina, a mere human, employed in a video game company where she is a screenwriter. She lives in a roommate with Ariana DeBose (Oscar winner for her roommate of West Side Story), and dreams of another life. But above all she is harassed by a mysterious manwho calls him to blame him for destroying his existence.
Dolo – Rest in peace (or not)
Maeve is still Maeve. Isolated in a hut, in full introspection, she is haunted by her memories and in particular that of her daughter, and obviously has powers that cannot be controlled. It only needs a small Darkhold to join the Multiverse of Madness. She will come out of her retirement in spite of herself by atomizing a group of evil mercenaries who have come to hunt her after years of tranquility.
Caleb is still a lowly worker, whose life almost returned to normal after the revolution. Except that he has a daughter with a quasi-Maeve look-alike, and he finds that he has always been right to remain paranoid when a man comes to try to kill them. Before being killed by Samurai Maeva.
This first episode is that of the new Holy Trinity of the series, with three characters separated, but united by a manhunt-android that begins. But in reality, the real engine that justifies a season 4 is a well-known figure: William, aka the man in black, aka the angry man, who announces the color in the intro.
Back to square one (or almost)
the return of the king
Slightly tossed around since season 2 and become almost cumbersome in the plots, the gunslinger played by Ed Harris had hit rock bottom and lost everything at the start of season 3. He got up to take up arms again, but in the post-generic scene of the last episode it was finally shot, his throat slit in a Delos laboratory in Dubai. Ironically, he was defeated by himself, by a host in his likeness, created by Charlotte/Dolores.
This is therefore the first big question of this season 4. Is he really dead? Does season 4 show a William who survived with rabies, or this host William controlled by Charlotte, who had announced that she was going to use it to “save the world”? Hint: his throat seems to be in very good condition in the intro scene. Clue bis: it would be consistent with the post-credits scene of season 2, taking place in the future.
“Welcome to the end, William”
Either way, whether he’s a Charlotte puppet or not, this new Man in Black finally seems to be finding his ferocity – and his usefulness – back. He is the one who opens season 4, he is the one who directs the best of this episode, with a devilishly effective and gripping long pre-credits scene. For about ten minutes, he orchestrates a massacre with an icy masterful hand, thanks to a still enigmatic technology: synthetic flies, visibly capable of taking control of a human to transform him into a puppet.
It will not reappear afterwards, but his shadow once again hangs over the world of Westworld. The idea is simple, but after the antagonist in rubber embodied by Vincent Cassel in season 3, she is welcome. And thanks to him, this season 4 starts on the wheel hats.
The world after
For the man who shot faster than his shadow, it’s a fascinating evolution in weapon choice. No more running, chasing, aiming. The man in black is now the talking man, almost like an abstraction. The staging of Richard J. Lewis (executive producer of the series, which directs at least one episode at the start of each season) serves Ed Harris magnificently. He who had been set aside several times in Westworld returns like a king to settle accounts, accompanied by the obviously excellent music of Ramin Djawadi (these distressing sounds in the intro), in the midst of still impressive decors.
This intro is so strong it seems redefine this character, as if appearing for the first time. William (Charlotte?) wants to buy it all back and take it all back. He wants to recover what Dolores stole, and is obviously ready to do anything to achieve it. This swarm of hell flies (teased in the season’s promo and in the center of the new credits), as mysterious as they are creepy, is a new kind of threat which opens up many new perspectives for Westworld.
Take the fly + split the pear
Except that this first episode will not recover from this beautiful dark intro, placed under a blazing sun. Dance Westworld resumes, but no more beautiful, with a series of demonstrative scenes who are content to roughly redefine the characters in this universe which has barely evolved.
Maeve is a lone warrior? Of course, she lives in a cabin lost in the forest, in the snow. Caleb is plagued by a certain paranoia? He teaches his daughter to use a plastic gun, you never know. He needs a reason to go back to war? He will have “a family to protect”. Dolores Christina is a lonely young woman who dreams of something else? She writes stories that are a bit (too) sentimental, and gets bored on a date.
The pawns may be interesting, but this beginning of the game, much less. In short: it is very easy to get bored watching this first episode of season 4, particularly after a season 3 which had abused the patience and passion of the public. Out of the park, the series had shone by the heaviness of its big clogs, and its inability to choose a destination, then arrive there without scattering. Caution is therefore called for facing the fourth season, and this first episode gives reason to stick with it.
Evan Rachel Who Are You
But Westworld is also a perfect trap for the imagination, and the writers are aware of it. This season 4 therefore brings its share of mysteries, in the middle of which stands the excellent Evan Rachel Wood. Dolores is indeed dead this time, everyone has repeated it, but the presence of the actress, as well as her place in the foreground, confirms that this face will remain that of Westworld. She has one of the most beautiful lines of the episode (“What if I’m not the one that’s broken, and what if it’s the world that needs fixing?”), and it remains the heart of this world.
Who is this Christina? Pure genetic coincidence would be a total joke. Another hidden copy would be almost comical. But in Westworld, everything is possible. The staging obviously plays on this parallel, with the shot on his face when he wakes up, his innocent look in front of his reflection, his daydreams linked to a house in nature and then a big city, or even the relationship with men-aggressors . Everything indicates that there is a deep link between this a priori normal woman, and the warrior heroine who ravaged the world of Delos in the name of freedom.
See you in another life
This is perhaps the most beautiful idea of the series, and the one that could save it: slide towards an ever more philosophical and poetic narrative, where beings (living and synthetic) are put back on the same plane of souls and destinies. As if the world, beyond the park, was still a gigantic ecosystem, where everything is linked and programmed.
The episode ends precisely with the appearance of another man in the dark, who has the face of Teddy to stalker Dolores Christina in front of her house. No surprise effect, the return of James Mardsen had been revealed during the promo. But there again, it is a question that leads to fifteen others. And that makes you want to see the sequel.
Mission accomplished, and see you in a week.
A new episode of Westworld season 4, every week, from June 27, in US+24 on OCS