Westworld (2016)

Written by MSB on March 16, 2020

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Original Review (based on the season's first four episodes handed to press) HBO hit a massive fail with the final season of Game of Thrones, but their quality regarding TV shows didn't seem to suffer from that. Westworld is one of HBO's biggest/best series, and in my opinion, it's the one that currently occupies the throne that GOT ruled for years. Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy created an extremely complex narrative, filled with mind-blowing twists, and truly remarkable character-building. Season three promised to be totally different, having in mind last season's game-changing finale, so expectations are undoubtedly very high...

While it's true that Westworld packs jaw-dropping twists, the previous seasons differ from one another concerning this aspect. In season one, the twists serve the story, but in the second one, it felt like the story was serving the twists. This resulted in a few "less great" episodes due to the loss of tension and of well-balanced pacing, occasionally losing the interest of its viewers. In addition to this, most twists were so foreshadowed that the last few episodes lacked that powerful punch to knock us out.

Season three goes back to basics. Last season's finale works almost like a reboot of the series regarding its environment, rules, and even characters. Most of the series is set in the real world so far, but there are a few sequences in familiar places. Dolores' plan seems simple, but since this is Westworld, the last half of the season will probably provide a few surprises, so keep your eyes wide open.

I can't really delve into what each character is doing, but according to the trailers, writing that Bernard and Maeve have an essential role in this season shouldn't come as a shock. Both possess two very intriguing arcs, and I'm definitely interested in knowing how they will connect to Dolores' storyline. Aaron Paul's Caleb doesn't have that much screentime in the first four episodes. Nevertheless, he receives a well-written backstory, and his subplot not only tells the audience everything about him, but it also shows how the real world works.

My biggest compliment to the first half of this season is about each episode's structure. Every single episode starts and ends with something impactful. Each time I started one, I was instantly captivated by what was happening, and every ending left me with an extreme curiosity to watch the next one. Fortunately, I had the "next episode" button, but it will definitely be interesting to see how fans will react to weeks of waiting for the next (great) episode. Throughout each chapter, the story flows naturally without those confusing, exaggerated, twistful narratives of season two.

So far, it's a pretty straightforward main plot, but the unsolved mysteries still carry that aura of unpredictability, which makes season three a perfect structure to deliver a phenomenal, shocking finale. The acting continues to be top-notch with everyone just giving their all. So far, my standouts are Tessa Thompson (Charlotte Hale) and Evan Rachel Wood. Ed Harris (William) also delivers an outstanding display, but the two women are unbelievably good, especially Thompson. Technically, the episodes were still a work in progress, but the production and visual quality of HBO are impressive as always.

All in all, Westworld returns with a perfect season's structure to blow every fan's mind away once again. The real world looks incredible, every character gets a very intriguing story, but the first and last few minutes of each episode are absolutely fantastic. Each chapter instantly grabs the viewer's attention, and the ending leaves everyone craving for the next episode. Tessa Thompson is the absolute standout, but Evan Rachel Wood continues to prove her impressive acting skills. Aaron Paul should have more screentime in the last half of the season, but so far, both he and Caleb are pretty great. Excellent pacing, brilliant tension-building regarding the central mystery, and wonderfully-written dialogues. Four episodes, nothing truly negative to point out. Hoping for a second-half as great or better than the first.