This capillary situation? Fun!
Picture: John Johnson/HBO
At the end of this week’s episode of Westworld, the show unveils the new flagship amusement park of the season: Prohibitionland! Ed Harris doesn’t really call it that, but he might as well have when, in the middle of a Disney Investor Day-like conference, he tells everyone that the sinister Delos company is welcoming people to the “golden age” and we cut to Thandiwe Newton and Aaron Paul disembarking from a train in costumes stolen from a regional production of guys and dolls and enter what appears to be a Roaring Twenties alley. The music swells with a swinging brass fanfare just as the show cuts to the credits, passing a moment that reads like greatness. I laughed. Oh noI thought while looking at it, it’s funny.
Westworldespecially in its previous season, is not a show I would ever associate with the word fun. After spending two years unraveling the mysteries of consciousness primarily against the backdrop of its AI-filled Western theme park, the show has branched out into the real world in its third season with only the thinnest broth of ideas for to maintain. The season was set mostly in a dreary, futuristic Los Angeles, featured a dreary, futuristic version of Aaron Paul named Caleb, and dealt with dreary, futuristic ideas like “What if robots staged a corporate control?” I watched the show as it aired when the pandemic hit, and even talked to Ed Harris about it (he said ‘it wasn’t the happiest season for me’, this which, even), and yet when the fourth season premiered this year, I realized that I had learned very little from it. I watched the finale, read a recap of the finale, and could barely explain what Rehoboam was, mostly because I kept thinking about Delaware instead. A giant AI orb that controlled humanity through data or something? Fortunately it no longer exists, I’m sure. [Editor’s note: Caleb does make Rehoboam delete itself in the finale.]
The good news of this season of Westworld it’s that he seems to remember as much of the previous season as you or me. Things start off with all the characters stuck in separate storylines, which are probably separate timelines, because that’s how things go. Maeve (Newton) is dragged from her retreat and attacked by men sent by William (Harris, now a host, who still doesn’t seem to be enjoying herself), then goes and brings Caleb back on a mission to stop William. Meanwhile, William himself is involved in a land-buying scheme to get his hands on the Hoover Dam, which has Data inside of it. Finally, and most delightfully, Evan Rachel Wood lives in New York as a woman named Christina who has a roommate named Oscar winner Ariana DeBose. Christina works as a character designer at a video game company, where she focuses on writing scenarios for NPCs. Things are going pretty well for her, except she has rom-com issues in her love life and sometimes she gets mysterious calls from a man who yells about “the tower” and accuses her of ruining her life. .
There’s a levity to the scenes with Christina in particular that makes this season so much more fun to watch. The dialogue between her and her best friend, Oscar winner Ariana DeBose, is stilted in a way that feels like watching an AI trying to write a romantic comedy, which I believe is in the game. expected effect. Most of its scenes also take place outside of Chelsea, Hudson Yards, and the High Line, which collectively feel like an AI trying to design a human city. When James Marsden appears in the first episode as Christina’s potential romantic partner, the score plays an orchestral version of Lana Del Rey’s “Video Games.” People, she writes video games!
Admittedly, the previous season of Westworld started with its own intriguing scatterplot of characters and failed to resolve into a cohesive whole. But this season there’s at least a lighter touch to the story and a clearer purpose for its characters. Maeve and Caleb have a clear mission (stop people coming after us), and Christina has two mysteries to solve (what’s the tower, and what does a girl have to do to land a guy in the big city?). By the time Maeve and Caleb take a stroll through the Jazz Age Park in episode two, I was so up for the ride that I decided to go ahead and immediately watch the next two screens that HBO sent to the press. I won’t spoil any further development except to say that the show mysteriously continues to be fun, and there’s a piano cover that had me laughing out loud. Robots have learned to have fun. The implications are terrifying, but for now, it makes for good television.