HBO has released the first trailer for the upcoming fourth season of its visionary sci-fi drama, Westworldand it looks like we’re ready for another wild and convoluted ride.
(Spoilers for the first three seasons of Westworld below.)
As I wrote previously, the holder Westworld is one of six immersive theme parks owned and operated by a company called Delos Inc. The park is populated by a “cast” of human-looking androids, called hosts. Well-heeled visitors to the park can pretty much do whatever they want with the hosts and generally don’t view the hosts as anything more than insensitive props in their private dramas. But host creator/co-founder and Westworld park manager Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) has “awakened” a host named Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) to true sensibility. The first season ended in a bloody massacre, as the rescheduled hosts rose to exact revenge on the guests.
S2 had an even more convoluted plot spanning multiple timelines. Dolores began recruiting other hosts to fight the Delos security forces while searching for the door to the real world, intent on getting revenge by wiping out the human race. In the S2 finale, Dolores led her fellow Hosts to the Forge, a sort of central database, and several Hosts uploaded their minds to a digital world known as “the Sublime”. Dolores then transferred their minds to a safer place. Ultimately, three of the hosts were shown entering the real world in the central timeline: Dolores, Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), and a rebuilt host version of former Delos executive Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson).
The third season was the first to take place largely outside of the original virtual theme parks. Opening three months after the events of the S2 Finals, Dolores had recreated her host body. We learned that it was targeting an AI system called Rehoboam, developed by a company called Incite. To gain access to the system, Dolores had to battle its creator, Engerraund Serac (Vincent Cassel), and various other adversaries with their own motives to stop her, including William, aka the Man in Black (Ed Harris), who swore to destroy any remaining hosts.
In the S3 finale, Maeve (Thandiwe Newton) and Dolores faced off, and Dolores ended up in the hands of Serac. She was connected to Rehoboam but refused to give Serac data about the hosts, so he deleted her memories. It was actually quite an emotional scene, as in her final moments, Dolores made an emotional plea to convince Maeve to turn on Serac. Rehoboam was suppressed, William was apparently killed by a host replica of himself, and Bernard learned that the system was only delaying the collapse of human civilization, rather than preventing it. He entered the Sublime hoping to figure out how to rebuild. The last shot was Bernard reappearing in his body, covered in dust – so who knows how much time had passed?
The trailer doesn’t give us many clues as to where the story will go in the fourth season. There’s no dialogue at all, though the visuals are still stunning. We see our various main characters seemingly enjoying a perfect day – strolling through a desert, sipping coffee in a skyscraper – and then the menacing figure of the Man in Black appears, no doubt instilling a thrill of dread in those who glimpse. And it looks like the virtual park is being revived and populated with new hosts.
Westworld has always been quite sophisticated in its storytelling. That’s a big part of its appeal, of course, but as the series progresses it’s become increasingly difficult to keep up with the convoluted plot, multiple timelines, and characters – who is a host? , who is human, who been human and is now controlled by a host, which host is in which body, and so on. The third season definitely went a bit in the second half, resulting in mixed or outright negative critical reactions. I’ve always enjoyed this season a lot, but I’d like to see the series find a little more focus and recapture some of its earlier magic for S4. We will certainly be listening.
The fourth season of Westworld premieres on HBO on June 26, 2022.
Listing image by YouTube/HBO
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