Westworld landed with a brilliant first season and a second season with ups and downs, but it ended spectacularly. Therefore, a new future and a totally different status quo laid upon us. After two years on hold, that future arrived, and just as we expected, it had little to do with what we saw in the previous 20 episodes.
What Started to Happen?
Watch where you run off to
This new season begins by placing the pieces on the board to see what has become of our protagonists during the 3 months following the escape from the park. Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) is now free and continues in her revenge against those who created her and played gods. Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) is a fugitive from being accused of the famous incident and Maeve (Thandie Newton) wakes up in a park based in Fascist Italy. Meanwhile, the Delos Corporation will try to recover from the chaos caused by the hosts, with the threat of a new enemy, Serac (Vincent Cassell).
It’s time to forget the Wild West and focus on this futuristic present, where Caleb Nichols, a new character played by Aaron Paul, an ex-soldier trying to overcome past traumas, whose life will be turned upside down when he meets our beloved Dolores.
This change of setting and 180º turn is good for the series, even if the name loses sense – thus disappointing some fans – this created the most natural and coherent course within the plot.
What to expect now… and where
Westworld is still a quality series, but it is true that it has lost several of its signs of identity this season. Goodbye to the jigsaw timelines that we loved so much in the first two seasons. With the exception of a few flashbacks, we now got a much more linear and easy to follow structure, perhaps because of several complaints the show received over the last couple of years.
Visually few series manage to fill up at the level of Westworld. This new season completely changes the scenario, taking us out of the park, presenting us with a totally futuristic world, where the production design is outstanding. Vehicles, architecture, wardrobe… everything is taken care of in the smallest detail to transport us to 2058.
However, this new setting is much colder, artificial, and impersonal than its predecessor in the west. Including the new characters, who somewhat lacking in charisma and personality. The action in many cases is spectacular but ends up becoming chase sequences, explosions, and gunshots in which it does not matter who is injured or dies because nothing is definitive and everything is reversible.
Our Beloved Characters
Where are thou?
Furthermore, many of the main characters have ceased to be important. Jeffrey Wright’s character Bernard, a key figure in the conflict, has been quite isolated, being relegated to a secondary role, as has William (Ed Harris), yet another incredibly attractive character in the series. Both go back and forth, without any clear weight in the plot of this season and totally wasted. The appearance of other Westworld hosts is reduced to mere cameos with which to bring a smile to the fans.
The new plot, in addition to Paul’s new character, is based mainly on the characters of Dolores, Maeve, and Charlotte (Tessa Thompson), supported by several actresses – always very remarkable – but whose characters end up blurring the plot. The incentives of their characters this season are erratic, ambiguous, and change according to the convenience of the script.
If there is something that never disappoints about Westworld, it’s the soundtrack. The new intro, perfectly accompanied by the outstanding Ramin Djawadi and his disturbing piano melody, continues to leave us speechless. Thus, music is another strong point of the series, with a more electronic and futuristic soundtrack and a selection of famous songs, which have been carefully chosen to contrast some moments on screen.
Free Will is Not Free
These violent delights have violent ends
Another feature that amazed us was the very interesting mythology of Delos and the parks, which this season, except for a couple of episodes, remain in an anecdotal and referential plane. Instead, we have a new troupe, Incite, and a new villain, Serac, who do not bring anything different nor do they interest us at any time. This 180-degree turn is risky and it is good that they reinvent themselves. Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy said they would do it with every season, but at times it seems that they improvise and stretch the plot unnecessarily with filler.
Perhaps this new, more accessible approach to action will engage their detractors and gain new viewers. Many of us who fell in love with her characters and her mythology will still be in it to see how it ends, but many others will jump off the boat at the irregularity of it.
As usual, the ending has a rather shocking post-scene but it leaves us confused again and with a lot of new unknowns. Renewed for a fourth season, but with half the expected ratings. Westworld is still carrying on, yet the problem is:
Where to now?
We still have a tad left before we can dive into season four of Westworld, but until then we have plenty of opportunities to discover the jewels that are out there in the streaming realm. Let’s see what can fulfil our desires and perhaps hook as from the beginning to the end.
Pick #1: Altered Carbon
Westworld meets Bladerunner
Altered Carbon draws us to the end of the 24th century. The Earth is but one of many planets on which humanity is now part of the cosmos. In this dystopian future, death has ceased to be a problem, at least as we conceive it today: technology and the discovery of a revolutionary material in one of the confines of the universe has made it possible for our consciousness, everything that makes us human, to be stored in a kind of cortical disk that is implanted at birth at the base of the skull.
Just as it has always happened, and will always continue to happen, access to this technology, which is feasible for everyone, has generated divisions, not only religious ones – the most radical Catholics refuse to be “resurrected” in order to have access to heaven – but also between those of a small elite – the Meths, in reference to Methuselah – who can afford to change their bodies at will, and the rest of the population, who must wait for their time to expire in order to live a new existence.
Having died 250 years before the action began, the conscience of Takeshi Kovacs (Anthony Mackie), a legendary Envoy – a military man trained to withstand the rigors of interstellar wars -, is rescued by Laurens Bancroft (James Purefoy), a multimillionaire Meth, to find out the truth of the mysterious circumstances in which his previous body died: while the police think that his “death” was a clear suicide, Bancroft believes that he was murdered. Welcome to the intriguing future presented by the original Netflix series.
Pick #2: Humans
What makes us Humɐns?
London – the present. Artificial intelligence has reached its maximum potential, creating “synthetic” beings with an incredibly human aspect: physically, only their eyes and their body language betrays them. But they are little more than programmed machines, created to serve man: as labor or domestic slaves, but also sexual. Cheap and simple labor, without desires, emotions, or demands. Part of the health system, of men’s daily life and also of new aberrations and entertainment.
Once again, a dystopian fable made by Channel 4 (Black Mirror and Utopia) makes us think about human nature in its relationship with technology. In the scenario presented by Humans (brought to us in the States by AMC, who co-produce it), humans have reached the climax of the technological race: creating synthetic “life”. So similar to humans that their inclusion among them will result in a new society, with new values and new conflicts.
Although their most basic configuration is based on Asimov’s laws of robotics and they are programmed not to do harm – neither to lie, love nor suffer – their very existence and their interaction with humans may have consequences that they did not take into account when they were created. They can’t love, but have they forgotten that we are social animals, our capacity to generate empathy towards something because it “exists”? And also, of course, to generate rejection: it is the attempt of human supremacy in the face of a threat.
Pick #3: The Man in the High Castle
Freedom is under Control throughout 4 seasons
Before Amazon decided to dive headfirst into finding its own Game of Thrones, the company already had a large production based on the work of a much-loved genre writer, which had the potential to attract a large and loyal group of fans. That series was entitled The Man in the High Castle, adapted from a book by Philip K. Dick.
Released in 2015, it took viewers to an alternative story in which it had been Germany that had achieved the atomic bomb before the United States and consequently won World War II. As a result, the Reich and Japan divided North America and established two totalitarian states, watching each other in a kind of cold war that had reached the 1960s, when the series kicks off. At the same time, some mysterious films start circulating around, revealing another reality – one in which the Allies prevailed. But does this other time exist?
The characters in The Man in the High Castle move towards that answer, right from the beginning. And the series has ended up overcoming the most diverse problems to reach that fourth final season, from showrunner dances to indirect participation in the fall of Roy Price, former head of Amazon Studios.
Pick #4: The OA
Trust the Unknown with Brit Marling
The OA wears its “rarity” badge with honor. The fascinating Brit Marling (whose also our main protagonist) and Zal Batmanglij’s creation caused a sensation when it premiered, in late 2016, with its story of people locked up in a kind of terrarium, a young blind girl who disappeared and has recovered her sight upon her return home, and a man who thinks he is a scientist and kills and resurrects his abductees to study near-death experiences – convinced that they are the door to alternative dimensions.
The show started as an indie drama of misplaced kids who found common ground with the stories Prairie (Brit Marling) told them and ended as something more unclassifiable, something that generated both unconditional adhesions and mockery of all kinds. And critics questioned the decision to use a high school shooting as a climax.
We’ve got two marvelous seasons to stick to a unique story and see if the prominent Marling and Batmanglij surprise and confuse the spectators or if they opted for a slightly more conventional narrative. Well, the result with The OA ended up being a mixture of both. Or, rather, it begins as something very “The OA” and ends as a series of superheroes who jump from dimension to dimension chasing each other.
Pick #5: Homecoming
Welcome Home, Julia Roberts
Few names can surprise us lately because television has long since stopped being seen as the small screen, but the fact that Julia Roberts is starring in a series, for a streaming platform, and committing to two seasons, is still making the news. In the case of Homecoming, Roberts’ presence is, of course, a good hook, but it’s more than just a headline because Amazon Prime Video’s adaptation of the podcast by Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg has come out very well.
Julia Roberts is accompanied by familiar faces like Bobby Cannavale, who plays Colin Belfast, her direct boss; Sissi Spacek, in the role of her mother; Alex Karpovsky, another of the Homecoming workers; Jeremy Allen White, a patient at the center; Shea Whigham, the DOD official, and Dermot Mulroney, as her boyfriend.
Whatever reason you might have for watching Homecoming, you’ll be rewarded. If you decide to watch it for Julia Roberts, you’ll see her playing a double role; if you do it because you like Sam Esmail’s style, you’ll be treated to it; and if you want to watch it because you’re a fan of the original podcast, it’s different enough to keep you curious even if you know a lot of answers from the beginning. Homecoming is another of 2018’s proposals that talk about trauma and memory (Sharp Objects, The Haunting of Hill House), a good psychological thriller that hooks and manages to mix the best of a classic and contemporary narrative of this kind of stories.
Of course, Westworld is unique and although the show had its ups and downs, we are all looking forward to the fourth season. But it is also a fact that there are many series currently that manage to compete with the Westworld vibe. Besides, once you start with one of these recommendations, you will later automatically unravel the next wonders that streaming platforms currently offer.
You don’t have to follow the order of the recommendations, as it depends on your taste and how much intensity you’re looking for. If you want a slow burn of a classic novel, The Man in the High Castle is a perfect choice. If you want to dive into a futuristic dystopia, then don’t hesitate with Altered Carbon. And if you want to see a cast of legendary all-stars, then go for Homecoming.
Whatever you do, you’ll be in good hands with these shows and you’ll enjoy them as much or even more than at the theme park. We’ve devoured season after season and still come up short. Give it a try and see what your favorite alternative world is.
Answer: While hosts reset on specific timelines (some seem to be every day, while others do so at the end of narratives), guests have to get out of Westworld after 14 days. … There’s no putting down human roots in Westworld.
Answer: We know that Dolores Prime is in herself (at least we think we do), and copies of her are in Charlotte Hale, Musashi, and Martin Connells. It seems that Bernard was one of the pearls that Charlotte/Dolores escaped with at the end of last season. That adds up to five: Dolores, Charlotte, Musashi, Martin, Bernard.
Answer: Westworld’s hosts are programmed not to harm guests, with gunshots merely putting holes in the human visitors’ clothing and leaving them with a bruise similar to those inflicted by paintballs.
Answer: She escaped by disguising herself as an android version of Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson), a human theme-park executive killed by her synthetic double, and slipping past theme park security.
Answer: The toy maze represents the labyrinthine voyage to consciousness, which robots can gain by traveling inward, through memory, improvisation, and, eventually self-awareness.