The third season of Westworld started out fairly strong by leaving the park and introducing new characters like Caleb (Aaron Paul), but as the show has lurched into its fifth and sixth episodes of its eight-episode season, it’s clear that showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy have no idea how to manage the nuts-and-bolts storytelling to serve their big ideas about free-will, predestination, privacy, and data. But the show must go on because it’s IP and HBO needs IP.
HBO has announced that they’ve renewed Westworld for a fourth season, which is pretty funny when you consider that the show had a pilot ordered in 2013, it’s been on the air since 2016, and in all that time they’ve produced a grand total of 28 episodes. And if Westworld was a show that proved it was worth the wait, that might be something, but Westworld has constantly stumbled over its own storytelling conventions and constantly sacrificed character at the alter of trying to outwit the viewer. Even as the third season has pulled back on trying to confuse the audience with time jumps, they’ve still lost sight of their characters and what their arcs are supposed to be. On the one hand, I appreciate them not trying to make Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) a clear hero or villain, but they haven’t really made her much of anything other than ominous.
We’ll see if Westworld can pull itself out of a tailspin in its final two episodes of season three, but I’m failing to see why this show has an open-ended order (the press release tellingly does not say if the fourth season will be the final one for Westworld) other than letting Nolan and Joy spin their wheels as HBO hopes the show can somehow become a genre hit on the level of Game of Thrones. But if HBO wants to learn a lesson from Game of Thrones, it’s to make sure that the showrunners know where they’re going and not to forget about the characters just because you’re so busy with plotting.