Westworld S4 (Review): Surprisingly Better Than Expected

I literally sighed as I pressed play on this season. “Why am I still here”, I wondered? Read on to find out if Westworld S4 was worth my time…

*Spoilers for Westworld seasons 1-3 ahead*

Earth faces a new status quo after our heroes destroy Rehoboam in a devastating war. Caleb adjusts to his new life as a family man, Maeve isolates herself, and Bernard’s consciousness remains in the sublime. But the dastardly schemes of Charlotte Hale and the Man in Black force the aforementioned characters out of their loops and into a new conflict to decide the fate of humanity. The game begins.

Westworld featured a steady decline in quality each year. I didn’t mind S2’s confusing timelines, but S3’s generic science fiction nearly made me quit the show altogether. I’m pleased to report that S4 is on par to S2 (so I believe, after my first and likely only viewing)!

The story started simple and easy for a change. Nothing overwhelmed my brain, yet I was left to ponder interesting questions. That said: Westworld S4 starts TOO slowly. My interest waned by the time the new status quo was re-established for all our main characters, maybe 1/3 through the season. However, there’s enough forward momentum that I’ll call S4’s first act “compelling enough”.

But my mind was freaking blown by Episode 4’s big twist, and my attention locked in place from then on! Then the dust settled, I thought about it harder, and I wondered: why was that even a twist in the first place? Just cause the writers were trying to be clever? It made a lot of that slow 1/3 of the show irrelevant. In fact, they probably could have cut multiple episodes from S4 if they weren’t leading to that twist.

To be clear: Westworld S4 still pulled off some great twists (including the above). I don’t know if I’ve seen such unpredictable television since Stranger Things S4. Mind you, Westworld isn’t nearly as entertaining as Stranger Things. But the set-up to pay-off ratio mostly hits this year.

Westworld’s characters are all well-acted (and always were). But that shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering WW boasts the most stacked cast I’ve seen in a scripted drama series. The likes of Ed Harris, Tessa Thompson, Jeffrey Wright, Aaron Paul, and more all but guarantee a bar of quality.

My problem with WW’s characters was that my brain strained to recall who was allied to whom anymore, or why. I even forgot whom was whom, after last season’s body-swapping BS! But I coped by falling back on the old Westworld mantra: “If you can’t tell, does it matter?” The characters we get this season are just the characters we get. Apply to the same idea to their relationships. Don’t think too hard about it.

SIDE NOTE: I’m sure the logistics work out just fine if you care enough to sort them out. But I watch Westworld too casually to bother with that.

The writers made a solid choice pairing up Maeve and Caleb this year. I was no fan of Caleb Nichols in S3, but Maeve (Thandie Newton, really) makes him more tolerable. Their relationship felt believably developed, even if most of it occurred off-screen in a cooler sounding plot than all of S3…

SIDE NOTE 2: Maeve is my favourite, but I’m gonna lose it if I have to see flashbacks of her and her daughter in that field one more goddamn time!

Bernard is awesome as ever. But his foreknowledge of the future ripped the tension from his scenes. There was some healthy doubt that something he didn’t account for might happen… but that never seemed to happen. So even the craziest moments in this story felt like they could be undermined at any moment.

Christina’s plot was a mixed bag. It interested me… till I realized it was a sub-par re-tread of Delores’ S1 story. But it kept my interest throughout S4. THEN Episode 7 saved the storyline, and E8 wrapped it up in a satisfying manner. Christina’s ending status quo legitimately filled me with glee!

Hale and The Man In Black were fun antagonists this year. And their plan connects to the overall story better than the villains from S3. Charlotte Hale compelled me because I understood (most of) her motivation, and was fascinated by her disciples’ reactions to her methods. She’s an intimidating and ruthless leader. Though Tessa Thompson’s acting was scenery-chewing at times, and occasionally a bit much for my tastes.

As for the MiB: host-William had a cool, if not redundant journey of self-rediscovery. Ed Harris is effortlessly cool in this role. I need not say more.

Westworld‘s production values have always been top notch in both artistic and practical ways! The new urban designs and costumes in particular are aesthetically pleasing. This is a city in which I’d like to live! I loved how even the street lamps are crafted to pique the attention of observant viewers.

An aspect of Westworld NOT so well made are its fights. They’re, frankly, badly edited. Or maybe they were badly shot. Sometimes it’s hard to tell. But I could see little enthusiasm went into them. It’s as if the production crew treated them for what they were: boring and uninspired filler to keep our attention in between the philosophical talkie bits.

Speaking of those: Westworld S4 continues to be thematically interesting. Did they shamelessly re-do S3’s plot? Basically, yeah. But did they do it a lot better this time? Also yeah. So I forgive them.

S4 improves upon last year by hitting similar beats (what if general humanity lacked free will, just like the hosts; can hosts evolve past humans, or are they destined to be like their makers) but handling them better. It was interesting this time because the main struggle tied itself to the established lore, and felt less random. And the writers had the guts to solidify REAL consequences this time.

I’ve got so many mixed emotions on this season. When it lands it lands, and when it misses it misses. But it lands a good deal more than S3 (can you tell I don’t like that one, by now?) and kept me invested. It even got me thinking philosophically about the nature of humanity. And I love having to use my brain during my entertainment! S4 also ended beautifully, and has me excited for its fifth and supposedly final year!

So I’d say Westworld S4 is Worth a Watch.


Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality? What did you think of Westworld S4? Please share your thoughts in the comments (no spoilers please). If you have any ideas for future articles, or any questions, let me know.

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Till next time,

Joe Morin

By Joseph Morin

Joe's passion for film and entertainment began at 7 years old when his younger brother demanded to watch Duel of the Fates every day for weeks (on DVD). Joe admired the sequence so much, he decided to dedicate his life to film-making and storytelling. He has a degree in Cinema and Media Studies from York University. Joe loves DC superheroes (especially Superman), the first six Star Wars movies, and arguing about media with anyone who will listen.

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