To start things off on the proper footing, Westworld ranks as one of my favorite TV shows of the last decade, both in terms of sci-fi escapism and theory-indulgent conversations. I'm an adorer of the ensemble cast's consummate excellence, and a fan-apologist for the creative team's more questionable ebbs and whims. Actively seeking out Westworld's story issues isn't part of my narrative, as it were, but even I had to lower my rose-colored glasses more than a few times during the now-concluded Season 3.
Like many other fans, my hopes for the third season were as lofty as Westworld's plant-covered skyscrapers, coming after that game-changing Season 2 finale, with the strength of new cast members such as Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul and Black Swan's Vincent Cassel. And certainly, much about Season 3 can be celebrated as achievements, with the show's acting and cinematography as lovely as ever. Still, I couldn't help coming away from the season as a whole with a host of lingering issues that I'd managed to avoid in previous years. So here are my biggest peeves and grievances from "The New World," in no particular order.
Serac And Rehobaom Were Never Mentioned Before
Engerraund Serac and his predictive A.I. Rehoboam were so vital to humankind that a data breach was the catalyst for mass riots, suicides, etc., and that's on top of Serac's company being a gigantic tech-world quasi-rival of the Delos Corporation that hunted and effectively "killed" outliers who didn't mesh with Incite's vibe. Yet none of the human characters in Season 1 or 2 ever mentioned any of it. Plus, I guess it means none of the sadistic monsters who went to Westworld and the other Delos parks were considered to be outliers at all.
Obviously creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy didn't have every Westworld story beat planned out from the beginning, but they did inevitably choose to make the Incite way of life so universally adopted. Is it dumb that I'd be perfectly fine with them going back and adding new dialogue/scenes to Season 1 and 2 that did incorporate references to the Serac brothers and their devices?
The Real-World Chaos Undercut Dolores’ Big Plans
Westworld set many up to think Dolores would lead a Host army into waging war on a tech-obsessed humanity in Season 3. But while people were indeed consumed by gadgets and data, Dolores' vengeful mission lost nearly all of its steam once it became clear the "real world" was just as fucked up and pre-programmed as the Delos parks. The parallel riffs might have felt more dynamic and poignant under different pretenses, but her revolution and death were sorely muted by Rehoboam's massive impact on human behavior, as well as the lack of morally upstanding flesh-and-blood characters.
The Man In Black’s Erratic AF Storyline
For two seasons, Ed Harris' anti-villain The Man in Black was one of TV's most intriguingly enigmatic characters, especially when incorporating his youth. However, the character's staggered Season 3 arc was a largely blasé and empty affair, save for the group therapy session and the finale's post-credit reveal of the Man in Black Host. Sure, I'm still excited about what's coming next, but without as much confidence that it'll wow me beyond the power of Ed Harris' sneer.
Caleb Is Apparently The Only Non-Rapist To Have Visited A Delos Park
I know Dolores doesn't have a contact list full of dependable human beings who might also be sympathetic to sentient androids, but certainly she should have had more candidates for confidantes than "the guy who lightly convinced other supposedly respectable soldiers not to rape any robots several years ago." What a savior.
Too Much Confusion Over Dolores’ Pearls
When Dolores smuggled a handful of Host pearls out of the Delos parks in the Season 2 finale, it seemed like a great way to build mystery in Season 3. At times, that was achieved. For the most part, though, Westworld dripped those reveals out until confirming that the non-Bernard pearls were just clones of Dolores, which felt more like a "Gotcha!" than a germane bombshell at that point.
Bernard’s Most Interesting Moments Were His First And Final Scenes
Similar to how Ed Harris' excellence felt partly squandered in Season 3, Jeffrey Wright was faced with Bernard's meandering storyline. Things opened promisingly, with Bernard as a self-controlled fugitive living and working among real people, but he immediately reverted back to confused-detective mode. Thankfully, the character's story ended just as confidently, which included an emotional visit with Arnold's wife Lauren before an extended voyage into The Sublime. In between those sequences, though, Bernard bounced from location to location (alongside the returning Stubbs) as little more than glorified exposition. Be better, Bernard.
No Real Resolution For All The Frozen Outliers
Sure, Westworld is a dark show, but what's more disturbing than the reveal that Aaron Paul's Caleb was quasi-brainwashed by Serac's people into kidnapping and/or murdering people as guided by Rehoboam data, all for the still-living people to be declared dead put into permanent states of hibernation until an eventual "cure" is found for their outlier status. But did all those people actually die when Dolores hit that EMP in Episode 9? Are there now a bunch of rotting corpses smelling up the Solomon facility in Sonora, Mexico?
Maeve Constantly Getting Shafted Over Everything
Thandie Newton's Maeve wasn't created to follow a happiness-infused narrative, so it's perfectly natural that the character's rise to sentience and beyond has been one marked with various tragedies. But Season 3 heaped on the tragedies and down-trodden moments without any of the survivor savagery we've seen in seasons past, or even the story agency. Maeve was used by Serac and his simulations, she permanently lost her true love Hector, she was killed by the Musashi clone, and she was killed by Dolores, all without ever getting her promised reunion with her daughter in the Sublime. Of anyone in Westworld, Maeve is one who's least-deserving of such fates.
Neato Cityscapes Aren't As Visually Interesting As Delos' Parks
Yes, Westworld's visuals did get an aforementioned shout-out, but that's just comparing Westworld to most other TV shows. When stacked up against itself, though, the show's visual mastery sagged hard by setting the majority of Season 3 in the real world. The brief moments that did incorporate the Westworld park were a splendid reminder, as were the surrounding areas within the Warworld simulation, though they were too few and far between. It's cool to watch flying vehicles flying through various skyscrapers, don't get me wrong, but nothing about Westworld's San Francisco or L.A. locations were anywhere near as memorable as the abundance of nature within any of Delos' creations.
The Lack Of Robert Ford
Westworld understandably left a lot of familiar characters behind by largely vacating the parks in Season 3, and the creative team did a commendable job of peppering in cameos of favorites such as Angela Sarafyan's Clementine and Jimmi Simpson's younger William. But tell me this chaotic storyline wouldn't have become so much more grounded and meaningful by even a single appearance from Anthony Hopkins' Robert Ford, whose signature reflections on existence are the foundation for Westworld's ethos and pathos.
With Season 4 coming at some point in the future, Westworld can easily revert me back into a guilt-free fanatic who would cast doubt upon everything I've said above. But until those episodes start to arrive, I'll be crafting conspiracy theories about how the human Man in Black isn't actually dead yet.