"After Season 2, I too wish Westworld was a completely different show." - Twitter
Season One of Westworld was intriguing, fun, and mysterious. Going in with only a scant blueprint of the original 70’s Michael Crichton movie on which it was based, it had several advantages. Anthony Hopkins’ great performance, mixed with a great character Robert Ford, who you weren’t sure you believed and which side if any he was on. With Hopkins secure at the centre, the show was free to run with sidequests of inspiration taken from video games such as BioShock Infinite and Red Dead Redemption. The characters at the centre of these which like many sidequests became more interesting than the plot itself, starring William (Ed Harris and Jimmi Simpson), Bernard/ Arnold (Jeffrey Wright), Maeve (Thandie Newton), and of course Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) were able to intrigue us and provide characters that deepened our investment in the world and its overall mythology. Without getting too complicated.
Then the show made the necessary decision to lose Hopkins in order to set up the stakes of the second season. Tertiary characters played by Luke Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Clifton Collins Jr., and Ben Barnes weren’t particularly distinguished performers, their characters even unlikeable, but they made notable distractions. With end of Season One and the reduction of Hopkins character from the centre, the show was left without a core. Good actors like Katja Herbers and Zahn McClarnon came in to briefly fill out the edges, and the likeable James Marsden as Teddy even flirted with becoming a multi-dimensional character with Ed Harris’ William setting a foundation of one the shows pillar’s. But the writing of the show and its ambition was often succeeded by its fans and the writers actual grasp of the material. Still, Westworld drew itself into a battle trying to stay one step ahead of the internet hive mind. In the process it alienated casual viewers. Reaching out on Twitter beyond his show Pachter Factor, Michael Pachter a Stock Broker Analyst with four degrees and a wife & kids pleaded absolute confusion.
Variety put it more eloquently than I could. In his review of the season two finale, AVClub’s Zach Handlen wrote, “This season had it developing in some ways, regressing in others, but as much as we might want to tell ourselves otherwise, barring some cataclysmic behind-the-scenes shake-up, next season will work much as the previous two seasons did: with a lot of vagueness, a lot of philosophical meandering, weird timelines (you just know they’ll find some new excuse to bring those in), and a weighty tone that belies the fundamentally simplistic ideas at its core.” He goes on. “That Westworld is, at heart, pretty simple is something that fans of the series might take issue with. If you find some greater depth here, more power to you; for myself, when you boil it down, this is all straightforward, at times comically shallow, theorizing.” His point is that if the show just focused on telling a simple straightforward story rather than trying to act smarter than it is, it’d be pleasurable for everyone.
It looks nice, it has high production value, and with a lower episode order, season three should have greater focus. It’s characters, partly because they are all presumed robots are coldly detached. Still despite the prime time slot, budget, and a huge fanbase, Westworld does not have some grand intelligent design in mind. Perhaps, since the skin has come off most the robots, it should embrace more brainless action thrills.