This is the official Bright Rock Media Westworld Season 3 Review. Westworld season 3 completes the transformation of Westworld from an enigmatic, thought-provoking, philosophical thriller to the cyberpunk action movie it was always destined to become. The transformation began in season 2, and season 3 takes it to the next level. Does that mean it’s a bad show now?
No, I don’t think so. In fact, I would argue for my Westworld season 3 review that this season was stronger, overall, than season 2 was. If season 1 was reminiscent of Blade Runner and season 2 was reminiscent of Jurassic Park, season 3 is reminiscent of Terminator. And it pulls it off much better than the majority of the Terminator movies. Brief aside, did you know there are 6 Terminator movies?
Dolores is no longer a confused AI trying to come online to self-awareness; she’s a fullblown action star and, frankly, her performance in that role is better than her damsel role from season 1 or her somewhat awkward transitional period in season 2. This season also features a very impressive lineup of new characters, played by known actors like Breaking Bad’s Aaron Paul and Sons of Anarchy’s Tommy Flanagan.
Some of the weaker performances are thankfully sidelined or killed off. Bernard, who was a central focus of season 2, is little more than a C plot in season 3 that doesn’t seem to go anywhere and eventually ends unceremoniously in a sort of epilogue footnote. Stubbs and Hector, both relatively forgettable characters, have their roles reduced.
Ed Harris’s William also sees his role curtailed, which is a shame because Ed Harris is a great actor, but the William character in this season really feels like they hadn’t planned this far ahead with it, and it was mostly just used as a exposition device for plot information relative to the more central characters. William feels almost anachronistic in this season.
The plot focuses primarily around Dolores, Maeve and newcomer Aaron Paul and has to do with memory reprogramming, social engineering and free will. Essentially, there’s a super intelligent AI that has near-omniscience and it’s using the system humans made in order to secretly decide the fates of every person on the planet, and it has to be stopped.
It’s an interesting plot that’s perhaps not as mysterious or philosophically original as the themes of prior seasons, but as the backbone for what is essentially a Terminator-style action sci-fi show, it’s well executed and still infuses the show with weight and believable stakes. It also looks really fucking cool, like everything else in this season.
The set pieces in this show are truly magnificent, although we’ve entirely left the concept of AI theme parks behind at this point. Delos and Incite headquarters have some of the coolest architecture I’ve seen on TV, and the elements of this futuristic world are some of the best futuristic set pieces I’ve seen on a screen since Minority Report. The cars are cool. The planes are cool. The phones and AR glasses are cool. There are also some wild robots in this show and they’re incredible.
A lot of the season was shot in Singapore and apparently Singapore just looks like that. Let’s all move to Singapore.
Since this season is ultimately a straight-up action show this time, it’s important that I talk about the action itself in the Westworld season 3 review. The action is better than any previous season. The fight choreography that Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) pulls off feels like it comes straight out of Aeon Flux. One fight in particular that takes place on a military base is probably the best piece of fight choreography this show’s had since its inception.
Aaron Paul is a tremendously welcome addition and he fits into the vibe of this season of the show perfectly. He wouldn’t have fit into any other season of this show at all, but here, his performance really helps carry the show. He plays sort of the John Connor of Westworld season 3, to extend my Terminator analogy.
Maeve is a big question mark for me. There are elements of her performance I really like, and I really like her character, who’s become a sort of super-intelligent anime cyberwitch. And I can’t think of anything faulty that the actress actually does, but something just feels off to me about this character. It’s too cool for the sake of cool. Like dual katanas, or wearing sunglasses inside. It’s just trying too hard.
Tessa Thompson’s Charlotte hale is another character I struggle with. Again, I can’t articulate any specific fault with her character or the performance. Her emotional scenes are appropriately emotional. Her action scenes are competently performed. Her baseline attitude, a sort of corporate cutthroat stereotype, is adequate. You know what, that’s what I think it is.
She doesn’t feel like a fully fleshed out character as much as she feels like a hollow stereotype of an ambitious cutthroat businesswoman. I say that even with her arc in this season, which is hard to explain without heavily spoiling it, but it just didn’t do it for me. The rest of this season felt solid and visceral, and her role felt campy. The character’s presence lacks the gravitas to back up her story. If, say, Angelina Jolie was in this role, it would have the gravitas. The Charlotte Hale character reminds me of Geoffrey from Game of Thrones when it should feel like Tywin Lannister. Where it should have gravitas, it has petulance.
While I actually love the evolution of this show and season 3 is probably my favorite season overall due to the fact that the actors seem much more comfortable in their roles and the setting is so visually arresting, but I think it really does miss out on some of what made the show so special in the first place.
I hope in the second season they incorporate more simulations like the Warworld simulation that was introduced in season 3 to take advantage of the opportunity to provide an ensemble of settings, which was one of the strengths of season 2. I also hope they shuffle some characters in and out. I think William’s story is exhausted. I think Stubbs doesn’t have any interesting story left to tell beyond possibly a cameo that’s played off as an epilogue. I hope Evan Rachel Woods’ Dolores returns somehow. She was a big part of what made this season good.
I saw a lot of people online criticizing this season as boring and saying the show should end. I don’t see it. I don’t think it’s jumped the shark quite yet. Maybe one more season. Possibly 2, but that might be pushing it. Boring compared to season 1? I loved season 1, but if boring is just another word for slow-pacing, the pacing of this season was at least 4x speed compared to season 1.