HBO released the first trailer for the upcoming fourth season of its visionary sci-fi drama, Western worldAnd it looks like another wild and tricky ride awaits us.
(Spoilers for the first three seasons of Western world below.)
As I have written before, the headline Western world is one of six immersive theme parks owned and operated by a company called Delos Inc. The park is populated by a “cast” of human-like androids, called hosts. Wealthy park visitors can pretty much do whatever they want with the hosts, and typically don’t see the hosts as anything more than cold-hearted props in their private dramas. But host creator/co-founder and Westworld park director Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) “woke up” a hostess named Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) to true sentience. The first season concluded with a bloody massacre, as the rescheduled hosts rose up to exact revenge on the guests.
S2 had an even more complicated plot spanning multiple timelines. Dolores began recruiting other hosts to fight the Delos security forces while she searched for the gate to the real world, intending to take revenge by wiping out the human race. In the S2 ending, Dolores took her fellow hosts to the Forge, a sort of central database, and various hosts uploaded her minds into a digital world known as “the Sublime”. Dolores then transferred her mind to a safer place. Ultimately, three of the hosts were shown entering the real world in the core timeline: Dolores, Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), and a rebuilt host version of former Delos executive Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson).
The third season was the first to take place largely outside of the original virtual theme parks. Opening three months after the events of the end of S2, Dolores had recreated her host body. We learned that she was targeting an AI system called Rehoboam, developed by a company called Incite. To gain access to the system, Dolores had to confront its creator, Engerraund Serac (Vincent Cassel), and several other adversaries with their own motives to stop her, including William aka the Man in Black (Ed Harris), who vowed to destroy any remaining guests.
In the S3 finale, Maeve (Thandiwe Newton) and Dolores battled it out, with Dolores ending up in Serac’s hands. She was connected to Rehoboam, but she refused to give Serac any information about the hosts, so she erased her memories. It was actually quite a moving scene, as in the last moments of it Dolores made an emotional plea to convince Maeve to turn on Serac. Rehoboam was eliminated, William was apparently killed by a host replica of himself, and Bernard learned that the system was merely delaying the collapse of human civilization, rather than preventing it. He entered the Sublime hoping to find out how to rebuild. The final shot was Bernard resurfacing in his body, covered in dust, so who knows how long it had been?
The trailer doesn’t give us many clues as to where the story will go in season four. There is no dialogue at all, although the visuals are as striking as ever. We see our various main characters seemingly enjoying a perfect day, strolling through a desert, drinking coffee in a skyscraper, and then the menacing figure of the Man in Black appears, no doubt instilling a chill of dread in those who catch a glimpse. And it seems that the virtual park is being revived and populated with new hosts.
Western world he has always been quite sophisticated in his storytelling. That’s a big part of its appeal, of course, but as the series has progressed, it’s become increasingly difficult to keep track of the intricate plot, multiple timelines, and characters: who’s the host, who is human, who. it was human and is now being controlled by a host, which host is in which body, and so on. Season three definitely fell apart a bit in the second half, leading to mixed to downright negative critical reactions. I still really enjoyed that season, but I’d love to see the show find a bit more focus and bring back some of its earlier magic for S4. We will definitely tune in.
The fourth season of Western world premieres on HBO on June 26, 2022.
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