“What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god: the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals!”
~ from “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare
Westworld’s fourth season has been mostly excellent, and in some ways a return to form after stumbling through two seasons that I can only describe as mixed bags at best. The twist—discovering about halfway through that Charlotte Hale (actually a spinoff of Dolores)—had created a world where the Hosts controlled the humans was fascinating and a great way to bring the story full circle.
After all, these violent delights have violent ends. Westworld and its creators Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan never tire of reminding us of this.
Violent delights, it would seem, are as appealing to both Host and human alike. As we’re reminded in the finale, Hosts were made in the image of their creators. They succumb to the same passions and desires. They are cruel and self-centered and vain and their power bores them, sometimes to death.
There were some fine emotional beats throughout the season as well, largely thanks to Caleb and his daughter and their struggle to find one another; their bitter, bittersweet reunion.
But something about the Season 4 finale—which could easily serve as a series finale, and may do just that if the show is not renewed by HBO—left me cold.
Last week’s penultimate episode left us with a giant question mark. William finally jumped bodies, in a sense, leaping from his human frame into the Man In Black Host. The two became one and then set the world on fire.
That final moment, with William in his black hat walking toward the burning city, felt like the kind of dark ending a show like this deserved, with lots of little spinning pieces still hanging in the air unresolved. Tonight’s finale brought us back to Westworld itself, sort of, and left us with a somewhat saccharine narration from Christina-turned-Dolores. It felt neat and tidy in ways I found more unsettling than William’s extinction plan.
I mean, sure, I like the idea of the show heading back to the park—and even if it doesn’t, I sort of see where they’re going with this. Dolores is giving everyone a second chance, but only in a simulation that she creates. She’s becoming, in a sense, a god and running the simulation again. Will it be different this time? Will they save themselves instead of becoming the things they hate?
I dislike the bloodbath that preceded all of this for two reasons. The slaughter of all our characters one by one—Maeve, Bernard, Stubbs, etc. etc.—felt too neat and tidy. An easy way to clean the slate at the end of the road, but ultimately very low-stakes. Are they really dead? Do these Hosts ever really die? Are we really satisfied with any of these perfunctory deaths? Is this really how the Man In Black is going to die, shot to death by a Born Again Hale, miraculously convinced by Bernard’s recorded message to Do The Right Thing.
In Christina’s story, she discovers that it was her creating all of these people herself, to keep her company and lead her to the truth about who she is. Even Teddy—shocker—is “not real” though at this point the line between real and fake, hardware or software, Host or human has all blurred so completely that all we’re left with is page after page of smudges.
This is a tricky one for me. I wanted to like this finale and I hoped it might set up some interesting new conflict between Dolores and William, but in the end everyone is dead and the humans will all go extinct, but they can live on . . . in Dolores’s memory as a simulation in the Sublime? I mean okay. Cool?
Maybe this will be one of those episodes that you love or hate or just scratch your head over. Maybe there won’t be consensus. It’s titled ‘Que Será, Será’ which translates to whatever will be, will be which is awfully carefree. In the song, of course, the next line is the future’s not ours to see which is fitting enough, I suppose. Perhaps an indication that no, Westworld will not be back for a fifth season and that we will have to imagine what comes next. Whether Dolores will be a better God than ours was.
I would have rather been left with an image of the Man in Black walking across the bridge toward the end of the world. Then I could have contemplated how things would end and let my imagination fill in the blanks with any number of possibilities. But even then . . .
I just wonder, and not for the first time over these past few years, ever since that glorious masterpiece of a first season, if I really even care.
- Hey it was great to see Rebus (played by the delightful Steven Ogg) return for a little cameo there at the beginning. He was always helping out William in the bad old days before Dolores threw off her shackles, and he got some just desserts tonight. Where has he been in the interim?
- The gun Bernard hid was for Hale who he must have seen “turn” in his many simulations. I guess it could have been a neat trick but I don’t think it really paid off. This whole segment felt more convoluted than anything. And again, not a fan of Hale being the one to kill William—if any of them are actually dead.
- Hale, for her part, offs herself in the end. BUT IS SHE REALLY DEAD?
- Perhaps my favorite moment of the entire episode is when William calls the sniper a F*&%ing “camper” — a derogatory term used in video games like Call Of Duty to describe players who hide in place to get kills.
- Ed Harris was great this season. Definitely a highlight of the season for me.
- Stubbs got a crappy death (and his first in the entire show!) and if this really is the end of the show, then Maeve got a seriously bum rap. She worked too hard to get back to her daughter to die in a pool at the end of the world. Rubs me wrong.
Maybe Westworld is over, but I’ll leave you with one final thought: Season 1 was the only true season, the only one that mattered. Everything else since then has been an attempt to recapture that magic, but like so many other shows it only ever came close. And close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, as the saying goes.
But hey, Ramin Djawadi’s score is as bloody amazing as it’s always been. Just brilliant in every sense of the word. Listen to the whole thing below:
It’s a little easier to choose to see the beauty in this world when you realize that human beings, ugly and mean and self-obsessed, can craft such remarkable sounds. What a piece of work is man . . . .