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Westworld season four review – nothing but a humdrum dramedy about sad singletons

The Man in Black is back! And Ariana DeBose joins as a glum twentysomething trawling dating apps. Has the show that once asked the biggest questions about humanity and technology really come to this? Westworld once wanted to be the biggest drama on television. Not the most popular – it was always too complex and ambitious to sweep up as many viewers as Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead. But at its inception, it had designs on being the prestige box set with the widest scope, asking the weightiest questions about mankind and technology, demanding the deepest commitment to keep up with its leaping intellect.

As it returns for a fourth season, though, it’s feeling small. Dull, even. The season four opener is the least chaotic in the show’s history, with signs that Westworld has succumbed to the fate that befalls all but the best high-concept sci-fi stories when they are given too long a run: every massive idea and reality-switching twist has been another step into an ever-narrowing maze of the show’s own mythology. Now the grand point Westworld was originally making is no longer in sight. Recapping seasons one to three is tricky, since their intention was to have more plot nuances than there are grains of sand on a beach, but quickly: season one was set in a future theme park where humans were permitted to abuse lifelike robots who couldn’t make memories or feel pain, but then these “hosts” – particularly Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Maeve (Thandiwe Newton) – achieved sentience and rebelled. Season two was a battle between hosts and humans, with many of the people we thought were humans having proved to be hosts, withhosts’ capacity to upload themselves into new bodies – allowing the writers to kill characters off before bringing them back, sometimes played by a different cast member. Along the way we learned that the park was less about entertaining humans, and more about studying them. Continue reading...

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