HBO dropped the first teaser trailer for the upcoming fourth season of its visionary sci-fi drama, Westworld, and it looks like we’re in for another wild, convoluted ride.
(Spoilers for first three seasons of Westworld below.)
As I’ve written previously, the titular Westworld is one of six immersive theme parks owned and operated by a company called Delos Inc. The park is populated with a “cast” of human-looking androids, called hosts. The park’s well-heeled visitors can pretty much do whatever they like to the hosts and don’t generally view the hosts as anything more than unfeeling props in their private dramas. But the hosts’ creator/co-founder and park director of Westworld, Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), “awakened” a host named Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) to true sentience. The first season concluded with a bloody massacre, as the reprogrammed hosts rose up to take revenge on the guests.
S2 had an even more convoluted plot spanning multiple timelines. Dolores began recruiting other hosts to fight off Delos security forces while searching for the door to the real world, intent on taking revenge by wiping out the human race. In the S2 finale, Dolores led her fellow hosts to the Forge, a kind of central database, and several hosts uploaded their minds into a digital world known as “the Sublime.” Dolores then transferred their minds to a safer location. Ultimately, three of the hosts were shown entering the real world in the central 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 the original virtual theme parks. Opening three months after the events of the S2 finale, Dolores had re-created her host body. We learned she was targeting an AI system called Rehoboam, developed by a company called Incite. To access the system, Dolores had to take on its creator, Engerraund Serac (Vincent Cassel), and various other adversaries with their own motives for stopping her—including William, aka the Man in Black (Ed Harris), who vowed to destroy any remaining hosts.
In the S3 finale, Maeve (Thandiwe Newton) and Dolores battled it out, and Dolores ended up in the hands of Serac. She was connected to Rehoboam but refused to give Serac any data about the hosts, so he deleted her memories. It was actually quite a moving scene, as in her last moments Dolores made an emotional appeal to convince Maeve to turn on Serac. Rehoboam was deleted, William was seemingly 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 figure out how to rebuild. The final shot was Bernard re-emerging into his body, covered in dust—so who knows how much time had passed?
The teaser trailer doesn’t give us many hints as to where the story will go in the fourth season. There’s no dialogue at all, although the visuals are as striking as always. We see our various main characters seemingly enjoying a perfect day—strolling through a desert, sipping coffee on a high-rise—and then the menacing figure of the Man in Black appears, no doubt instilling a frisson of dread in those who catch a glimpse. And it looks like the virtual park is being revived and populated with new hosts.
Westworld has always been quite sophisticated in its storytelling. That’s a large part of its appeal, of course, but as the series has progressed, it’s gotten harder and harder to keep track of the convoluted plot, multiple timelines, and characters—who’s a host, who’s human, who was human and is now being controlled by a host, which host is in which body, and so forth. The third season definitely unraveled a bit in the second half, leading to mixed or downright negative critical reactions. I still very much enjoyed that season, but I’d love to see the show find a little more focus and recapture some of its earlier magic for S4. We’ll definitely be tuning in.
The fourth season of Westworld premieres on HBO on June 26, 2022.
Listing image by YouTube/HBO