- by Jeff Beck
Westworld: Season Three: A Talented Cast and Stunning Visuals Hindered by Poor Writing (Blu-ray)
"Westworld" has been quite the trip of ups and downs so far. The first season, while a little slow to get the plot moving, eventually became somewhat engrossing as it delved into its futuristic theme park. The second season was where the real trouble began, for besides taking quite a while for it to get going properly, it became something of a mess not only narratively, but also temporally, ultimately favoring structure over substance. With the show returning for its third season, and the realization that it needed some retooling, the showrunners (Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy) have opted to return to a more linear approach, but will that be enough to bring it back to the better days of its debut season?
Picking up three months after the second season, Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) has escaped the park with several host cores, and begins a quest to gain control of an artificial intelligence known as Rehoboam. On the way, she meets Caleb (Aaron Paul), a construction worker and former soldier who takes on side jobs for money, and who also happens to save Dolores' life. Meanwhile, we also follow Maeve (Thandie Newton), who, after escaping from a WWII-themed area of the park, joins forces with Serac (Vincent Cassel), who built the AI, against Dolores in hopes of contacting her daughter.
As mentioned, season two had its fair share of problems, primarily in that in left the viewer perplexed not only regarding what was going on, but when the jumble of events were happening in relation to each other. The third season (subtitled "The New World") does indeed start off on the right foot by being more straightforward with its narrative, and that alone gives it a leg up over the previous outing, but sadly, when we look at that narrative closely, we find what amounts to the same issue as before: It's a rather jumbled mess of events that results in an overly-convoluted tale due to somewhat poor execution.
The narrative itself is a little more interesting than what we got with the second season, but more often than not, you'll still find yourself questioning the plot and character motivations, and even at a briefer eight episodes, it manages to feel a bit padded out with sluggish pacing. On top of that, the characters aren't fleshed-out very well, that is, to the point where we're engaged with their various plights (which is certainly not helped by the convoluted nature of the season's narrative). The story may be more straightforward this time around, but it would appear that Nolan and Joy neglected to look to the other issues pervading the show.
On the positive side, it continues to look fantastic, sporting gorgeous production design, costumes, and visual effects. In addition, the ensemble, which includes Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Ed Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Tessa Thompson, and Aaron Paul, all turn in fine work (Newton and Wright received Emmy nods this past year). However, all this does is make you wish that more effort had been put into the show's foundation to make it worthy of all the craft and talent that went into its better elements.
Overall, while it is indeed an improvement over the previous season, and continues to shine with its visual elements and talented cast, it's still lacking when it comes to the writing, which many would argue is the most important element of all. "Westworld" started off a bit shaky, but was able to find its way in that first season. The showrunners simply need to go back to it and rediscover what made it work in the first place before proceeding with the upcoming fourth season. There's still potential here, and if tapped into, it could easily become a decent show once again.
The third season of "Westworld" comes to Blu-ray in a 1.78:1/2.39:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of excellent quality. Every frame of the show continues to look marvelously sharp and clear, highlighting the show's remarkable special effects work and production design. Likewise the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is outstanding, giving you all of the dialogue, sound effects, and score in exceptional quality. Overall, the show has once again received great treatment for its home release, which will surely please its many fans.
Escape from Westworld (2 Minutes): A very brief overview of the new season.
Exploring Warworld (4 Minutes): A look at how the World War II-themed setting was brought to life.
We Live in a Technocracy (14 Minutes): Co-creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy discuss the show and data mining.
A Vision for the Future (14 Minutes): A look at the stunning new settings for season three.
RICO: Crime and the Gig Economy (7 Minutes): A featurette that explores the RICO app.
Westworld on Location (11 Minutes): A look at the various locations used for filming, including Singapore and Spain.
Welcome to Westworld (14 Minutes): A series of four featurettes that has Evan Rachel Wood & Aaron Paul and Thandie Newton & Tessa Thompson discussing the show and quizzing each other on characters' lines.
Creating Westworld's Reality: A series of seven featurettes that delve into the episodes.
While the third season of "Westworld" continues to impress with its visual elements and stellar cast, it unfortunately also continues having issues with its writing, presenting a convoluted, messy, and often sluggish narrative that, while improving upon the previous season, ultimately makes for another bland and forgettable outing.
Available on 4K/Blu-ray starting tomorrow.
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