First look UK TV review: Westworld Season 3
Ivan Radford | On 16, Mar 2020
This spoiler-free review is based on the opening three episodes of Season 3.
“I’m going to start a revolution.” “No offence, but what the f*** does that mean?” That’s the sound of Westworld returning for a third season, and this time, Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) has got a human companion by her side. It’s a notable switch up for the sci-fi thriller’s third run, effectively marking a soft reboot for the whole programme.
For some viewers, the reaction of Caleb (Aaron Paul) is a familiar sensation, with the show scaling up – and out – from its original premise of theme park robots revolting against the brutal paying guests exploiting them for violent, depraved, debasing delights. Season 2 saw Dolores become a figurehead for the rebellion, dispatching a horde of rich higher-ups at the Delos Corporation, which ran Westworld, while simultaneously siphoning off a bunch of robot hosts into a digital safe haven, pocketing a few consciousnesses for her own ends and holding the encryption key to the data stored by Delos on every park guest.
Big data has increasingly been the focus of the show, and in Season 3, with Dolores now at large in the real human world, technology and lack of privacy is the real villain of the piece – completing Westworld’s evolution from a B-movie revenge thriller to a techno-corporate noir. Dolores, before she left Westworld, consumed a lot of private information about park guests, information that empowers her to track down the right people on the outside – as we join her in Season 3, she’s swaggering through the sleek, neon-lit cityscape like an assassin, part James Bond, part angel of death.
Within the first hour, she’s crossed paths with Liam Dempsey (John Gallagher Jr.), the head of an AI company that produced the algorithms that drive this futuristic society, and it’s clearly only a matter of time until her nefarious plans begin to take shape.
Further episodes also introduce us to Maeve (Thandie Newton) once more, who finds herself grappling with familiar faces, notions of reality and her own identity and free will – all challenges that face Dolores, but challenges that Maeve faces with less hunger for world domination. They remain two brilliantly balanced opposites, with Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) in the middle bringing his own philosophical enigmas.
If all that existential musing doesn’t float your boat, then you will have stopped Westworld long ago – it’s a show that loves portentous dialogue almost as much as it loves technological futurescapes. But if you’re a fan, then Season 3 doesn’t disappoint, improving upon Season 2 to distil things into something leaner, smarter – and clearer. Gone are the time-jumping puzzles and in their place a linear story that moves forward with a purpose. In that framework, it’s easier to keep track of new characters without getting lost, even managing to counter the overwrought monologuing of Vincent Cassel, who is visibly enjoying himself as a shady rich player in the shadows of the plot.
Aaron Paul, though, is the secret MVP, bringing an engaging, heartfelt humanity to a series that has previously been guilty of becoming too preoccupied with its appearance. Paul’s Caleb is a war veteran with PTSD who ekes out a living through an app that puts criminal jobs out for cash – and is eager to find something real beneath the commercial, computerised surface of civilisation. While Maeve brings an arch playfulness that livens up the serious tone, Paul emphasises Dolores’ vulnerable streak while she steps up her cool, deadly presence.
Westworld, at its core, remains the same beast, with every character and plot development leaving you second-guessing the calculations going on behind the scenes between creators Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan. But in a show where fate is such a preoccupation, it’s still fun to sit back and let the predetermined thrills fly by. What does Dolores’ revolution mean? With a renewed sense of focus and revamped look, Westworld’s third season is off to a promising start.
Westworld Season 3 premieres on Sky Atlantic at 2am on Mondays. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it live and on-demand on NOW, for £9.99 a month, with no contract and a 7-day free trial. Seasons 1 and 2 are available on Sky Box Sets and NOW until 6th June 2020.