“Crisis Theory” brought season three of Westworld to an intense end and raised a few questions for the fourth season to explore. It also left me with a few concerns as to where the story will go next. Specifically, though I generally liked what was certainly the most action-packed episode of Westworld to date, I do fear that story is taking a back seat to set-pieces.
I found the arc featuring Dolores, Maeve and Caleb the most satisfying. The previous few episodes had me confused as to why Dolores selected Caleb for the mission to destroy Rehoboam. What little explanation was provided was flimsy, but I liked how the finale showed us Caleb and Dolores’ first interaction, many years earlier, at park five. The content of that park had long been a mystery, so it was good to get the revelation that it was used by the military for training. The writers did right by Maeve by finally having her and Dolores team up. Maeve’s presence was one note and disappointing for the second half of the season, but she and Dolores shined over the course of these 90 minutes. I have a feeling, like much of season three, the finale will polarize critics and viewers, but probably few will disagree that “Crisis Theory” contained Evan Rachel Wood’s best (possibly last) performance and one of Thandie Newton’s better performances of the entire series.
While I have nothing but praise for the Dolores, Caleb and Maeve story line in this episode, I have complaints about Bernard and William. I liked the scene where Bernard visited Arnold’s wife, but it felt sorely out of place given everything else going on. I get that thematically, it was emphasizing the importance of memories, as I’m sure Bernard’s journey into the sublime will explore how memories play a key role in helping humanity rebuild. Alas, the visit with Laura still seemed like a capped-on bit of storytelling that attempted (and failed) to make up for the fact that Jeffrey Wright was thoroughly wasted by the writing staff this season.
I also don’t like the overall trajectory going forward. Westworld didn’t start out as a show about the apocalypse, at least not in the formulaic, Terminator sense it is now. I didn’t mind having the show leave the Delos park, but on it’s current path, it also risks leaving behind the thought provoking philosophical flourishes in favor of machines beating the crap out of each other.
Another thing I disliked the more I thought about it is how the episode blunted the impact of what happened to William. Why was that a post credits scene? To be honest, I don’t usually like post credits scenes in anything, whether it be Westworld or the MCU. If it’s a brief, jokey moment that has little to do with the plot, fine, but if it’s something that is going to have a major impact on later installments, just find a way to fit the damn scene into episode/film. The editing of William’s subplot last night was odd, because half of it occurred within the episode, and then it was just dropped until after the credits.
Thanks to the cast and the often-exhilarating direction, I will certainly give season four of Westworld a chance when it premieres. But watching this show veer towards apocalyptic action thriller has me thinking maybe this should have been a 1-2 seasons and done kind of show. Now that I’ve experienced it in its entirety, season three just didn’t justify the big narrative leap into the real world the way its first few episodes promised it might.