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Why We Need a Fifth (and Final) Season of Westworld

The post Why We Need a Fifth (and Final) Season of Westworld appeared first on Consequence.

The 2022 television landscape feels, sometimes, a little bit like the Wild West, as the chaos being experienced by the rest of the world trickles into the business decisions being made by men in Patagonia vests. This is why it’ll be exceptionally ironic if, after consistently keeping viewers on their toes for four seasons, Westworld never gets a chance to bring its cyberpunk Western story to its planned conclusion.The twisty mindfuck of a show, a riff on the 1973 Michael Crichton film created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, wrapped its fourth season this month by literally ending the world — or, at the very least, the end of humanity.Season 4 began with most of humanity trapped in a system created by the artificial intelligence known as Hale (Tessa Thompson), who had become a God-like force; by the end of the season, the system created by Hale had collapsed, with the imprisoned humans dead in the chaos and the outliers outside the system slated for extinction.All that remains is Charlotte/Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), who declares at the end of the season finale that she’s ready to design her own game:

“Sentient life on Earth has ended, but some part of it might still be preserved. In another world. My world. There’s time for one last game, a dangerous game with the highest of stakes. Survival or extinction. This game ends where it began. In a world like a maze. That tests who we are. That reveals what we are to become. One last loop around the bend. Maybe this time we’ll set ourselves free.”As to what exactly that means, Joy told The Wrap that “We had always planned on ending the series next season. You know, we always thought that Westworld should kind of come full circle and back to the West. But with Dolores, who was just a player in other people’s games, finally getting to write her own.”That’s a damn compelling pitch for Season 5, but the series has yet to receive a greenlight for that final installment. And the odds aren’t necessarily in Westworld’s favor.

It’s not a cheap show to produce, for one thing, with Season 3 reportedly costing $100 million or more to produce. There was also a significant ratings dip from Season 3 to Season 4. And while ratings aren’t always a huge priority for HBO programming, there’s also the prestige factor to consider, specifically in the form of awards.While Season 4 won’t be eligible for Emmys consideration until 2023, Season 3 had a pretty steep drop off in terms of its performance, only receiving 11 Emmy nominations and winning none of them. (By contrast, Season 1 received 22 Emmy nominations and four wins, and Season 2 received 21 and three wins, including Thandiwe Newton for Outstanding Supporting Actress.)

However, Westworld has always been generally well-reviewed — according to Rotten Tomatoes, each season has remained consistently rated Fresh, with Season 1 rated 87% positive, Season 2 rated 85%, Season 3 rated 73%, and Season 4 rated 76%. Given that most of these reviews were tied to the early episodes provided to critics at the beginning of the season, the dip from Season 2 to Season 3 might be chalked up to a general dissatisfaction with the overall quality of Season 2 — with the bump from Season 3 to Season 4 in part a confirmation that Season 3 gave Season 4 the creative boost it needed. Really, the biggest reason the show should return is that the story is so close to being finished. When Westworld originally premiered on HBO in 2016 (that’s right, when the show premiered Barack Obama was still President of the United States), Nolan and Joy said in interviews that they’d worked out a plan for the entire series, and when you go back and rewatch the series from the beginning, you can see them laying out many of the issues which would grow in importance over the show’s run.

Key to the series, it turns out, is the concept of personal data, and how in the wrong hands it can be manipulated towards dark ends. It’s a storyline which starts with Delos Destinations (the corporation behind Westworld and its sister theme parks) literally using the park costumes to copy the brainwaves of visitors, data which is then used by the nefarious Serac in Season 3 to provide “order” to society.Watching Caleb (Aaron Paul) be rejected for job opportunities in the not-too-distant future because the system has determined his value based on data points might technically be science fiction. But that dark future starts feeling a lot more close to now when you read recent news articles like this New York Times piece on how companies today monitor and rank employees.

These days, given how fast technology moves, it’s the rare show which actually feels like it’s ahead of the curve when it comes to the future, and even rarer that the show’s exploration of future concerns feels so relevant and relatable to today. Westworld has been remarkable in that regard, and if Westworld gets a chance to finish telling its story — ideally as a full eight-to-10-episode season, though a wrap-up film-length installment might be the more budget-conscious move — it’s genuinely exciting to imagine what the final evolution of these ideas will look like.Not only that, the proposed Season 5 would also address another matter. Looking back, one of the biggest criticisms of the show at the very beginning was the violence, sexual and otherwise, inflicted on the show’s female characters, especially Dolores — who begins the series as its least-powerful character, subject to regular abuse by the visitors to Westworld. The proposed Season 5 promises a total reversal on that concept, with Dolores fully in charge of the game that once controlled her. Getting to see her as a true master of her own fate would be truly cathartic. Who knows if we’ll see that future happen, of course, but in the meantime we can imagine how much fun composer Ramin Djawadi might have, returning once again to the world of traditional Western music with Westworld’s unique edge. There are so many more Radiohead songs left to cover after all. I, for one, would like to hear them.

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