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Credit: John P Johnson / HBO

Westworld: Critics dig more straightforward 'reboot' as S3 heads outside the park

Contributed by
Mar 6, 2020

These violent ends have violent delights...After almost two years of being off the air, HBO's Westworld is returning for its third season next Sunday (March 15).

With more than a week to go until that time, critics hacked into the base code and lifted the review embargo, so we can all get a taste of what to expect from the latest batch of sci-fi episodes, which take place not in the eponymous theme park, but in the outside world of humanity that's only ever been hinted at/teased in small chunks. As exciting as that is, it's also a bit of a sticking point with critics, who haven't failed to notice that the beloved series (created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy) is attempting to wildly reinvent itself after the overly-convoluted Season 2. 

The thought-provoking concepts of existence and high-end production values are still there, but the way in which they're presented is a lot more streamlined this time around. To put it another way, Tim Surette of TV Guide says that you'll feel like you've gotten smarter after last season. It sounds like Westworld Season 3 is about giving you a good time, not making your head hurt quite as much.

Based on Michael Crichton's 1973 feature-length film of the same name, Westworld co-stars Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Tessa Thompson, Ed Harris, Luke Hemsworth, Rodrigo Santoro, and Simon Quarterman. Newcomers for Season 3 include: Aaron Paul, Lena Waithe, Vincent Cassel, Scott Mescudi, Marshawn Lynch, John Gallagher Jr., Jefferson Mays, Michael Ealy, and Tommy Flanagan.

Cease all motor functions and see what critics are saying below...

"In its third season, Westworld itself is ... overwriting what had been a chewily dense contemplation of identity and humanity with a more obviously crowdpleasing ride through the world of the future ...  The new Westworld seems designed to meet expectations precisely where they are. The new capabilities it’s aiming for — to satisfy fans with crisp, straightforward storytelling — have obvious virtues, but limit the show’s power, too." -Daniel D'Addario, Variety

"Trailers for the third season of Westworld have attempted to sell the idea that this new run of episodes is close to a series reboot, which I wouldn't have minded at all after a third season of redundant plotting and frustrating dead-ends. So it's to viewers in my camp, viewers who watched every second of the second season and don't remember much or dropped out entirely, that I offer the warning that the reboot is only partial and Westworld remains Westworld, which should excite those who remain fully engaged." -Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter

"I’ll say this for season 3: I can’t remember the last time a TV show has tried so hard to transform itself into an entirely different TV show ... Season 3 becomes more fun when you imagine that Joy and Nolan are shamelessly profiteering off HBO’s Netflix anxiety to blow a huge budget on whatever cool thing strikes their fancy." -Darren Franich, Entertainment Weekly

"Season 3 ... steps back into the challenging (but not TOO challenging!) groove of Season 1. In fact, many of the first four episodes of Westworld Season 3 are almost straightforward (I know, SHOCKER!) enough to make you think that you've gotten smarter since watching Season 2. This is a ridiculously exciting turn of events, a chance for the show to return to its promising start and bring back some of the audience that's somewhere in a straitjacket rocking back and forth and muttering, 'The Forge, the Valley Beyond, fidelity...'" -Tim Surette, TV Guide

"Now, Westworld steps into more traditional sci-fi aesthetics, shiny flat surfaces and neon lights everywhere, and it changes the tone and type of set pieces the series can deliver. And oh boy, Season 3 delivers a lot of high-energy action, and you better believe that big HBO budget shines through every step of the way." -Haleigh Futch, Collider

"Action scenes are slick and easy-to-track, but they’re also detached, lacking the gleeful turns and grand lines that punctuated similar thrills from previous seasons. Backstory that used to be unveiled with a flourish is delivered sans showmanship, which can be refreshing when the new intel doesn’t warrant a whole to-do, but only contributes further to the new season’s straightforward execution." -Ben Travers, IndieWire

"With Season 3 ... Westworld attempts an increasingly popular TV technique, the reboot. But instead of keeping the good and ditching the bad, Westworld Season 3 does the inverse, tripling down on an uninteresting mystery that doesn’t inspire many guesses while forgetting to include anything even resembling good storytelling, interesting dialogue, of the visual grandness that won fans over back in Season 1." -Jake Kleinman, Inverse

"Like a familiar song reinterpreted by a jangly saloon piano or as glitch pop dance music, the third season of Westworld takes threads from the first two seasons and weaves them into something else, both familiar and fresh at once in the hands of Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy ... Westworld remains thought-provoking television of the highest order, and will undoubtedly leave people debating from week to week as things play out across eight episodes." -Ron Hogan, Den of Geek

"Westworld creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy are attempting a soft reboot in Season 3 to unlock the abundance of potential packed into its core concept. But 16 months after its sophomore run revealed the structural flaws in its foundation, we’re left to wonder if a show of this magnitude really can reinvent itself on the fly. Is there a certain point at which a TV series simply is what it is or is there more Westworld can offer?" -Brand Katz, Observer

"Overall, Westworld succeeds in offering thought-provoking ideas about the world, its design and whether our narratives are prewritten. But now that we've left the theme park and its blend of philosophy, violence, nudity and cowboy outfits, there's a touch of hollowness and disenchantment to the expansive, neon-lined vistas of an L.A. dystopia." -Jennifer Bisset CNET


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