Jonathan Nolan, like his brother Christopher Nolan is a maverick. He did the same on small screens what his brother did on big screen, that is redefining the medium. He is known for his subtle, twisty, high-on-cinematic-techniques tales that continuously play with the dimension of Time. He upped the game with each season of his underrated gem Person of Interest and managed to pull the same feat with first two seasons of Westworld. The problems arose when the third season released. Here’s a small list.
1) Departure from subtlety:
If there’s one synonym for the Nolan brothers, it has to be subtlety. The way Westworld’s earlier seasons said without saying much and sometimes without saying anything at all, are still a delight for mind and soul. But this season showed a departure from that precious virtue. I’ll give you an example. A bomb explodes in the car killing Charlotte Hale’s family. The very next scene shows Hale rising from the ashes, furious and vengeful. As powerful as it is, it’s not the Nolan’s way. Because this direct approach takes away the punch of the scene where in the middle of a gunfight Hale confronts Dolores. There are so many such instances. Like at the very first scene of Caleb where he talks with Francis the first time, we easily guess that Francis is dead and perhaps by the hands of Caleb only. I liked the post-credit scene for its subtlety though, where Bernard shuts down and later wakes up only to be seen covered in dust, hinting that so many years (or months atleast) have passed.
2) Straightforward story:
Casual viewers watch a film or series for their stories from point A to point D via B & C. Not Nolans’ devoted audience. They watch to let their mind to be blown and soul to be crushed with twisted timelines and non-linear storytelling. They watch for the hollowness it creates in their life after it ends. They watch only to question their own existence. Westworld’s earlier two seasons did the trick, but unfortunately not this. The story this time is straight like an arrow and however loaded it was, it always feels like there was a room for betterment. This is the first for a Nolan series and that’s why this silliness is hurting the most.
3) No element of surprise:
Whatever be the story, a Nolan always keep hidden one or two arrows of surprise in his quiver only to pierce us at the last moment. They hid a few surprises in this season too, but they don’t hit you hard. Why? Because all these surprises were marred by the swarm of hints. For example, various characters question so many times in various scenes that why Dolores reprinted Bernard that even before Serac starts searching the Key to the sublime in Dolores, we know that the Key must be with Bernard. This lessens the cumulative punch of the series.
4) Failing to reinvent:
Reinvention is an underlying theme in each season of Westworld. In the first season everything was a surprise, including the park. In the second season, though it was again confined to the park with the same characters, almost all the characters’ core nature was changed and the surprise element remained intact. It provided utmost attention to character development and creating emotional backstories like Kiksuya that even after knowing they are but the Robots, we cared for them. This season has literally thrown the character development out of the show. There’re tragic backstories but they weren’t rooted in the core. So even if Hector, the love of Maeve’s life dies a sad death, it fails to move us the way it did in earlier seasons. Same happens when Dolores kills herself and Maeve with EMP, for we know that they would be back. In POI too they used two warring AI’s but they treated the theme so well that those seem to be real characters of the show, even without any vocal dialogues. Here Rehoboam and Solomon, for all the power they had, seemed too much passive and kind of lame. Lame, as if the devil Samaritan and the good Machine would eat them for breakfast. Motivations of other characters too seem to be random and won’t take the things forward as they should. The only scene gave me goosebumps was when Caleb tries to protect the Host girls from his friends and later they show Dolores among them. Predictable, but powerful. Serac’s backstory sounds directionless though with too much hangover of the narrative style of POI.
5) Erroneous settings:
Nolans always mean pure logic. But sadly not this time. Dolores claims that she chose Caleb for several reasons, but in reality their first meeting (technically second) where he inadvertently finds a wounded Dolores in an alley, was pure chance. She didn’t even know his name at that time and that is why she asks her virtual assistant to get information on him once he tells her his name. This is a huge error, which could have been easily avoided. There are other such small loopholes too.
Williams character too is entirely pointless, drag and crazy; almost like this whole Season 3. This means, he is still the soul of the show, but in a very bad way. The similarities won’t end there, because at the end he is killed and replaced by a replica, sadly just like the show. Part of my mind says, this season is kind of letdown because D&D are attached with it. But part of me knows that, it’s not the case. It is a bit disappointing because of the hurried writing and sloppy direction. I’m not saying it was bad. For all its mistakes, it is still better than many of the other serieses, most certainly better than the last season of GoT. But as a Nolan fan, I’m not used to a compromised product, however slightly it may be. So it’s a great show, with an unsatisfying season, that’s it. Anyway, however unsatisfying the season is, Ramin Djawadi has simply outdone himself. His music was fab, is fab and will certainly remain fab. He is to Jonathan, what Rahman is to Mani and Hans is to Christopher, simply amazing and divine. Looking forward to the 4th Season now.
— © Vikram Edke
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