Westworld Season Four Review: A Temporary Return to Form.

Beginning Season Four of Westworld, I was not sure what to expect.
I had loved the first two seasons but found Season Three to be a drop in quality, and I hoped that Season Four would return the show to its former glory.
For a time, it did exactly this, before falling back into old mistakes.
The Fourth Season picks up years after the events of Season Three, with various characters in different situations.
Caleb Nichols (Aaron Paul) now has a family but after they are threatened by Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) and host William (Ed Harris), he teams up with Maeve (Thandie Newton) to take the two down once and for all.
Meanwhile, Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) awakens from his journey in the Sublime and, armed with knowledge of what is now to come, goes on a mission with Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) to save the fates of humanity and the hosts.
Most mysterious of all, a new version of Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), named Christina, is working at a video game company, yet slowly coming to realize that there is more to her world than it seems. 

Dolores is somehow back in Season Four. Her storyline across the season gradually reveals why this is, to mixed results by the end.

The first episode which established the various plot lines admittedly did very little to grab me.
Episodes Two and Four, however, did a much better job of getting me back into the show, and this all built up to Episode Four, “Generation Loss”, which got me back on the Westworld hype train.
“Generation Loss” made me feel the exact same way I did when watching the first two seasons of the show and the subsequent episodes kept up this level of engagement, supported by the great score from Ramin Djawadi, and fantastic performances from practically every cast member.
Of the old cast, the best of the bunch is definitely Aaron Paul, who delivers an amazing performance throughout as Caleb. 

Aaron Paul’s performance this season is among the best in all of Westworld.

As for the new characters, Aurora Perrineau is a welcome edition to the cast and I liked her role and performance.
Then there is the returning cast from the older seasons where, surprisingly, I would say that Teddy (James Marsden) really stands out.
I was someone who was not attatched to the character all that much in the first two seasons but he was honestly one of my favourite this season.

The first few episodes featuring Teddy made me care about him more than the first two seasons of Westworld ever did.

What with all of the great acting and story telling from Episode Four onwards, I was expecting Season Four of Westworld to have a great ending, which would at least put it on par with Season Two for me.
Then we got the last two episodes, which dropped the ball, in my opinion.
I was really not a fan of the direction these last two episodes went, as it felt like they had twists just for the sake of having them.
A lot of the character fates also felt quite stupid, in particular Maeve’s and Stubbs’.

The way Stubbs’ character concluded for this season was both abrupt and unceremonious.

Not to mention there was a lot of convenience in the final episodes, with quite a few fights in the final episode suffering from bad logic.
As for the ending of the season itself, it left me feeling as lukewarm as the ending to Season Three did.
All in all, this made Season Four quite the conflicting experience for me.
It started off slow but, by Episode Four, felt like it had reached the same high quality of the first two seasons, only to stumble at the finish line with the last two episodes.
I would rank Season Four above Season Three but below Seasons One and Two.
I just hope Season Five can be great throughout but, at this point, I would not hold my breath. 

The Batman Review: Forging a New Identity for the Bat.

Matt Reeves is a fantastic director.
Of the films of his that I have seen, there has not been a single one I disliked.
By far my favourites among his work are the two final installments in the Planet of the Apes trilogy, Dawn and War, which I consider to be one of the best trilogies of all time.
So, when I heard that he would be directing The Batman, I was sure that the caped crusader was in good hands.
After having seen the film, I can say with certainty that this suspicion was correct.
The Batman is an amazing film and my second or third favourite Batman film, coming behind The Dark Knight and either ahead of or behind Batman Begins.
The film follows a Batman, who has been fighting crime in Gotham for two years at this point, when a serial killer calling himself the Riddler begins murdering prominent politicians and leaving clues for the Batman.  
To catch the Riddler, the caped crusader is pushed to his breaking point, leading to a questioning of the very way he conducts himself.

“I’m Vengance” is the perfect beginning point for Batman’s growth as a character in this movie.

This time around, Batman is played by Robert Pattinson, which was a controversial choice at the time of the announcement because most movie goers knew him just as the guy from Twilight, not knowing that he had proved himself as an accomplished actor in many films since then.
I will admit, I was one of these people, until I saw him in Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, where he gave one of my favourite performances.
This made me excited to see him play the Batman and I think he absolutely nailed it, convincingly bringing out a side to the Batman we so rarely see in his movies.
So far in this review, I have been referring to Batman as the caped crusader, but in this film he is definitely embodying his little-seen title of world’s greatest detective, even if he does make mistakes.
Most audience members seem to love this take on the Batman, yet I have heard some criticize the fact that we don’t see much of Bruce Wayne, or rather, the persona of Bruce Wayne that Batman uses to hide his identity.
This is, however, clearly intentional, as Batman is entirely dedicated to his crusade, even to the detriment of himself and his relationship with others, leading to what I believe is the greatest Batman arc put to film.
How Batman’s ideology changes from the beginning of the film to the end is just phenomenal writing. 

For those disappointed that we don’t see the Bruce Wayne persona in this movie, we may see it in a sequel.

It is not just Batman, however, because the other characters are just as stellar, most of all Paul Dano as the Riddler.
Honestly, I have never really liked the Riddler as a villain.
He always seemed just too goofy for me to take seriously, and he was such a nuisance in the Arkham games.
Yet Paul Dano and the script he is working with turned the Riddler into a chilling villain that creeped me out right from the first scene he was in.

The Riddler’s first scene in The Batman made me go from, “the riddler is a joke” to “well, now I need to check every corner of my room when I get home to check that there isn’t a deranged serial killer hiding somewhere.”

Zoë Kravitz is fantastic as Catwoman and has great chemistry with Pattinson’s Batman.
Likewise, Jeffrey Wright works well with Pattinson, creating a fun partnership between Jim Gordon and Batman.
Andy Serkis also does well with the few scenes he has, especially one emotional moment between him and Bruce.
Then there’s John Tuturro as Carimine Falcone, who I did not expect to get as much screen time as he did, yet was so glad that he got it because I loved his performance.
Finally, there’s Colin Farrell, who is completely unrecognizable as the Penguin, to the point that I’m pretty sure we were all shocked when we learned it was him. 

Colin Farrell’s casting as the Penguin was the most suprising to me, until I saw how he looked in the trailers and movie. Phenominal make up prostetics and acting.

Essentially, ever single actor in this film, from those with big roles to small, do an excellent job.
This is all helped with excellent cinematography, action, and a gripping score by Michael Giacchino, in a move that is over three hours long when including the credits.
I know a movie is great when it has such a long runtime, yet I feel like barely any time has passed when it ends, which is exactly what happened to me when watching The Batman.
Another common criticism I have heard though, alongside the lack of Bruce Wayne, is that the third act feels out of nowhere and unnecessary.
While I do see where these criticisms are coming from, I felt that this third act was entirely necessary, providing some great commentary on real world issues, while also tying into Batman’s arc flawlessly

The third act really defines this Batman’s journey as something great.

As for my own criticisms, there is one I do have that appears to be shared by the majority of viewers.
This is that there is a certain cameo in this movie that feels quite unneeded and almost as if it was just there because the studio demanded it.
Not that this cameo kills the movie in any way, it just feels unwarranted and I would personally like it if future sequels focused on something else.
Another minor gripe I have is a few plot holes I realized when watching the film, most prominently one to do with the Penguin’s fate but, again, that is just a minor thing.
Otherwise, this movie is amazing. 
The Batman is a gripping film with the best Batman character arc put to the screen and I cannot wait for more.   

Westworld Season Three Review: A Fall From Grace.

3 stars
Created by Jonathon Nolan and Lisa Joy, Westworld is a series that I have been invested in right from the beginning.
As soon as it started airing I was hooked.
I loved season one and, even though season two gets a lot of criticism, I personally think it is just as good as the first with some of the show’s best episodes.
And now we have season three, which was… okay?
I put a question mark there because I am genuinely unsure of how to feel about this season.
It certainly wasn’t bad but, unlike the other two seasons, there were very little standout moments that had me on the edge of my seat.
Season three honestly feels like an entirely different show and that is not exactly a good thing.
The story picks up with the setting changing from the titular Westworld park to the outside world, where Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) is beginning her plans to take over all of humanity with a Host Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thomspon) at her side.
Enter Aaron Paul’s character, Caleb Nichols, who is recruited by Dolores to help with her revolution.

Caleb
Aaron Paul does a good job as new character Caleb.

However, at the same time, the mysterious Engerraund Serac (Vincent Cassel) revives Maeve (Thandie Newton) with the intention of using her to take down Dolores… oh, and Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and William (Ed Harris) are in this season too but they really don’t matter.
I’ll start by saying that I liked the roles Dolores, Charlotte, Caleb and Maeve had in this season.
While their stories aren’t anything spectacular they are still enjoyable, with Caleb being a welcome addition to the cast.
There are also a few surprise returns from minor characters that are well used.
But then there are Bernard and William who, as I said, don’t really matter.
They honestly felt like afterthoughts this season, which is such a shame because they are among the series’ best characters.
I especially don’t like how William’s story appeared to end.

William
They did William dirty with his screen time this season.

Thankfully, there is one great scene with Bernard in the final episode, although I wish this scene had more build up to it happening.
Then there is the action, which seems to fluctuate in quality across the season.
For example, there are some fights that are very good in the final few episodes.
However, there is a fight with Ashely Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) in the second episode that was just atrocious in quality.
One thing I can definitely praise the season for though is Ramin Djawadi’s score because it is amazing, as always.
Along with this, the CGI is also well done.
The season is surprisingly short too, with only eight episodes compared to the original two seasons’ ten each.
I actually got to the final episode not realizing it was the finale so I was pretty surprised when I learnt that it was over.

final episoe
The finale does leave some characters’ fates in question though so here’s to hoping we get satisfying answers in season 4.

All in all though, season three is still pretty good overall.
But, with its story having almost no epic moments, some characters being mishandled, and a few action sequences being laughable, it does fall miles short of the first two seasons.

Top 10 Westworld Episodes

Warning: Major Spoilers Ahead.

I can remember the first time I saw the trailer for Westworld and being very intrigued by what I saw.
However, nothing I saw could have prepared me for the colossal mind screwer that was this show.
Created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy and based of the movie by Michael Crichton, Westworld is a non-stop thrill ride of twists and turns from start to finish that never ceases to amaze and has me eagerly anticipating season two, which will air on the 23rd.
So, I decided in anticipation for the second season I would count down all the episodes in season one from weakest to greatest.

10. The Stray – Episode Three
the stray

The weakest episode of the series so far, The Stray is still a great episode that mostly serves as setup for future episodes.
It is in the Stray that we get various hints towards the future reveals of Bernard and The Man in Black.
The main storyline though is centered around two side characters Elsie Hughes (Shannon Woodward) and Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) as they hunt for a stray host, hence the title of the episode.
The scenes between the two are fairly funny, with great banter between them and a comedic tone… at least until the host in question bashes his head in with a rock.
There are many other great scenes this episode, like when Anthony Hopkins’ Robert Ford has a conversation with host Teddy Flood (James Marsden) about how they never bothered to give him a backstory.
This scene also serves to build up Wyatt.
Many other scenes build up future events as well, with the first mention of the Bicameral Mind and the beginning hints of Bernard being based off Arnold.
There is also the scene where Evan Rachel Wood’s Delores first shoots a gun, which is fun to watch because we get to see her break through her code.
Overall, this was a pretty good episodes but the thing that stop it being higher is how a lot of the scenes between the hosts feel slightly receptive due to the loop they are on.

9. Chestnut – Episode Two

Chesnut
The Stray may have had a lot of hints but it was in the episode prior, Chestnut, where I realised how great Westworld was at foreshadowing future events.
Subtle details like the fades to black every time it would cut back to William (Jimmi Simpson) hinted at the multiple timelines being presented and was the start of the whole William is The Man in Black theory that turned out be true.
There are many great scenes to accompany this foreshadowing like Ford’s conversation with Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright).
This particular scene has a great quote with Ford saying, “you can’t play god without being acquainted with the devil.”
The real scene stealer though is Thandie Newton as Maeve Millay.
Maeve is currently my favourite character in Westworld and this is the first episode where she was given time to shine, experiencing creepy flashbacks and then waking up from sleep mode to witness the depraved things that happen to the hosts.
However, even though this episode is very dark it is not without its funny moments.
The scene where Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) lays out his grand plan for a future storyline, only for Ford to just shut him down with a no was hilarious to see.
Chestnut was a great episode that really made me appreciate the subtle hints the show puts forward.

8. The Original – Episode One

The Original
The episode where it all began, The Original really draws the viewer into the series by showing how Westworld works and the horrors that the hosts have to experience on a daily basis.
Right from the opening shot you know this is going to be something, with the fly crawling over a seemingly comatose Delores’ eyes.
From there the episode sets up how Westworld works through Delores and Teddy’s horrifying interaction with the Man in Black (Ed Harris).
After this the loop replays, only events play out differently due to the guests’ interference, once again showing how it all fits together, for example Teddy will just completely forget about Delores in order to give some guests a tour.
Once again, there is humor to be seen here with Hector (Rodrigo Santoro) being shot in the neck before he can deliver Sizemore’s speech.
Finally there are the creepy final minutes of the episode, which sees Ford interrogating Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum) only for the tables to turn and the closing shots of the Man In Black leaving on his horse with a scalp and Delores’ swatting a fly on her neck.
It is this final action by Delores that shows the hosts are capable of hurting living things, despite what they claim, and left me shocked.
The Original was a great first episode for the series that succeeded at drawing me and others into Westworld.

7. The Adversary – Episode Six

The Adversary
The Adversary was a great lead up into the fantastic episode seven, which we will see later.
This episode introduced us to Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) and her arrival really sets events into motion, with Bernard later discovering Ford’s host family that Arnold built for him.
This later leads into another creepy scene where the kid host Ford tells the real Ford why he killed his dog, showing once again that the hosts are capable of killing things and calling back to a story from Ford’s youth we learnt in episode five.
We also see have the “supposed” death of Elsie this episode, although it remains to be seen if she is really dead.
Another highlight of the episode was the great shootout with Teddy and The Man in Black, where Teddy used a Gatling gun to kill all of the soldiers.
Finally there is one of the best moments in all of Westworld, where Felix Lutz (Leonardo Nam) escorts Maeve through the facility and she sees how Westworld works, how she was created and what is done to her and the other hosts on a regular basis.
This scene was just fantastic with great acting by Newton as Maeve and an excellent soundtrack to go along with it.
The Adversary was an episode that really prepared you for the shocking episode seven.

6. Trace Decay – Episode Eight

Tracey Decay
After the shocking reveal that Bernard is a host in episode seven, we got to see his reaction to killing Theresa (Sidse Babett Knudsen).
This was a very emotional scene with excellent acting from Wright and more hints from Ford that Bernard and Arnold are one and the same.
There were many other highlights to this episode, like Teddy knocking out the Man in Black after remembering what he did to Delores and the Man in Black then revealing his past and how he discovered The Maze.
This also tied into Maeve’s story arc this episode, with the flashback to her reaction to her daughter’s death at The Man in Black’s hands.
Just like Bernard’s reaction to Theresa’s death, this scene was also very emotional and made me hate Ford and the others for what they were doing to the hosts.
We also got more hints of the William and Man in Black connection, with it being left open ended as to whether William killed the confederate soldier he and Delores came across and when the Man in Black saw the host Angela, who William saw when he first arrived at Westworld.
Overall, Trace Decay was a very emotional episode that made me care for Maeve and Bernard even more and gave some great hints to the future Arnold and Man in Black reveals.

5. Dissonance Theory – Episode Four
Dissonance Theory

It is from this point forward that the episodes have gone from great to excellent.
Dissonance Theory was the first perfect episode of Westworld for me that had some really great standout scenes, the main one being Theresa Cullen and Ford’s conversation.
Watching Theresa slowly begin to realise that Ford has sat them at the exact table she and her parents sat at years ago was truly unnerving, all heightened by Hopkins’ terrific performance as the-man-with-a-god-complex, Ford.
This episode also gave many thrilling sequences like the Man in Black freeing Hector from prison and Hector later robbing Sweet Water again, only this time for Maeve to hold him at gunpoint.
Watching Maeve’s slow realization that she had experienced waking up to the “gods” before was interesting and the payoff was great.
The final moments of the episode with Maeve and Hector retrieving the bullet from her stomach and then being shot off screen was intense to watch and really set up Maeve waking up to talk to Felix at the end of Contrapasso.
Dissonance Theory was the first truly excellent episode of Westworld and it was the first of many to come.

4. Contrapasso – Episode Five
Contrapasso

Before Maeve became my favourite character it was Delores and this episode really highlights why because she has so many great scenes.
There in the very intense and interesting scene between Ford and Delores, in which both Hopkins and Wood give great performances.
What really cemented her as my favourite for the time being after this episode though was the scene where she saved William by shooting the confederate soldiers.
Her line, “I imagined a story where I didn’t have to be the damsel”, was absolutely fantastic.
Another standout this episode was the Man in Black as we saw just how ruthless he is, even considering murdering a child host to revive Teddy, before settling on Lawrence.
Then came the scene between the two sociopaths, the Man in Black and Ford, where we really got a sense of how the Man in Black sees himself.
Once again, there were even some somewhat funny, yet creepy moments, like when Elsie blackmails the necrophiliac.
I am really glad they killed that character in the finale, by the way.
Contrapasso is an episode with so many standout moments that it makes it instantly memorable.

3. The Bicameral Mind – Episode Ten
The Bicameral Mind

The season finale of Westworld ended season one with a bang… literally, as Delores shot Ford and various members of the Delos board, after achieving consciousness.
The way this episode was structured was amazing, with it beginning with Delores waking up for the first time and ending with her achieving consciousness.
If you pay attention to the music at the beginning and end of the episode you will notice it is the exact same music Arnold said was his son’s favourite before his death.
This episode also had some great reveals like that the Man in Black had been William the entire time and the events seen with William and Delores were actually in the past.
This reveal had been a huge fan theory for a while so I already knew about it when the reveal happened but I wish I didn’t because it would have been amazing to see that without knowing what was happening.
Still, even though I was pretty certain that William was the Man in Black by the time the reveal happened, it was still really well done.
The Bicameral Mind also had the attempted escape by Maeve from Westworld, where they kill multiple Westworld employees, thankfully including the “creepy necro-perve” as Elsie called him.
However, here we encounter the one problem I have with this episode that stops it from being higher, which is the plot hole of why none of Westworld security shoot Maeve and her allies?
They consider the hosts to not be alive so they would have no problem with shooting them but they just keep screaming “freeze all motor functions” and getting shot.
Other than that though, this episode was fantastic.
Plenty of great reveals, exciting moments and even contemplative moments like when Delores achieves consciousness.
This episode sure has me hyped for what is to come in season two.

2. Trompe L’Oeil – Episode Seven

Trompe L'oeil

Trompe L’Oeil, the seventh episode, had the second best twist of the entire show, we will get to the first in a minute.
The entire reveal that Bernard was a host all along was expertly done, with multiple hints throughout the episode.
The most apparent was Bernard asking, “what door” when Theresa asked him what was behind it.
To those who realised the implication of this question, they would spend a solid tense minute before the actual reveal took place.
What followed was a gripping conversation between Ford and Theresa, with Ford calling back to Charlotte’s recommendation for “a blood sacrifice”.
Theresa’s death at the hands of Bernard, who loved her, was sad to see and what he did would weigh heavily on him in the coming episodes.
The episode also had its fair share of action, with Lawrence blowing up the body of his dead friend and the ensuing chase sequence that followed.
The episode also opens on the hints of Bernard being a host version of Arnold by having Bernard dream about his son.
This raised the question that if Bernard was a host then was the dream real?
There was also various other hints toward the Man in Black twist, where Lawrence told William he has a “knack for killing,” hinting towards his future turn to darkness.
Trompe L’Oeil was an episode of full of hints towards future reveals as well as having its own massive one.
It left me speechless when I first saw it.

 
1. The Well-Tempered Clavier – Episode Nine

The Well-Tempered Clavier

If the twist that Bernard was a host left me speechless, then the twist that Bernard was a host made in the image of Arnold left me speechless and with my jaw on the floor.
True the signs were there and had been since the beginning, but they were expertly hidden and going back to look at these hints makes a second viewing of Westworld a delight.
The twist itself is expertly delivered, with the entire episode building to Bernard’s revelation after his conversation with Maeve.
The scene where Bernard has to let go Charlie’s memory to realise who he is, is a very emotional moment and a great lead up to the reveal.
However, it was not just Bernard that went through a great amount of change this episode but William as well.
This episode was the perfect transition episode for him, making the twist of him turning out to be the Man in Black, in The Bicameral Mind, much more believable.
Just seeing the aftermath of William having killed and quite obviously mutilated the confederate solider hosts is very haunting.
As well as this, The Well-Tempered Clavier had a lot of intense moments as well, like when Maeve convinces Hector to help her and the Man in Black nearly being hanged by a horse.
The Well-Tempered Clavier is my favourite episode of Westworld because of it delivers the best twist in Westworld, has insightful and intense moments and makes re-watching Westworld to check for hints a blast.

 

Westworld is a fantastic show. It is insightful, contemplative and full of explosive twists and turns. I am eagerly anticipating season two, which I will be reviewing every episode of, starting with episode one when it airs on Monday.