“Westworld” returns for a third season, featuring several familiar faces in unfamiliar roles and extending aspects of the second season that creatively sailed off the rails. While there is surely intelligent life out there eager to see where this goes, at this point it’s not so much a question of not being able to follow the series through its convoluted maze as simply not feeling as if it’s worth the energy to try. Looking more conspicuously futuristic in its design, the HBO drama still boasts an assortment of really good actors, augmented by James Marsden returning and Oscar winner Ariana DeBose and Daniel Wu among the new additions.
Much of the bloodshed inflicted on one person is committed anonymously and at random, with little indication that the train will even reach its destination. But assuming that the Gemma story is a depiction of America as they exist today, it is not entirely clear that the season premieres will lead to a different state of world history.
The most interesting thread involves the renegade A.I. Maeve (Thandiwe Newton), who reunites with her former lover Caleb (Aaron Paul) as they go on a mission together. Their path intersects with villainous and ruthless William (Ed Harris) as he pursues his own shadowy scheme, a character originally elevated by first-season mystery but who has since become progressively less interesting.
The series’ previous stars, Evan Rachel Wood and Jeffrey Wright, return for the second season. However, through four episodes it’s hard to make much of their storylines, which only feeds the sense that “Westworld” is constructed as roughly three programs in one. As for how the producers will bring it all crashing together, whatever goodwill and trust they generated in the past has mostly evaporated, creating less faith that they’re playing six-dimensional chess and more suspicion that they’re spending a whole lot of HBO’s money on an elaborate jigsaw puzzle. (HBO, like CNN, is a unit of Warner Bros.)
Michael Crichton’s original franchise was substantially updated with “Westworld.” It may not meet everyone’s approval, but even after its central idea gets turned upside down, it provides sympathetic experience to viewers.
Having attentively watched over half of this series’s eight episodes, it appears that for the most part each scene can be satisfactorily assembled for those who unqualified at the outset were doubtful about humankind.
Maeve makes a darkly wry comment about the coming fight by saying, “Disposing and dismembering. Just like the good old days.” However, the “good old days” are just that—in the past—and except for those most invested in making “Westworld” make sense, no matter how much you play with the wiring it doesn’t look like they’re coming back.