In the never-ending forest of images of the streaming providers, the series "Westworld" (2016) was not only an offer worth keeping an eye on, but also one that the audience had to take a close look at.

The first season, based on the 1973 Michael Crichton film adaptation of the same name, about an amusement park in which obscenely rich people could find out via hyper-realistic human machines called hosts what holds them together or breaks them down, mastered it masterfully, existential differences to mark with details.

Man or machine, life or death, tale or reality—all could be told through a fly walking close-up across the wet, gleaming surface of an unblinking eye.

Axel Weidemann

Editor in the Feuilleton.

  • Follow I follow

Whoever watched the first season of "Westworld" with Anthony Hopkins in the role of Dr.

Robert Ford saw, he could start to ponder: what if people build robots that become more and more like themselves?

At the end of the development is the human machine made of cellular tissue, of flesh and blood, with extraordinary computing power?

Then machines would not be the better people, but man would be the best machine.

"Terminator" potential

But in the following seasons, the series slipped away from its subtleties in favor of a narrative that was still highly complex, but coarser in terms of dialogue and imagery, i.e. relying on bang effects and sayings.

This asked less what constitutes consciousness, but how much “Terminator” potential there is in “Westworld” or mankind.

While in season 2 the hosts had to free themselves from the predetermination of their stories, in season 3 it was the people who, using large-scale behavioral analysis (supported by data from thousands of "Westworld" park visitors), wrote stories to whom big data had a hard time could escape.

The realization of the observing machine, in the person of the robot rebel Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) who had fled the park - the Eve of this machine genesis - was that, in the worst case, humans can be captivated by a narrative given to them, in stressful and extreme situations but is able to decide between empathy and apathy.

Based on this model of free will, the series asked the age-old question: Can the human world still be saved?

If so, by whom

human or machine?

And: is it still the world of humans afterwards?

Between dream and reality

At the beginning of the fourth season, inclined viewers once again have to face the challenge of remembering and orienting themselves: who is who?

Who is machine, who is human?

Which spirit resides in which body?

What is machine dream and what is human reality - and above all: When is all this?

The fourth season follows a version of Dolores who, in a strange world, writes backstories for video games for the company Olympiad and thus involuntarily influences the fate of her fellow citizens.

She knows nothing of the actions of her evil twin, the power-hungry Dolores replica in the replicated body of former Park boss Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) - known in professional circles as "Charlores".

The murderous William is also part of the party as the eternal blackhat.

Ed Harris put it on in such a way that even the chainsaw-wielding Leatherface got the creeps.

We also see love-enlightened host Maeve (Thandie Newton) reunite with ex-soldier Caleb (Aaron Paul) to oppose the final machine pacification of the planet.

The opening credits tell a lot about the vector through which the end of free will reached people's minds like a pandemic: the fly, of all things, which in itself stands for organic and decay, to which Paul Cameron's action-driven camera no longer dares to get as close as it does in the first episodes, stands here in the form of a swarm laden with parasitic imperatives, representing all the annoying machine whisperings that buzz around humans and demand at least a reaction from them, if not complex behavior.

Unsurprisingly, this amounts to the enslavement of people by machines and the life simulations they generate.

"A new world order" is what Charlores calls it. And while those who are not digital natives are still struggling with the machine control commands,

her children are grateful victims: “They are so good at taking orders.

The parasite grew in perfect symbiosis with her mind,” says Charlores.

That would be an obvious, but nonetheless sad point of our machine-drunk meritocracy.

Only in season four as an antidote not digital detox is propagated, but talkative American legs apart.

There are too many "Hasta la vista, baby!" moments where the series keeps masquerading as action cinema.

Their once elaborate language has atrophied into one-liners and punchlines.

As a fiction-within-fiction ID it would work - as entertainment it's tiring.

But who knows, maybe the last of all Matryoshka realities has not yet emerged in front of the viewer.

And no matter what reality the series is in, one question remains: should the machines save us, the earth or just themselves?

You should talk to them about this as early as possible.


season 4 episodes air

Mondays on Sky Atlantic.