In 2016, HBO’s next great hope for prestige science fiction and fantasy was Westworld. What a difference six years make. In the blink of a pop culture eye, Westworld has gone from a critically acclaimed sci-fi hit to the junk pile. Like the show’s discarded robot Hosts, it’s about to be kicked to the curb. Here’s why you should binge this contradictory, frustrating, and unique sci-fi series before it’s too late.
Following an uneven but bold Season 4, it was reported that Westworld would not be renewed for Season 5. Considering that most life on Earth was wiped out at the end of Season 4, the lack of a Season 5 wasn’t that shocking, but showrunner Lisa Joy has hinted that there were ways the story could have moved forward for a final season.
Light spoilers ahead for Westworld Season 1-4.
The final insult to Westworld is a shocking development: Not only is Westworld canceled, but according to Deadline, the series will be pulled from HBO Max. So not only will fans not get more episodes, but soon you won’t even be able to watch this once-prestige HBO drama on HBO’s own streaming service. Like Bernard’s memories, it’s almost as though HBO is erasing Westworld from existence. This feels brutal considering the Season 4 finale was only in August.
As a frustrated Westworld viewer who’s straight-up said the show was bad, I still find it distressing that the series is suddenly about to vanish. Westworld was an inconsistent, pretentious series that created information gaps in place of actual plots. But, even at my angriest moments of watching Westworld, I never wanted it to suffer this fate.
From Season 1 onward, the performances were magnificent. Evan Rachel Wood got better and better, while Jeffrey Wright, Thandie Newton, Jimmi Simpson, Ed Harris, Tessa Thompson, James Mardsen, and late-comer Aaron Paul were fantastic throughout. It was thinly written, but the actors elevated the material every single time.
The production values were also astoundingly good. When the series leaped from the confines of robot theme parks in Seasons 1 and 2 and started showing us the “real world” of the future, the movement was seamless. What could have felt cheesy and unmooring was instead beautifully managed. So much so, in fact, that Westworld was accidentally predictive of real-world events.
Throughout the series, Westworld approached the age-old debate about free will from a variety of intriguing angles. Did the robot Hosts have free will? Do humans manipulated by AI have free will? Does data really tell us anything about the choices we make? Do our memories make us human, or is it something else? None of these questions were unique to Westworld, but it attacked them with stylish, violent, arresting, and, often compelling television. Despite its many flaws, there’s really never been anything else quite like Westworld.
Westworld never deserved its 2016 “next Game of Thrones” crown. But it also doesn’t deserve to be forgotten. Watch Westworld while you still can. Who knows when a sci-fi show this big, odd, and challenging will come along again.
Westworld is streaming on HBO Max.