‘Well Enough Alone’ Speedruns Her Curls

This discussion and review contains spoilers for Westworld Season 4, Episode 2, “Alone Enough”.

In its third and fourth seasons, Westworld definitely got faster.

Allowing for various time jumps and flashbacks, the first two seasons were largely built around a single event: they flowed in and out of the revolution at the eponymous theme park. At 10 episodes each, some even extended, these seasons were able to bask in their storytelling. They were majestic and layered, sometimes even indulgent. In some ways, they felt like the last gasp of the “prestige television” era, with the show even positioning itself as a successor to game of thrones.

For better or worse, the third and fourth seasons moved away from this more stately and restrained approach to TV plotting, intensifying and accelerating their storytelling to the point of almost parodying themselves. If showrunner Lisa Joy could describe the show’s early years as “romantic,” then perhaps the third and fourth seasons would have a pulpier comic book aesthetic. The show is not about strolling or strolling; it’s galloping.

This acceleration in Westworld is evident even in “Well Enough Alone”. At the end of “The Auguries”, Maeve (Thandiwe Newton) mentions to Caleb (Aaron Paul) that she has a lead involving Senator Ken Whitney (Jack Coleman). Whitney is exposed as a host and decommissioned at the end of the “Well Enough Alone” teaser, with Maeve and Caleb discovering that Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) and William (Ed Harris) are behind everything that’s going on.

That doesn’t mean that Westworld is less opaque than before. The narrative is always deliberately elliptical. It’s unclear who Christina (Evan Rachel Wood) is and how she connects to the plot. Caleb makes vague allusions to “what happened at the lighthouse”, events glimpsed in a quick flashback in “The Augurs”. The show even has a little fun with it, with William interrupting Charlotte’s suitably vague naughty monologue to ask, “What the fuck are you talking about?”

However, even taking that into account, “Well Enough Alone” still goes through a process of elimination as Charlotte helpfully explains what she is. not Do. “It wouldn’t be practical for us to replace you all one by one, and what kind of existence would that be for us?” Charlotte confesses to Jim Navarro (Josh Randall), dismissing his replacement theory. She also rejects William’s theory that she is “going to copy (herself) to repopulate this world”.

“Well Enough Alone” also cuts through what could have been a full-season subplot, as Charlotte replaces key government officials like Senator Whitney and the Vice President (José Zúñiga) with hosts. It is a clear escalation of the Westworld premise, an extrapolation as logical from the basic concept as the revelations about data collection. Rightly so, given the ties between the franchises, it’s a reminder of just how Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom realized that cloning was a game-changer in the world of jurassic park like dinosaurs.

One gets the feeling that part of this change in style is largely pragmatic. One of the biggest criticisms of the first two seasons of Westworld was the idea that eagle-eyed, obsessive fans were able to figure out most twists ahead of time, so much so that showrunner Jonathan Nolan joked that the team wanted to “fuck it on Reddit.” The accelerated pace of the third and fourth seasons of Westworld makes it harder to predict what will happen before it happens.

There is a cost to this. Most Westworld The set was created in the first two seasons, so it benefits from the character work that was offered in those two slower arcs. In contrast, new characters tend to feel more thinly sketched. Audiences spent almost as much time with Aaron Paul as Caleb in the third and fourth seasons as they did with Anthony Hopkins as Ford in the first and second, but Caleb still feels like a much less developed character.

Westworld Well Enough Alone Season 4 Episode 2 Review HBO's Speed ​​Loop History Is Repeating Faster And Faster

To be clear, Caleb is functional as a character. It has motivation and history. However, he is effectively introduced as the show’s new co-protagonist in the third and fourth seasons, while feeling much shallower than characters like William or Maeve. While it’s hard to compete with actors like Harris or Newton, Paul held his own against Bryan Cranston on breaking Badnever to fall out of step with a co-star who, according to Hopkins himself, was doing “the best acting (he’s) seen – ever”.

That said, there’s something interesting about how this approach affects the storytelling on Westworld. Describing Steven Moffat’s work on Doctor Who and sherlock, critic Elizabeth Sandifer noted a trend of “narrative acceleration” in modern pop culture. Recalling screenwriter Paul Schrader’s similar arguments about modern media, the idea is that contemporary audiences are smart and have consumed far more media than previous generations. They know how stories work.

So creators can play with the rhythms and tempo of those stories, using that acceleration to play with audience expectations. rick and morty does something like this to great comic effect, actually heightened to absurdity. “Well Enough Alone” suggests a dramatic purpose to this acceleration within Westworld. After all, since its debut, the show has been built around “loops” – the idea of ​​characters and civilizations caught in repeating patterns.

“Well Enough Alone” suggests that the world outside the park isn’t all that different from the world inside the park. The episode opens with William picking up Clementine (Angela Sarafyan), one of the park’s sex workers. However, William clarifies that he sees the Vice President in similar terms. “You are for sale”, castigates William the chosen one. “Everyone came after you.” William is just as powerful – and just as untouchable – outside the park as he was inside.

Westworld Well Enough Alone Season 4 Episode 2 Review HBO's Speed ​​Loop History Is Repeating Faster And Faster

The story repeats itself. William and the Vice President reflect on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s observation that “there is no second act in American life”. It’s a tongue-in-cheek, self-conscious line from a show that is perhaps working through its own difficult second act. In its first two episodes, the fourth season of Westworld is saturated with echoes and repetitions of what came before. Indeed, the story that Christina begins to tell in “The Augurs” is very clearly the backstory of Dolores (also Wood).

While William argues the merits of Hemmingway and Fitzgerald, perhaps he would also understand the appeal of Faulkner. Thanks to his money and his influence, William is able to open another one historic theme park, despite the disaster that occurred a few years earlier. During the opening, which occurs in the same episode where he announces his plan, William draws conscious parallels between the “golden age” of his new theme park and the world in which Westworld is being broadcast.

“Nearly 150 years ago, this world experienced its first great war,” he explains. “The globe has been torn apart by fighting, decimated by a pandemic, crushed by loss. It was our darkest hour. And yet, we came back roaring. There’s something slightly conscious about that, that William just laid a new veneer on the first two seasons of Westworld and that the public revels in it with impatience. It is, after all, an era dominated by recycled intellectual property, reboots and repeats.

Westworld is a bit cheeky here, having his cake and eating it. “In the interest of giving audiences what they want, we’ve broadened our horizons,” boasts William, making it seem like the show is gently poking fun at viewers who just want a reboot of the first two seasons with a new skin on top. Speeding through it all, Westworld is able to underscore its theme that the story moves in circular patterns without feeling too much like replaying old hits.

There is also a sense of tragedy in all of this. Maeve grimly realizes she can never truly escape the park. “I ran away, crossed the shining sea, and when I finally set foot on solid ground, all I found was the same old shit,” she told Caleb. Even Charlotte’s master plan is just another iteration of the cycles of violence in the park. “You and your associates created a world and ruled it absolutely, controlling our every move, and now I’m going to do the same to you,” she warns William.

While the details of Charlotte’s plan remain ambiguous, the series’ iconography is deftly disturbing. Reflecting the show’s historical frame of reference transitioning into the 20th century, production designer Howard Cummings, art director Jon Carlos and set designer Julie Ochipinti allow more gold to creep into the world of show business to suggest opulence. from the Art Deco era. However, in the midst of this nostalgia, Westworld also understands what awaited at the end of this “roaring” era.

Charlotte’s contempt for humanity is palpable. She dismisses Anastasia Whitney (Saffron Burrows) as “cattle”, placing her in the stables with the horses. Ken Whitney’s corpse falls next to a tiger skin rug. On her way to the office, Christina notices the dead birds, apparently killed by “the Tower”. The opening credits depict human bodies being slain and suffocated, with Charlotte keeping the real William gassed. It’s a different kind of brutality than depicted in the first two seasons.

Westworld understands that just as the romantic image of “Manifest Destiny” disguised crimes like genocide and slavery, the opulence of the “Golden Age” would give way to an even more industrialized form of human atrocity. Westworld is a spectacle that is often as invigorating as it is frustrating. This is especially true as the show iterates faster and faster through each of its loops, perhaps reflecting the acceleration of the world around it. History can repeat itself, but it can also accelerate.

Again, a circle that gets smaller and smaller with each iteration isn’t really a loop; it is a spiral.

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