The other night as I was watching
I realised that I wasn't watching the show at all. Not really. Instead what I was doing was simply looking at
. Two vastly different things.
Don't get me wrong, it's always been an attractive and glitzy show. Right from when it first moseyed onto our screens back in 2016 it was clear that the series was spending every last cent of its reportedly extravagant budget creating its AI-inhabited theme park world.
It was overflowing with whiz-bang CGI effects and the series frequently deployed full-on action scenes that were at a cinematic blockbuster level of quality.
Thanks to the theme park setting these massive and elaborate set-pieces could see a bloody samurai sword fight in feudal Japan, a sudden shoot out in the wild west or a daring high-speed escape from an occupied village in WW2.
The choreography, attention to period detail and bone crunching, bloodthirstiness of the action has always been second-to-none.
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It wasn't all old school though. As the story kicked up a gear and the park's AI androids - or hosts - began their rebellion the action moved to Westworld's futuristic setting of 2053. Although just like the hosts our glimpse of the big wide world outside the park was mainly contained to its labs and control rooms.
However, that all changed with the new season, which streams on Neon and screens on Sky's SoHo. The android rebellion is now in full swing as our hero Dolores begins moving the pieces in her plan to take over or conquer the human world. So, I guess she's now the baddie. Even though the show is clearly wanting you to continue to side with her.
And because you can't take over the world from a theme park the action has globe trotted its way over to Singapore. Although, in the show it's not Singapore, it's future Los Angeles.
Wherever it is, it looks amazing. The architecture dazzling in its gravity defying curves and unusual shapes. When night falls, and there's been plenty of blood spilling action taking place after dark, its drenched in aesthetically pleasing and futuristically appropriate neon.
This new Tron-style setting looked totally cool but nothing like the dusty old west of the show's first couple of seasons. Then it began introducing a city's worth of new characters. And that's when I realised I was looking at Westworld rather than watching it.
There's been a two year gap between the end of season two and the beginning of season three and in that time I'd forgotten a lot of the finer details. Better Call Saul had a similar gap between drinks but when that picked up it all quickly came flooding back. Westworld, on the other hand, has been like starting over.
It felt like a whole other show. One I didn't know if I could really be bothered with. And not just because it had a whole new cast of characters. When it was set in a theme park I could look past the ridiculous conceit that these androids were being reset every night and running the same routine each and every day for humanity's amusement. Even if this meant they often ended up bloodied, bruised or dead.
Financially, as a theme park operator, Westworld made no sense. But hey, whatever. I could go with it. But moving these androids into the real world - no matter how futuristic - throws up so many questions it all but shattered my suspension of disbelief. Yeah, I know there's probably a reddit thread detailing in encyclopedic detail the answers to things but hey, I just want to watch TV over here, not get a homework assignment.
But suspend disbelief I (mostly) did. Albeit with much reluctance over the first two episodes. Westworld has always been a fairly cold show and not even the addition of Breaking Bad's Aaron Paul could get me to connect at all with the new season. Until I got to episode three.
Because that's when Westworld came roaring back, baby! Ed Harris's grizzly Man in Black climbed out of his whisky-soaked pit of self-pity ready to reclaim his android making company and was promptly thwarted by Tessa Thompson's scheming acting CEO. Thandie Newton once again proved she's the show's MVP by ruthlessly dispatching a horde of machinegun toting Yakuza before picking up a samurai sword and hunting down their boss.
And Evan Rachel Wood's rebellion leader Dolores fully completed her transformation from simple farmgirl (farm android? Whatever...) into a sort of cross between an evil mastermind and the Terminator.
For a while there I felt like I'd been watching an inferior yet good looking spin-off. And that's why I think my eyes were glazing over. But now, now it feels like I'm watching Westworld.