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HBO has switched off Westworld.
The network has decided to cancel the sci-fi drama after its recent fourth season.
It’s an unexpected fate for a series that was once considered one of HBO’s biggest tentpoles — an acclaimed mystery-box drama that racked up 54 Emmy nominations (including a supporting actress win for Thandiwe Newton).
Last month, co-creator Jonathan Nolan said in an interview that he hoped HBO would give the series a fifth season to wrap up the show’s ambitious story, which has chronicled a robot uprising that changed the fate of humanity. “We always planned for a fifth and final season,” Nolan said. “We are still in conversations with the network. We very much hope to make them.” Co-creator Lisa Joy likewise said the series has always been working toward a specific ending: “Jonah and I have always had an ending in mind that we hope to reach. We have not quite reached it yet.”
Yet linear ratings for the pricey series fell off sharply for its third season, and then dropped even further for season four. Westworld’s critic average on Rotten Tomatoes likewise declined from the mid-80s for its first two seasons to the mid-70s for the latter two. Fans increasingly griped that the show had become confusing and tangled in its mythology and lacked characters to root for. Looming over all of this is the fact Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav has pledged aggressive cost-cutting, though network insiders maintain that saving money was not a factor in the show’s cancellation.
Still, HBO — and, increasingly, other cable networks and streamers — typically like to give major series creators time to craft an ending for serialized shows as it keeps its subscribers from getting upset (see: the years-long fandom outrage after Deadwood was axed). Plus, a show that can tout a beginning, middle and end arguably increases its perceived value as a streaming and home video product compared to a title that feels unfinished.
The fourth season of Westworld wasn’t entirely a cliffhanger, however. Its final moments could be said to be rather ambiguous (as discussed in our postseason interview with Joy, where THR associate editor Abbey White pointed out, “It felt like the show could have ended there”).
Here’s HBO’s statement: “Over the past four seasons, Lisa and [Jonathan] have taken viewers on a mind-bending odyssey, raising the bar at every step. We are tremendously grateful to them, along with their immensely talented cast, producers and crew, and all of our partners at Kilter Films, Bad Robot and Warner Bros. Television. It’s been a thrill to join them on this journey.”
And here’s Kilter Films’ statement: “Making Westworld has been one of the highlights of our careers. We are deeply grateful to our extraordinary cast and crew for creating these indelible characters and brilliant worlds. We’ve been privileged to tell these stories about the future of consciousness – both human and beyond – in the brief window of time before our AI overlords forbid us from doing so.”
HBO still has several tentpole dramas including the newly launched House of the Dragon along with Succession, The White Lotus and Euphoria, plus the upcoming zombie apocalypse thriller The Last of Us.
Also, just like the show’s frequently resurrected androids, it would be foolish to assume there will never be any more Westworld ever. If Deadwood can get a movie 12 years after the series finished, it’s always possible Westworld could likewise be, well, rebooted.
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