To be clear, the blame for “Westworld” cannot be laid squarely at Abrams’ feet. Warner Bros. Discovery canned “Westworld” ahead of its planned final season, which may have finally unraveled the Gordian knot of its narrative. But by all accounts, he had an outsized influence on the series and was the one who pitched it to showrunner Jonathan Nolan. And when compared to Abrams’ other TV series, we always find the same issue to one degree or another.
Two Abrams shows almost dodge the problem entirely. The first is “Castle Rock,” a Hulu Original collaboration between Abrams and Stephen King, both attached as EPs. The horror series gives its characters more room to breathe as they uncover the dark secrets of the fictional Maine town, but is also wary of making waves. As critic Daniel Feinberg put it in his review for The Hollywood Reporter, “It’s all Easter eggs, no Easter dinner.”
It would be a disservice not to mention “Lovecraft Country,” the unfortunately short-lived horror series starring Jonathan Majors. The first and only season was unflinching when discussing racial identity in America, following a WWII veteran (Majors) who leaves behind the horrors of war only to discover those awaiting him at home. But as the season progresses, it becomes concerned with plot mechanics that eventually drown the urgent social critique its early episodes hammer home. Compared to “Watchmen,” another HBO show helmed by “Lost” co-creator Damon Lindelof which debuted near it and shared many of the same themes, “Lovecraft Country” comes up wanting.
So it goes across Abrams’ TV. The trees are lost for the forest, and the forest is set on fire to drive audience excitement, obscuring any hint of meaning behind a choking layer of smoke.