Skip to Content

The Real Reasons Why Westworld Season 5 Was Cancelled

The Real Reasons Why Westworld Season 5 Was Cancelled

This post may contain affiliate links. We earn from qualifying purchases. Learn More

Westworld first premiered in 2016 and immediately drew the interest of fans. The dystopian science fiction Western is based on the 1973 film of the same name.

With a star-studded cast and a riveting storyline, Westworld gained positive feedback from both audience members and critics. Westworld even became the most-watched first season of any HBO original series.

With such positive feedback and popularity, many would think that the series would still be growing strong for a fifth season. So, why did HBO cancel Westworld after four seasons?

Why Was Westworld Cancelled?

Despite its initial success, HBO cancelled Westworld due to a drop in ratings and its large budget. As the show began to decline in popularity, the massive budget of the series proved too much for the network.

Westworld creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy were planning on a fifth season, but it never came to fruition. The premium network ultimately made the choice to cancel the show after airing the fourth season.

Season one of Westworld had an incredible 12 million viewers. However, only four million viewers tuned in to season four, a significant drop in numbers.

Scene from Westworld Season 4 epsiode 7 with Delores and Teddy

The series was also incredibly expensive to make, especially with settings changing every two seasons. Season 1 alone cost a whopping $100 million to make, with season 4 costing even more, at least $160 million.

Ratings kept declining and by season 4, fans found the storyline all over the place. Add in the incredible cost to produce the show, and HBO could simply not justify continuing the series.

HBO announced the decision to cancel the show just three months after season 4 finished airing.

“Over the past four seasons,” the network said in a statement, “Lisa [Joy] and [Jonathan Nolan] 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.”

How Much Did Westworld Cost To Make?

Each season of Westworld reportedly cost between $100 million and over $160 million.

The 90-minute pilot had an estimated $25 million budget, according to The Hollywood Reporter. With $100 million for the whole season, the other nine episodes likely cost over $8 million each.

HBO must have had a lot of faith in the show initially with that kind of budget. They scrapped the original Game of Thrones pilot at only $20 million.

Season 2 had a budget of at least $107 million, or $10.7 million per episode. With only 8 episodes, season 3 of Westworld cost at least $99 million. That’s over $12 million per episode!

Finally, season 4, which was also only 8 episodes, cost at least $160 million. That’s the highest budget of the series, and it’s tied for the fewest episodes.

Thandiwe Newton as Maeve and Rodrigo Santoro as Logan in Westworld Season 3

That means each episode of season 4 cost an average of $20 million. But most fans and critics agree that almost all of that budget is visible on the screen.

Westworld has an A-list cast including Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, and Anthony Hopkins. Each one certainly commands a large paycheck.

Then there’s the costumes and sets. Westworld has several very different settings, from a faux-Wild-West theme park to a futuristic real-world setting.

Executive producer J.J. Abrams called the production value “preposterous.”

“The expense is one thing,” Abrams told The Hollywood reporter, “but the results are entirely onscreen […] It’s not a cheap show to make, but it doesn’t hurt the eyes to look at.”

What Would Have Happened In Westworld Season 5?

The writers wanted to fully complete the story of Westworld in season 5. It likely would have followed Dolores as she recreated the original Westworld setting from season 1.

After her long manipulation by previous game makers for so long, co-showrunner Lisa Joy says Dolores would offer a new point of view to the Westworld game.

“[Dolores] lived through countless lives and reboots where she was at the mercy of guests in a park,” Joy said to The Wrap, “indulging in their vices and id.”

Delores in the Westworld TV show
John P. Johnson/HBO

“She’s seen a lot of human nature, and maybe enough to know how to structure something or give a game in which some kind of hope for it might emerge.”

It sounds like the bleakness of Westworld could have ended on a hopeful, if not exactly happy, note if it had gotten its planned final season.

Creators And Cast React To Westworld Season 5 Cancellation

HBO’s decision to cancel Westworld disappointed the fans, creators, and cast alike.

“We’ve been privileged to tell these stories,” the showrunners said after the cancellation, “about the future of consciousness — both human and beyond — in the brief window of time before our AI overlords forbid us from doing so.”

It’s an irreverent sort of goodbye, slyly implying HBO to be the overlords preventing them from continuing their story.

James Marsden, who played Teddy, also spoke frankly of his regret in HBO to Rolling Stone. “I’d be lying to you if I told you that the way we ended Westworld wasn’t a disappointment.”

 “I’m never going to speak without gratitude about any of my experiences, but it would have been nice to be able to complete the story we wanted to finish.”

He said he understood that the end product had to be worth the expense but did wish “it was about more than financial success.”

Despite season 4 having the lowest ratings of all the seasons, the die-hard fans were still there. They took to social media to express their anger and disappointment over Westworld’s cancellation.

Jamie Jirak, a writer for Comicbook.com, tweeted “NO SHOW IS SAFE.”

Another fan simply said “westworld [sic] deserved a fifth and final season.”

Even if ratings dropped, it’s still a shame to see a long-running series unable to finish its story.