From HBO and Jonathan Nolan comes the sci-fi drama series Westworld, based on the original film from Michael Crichton. It stars Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, Thandie Newton, Rodrigo Santoro and Jeffrey Wright. Westworld will return for season 2 in 2017.
Based on the 1973 film of the same name, Westworld is about an amusement part where the androids from various time-themed sections come to life and kill the guests. The series has been described as a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin. Set at the intersection of the near future and the reimagined past, it explores a world in which every human appetite, no matter how noble or depraved, can be indulged.
Westworld has two of the most powerful and endearing bookend episodes of 2017. We received a remarkable premiere and stunning finale — in-between a maze loaded with wondrous twists and turns all making us question the true motivations of these fascinating characters both real and cybernetic. I didn’t watch the original film, but I did see that fantastic Simpsons episode where all the robots at Itchy and Scratchy Land try to kill the people at an amusement park, so I get the idea… Close enough.
We have this incredibly vast landscape where rich tourists pay a fee to cosplay as cowboys in the 1800’s to take part in whatever games or activities they want at this part called ‘Westworld’. This so called park is loaded with EXTREMELY life-like robots or ‘hosts’ as they’re referred to in the show. Most of the time dudes usually show up to have all kinds of reckless sex and get drunk, maybe indulge in some sick and twisted murder fantasy, or they can hunt down criminals or have a shootout. And guests can do all of this because they are relatively safe from harm as the hosts are programmed to NOT kill humans.
This is truly a fascinating series in the way it balances these wild west themes and storylines while bouncing to the behind-the-scenes operations of the park where we see Anthony Hopkins and Jeffrey Wright constructing storylines, interviewing the hosts and dealing with the day to day shenanigans of a greedy business takeover and so very much more. You will likely never understand Hopkins’ true intentions for Westworld until the finale, but when you do, you will love him for it. He plays one crazy bastard and he will most definitely be nominated for an Emmy here. Jeffrey Wright is also a breakout star and he really owns much of the series as Bernard, the chief engineer and second in command to Hopkins’ Ford.
Over time, I became more intrigued by the ‘modern’ day setting of the behind-the-scenes stuff at the base of operations rather than the fake western locale, but I think this was by design. Jonathan Nolan and his team of writers did such a brilliant job balancing these worlds and combining them was by no means an easy task, especially on a show that dares to string viewers along with incredibly dense and complicated subplots. Most of the time I felt like I was Ed Harris’ character, a guest who rampages through Westworld in search of ‘The Maze’ – the deepest part of the game at the park. Harris delivers a mesmerising performance as the man in black – he does awful things to the hosts but he becomes a fan favourite straight away. There are no weak links in this entire cast – Thandie Newton – I can’t NOT mention her – my god. Her storyline kind of runs alongside the rest of the narrative and it was easily my favorite stuff, especially in the kill-crazy bonkers finale. Holy shit. That’s all I can say – Holy shit.
From the music, we get nice modern songs like ‘Black Hole Sun’ on the saloon piano – to the stunning special effects, Westworld is most definitely the series that HBO needed with Game of Thrones winding down the home-stretch. I will say however, that there were several moments that I was unhappy with in the middle – especially in regards to the convoluted reveals and some of the pacing along the way. When we finally get answers – I feel as though it took them 20 minutes to really hammer home the plot twist – whereas I would much rather preferred a quick gut-punch. I swear to god there are plot twists in the final three episodes that feel like they took a half hour to unfold. I get it – but let’s just… pick up the pace. That’s a sign of extremely in depth writing though and a testament to the amount of work the writers put forward on this series. There were no corners cut here – everything had to be very, very, very well thought out.
Minor Spoilers Ahead
I found myself craving robot vengeance for the entire second half of the season and I was happy to finally get it – in a major but unexpected way in the finale. Westworld really does a solid job making the audience empathise for these artificially intelligent hosts – so when the time finally comes for sweet sweet revenge – it felt great. There was so much death, destruction and mayhem in the season finale that I felt like I needed an extra hour of runtime to deal with all this shit. I wasn’t super happy with where they decided to end the season either but I will say that I’m blown away with just how much they actually did deliver in that episode. Season 2 is going to batshit insane if they pick up right where they left us hanging…