Westworld, because you don’t need to watch journalists complaining about Trump 24/7. This TV show is guaranteed to have you question artificial intelligence, human nature and the idea of moral decay/sin. One month ago, HBO introduced us to the world of Dolores and the Man in Black in what is a sci-fi drama on artificially created humans who tell right from wrong based on scripts written by scientists. HBO expects that this series will become second most watched production under its umbrella, alongside the counterpart hit Game of Thrones. With the plot already written for 5 years in advance, we can only assume this new piece of television is invested in with an according budget.
First of all, we should be thanking the producers for offering a one-hour TV product with such an in-depth scenario and such well-thought plot. On the producers’ list we find Jonathan Nolan, J.J. Abrams and Lisa Joy. The cast looks nice too, staring among others Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Robert Ford, the creator of the human artificial intelligence alongside his dead mysterious partner. It’s also worth mentioning that the series is based on a movie from 1973 with the same name.
The action takes place in a theme park called Westworld, a likely replica of 19th century USA, somewhere in the aftermath of the American Civil War, which we learn when Dolores & William’s squad meet El Lazo. There is a lot of shooting going on and you sure get a Western feeling. I think it makes the series interesting, action-filled and attracting a broader range of viewers. It wouldn’t have been as interesting for the producers to consider their theme park a Buddhist meditation temple with android buddhist monks. Not that Buddhist temples are not cool, they really are.
I particularly appreciate about this show and HBO productions in general that they build their characters really in depth and their moral choices involve you as a viewer, taking sides, picking favorites and sympathizing with their pain.
Now, trying to avoid being a spoiler, another thing I like about the show is the difference between the artificial humans’ lives and the lives of the doctors and scientists controlling Westworld; this contrast between people shooting at each other, with no laws, no rules and the calm, calculated world of the employees. And from a historical point of view, it really makes you wonder and appreciate the long road human evolution has been on.
Talking about the characters, one nice thing is that unlike The Walking Dead, your favorite character could be killed off and he/she will be brought back to life. Because the hosts (the artificial humans) are rebooted, their memories erased and put back to use; the spicy element is that there is a a bunch of these hosts non complying to this rule and without spoiling it too much, the number is 5 as we learnt in the last episode. I guess the most obvious thing about Westworld is how people are just expendable, whereas we in our society enjoy the fact that the state does its best to ensure security, the right to life and in general our well-being
But what makes these hosts interesting? For one, they are completely identical with the actual humans. Upon entering the park, one of the visitors asks his guide:
“Are you real?” to which she replies:
“Well, if you can’t tell the difference, what’s the purpose?”
They love, bleed, die just like any other human. They are given a personality, with features such as: emotional intelligence, loyalty, kindness in greater or smaller proportion. If we had a chance to look inside actual human brains, I’m sure we would find something similar there. No hosts are similar to each other. They all have distinguishing traits. But there is one big difference between actual humans and the humanoids, telly that the latter lack one significant aspect: purpose. We, humans in the real world have all kinds of objectives that we want to achieve, either it’s a university degree, getting a promotion or buying a new car, we always have these kinds of goals stuck in the back of our heads and they keep us going. When we reach a milestone, we set a new one and move forward to achieving the next goal. But the artificial humans do not have it. They are in their most part, selfless. Their purpose is to please the visitors of the park and they aren’t even aware of it. Because the trick is, the robots don’t know they are robots. They don’t know their world is artificially designed and that the real world is completely different. That’s why, for instance, when Dolores is shown a picture of a girl with Times Square in the background she finds it so odd that she can’t understand what she is seeing.
“What did the picture look like?”
“Nothing. It looked like nothing to me.”
And so the characters don’t have a purpose. Their lives are circular and their days repeat themselves without them being aware. They are not discontent with their situation, nor do they want to change it. Except for the little rebels. Hence, one of the conflicts of the show.
The main conflict is given by the maze, which means different things for the people in search of it. For Dolores, for instance, the maze is the equivalent of freedom. She is guided by a male voice telling her she needs to find him. For the Man in Black it’s decoding the game, a game he saved from financial collapse decades ago and a game he’s spent his entire adult life trying to understand. For him, the maze is the deeper level of the game, the last story Arnold left untold before he died.
There are other characters and other conflicts nonetheless. We can see one contouring from the very beginning of the show where we see doctor Robert Ford talking about his partner and creating Westworld together.
He is talking about Arnold whose vision of the artificial humans started to drift away from science:
“He saw something in them, something that was not there.”
And we kind of get a feeling Arnold is going to be around and do some waves when Doctor Ford is telling Bernard his partner is totally dead and will not be making any problem.
Secondary conflicts are also present, such as the ones between the employees at Westworld, between Bernard and Doctor Ford; Maeve’s story is also gradually developing and there is potential that her story will become also central in the forthcoming episodes. I like Maeve because she is different than Dolores. Whereas Dolores is the cute, blonde daddy’s girl, Maeve means business. She gets herself killed just to meet the engineers of Westworld and then makes them bend to her will.
The dialogues between the characters in this show are really really nice and I appreciate how much emphasis there is on characters talking about principles, right and wrong, freedom and truth. For instance, one interesting moment is when Abernathy, Dolores’ father whispers to her a quote from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet “These violent delights have violent ends” (“…and in their triumph die, like fire and powder, which, as they kiss, consume”)
There are a lot of theories on Reddit and on other websites about Westworld. The most commonly agreed on one is that the plot is actually developing in 2 or 3 different timelines which we are not aware of yet. And that we’ve been introduced to the Man in Black at the beginning of his adventure in the park, 35 years ago. This one is my favorite. The others are less interesting, such as Dolores being the replica of Arnold’s daughter.
So far, the show received good critic and it’s not hard to understand why. It’s really good and worth watching. It’s one of those series which doesn’t weight too much on the viewers but still impacts them a lot. I don’t think a cliffhanger in Westworld will leave us in such suspense as the Season 6 finale of Game of Thrones and that’s completely cool. The moral conflict of the characters cuts deep. And also in terms of details and hidden signs, it totally rocks.
So give it a try. Here you have the trailer
The pictures used in this article as well as information can be found here
Opinions expressed here belong to the author.