When I reviewed the pilot episode of HBO’s latest grandiose series, Westworld, I predicted great things to come. We are now through six episodes, and while the show is breathtaking from a cinematography view point, the acting is spot on, the premise is enticing, and DAMN there is a lot of nudity, it just feels like something is missing. Perhaps it is my own personal let down from the past season of Game of Thrones, where every episode built on each other to end in a crescendo that left me on the edge of my seat. Perhaps it is the fact that outside Maeve (the amazing Thandie Newton) and Dolores (the genuinely likable Evan Rachel Wood), the characters are for the most part deplorable. Let’s take a look where we stand so far.
The Man in Black
Ed Harris knows how to play a baddie. From his rustic look, to his deep voice, he exudes villain. In Westworld, he portrays a nameless guest to the park (if you are unfamiliar with the premise, everything that happens is set in a wild west theme park, where guest pay a ton of money to experience gun fights, saloons, brothels, and the like. The “hosts” are sophisticated androids that are incapable of harming the human guests and are fixed and have their memories erased on a nightly basis). He has been coming to the park his entire life, but now wants to learn the inner secrets of The Maze, a sort of end game that only the elite players can reach. He is a ruthless man in both this fictional universe and in the real world as a corporate executive. The issue I have is that while the show-runners are attempting to make this maze a big reveal, I honestly don’t care and certainly can’t invest in TMIB. Perhaps if it were a gentler character that stumbled upon the maze, it would hold more meaning. Now he has in his employ the cowboy Teddy Flood (James Marsden). He is the “oh shucks” beau of the comely Dolores, or at least that is what his programming tells him.
Logan & William
Logan (Ben Barnes) and William (Jimmi Simpson) are guests at the park. Logan is an egotistical prick, who happens to be William’s boss and Brother-in-Law. Logan is trying to unleash the potential asshole in William, but Will doesn’t want to go down that path. Even though he is fully aware that the hosts are not human, he is reluctant to kill, rape, and pillage. The duo end up with Dolores, taking her on a quest. It is clear that William is developing real feelings for her but to be honest, he is a complete bore. I would applaud his moral high ground if there were any stakes to it, but there aren’t. Unless something big happens in the last four episodes of the season, these two seem more like a distraction to me.
The upper floor
Corporate espionage? Back door dealings? Corrupt board of directors? All of these plot devices are useful to the drama of a show and while they usually generate intrigue and suspense, here they generate a strong desire to fast forward my DVR. Theresa (Sidse Babett Knudsen) is in charge of operations who has a deep distaste for both the park and it’s creator, Robert Ford (Sir Anthony Hopkins). She is involved in an intimate relationship with the head of programming, Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), which, once again, should be titillating. It just isn’t. I will preface this to say that come episode six, this angle became extremely interesting when Bernard’s employee Elsie (Shannon Woodward) stumbled across a satellite signal that is transmitting to an empty part of the park, and then disrupting the protocols of first generation hosts-such as Dolores and Maeve. This could be the hook that keeps the ball rolling for the remainder of the season. Wright’s Bernard is at the center of it all and his cool demeanor could outlay something far more sinister perhaps than we are willing to see. Then again, he could end up the hero of the whole show. Only time will tell.
Sir Hopkins is bat shit crazy
Mr. Ford is a visionary. He is building next generation hosts, expanding the park, and looking to bring even more wealth and happiness to the board. But he is seriously disturbed. From threatening his underlings, to housing his actual family in android form, he is becoming increasingly unhinged. And now the mysterious Arnold, with whom he built the company but who died tragically at its inception, seems to have reappeared and is behind the disruptive signals to the hosts. Or is he? Ford might be the real bad guy in Westworld.
And all that is good in the Westworld
The absolute gems of the show are the ladies. Maeve is the fiercest brothel owner one could ask for, but she believes she is going mad. The signal referenced previously is preventing her from fully entering sleep mode, so while her first few experiences in the bowels of the robot repair shop were startling, she has retained the memories that seemed like dreams, but are now an opportunity for her to escape this artificial life and like Pinocchio, become a real girl. Dolores is the other light in a dark world. Her sweetness and caring are infectious but the signal is affecting her too and she is becoming more determined to discover its meaning and get answers as well. Both ladies are acting the hell out of this thing.
Westworld is a very good show. The production value alone is stunning. But I want more than good. I want EPIC. I will admit that the last episode set us on a course past good to great. I can only hope that the remaining installments send us to the moon. There are some interesting theories out there that could come to bare in the last half of the season:
- Is the show a time jumping narrative, with perhaps the MIB and William being the same person at different points in time?
- Is everything that is occurring simply a product of Dolores’ super processor and her “glitches” are actually memories of a time gone by?
- Are Bernard and his fellow programmers actually androids themselves and everything happening with Maeve and the signals an expansion pack of the main game?
- Teddy is a wholesome, hero cowboy that loves Dolores and wants her safe. Or is he? There is mounting evidence in flashbacks that he may be the murderous bandit Wyatt.
**Let us know your thoughts on Westworld! Do you think that it has been exceptional or just ok?**