Westworld: Season One Review

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Posted December 7, 2016 by Henry Wong in Nerdy Bits

*****Spoilers!!!!*****

Westworld. An adult-rated theme park where future humans will still bring their kids, just like they do with mature-rated movies. Humans it seems, will never change. Which leads wonderfully to what Westworld is as a TV show. It’s an experiment in human ingenuity, in humanity’s constant strive for creativity, new narrative writing styles, and fancier ways to stun through visual wonder. And although HBO has a penchant for nudity, violence, and other tidbits of adult-rated “things”, they did it right in Westworld. Probably the best they have ever done it. Which summarizes what Westworld is as a TV show. Arguably, the best TV they have ever done.

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Apparently inspired by a 1973 film of the same name, Westworld delves deep into many thematic issues that surround humanity. I found that I was debating myself what the key theme was for every episode and only realized how beautifully woven the themes were within each story arc, by the time each episode ended. Issues of existentialism, of godhood, of the morality in creation, of death, of child rearing, of humanity’s ability to humanize and so on. It felt and still feels like an onslaught of themes and thematic symbols, like the existentialist dialogue between Arnold and Delores, or Delores and William; crucified Teddy or The Creation of Adam, or even the underground vault of discarded Hosts. Surprisingly, I understand it all and I can point them all out as they appeared. Not only that, but all of the themes could be, and were easily discussable. And this is what makes the show’s themes, done so well. It’s simple and not simple to understand, mind blowing and yet, easily comprehensible.

This leads me to the next point. The story telling/narrative of the show was easy to follow. In a way, Westworld is our entertainment as Westworld is to the humans of Westworld. The humans in Westworld are able to pick and choose which narrative, or quest, they want to embark on. Their quest has an objective for them to achieve, and the freedom to do anything in between. That describes the show. At least for me. From the first episode, from the very moment I first humanized Delores, a Host, I knew that the show would grant her “self-consciousness”. What happened between that first moment, to the very last moment was up to me to think about. And think about it I did. As the narrative was easy to follow, when the plot twists did come up, I could not say I did not expect them. And yet there was a level of satisfaction and surprise when the show turned the plot as it did. It was a thought project, and there was really no way to think wrong of what had happened. Even when the rare plot twist surprised me, I was still able to piece together how and why the plot twist worked. And this simple narrative telling is what made the show appealing.

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The acting in the show is arguably multiple levels above that found in other current TV shows. Especially the actors/actresses who portray the Hosts. Their impersonal and indifferent way to interacting with everything really impressed upon me that if we were to have a future Westworld, Hosts would behave exactly as portrayed on the show. I don’t know if acting as a robot would be an easily achievable endeavour, but I truly enjoyed the scenes that involved reprogramming, or software checks of the Hosts. Furthermore, I felt on a personal level, emotional pain when watching Hosts recklessly harmed by the guests. On the narrative level, the actors/actresses portraying the guests really conveyed the recklessness I would expect from what spoiled rich folk would do to property they paid for the privilege of destroying. Much like what a person would look like as they experienced the modern “rage room” fad; with a natural reckless abandon.

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There are plenty of reviews out there, and articles, that praise the shows invocation of discussion. What I haven’t seen is praise directed at how the show simplifies its infinite amount of layers. It is layered in the way that life is simplistic, yet complex. We eat, breathe, sleep, work. We enjoy the things in between, and sometimes, we do the necessities of life in a different order. But if you care for it, when you look further down into life, there are so many interactions and changes that occur. And that is essentially the show. You can enjoy it for what it is. You can enjoy it if you take the time to delve deep and analyze it. But overall, its so well crafted that anyone can enjoy however they want to. Like the theme park. Westworld.

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P.S. We’re all robots.


About the Author

Henry Wong