When a new TV show receives as much pre-air hype as Westworld does, it’s hard to live up to expectations. HBO shows usually receive a lot of buzz – just look at Game of Thrones, True Detective, and True Blood, to name but a few. And the similarities between these shows don’t end there – all boast impressive casts, strong premises, and memorable images. But what makes Westworld stand out? Well, it feels fresh. I honestly think that a season or two down the line, Westworld may eclipse Game of Thrones.
Blending a science fiction and western genre is quite a hard feat to achieve (Cowboys & Aliens, we’re looking at you!) but Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy do an impeccable job. The production values surely eclipse even the best movies at the moment. There’s a real sense that this world has been crafted to perfection, and that every item of clothing or set dressing has been meticulously picked in order to authenticate the Westworld theme park – for both the ‘Newcomers’ and the viewers alike. For in Westworld android ‘Hosts’ are there to bow to every whim of the visitors, with a dozen interconnecting pre-written storylines playing out over the course of a single day, before resetting for the next days events.
Now, this is where Westworld COULD (and I use could as broadly as possible) stall in future episodes. Seeing the same acts enacted time and time again with only minor tweaks may grow tiresome; after all, we saw Evan Rachel Wood’s Dolores Abernathy wake up to a new day three times over ‘The Original’. Thankfully something different occurred each day. Hopefully this premise will continue, because otherwise it could grow stale.
Boasting a cast of 13 characters, some shine inevitably more than others. Wood is the star of ‘The Original’. She’s naive and sweet and creepy all at the same time, depending upon where she is situated. Within the theme park itself, Dolores is your typical sweet girl living and enjoying each day as it comes, but beneath the facade the viewer is reminded that she is an android. There’s more to her than meets the eye, surely. I have a distinct feeling that she remembers more than she should. Just look at that closing shot. Midway through ‘The Original’ we are told that the ‘Hosts’ are unable to hurt a fly, let alone a human, and yet Dolores slaps a buzzing fly and kills it without batting her eyelids. I wonder which human she kills first…
James Marsden’s Teddy Flood shocked me, I’ll admit. I fell for the ruse of him being one of the ‘Newcomers’, so when he was killed and reanimated during the first half of the premiere I was floored. I’m intrigued about where this character can go, because thus far he’s showing all the signs of being an android through and through. Thandie Newton’s Maeve Millay is, unfortunately, underused, but that’ll inevitably change in coming episodes. And Rodrigo Santoro’s Hector Escaton may come across as a one-dimensional villainous role, but surely this can’t continue for the next nine episodes. All in all, the ‘Host’ characters are quite memorable.
And, surprisingly, so are the humans. Jeffrey Wright’s Bernard Lowe is a character that viewers are going to root for, I’m sure. He’s very likeable, and Wright does a good job in conveying this niceness to create a truly good character. This’ll likely change before long, though. Simon Quarterman’s Lee Sizemore is a bit of a dick, as is Shannon Woodward’s Elsie Hughes. On the flip side Luke Hemsworth’s Ashley Stubbs is coming across as every bit a hero as his as his younger brothers superhero role in the MCU. So, naturally, all of this will probably flip. We’ll probably root for Lee and Elsie, and despise Ashley, but that’s what makes a show great.
Ed Harris and Anthony Hopkins’ roles’ are quite hard to fathom, however. Ed’s Man in Black is the typical villain on a quest; he’ll fuck with whichever ‘Host’ gets in his way, and he’ll even fuck them directly, whether they want it or not. I’m interested in his motives – he surely has a deeper connection to Westworld than we’re led to believe. Maybe he had a hand in its inception? Meanwhile, Hopkins’ Robert Ford, the creator of Westworld, HAS to be hiding something. I think he’ll serve as our introduction to this world, but I can’t see him making it past the first season, somehow…
‘The Original’ is a creepy opening – flies landing on eyeballs, Dolores’ father switching and her not knowing – that sets the foundations for a breathtaking ride. The ‘Hosts’ seemingly can’t be destroyed, and the humans cannot be harmed by the ‘Hosts’, so obviously all of this is going to change. The tropes of science fiction are, unfortunately, well worn. It’s predictable what could and will happen. But what’ll make Westworld stand above the rest is HOW these tropes are explored and inverted, and with Jonathan Nolan, Bryan Burk and J. J. Abrams at the helm, I’m more than confident this will be achieved.
So welcome to Westworld, your very new TV addiction.