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Ah, Lost. Remember that TV show that started with such an exciting premise, only to quickly spiral into a tricksy kaleidoscope of wanky garbage? It never managed to deliver on its premise, meaning that the torturously tortuous series was ultimately just a waste of time. (And yes, a plot this convoluted requires almost as convoluted language to describe.)
Westworld, which also involves J.J. Abrams, has been teetering on the verge of that same precipice throughout its second season. Neither as assured or rewarding as its first season, Westworld has relied on non-linear narratives and unsurprising, forced ‘twists’ to maintain a semblance of drama. Except, it doesn’t work.
The latest episode ‘Les Écorchés’ finally tipped me over the edge. Ostensibly unsure of what to do with its now-free robotic protagonists, a convenient switch has been flipped, resetting the status quo. It’s the postmodern equivalent of ‘it was all dream’, because everything we’ve watched up until now was meaningless.
It’s either a sign of desperation or a lack of conviction. The script, rather than being revelatory, moves in circles to confuse and frustrate without offering the emotional and narrative rewards such hard work for the audience requires. And audiences are starting to get savvy.
Plotholes abound; fidelity is a problem with all the host copies of humans, but somehow Sir Anthony Hopkins is the one exception. The only interesting plot thread (Maeve trying to rescue her daughter) has been severed, and any dramatic tension that existed has completely evaporated in the face of eye-rolling exasperation.
Characters change their personalities to facilitate plot. They lose and regain free will on a whim. Plot contorts and flips in an attempt to masquerade the pretentious hollowness at the centre of it all. Ultimately it feels like the writers don’t know what they’re doing with the show. They’re just wasting time – ours and theirs.
And the thing is: the story itself isn’t that complicated. It could be really enjoyable and rewarding. But the writers are swapping tension and payoff – things that require skill and patience, but can be done with a very simple narrative structure – for a jumbled storyline, expecting that to create the drama for them.
Let’s hope the team behind the show wakes up (or takes a narrative structure class) in time for season 3. I really want to like this show, but they certainly don’t make it easy.