Wild Wild Westworld
One of my favorite things a TV show can do is hint at subtle mysteries early on that keep you guessing and theorizing until it finally pays off later down the road. I love Netflix binge-watching as much as the next guy, but I have to admit that when you crush an entire season of Daredevil in a weekend, the episodes blur together and you lose a small bit of appreciation for the art. Two weeks in and Westworld already has me hooked and fully appreciating the time to sit and stew between episodes.
The basic premise is relatively straightforward. An eccentric scientist-type guy runs a super-realistic theme park populated by androids ('hosts') where regular people ('newcomers') can pay to visit and indulge themselves in any way imaginable. For those of you who aren't familiar, Westworld is based on a 1973 film penned by Michael Crichton, a guy whose name you should definitely recognize as an accomplished author, notably for writing the book Jurassic Park. Crichton's work often explores the implications of humans interacting with technology, a theme that you can clearly see in Jurassic Park as well as Westworld. As a sci-fi fan, I was hooked as soon as this show was announced. A theme park allows guests to come and do whatever they want to and with dinosaurs, er, VERY realistic androids? What could go wrong?
Even only two episodes in, the show is already diving headfirst into these issues and themes, and it's a ride I can already tell I'm going to love every minute of. Sure, the concept is a bit strange and far-fetched, but with superintelligent AI on the not-too-distant horizon and a culture that constantly redefines its definition of entertainment (I'm looking at you, Bachelor franchise), the connection to our reality is definitely strong enough to be scary. What if you could spend a day in the wild west doing absolutely anything with no repercussions? Feel free to comment below with your answer but I'd prefer you sort it out with your therapist instead. I'm not saying that we're all depraved, deep-down, but it is a question the show loudly asks. A story line introduced in episode 2 features a visitor to the park who is a 'good' guy hesitant to do anything too crazy, so I'm interested to see how the rest of his experience in the park goes.
So the show has depth, but what I'm also loving about Westworld is the aesthetic. Being an HBO show you know the production value is going to be great, so it's no surprise the in-park scenes feel like you're watching a Western. The control center for the park is amazingly well done as well. Lots of minimal design and dark, bold colors make the ambiance not too unlike the Death Star or even the war room in Dr. Strangelove. Cool stuff.
Of course, these environments would be useless without a great cast to fill it and Westworld does not disappoint. Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, James Marsden, Evan Rachel Wood, the guy I always think of as 'that guy from The Manchurian Candidate', and yet ANOTHER Hemsworth brother bring a level of talent we've come to expect from all HBO shows. I'm looking forward to how the characters they bring to life will develop and interact as the show goes on.
Even if the concept of robots, sci-fi themes, or a lesser known Hemsworth brother aren't enough to get you excited for this show, still give the first episode a try. It won't fill the Game of Thrones shaped hole in your heart during the off-season, but it has some androids that will do anything to distract you from it while we wait.