HBO rolled out the first episode of the much hyped and highly anticipated series called Westworld tonight. I know that this was only the top layer of a series that’s likely to be far deeper than what we’ve seen. But to be absolutely up-front about it, I was sorely disappointed.
After some terrific, very interesting and intriguing images that were shown during the opening credits, the episode had no place to go but downhill.
Not like a locomotive steaming across a bridge that has been blown up. No, much slower than that. In fact, very early on people are arriving at a town somewhere in the vicinity of what looks like Monument Valley as well as the Grand Canyon
The time period appears to be the 1870’s or 1880’s, and the locations, the set design, and the costumes sure place this in the same place as every western movie you’ve ever seen.
So what goes on in this town? The arriving train disgorges its passengers and we learn that most if not all of them have paid money to someone somewhere in the real and modern world (none of that is explained besides the fact that these guests have paid money) to visit Westworld.
Westworld is most easily described as a resort that will fulfill your dreams. The people already in Westworld look and sound like people. They act like real people. There’s just one thing. They are all machines or androids of some kind.
You know, in this setting you can expect to see homesteaders, cowboys, Indians, sheriffs or marshalls with deputies, bartenders, hookers, con-men running some games of chance, and other people who are just going about their business as townsfolk.
The key element in how to tell the difference about who is real, meaning a guest visitor, and who is a host – that is, someone who is already there – is revealed early but not explained.
The hosts do not react at all when an insect or a house fly crawls on their face, or even sits on their eyeball.
So people come here to relive the days of settlers, gunslingers, and the like. The hosts apparently have designated roles and they are able to repeat their actions again and again.
For example, Evan Rachel Wood, who appears to be the lead female, Dolores Abernathy, at least of the hosts, will come down the stairs in their home, say good morning to her father, and head into town. We will see this happen four separate times. Always the same except that in the fourth stanza, there’s a differently looking man as the father.
The first father apparently malfunctioned and had to be taken offline for examination and or repair. As the lead programmer (Bernard Lowe) played by Jeffrey Wright said – he went off script.
Now Wright’s character has a boss called Theresa Cullen, She’s played by the actress who starred in Borgen, a three season drama about Denmark’s first female Prime Minister. Sidse Babett Knudsen has the role. She seems much more corporate than does Lowe.
He is, after all, a scientist. So the goals of the corporate side (profits) and the scientific side (programs have to be just so specific and specialized) will surely lead to some conflict.
And there’s a creator, Dr. Robert Ford who is played by Anthony Hopkins.
Ed Harris is on board as The Man in Black, in short, a gunslinger. But apparently he is not a host he is a guest. And he is into gunning people down, slitting throats, scalping one of the androids, and even rape.
Okay, it is just the first episode, and some things still remain unclear. I’m not going to dwell on those, but I will give you some comps to allow you to place this show in a niche that’s comfortable for you.
Think of the Matrix, think of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine with Quark running his Hologram Suites, and then think of Jim Carey in The Truman Show who discovers that his whole life was a scripted TV show and he was the only one who didn’t know it. Then think of the Will Smith thriller, I Am Robot.
Said another way it is a western and a sci-fi thriller where real people pay money to enter something of their own idealized dream worlds. And this world is run by off-site scientists whose main job it is to keep all their android hosts in top shape.
Which means that something will absolutely go wrong.
I hope the show gives us a bit more direction in terms of a purpose, That said, if a show that carries a rating of graphic violence, adult situations, language, and nudity is something you’d want to see, then Westworld is waiting for you.
Plus watching Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris, perfect casting choices in my opinion, do their thing is always a major plus. And yes, Jimi Simpson and Thandie Newton are in this as well.