Westworld Season One (2016) TV Review
Westworld is HBO’s newest show to rival it’s already iconic Game of Thrones. This season is co-created by Jonathan Nolan, and the Nolan-esque story, themes and tone are apparent throughout the season. Extremely loosely based off of the 1973 film Westworld, this reiteration is about a “theme park” with robots all around the park who are there to deliver a realistic experience for guests who visit the park for “vacation.” The original movie didn’t get much deeper than that, but his show deals with many brilliant ideas that are important to consider in this day and age. Like a 10-hour long Ex Machina, Westworld asks it’s audience what it means to be human. Sentient? Aware of one’s own mortality? Empathetic? This show takes place about 50-60 years after Artificial Intelligence has passed the Turing Test, and now are indistinguishable from humans. Where does their intelligence and intellectual capability go from that point? If they’re programmed to think that they are humans, and therefore are unaware that they are artificial, what would happen? This show asks and answers these questions, and many more…
The beauty of this show is in it’s characters, which drive each and every scene to new heights throughout the entire season. Each character has a huge arc that makes them almost completely different than the character they were in episode one, and that makes them compelling to watch for 10 straight hours (which is what I did). There’s a lot that can be spoiled, so I’m only going to say that there are twists and turns in every character’s story, and the way the stories intersect is like a brilliant Mosaic film. For me, the most interesting characters were easily Bernard (played by Jeffrey Wright), and Maeve (played by Thandie Newton), both of which have incredible arcs, and both of are portrayed with some of the best acting of the year. Anthony Hopkins, of course, is also a stand-out, and the best part of his role, and basically every other role in the show, is that I was never sure if I agreed with their motivations or actions. Since this is a show about the future of AI, there are characters who want to limit AI, and some who want to further it. Amongst the AI characters, as well as human characters, the audience is able to understand all sides which is important for a show with this many characters and as much plot progression as it has.
I’ve heard some people call this show a little “slow,” but I’m going to steal a term I heard recently on Collider TV Talk, and call this show “deliberately paced” as times- in which the action slows down, focuses on the characters, and offers room to breathe between the violence, twists, and surprises. While most of this show is focused on the characters, there is not a lot of down time, and the plot moves forward quickly and efficiently. Whether we’re talking about the characters, the themes, the story, or anything esle- the writing is the aspect of this show that must be complimented the most. I wondered throughout watching how in the world a few people were able to create this level of complexity, originality, unpredictability and brilliance in one single show. Westworld must be the culmination of 1000 people’s best work because I’m honestly in disbelief that just a few people could come up with something like this. There is so much more than just what I’ve described, too, as even though there are 10 hours of material, there are 10 complicated movies worth of story into the entire show. If Christopher Nolan, Steven Spielberg, Phillip K Dick and James Cameron had a baby together, then this baby is who wrote Westworld … and maybe that baby’s name is Jonathan Nolan. I can’t wait to see what else this man, along with his co-writer who must also be given a world of praise, Lisa Joy, take us to in their next writing collaboration.
Lastly, one thing that stood out to me, that nowadays hardly gets noticed, let along elevates a story as it should, was the score. The music in this series was absolutely gorgeous, and at times I was completely amazed by it- occasionally, it moved me just as much as the story did, and I was left in awe. There are so many jaw-dropping moments in this series, whether it’s regarding the story, performances, score or anything else, there wasn’t a single problem I had. Sure, maybe this series raises a lot of questions, answers many, but by answering also raises some more, but the questions it raises and answers are brilliant, and this is not the last we’ve seen of Westworld. Having seen the original movie, I really hope that we are taken to another World next time; if I had a say, however, I would maybe say that I don’t want to see any more. A show that has as many twists and surprises as this one- and yes, there are at least 3-4 twist endings in the penultimate episode- I’m not sure how it can be topped, or even matched, in the next season. And, if there is no way that it can be on the same level as this season, then I don’t think I want to set myself up for disappointment- but I’m not saying anything as of now, because Nolan and Joy have done something amazing with this show and I’m not selling them short of any praise and trust that their writing deserves.
Overall, Westworld is one of the greatest pieces of entertainment that I’ve seen this year, or at all this decade; I would even hesitate to call it mere “entertainment” as it was so much more than that. It would be a sin and a travesty to group this show in the same one as Ghostbusters, Batman v Superman or Suicide Squad (which are simply “entertainment”) because this show is a 10-hour window into a world that we are headed to, and writers Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy ask so many questions about what that future holds, as well as what defines “humanity.” There are leagues of themes and scores of ideas that come to play during this series, and they are all brilliant and thought-provoking in the best, heartbreaking, and scariest of ways. The story, score, performances and cinematography are all top-level, and Westworld proves once again that sometimes the most artistic stories are saved for the small screen. Take that, movie theaters! I’m going to give Westworld Season One a 9/10 and a gold recommendation, and I would absolutely say that you watch this show as soon and as often as possible. What did you think about this show? Let me know! As always, thanks for reading and I’ll see you soon!