Saturday, December 10, 2016

Westworld

I just watched the first season of Westworld in a few days, and wanted to share my thoughts on it.  If you haven't seen it, there will be spoilers.  You have been warned.


The shows starts off very slowly.  Being familiar with the movie, I thought I knew what the basic story would be.  I was impatient for the show to get to the point already.  When I was 3 episodes on, I almost gave up on it because it didn't seem to be going anywhere.  I also thought the long stretches of Bernard talking to Dolores were a pointless waste of time and they didn't seem to make sense in the context of what seemed to be happening in the park.

I am really glad I stuck it out.  It turns out that those pointless conversations are pretty important.  Once you find that the different stories are not happening concurrently, it begins to make more sense. I was actually taken by surprise a couple of times by the show.  I was expecting a typical Hollywood story, with all the characters we are following coming together at the end for the big climax. This allowed elements that were getting an obvious build up to not be quite so obvious.

Anthony Hopkins was great. I started the show thinking he was a kindly but eccentric creator.  By mid-way through I thought he was pure evil.  By the end you realize he is trying to make amends and help the robots get free, but he kills people to achieve this.  So he ends up being not pure evil but not really what I would call a good guy.  I think this might be my favorite performance by him.

Some of the plot twists were obvious, but a couple of the best took me by surprise.  Bernard being a robot you could see coming from a mile away.  William being the man in black and Dolores being Wyatt were both shockers.  I started to grok that Ford was scheming to set the robots free toward the end, but I didn't expect it to be my having Dolores murder him and the board.  I was also surprised when Bernard did Ford's bidding, including murder and suicide, as I expected him to have been alive already, assuming he would be the prototype of what Ford was trying to achieve.

I realized as I finished the show that where I had been expecting a typical Hollywood style of story telling, the show had a more Japanese anime style of narrative.  By having the memories of the robots bleeding through, they were showing past events alongside the present, in such a way that you are aware they are in the past until the end.  The reveal that the man in black was William was a great twist that I didn't see coming.  The fact that the guy who was being presented as the idealistic hero and the guy who was being presented as the jaded villain were the same guy was great.  If someone described this story and told me it was a new series from the creators of Baccano I would buy it.

This is a great show so far.  The creators are already talking about season two, which I look forward to, but I can see where this show could all too easily overstay its welcome.  I hope they are very careful to keep it interesting and fresh.  I do not think they can pull off the same trick of playing the past and present together to add a twist to the narrative, so they will need a new way to surprise us.    As of right now though, I am on board.

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