westworld-01

There are spoilers in this review. Duh.

This is the show that I was most excited for in the new season. I actually liked the movie Westworld, and Michael Crichton is one of my favorite writers. He is someone who understands science fiction; it’s not just about technology, it’s about humanity. The darkness and lightness in humanity. So you have this future time where entire worlds are created as theme parks. It’s like the Truman Show on a much higher level, with androids living the parts of Truman. But they’re androids, not humans, they can’t possibly start to figure things out and have an existential crisis, right? Wrong! Yes, it’s pretty typical that androids try to be human and then turn against their creators, but I get the sense that’s not really what this show will end up being. That’s only the surface reality. It’ll do what any good AI stories will do: contemplate what the soul is, what humanity is about. So let’s get started.

This has an all-star cast. The premiere threw a lot of information at us all at once, and tried their level best not to be a whole bunch of exposition. We start out with James Mardsen’s character Teddy coming into town. He’s in love with local girl Dolores, played by Evan Rachel Wood. They are then horrified when Ed Harris shows up (no name for his character, intentionally) and murders Teddy, dragging Dolores off to probably be raped and then killed. Also did we need to start out on implied rape? No we did not. Thanks for the reminder that’s still used as a plot device on HBO! The implication is that you should think Teddy is one of the visitors and destined to be the big hero, but nope, it’s the other guy who is the guest, and the two of them are playing out one of his fantasies. This is not going to be the last we see of Ed Harris’ character at all, he looks to be a primary antagonist. So everyone in the town who are locals are androids. They cannot kill guests (I think they have only blanks in their gun) or harm anyone at all. They’re all there for the pleasure of the guests, and they even have narrative storylines you can go on quests with, kind of like a Red Dead Redemption video game in real life.

westworld

The problem is that a glitch begins. An “update” was sent to the androids, and some of them are showing signs of glitches. Including Dolores’ beloved father, who finds a picture of a modern day thing, and it leads him to lose control of himself.  So they’re becoming aware … ish. Anthony Hopkins is the mystery lead creative director of Westworld, Robert Ford, shown sparingly in this first episode. Is he behind the glitch? What is he hoping to achieve? I guess we’ll find out. Jeffrey Wright plays Bernard Lowe, the head of programming and creator of the AI people. He has a discussion with Dolores to find out if she remembers what her “father” said and if he managed to taint her, basically. She is revealed to be the first, the original, design. She is well programmed and doesn’t lose her optimistic spirit, but in the last shot of the episode she slaps a fly that’s landed on her. Up until now we’ve seen multiple flies land, and they don’t do anything, because androids aren’t supposed to harm any living thing. But she just killed it. So watch out everyone else.

One of my favorite things about HBO is that it resists talking down to its audience. I think they did a great job of setting ideas up here, but not necessarily banging us over the head with every exposition plot they could. There are two major storylines running at the same time here: the real world, with politics in this creative team who put together Westworld, and the androids in the park itself with the guests. Both are very interesting, and intertwine, and are going to do more so as time goes on. This was the highest watched premiere in HBO’s history, and they needed something to replace Game of Thrones with since it’s coming to an end soon.  I don’t think it’ll follow the story of the movie at all, because that was a movie, and this is a long term series. But what about the other worlds? There’s a medieval one and a Rome one (uh oh watch out for Rome, HBO 😉 ), but they said they wouldn’t go there for awhile. Westworld itself is enough. In the original story those other two worlds were options, so it would be pretty amazing to see them someday, even if it’s years down the line.

And that’s what I’m getting to: I’m willing to watch this show for years at a time. One episode in and I’m already hooked. I had so many questions as I watched, and it was a delight. I couldn’t wait for the next episode. That is good TV right there, but I should remember, it’s not TV, it’s HBO. I didn’t get to talk about all the major characters here, because it’s a wide variety, but more on that as the weeks go I think.

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