It’s nice to have a saviour every once in a while… Well that’s my opinion of Westworld given a way one short sentence, but bear with me for a moment. I was all set to fill my absence from the journalism world (I’d give an excuse but I don’t really have one) with an article pertaining to the Alien franchise, but since writing it a mysterious new television show riding a horse and wearing a hat has just ridden into view and wiped the floor with everything else I could have possibly wanted to write about. So with that in mind, saddle up for my review of the first two episodes of HBO’s Westworld.
Some people have been describing Westworld as ‘the new Game Of Thrones‘, but I don’t think that’s true because GOT isn’t remotely as good! Obviously I’m being facetious, but there this wild-west sci-fi show (not to be confused with a ‘space western’) has MUCH more complexity to it, and holds one’s attention in much more subtle ways, as opposed to excessive use of gore and/or female breasts. Set in a hyper-realistic Wild West themed amusement park hosted and inhabited by androids, the story flits between the perspective of the guests and their experiences within the park, the Westworld staff who maintain and manage the incredibly elaborate android hosts, and the androids themselves as they go through the motions of their supposedly real lives in a variety of Frontier towns.
The themes of slavery, free will, subconsciousness etc. are laid out in a very accessible way in that they are not too far up themselves that they might go over the heads of the layperson. As a result, this makes the show quite difficult to watch in places, particularly as we see Ed Harris running about shooting and scalping without rebuke. As a guest this is entirely within his right, and they are, after all, just robots, so why the problem? The show highlights, in just one scene, the human capacity for both cruelty and compassion, which is the mixed blessing that led to humanity getting nuked by the Cylons several thousand years from now, which brings me to what is soon to be a major bugbear of mine:
THIS HAS BEEN DONE BEFORE
Alright, I’ll admit that Westworld is presenting it more interestingly and it is the driving theme of the show rather than a side-plot. But the concept of androids being unaware of their synthetic status and potentially rebelling against their human creators has 100% been explored before in Battlestar Galactica (and the short lived series Dollhouse), right down to the ‘playing God’ sections of the dialogue by older veteran actor dujour: Anthony Hopkins in Westworld and gravelly voiced legend Edward James Olmos in Battlestar. I’m not complaining; I love this concept and wish more shows would explore this level of complexity, but as both a journalist and lover of science fiction, I find myself constantly having to refer people to Battlestar Galactica as it has yet to be matched in terms of depth and complexity, even if it did go somewhat off the rails towards the end. People are going to latch onto Westworld and be enlightened by it, and rightly so, but just be aware that it’s not that original. It’s the Netflix problem as labelling all of it’s series as ‘Original’ despite most of them being remakes.
Ok, now that that little rant is over I can, and will, recommend Westworld as essential viewing from here on out. The writing, acting and overall visual design are nothing short of stellar, and will keep you engaged from the start. And if it doesn’t, then just stick with The Kardashians, because you are obviously a lizard in human skin.