HBO’s latest series premiered a few weeks ago on the network. I don’t have HBO so I wasn’t amongst the first to check it out. I relied on the release of the first episode on the HBO web site to be able to watch the show as I don’t have cable and HBO Go isn’t available anywhere but the USA (a nitpick I have for another day).
Westworld can probably be best described (in my mind) as the freaky love child of Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse mixed with Deadwood and a touch of Groundhog Day. I would maybe even try to argue that there’s a smidge of The Matrix in there too. Anyways, a corporation has created dreamworlds, in a way. They’re not adventures that you live within your mind, you physically go and “play” within a constructed world. Think the arenas in The Hunger Games but everything is constructed around a theme or time and the “arenas” exist to play into something you’ve always wanted to do. For instance, be a cowboy in western times.
Enter Westworld. A whole town and county filled with actors working off of scripts and working within specific storylines to please the “newcomers” that visit them. The “newcomers” are the people from the real world who pay to be immersed in these “dreams”, so to speak. Every day the actors can vary things up and certain stories get altered or adjust but they work within boundaries.
Now the actors in Westworld aren’t really actors. They’re AI that have been created and programmed to live within these worlds, never knowing that they don’t live in the real world. They’re beyond lifelike and aside from ticks and glitches that sometimes happen, you would never know the difference between them and the “newcomers”.
Problems begin arising when a new update rolls out for the AI who are less endearingly called “livestock”. This update contains something that allows them access to their sort of subconscious. It’s not meant to set off anything sinister with the livestock but rather allow them access to something more human within them. You can imagine how that could potentially go wrong and in this first episode, that’s only slightly hinted at.
I don’t want to spend this whole thing talking about the content of the show because I really just think you should watch it but writing this out is giving me a bigger appreciation for what I watched and I’m kind of enjoying just babbling about it all.
Evan Rachel Wood plays Dolores who is also The Original. You’ll hear more about that when you watch the first episode (and trust me, you’ll want to). She’s innocent, sweet and there’s also a side to her that you can see going absolutely wonky and batshit af. Her love interest within the world is Teddy, played by James Marsden and one of the main villains that they’ve set up is Ed Harris who is (in my mind) the Westworld equivalent of Malvo from the first season of Fargo. He’s creepy and there is definitely something beyond sinister happening with his character arc.
Thandie Newton kind of already reminds me of Al from Deadwood. She seems like the kind of character to really kick things up a notch and be the unexpected star of the show. I don’t know if that’ll actually happen but it would be pretty rad if it did.
Then you have everything happening outside of these constructs. There are a lot of stories going on and mini plots to follow but they’re laid out pretty well. You’d definitely benefit from watching the first episode a couple of times to pick up all the subtleties within it but I haven’t yet had the chance to delve in for that second watch myself.
The way that things are shaping up is almost Shakespearean. Things are gearing up to something big and you can be sure that nothing good will come going forward.
Westworld is a promising and interesting look into the sci-fi genre from HBO, something that us geeks have continued cravings for post-Battlestar Galactica. Series like The Expanse, Killjoys, and Dark Matter definitely scratch that itch but this brings sci-fi back down to earth.
Don’t miss Westworld. Really.