Very light on spoilers, no big shockers revealed.
I’ve been following Westworld as a possible new topic for the weekly Series Issues review for a while now. The show debuted its sixth episode last night, officially starting the second half of its first season. As HBO series go, you might see it as another series full of sex and violence but it doesn’t actually has those as central themes of its plot. There’s a deeper river of mystery running underneath.
You’re bound to already know (officially an spoiler, but one you will learn about as you read about the series) that it’s about this entertainment park where androids impersonate humans in a western-themed setting. The presentation however, is both elegant and sparse. For all the rich elements of the western world, the park itself is a minimalistic setting of metal tables and glass walls where the hosts (androids) are examined and evaluated after their “demise”.
The element of having the hosts naked is a topic of discussion. Somehow being naked and still is dehumanizing. It’s a way in which humans (the clothed ones) seem to strip all dignity from hosts (naked) as if any rights to modesty are unheard of for robot-kind. These kinds of details are put into the show with little to no explanation making us, the audience, feel ashamed for them rather than shocked.
Soon enough we catch on to the idea of the simple, easy to follow, programmed storylines that are about. But then as subtle changes emerge you start realizing that something is happening to the hosts. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), the park director, is making up his own narrative while the rest of the diverse departments have to put up with it. Can Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), Head of Programming make a move that Theresa (Sidse Babett Knudsen), Head of QA cannot see a mile away? What about the Man in Black (Ed Harris), a recurring visitor? Is he the potential villain? Is there someone else reprogramming the hosts or are they doing stuff on their own? The layer of mystery and the amount of agendas from every side are piling up.
There’s a myriad of other characters, such as Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Teddy (James Marsden) but I fear to even hint at anything more will be depriving you of the experience. This is not a show that gives away all that it’s about at first sight.
What it really giving us is a sense of adventure in which hosts feel like they’re trying to break out of their programming (loops) and live their own lives. Or is it just an elaborate game devised by an unseen player yet to be revealed? With four episodes to go, I’m willing to bet this series has a few more seasons to expand the concept further. I expect more questions to arise as more layers are revealed.
That will do for now.