TV Review: WESTWORLD (S1E1): ‘The Original’ – A Genre Mashup That Is Creepily Familiar
HBO has launched its brand new Sci-fi Series called ‘Westworld‘, inspired by a previous film of the same name. The premise of the show is a futuristic theme park artificially replicated to imitate Western times where guests interact and immerse themselves in a world where they can do anything… to anyone.
Read on for my Spoiler-free Review of the Series Premiere of HBO’s ‘Westworld’ entitled ‘The Original’.
‘Westworld‘ is based on a Micheal Crichton (same guy who wrote ‘Jurassic Park’) story adapted for the no holds barred format of television that HBO offers. It’s one of the most anticipated shows of Fall 2016, but does it really hold up to those expectations? Let’s find out.
The series begins with the voice over interrogation of a country girl out in the West, named Dolores, (Evan Rachel Wood) as she goes about her day. Along with her, we’re also introduced to Teddy, (James Mardsen) a newcomer into this town, seemingly on the Frontier. What starts out as the usual breezy but seedy Western, quickly devolves into tragedy as Teddy & Dolores find themselves caught up in devastation.
The show then pulls back to reveal what we’ve known from the premise. This world is an artificially created attraction, frequented by people wanting to experience the Wild West, known as Guests, in any way imaginable. From playing out their fantasies of being a hero, or even a villain, Guests can push the limits of what is acceptable in their own everyday society in Westworld. Besides the paying Guests, the world is occupied by artifical intelligence, known as Hosts. Where the episode gets even more interesting, is when we see behind the curtain at the people responsible for this world.
We’re introduced to Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) seemingly the man who maintains and is responsible for the Hosts that populate the world. Along with the founder of Westworld himself, Robert Ford, (Anthony Hopkins) the eccentric creator who looks to be either bored with his work, or quietly coming to a self realization.
The performances in this show are amazing. Mardsen is cast in a role that is completely contradictory to his usual wholesome hero image. It’s great counter intuitive casting that throws the audience for a loop. Rachel Wood surprises with a layered performance that is impressive given I personally haven’t seen her in much else. Hopkins appearance in this episode can’t even be qualified as a cameo, but he owns all three scenes he is in with his presence, and conveys a sense of not revealing more than he needs to; both to the audience and other characters as well.
Ed Harris also shows up in a role that looks to be quiet significant. A veteran Guest of this world, Harris’ Man In Black appears to have his own agenda for coming to Westworld, least of which is to indulge himself.
Besides the stark contrast between the rural Western setting, and the futuristic behind the scenes of it all, ‘Westworld’ presents an interesting duality with its premise and execution. The pilot deals with the Artificial Intelligence of this world, the Hosts, and how that status quo may be changing after decades of operating without issues. The first episode seems to implying a turn towards the sentience of the AI, maybe even indicating a rebellion?
It’s very reminiscent of ‘Battlestar Galactica’, as robot slaves rise up against their oppressors for revenge, sparking a war that ends with the near extinction Humanity. While ‘Westworld’ doesn’t get that sour that quick, it does feel like a slow creepy build to something very familiar.
The show introduces concepts of free will, raises questions that would fuel the best philosophical and metaphysical debates and looks like it may even go as far as to create parallels between slavery. But the Pilot episode itself, leaves something to be desired.
It may just be the overblown hype and expectations not aligning with the results, but the first episode of ‘Westworld’ seemed unsatisfying in an unresolved sort of way. There is a sort of quiet disappointment that the ending of the episode left me with. The series does however, show great potential and intriguing avenues to be explored.
‘Westworld’ airs on HBO on Sunday nights.
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