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You know, the expectations which come from a show being part of the HBO brand often waver between being the next big thing or proof that all these premium stations have is the ability to be far more sexual and violent than their peers. With Westworld, you have to admit it seems a show can’t be part of HBO without excessive violence, a plethora of nude women, and a handful of mysteries. It is what their drama department craves, but while this show has all the usual ingredients, it might just be a bit more than we’re used to.
There is a loop. In this loop there is a girl named Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) who goes to town, maybe goes out to paint horses, and perhaps runs into the love of her life Teddy (James Marsden). But sometimes things don’t happen that way. Teddy may miss her because one of the newcomers distract one of them, or maybe Teddy dies, Dolores is raped, and mind you these actions can be caused by either a newcomer or a host.
The difference? Newcomers are essentially tourist. People who come to what seems to be this place in the Grand Canyon to live out a fantasy. There was a time, in the 30-year history of this currently mysterious company, you could join a “Horror Narrative” or do as they offer now in be out in the old west. During the day-long loop, you can do as you please to the host and they won’t hurt you. After all, they are some kind of robots. So go on and kill, rape, or do as you please. Will they scream and react? Yes. But will they hurt you? No. After all, it is all part of their programming.
However, Dr. Ford (Anthony Hopkins) seems to release, alongside his associate Mr. Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) upgrades. In these upgrades, the hosts become more real, and the most recent upgrade by Dr. Ford has allowed the hosts to access memories of their current loop or even past loops. Something which people like Mr. Sizemore (Simon Quarterman), who writes the over 100 interconnected stories, and Ms. Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen), a representative of corporate, don’t appreciate. It creates possible liabilities, messes with a nearly perfect system, and creates fear. Fear which may soon be realized.
In the effort to be fair, let me say I do enjoy the acting. Mind you, the words the actors say seem like something regurgitated from your favorite sci-fi movie, but there are some aspects which don’t deserve backhanded compliments. I can’t think of one off hand, but I’m sure as the season goes on I’ll come up with something.
On The Fence
I’ll admit that when it comes to sci-fi, I like the type of shows and movies which don’t have all this hype building it up. If only because it makes you focus more on the special effects and the peculiarities of the technology more than the story and the characters. To make matters worse, this show is on HBO so naturally the violence and sexual content is high. So between the sex, violence, and then special effects/ tech, it is like the characters and story get lost amongst this.
Now, the reason I put such a critique in “On The Fence” vs. saying it is a “Low Point” is because as generic as everyone seems, be it the subtly mad Dr. Ford, his protégé Bernie Lowe, or even the robot who has gained consciousness, Dolores, these actors find a way to take what if anyone else were to play these roles would be lifeless. After all, how many times, whether you are cinephile or telephile, have you seen these stories? How many ways can someone try to reinterpret and converge these characters in new and compelling ways? Well, very few arguably. For the script, thus far, has its little mysteries, but not the type of characters who seem to bring new life to old tales.
Which isn’t to say this show seems wholly predictable, but I am left feeling as Dolores starts to regain all her memories from past loops, thanks to the work of the ever curious Dr. Ford, we already know what will happen. Even making Ed Harris’ role as a newcomer, possibly lost in his own unique loop, hardly something worth noting at times. Yet, there remains faith. Faith that these talented bunch could very well prove that I, and perhaps we if you are as skeptical as I am, don’t know a damn thing.