I loved the original 1973 Westworld movie, I have the sequel, Futureworld, as well as the short-lived TV series Beyond Westworld. So when HBO announced they were bringing this back, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that I looked forward to it.
But this is not your father’s Westworld, it’s a whole new take on a very old idea, but that doesn’t mean it’s good or bad, we’ll have to dig deeper into the sands of the show to see which way it goes. Let’s do that, okay?
When William comes to Westworld for the first time, he discovers that all is not as it seems as he becomes attracted to Delores, the oldest host in the park, and thinks that she is more than she seems. In fact, they all might be. Can he unravel the mystery of the Delos theme park before something goes horribly, horribly wrong?
This take on Westworld looks at things mostly from the perspective of the robots, not from the perspective of the guests, which is certainly an interesting way to examine things. Once the series got started, my wife and I sat down and re-watched the original 1973 movie starring Yul Brynner and it is completely different in tone than what HBO is doing today. But it does so rather slowly, purposely wasting time on ideas that are never fleshed out, so it can get to a “gotcha” season finale that nobody was all that surprised at.
And I know that a lot of these short cable series are slow burns, but I think mostly that’s because they don’t have much plot to begin with. Even when you have a very limited number of episodes to work with, they seem to have more time available than plot. So a lot of these shows just start throwing things at the screen that don’t mean anything, just to fill time. That doesn’t mean that it isn’t interesting, but it doesn’t actually matter to the overall story.
I mean, take the whole Maeve thing. She’s a host who learns that everything that she knows about herself is a lie, only to find out that her learning that is, in itself, a lie. That could be a great story, but it takes place in so many tiny chunks that by the end, it really doesn’t mean anything. Even the main storyline of Delores gaining sentience, does anyone really care by the end?
Mostly this is because they chose to focus on mysteries that nobody really cared about. The hosts are becoming sentient? Well duh! That was established in a movie that came out more than 40 years ago! We all knew that before the series started. So tell us something we don’t already know. Like what’s going on with the Man in Black? We know he’s looking for something, but by the time he finds it, nobody cares. If he spent half his life searching for what was at the center of the maze, shouldn’t he realize that it’s not for him, especially since everyone keeps telling him that?
And can we talk about the techs in Westworld? I mean seriously, they all work in glass enclosures, but nobody is aware of what’s going on in the next room. How can they not know? I mean, you have that one creepy tech that spends his time masturbating on Hector over and over, how can nobody see that? And speaking of that, I know this is HBO and they want to be “edgy”, but like all of their shows, they just throw nudity at the screen for no reason at all. Is there any reason the hosts have to be naked? Of course not. It’s just there to titillate the audience, just like in every other show they make. Being an adult show does not mean “look at the tits!” and any show that does that ought to be suspect.
So what did I think of the whole thing? I think it has a decent premise, I think it has some good characters, but overall, I don’t think it met its potential. There just wasn’t enough story being told to warrant 10 episodes, which is sad because any of the stories could have been intriguing on their own, had they just stuck with any of them. Give us Maeve’s story, or Delores’ story, or even the Man in Black’s story, but trying to throw bits and pieces of all of them into a season and not doing any of them justice, that just didn’t make any sense. Having good ideas only works so long as you execute on them well. They just didn’t execute on any of them well this season. It’s a tremendously cool idea, but I don’t know that they really achieved their potential. Maybe next year.