SPOILER WARNING: Before I begin discussing the first episode of HBO’s new series, I’d like to give fair warning. This is an analysis of the entirety of the episode, and will contain spoilers up the wazoo. If you want a summary verdict, scroll down to the Final Thoughts section, or watch the episode and come back!
WELL. It’s safe to say that J.J. Abrams has a deep love for all things mysterious. There are many questions left unanswered by the end of The Original — potentially one of my favorite pilot episodes of all time — all of which have me intensely excited to watch more.
Interestingly, Westworld is an adaptation of a movie (not book) written by the late, arguably great Michael Crichton from the 70s, and you can just taste his influence all over it. Broaching themes on just how far man is meant to mettle with technology and godhood — as well as the fact that the characters are attempting to sling their advancements to the general populace for the purpose of selling tickets SCREAMS Jurassic Park. Hell, the show takes place in a literal park. A park where the circus freaks on display will ultimately rebel and tear it all down. I hate to break it to you, but I’m almost certain that’s where we’re headed here. I think Crichton’s influence is a huge part of why I find this show damned interesting so far.
Westworld also seems to be taking a Philip K. Dick/Ex Machina approach to things as well. The Original subtly poses this question to the audience: What does it mean to be human? If you’ve synthesized something so much that it becomes indistinguishable from a human, does it make it so? The sheer fact that some of the androids at the park seem to be functioning in ways that their creators hadn’t expected hints at the fact that they are beginning to learn and evolve beyond their intended functions.
Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman), an ambitious scriptwriter at the park, brings up an interesting suggestion during a discussion with his superior, Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudson). Lee suggests that maybe the androids shouldn’t be as evolved. Maybe their realism and emotional capacity should be scaled back even, so as to avoid negative fallout and unexpected surprises. This brings up the whole question of what power man was ever meant to wield. For the moment, nobody seems to be listening to him, though.
Anthony Hopkins plays the calm and collected, yet somewhat world-weary creator of the machines Dr. Robert Ford. His exchanges with Bernard Lowe (Boardwalk Empire’s Jeffrey Wright) are some of the more interesting parts of the show thus far. Ford essentially plays the John Hammond of Westworld, only considerably less cheery. We have a scene with him having casual drinks with a long defunct android from the park, and a very disturbing sequence with the main character’s “dad” that really stuck out to me. Dolores’ (Evan Rachel Wood) android father is “glitching,” or beginning to question the fabric of their whole reality when he finds an inexplicable picture from modern earth on his ranch. This causes him to blow a proverbial gasket and to begin spouting to Dolores what seems like lunacy. When he is brought out of the park for examination, he becomes SUPER malevolent to the creators — promising a most unfortunate of reckonings upon them all. Ford, regardless of literally being physically accosted by Dolores’ creepy dad, brushes the scenario off as a cluster of past sub-routines malfunctioning on account of a new gesture feature they added to all of their creations. His collective calm is simultaneously reassuring and doubtful. It’s as if he doesn’t want to believe that he’s stepped too far.
Another thing interesting about Westworld is that the denizens of said world are forced to live the same day over and over. Repeatedly, we see Dolores wake up the exact same way, and go about her business until a random park guest can intervene her pre-determined routine. The same is true with Teddy Flood (James Marsden), who we don’t initially realize is also an android until it’s cleverly revealed to us. His day begins on the train into town with the other guests, and is more or less changed by customer intervention. It’s interesting because it allows the characters to die in multiple ways throughout the show, like some bizarre episode of The Twilight Zone. I’m typically not a big fan of Marsden in most things, but his ruggedly handsome, good guy cowboy romantic shtick compliments Dolores’ character well.
The total wild card is The Man in Black (Ed Harris), who is keen on messing the fabric of everything up. Nobody knows what the hell he is up to, or why nobody knows about his activities, but he clearly has some ulterior motives that we don’t understand yet. I love it. He’s basically a reverse of his character Christoff from The Truman Show, who desperately wanted to keep the veil over the eyes of his “creation.” I’m wondering if his casdting was intentional in this way. TMiB seems intent on exposing some dark truth about what is going on in the park, and he isn’t shying away from resorting to nefarious deeds to do it. He is the one who reveals that Teddy is another android as well, when he shoots him right before he’s about to take Dolores to a barn to presumably rape her. I’m going to go ahead and make a prediction right now, and I hope I’m right — I have a feeling that TMiB was once an android in the park, but realized what he was and escaped, and maybe programmed himself to be unkillable while there. Who knows? I could be wrong, but time will tell. The sheer fact that a show has me guessing like this is super exciting in itself. Harris brings a casual ferocity to this character, and he stands out in an awesome way. Can’t wait to see more of him.
I also really loved the random chaos that just the park visitors can bring to the table in an altercation. In an intense gunfight sequence, it is actually a random guest that saves the day from the evil bandit Hector Escaton (Rodrigo Santoro) by silencing him mid-speech. Sorry, Paolo. Seems like you’re destined to die when it comes to J.J. shows. Depending on who the guests are, there’s no telling what sort of messed up debauchery we’ll witness in the future.
The seeds are planted for something great with Westworld, and I am so excited to see what it grows into. I really want to go back and re-watch to see if I can find more stuff that I didn’t notice the first time. This is the fall show to watch, guys.
Westworld is an engrossing amalgamation of tons of literary themes that I find super interesting, and The Original is one of my favorite Pilot episodes of all time. Great characters and world building take place, and everybody gets a fair amount of screen time. Time will tell, but it seems that the writers are taking great care with this storyline, and I feel that we’re in for a hell of a ride in the weeks to some. Do yourself a favor and watch this show.
Similar to: Jurassic Park, Ex Machina, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep (Blade Runner), The Truman Show, even The Dark Tower.
Suggested Substitution(s): Nothing. Watch this show, ASAP!
What did you guys think of the season premiere? Let us know in the comments below! I’ll probably be posting these analyses once a week from here on out, and hopefully closer to when the show airs. Thanks for reading!