❉ We continue with our reviews of HBO’s new series ‘Westworld’, inspired by the 1973 film of the same title written by Michael Crichton.
No spoilers review
Wait! Wait, come back! Yes, I know nothing’s happened for the last few weeks, and I know you’ve stopped watching (and probably reading too, but I need to at least pretend that I’m writing this for someone’s benefit or I’d be guilty of the worst kind of ego-massaging) but seriously – something happened this week. Lots of something, in fact. So much so that this is the best episode so far. I mused earlier in the run that this series doesn’t lend itself well to episodic viewing at all, it’s made for binge watching, and this episode shows I was right. If you’re about to give up, keep watching. And if you were thinking of leaving it to the end and watching all 10 episodes at once, you’re in luck – after a fairly dull spell things pick up for the better with episode six.
Lots of spoilers review
If you’ve not seen the episode stop reading now and go watch it. Seriously, you’ve come this far, one more won’t hurt.
Splendid. Good, wasn’t it? Finally something happened, and not in the sense that we’re holding out for crumbs of excitement – this episode was jam-packed with things happening.
Where to start? Okay, so finally the robots are waking up. It’s taken five episodes but finally one of the robots has started asking the obvious questions. That it’s Thandie Newton sweetens the deal perfectly because in a cast brimming with talent she’s one of the best. The scenes with her in the lab could easily have been dull (they’re hugely expositional, and much of that revolves around people waving computer tablets and spouting technobabble) but she manages to convey perfectly the enormity of what’s happening to her through her eyes alone. (A great actor once remarked that the eyes are like lasers. She’s a robot, after all, so it’s fitting that her lasers are doing so much work.) Thandie Newton easily steals the episode, which is no mean feat when there’s so much happening.
We have two saboteurs. Okay, we knew there was one, and we assumed it was Arnold, but it turns out that there really is some kind of industrial espionage going on involving the robots, smuggling, data and uplinks of some kind. True, none of this was revealed in anything other than the most obvious way, but it’s so well done that it was impossible to not be excited. As I said, I’d have been happy with crumbs at this point, anything to keep me going, but the revelations came thick and fast. Jeffrey Wright discovers extra robots in the theme park; there’s a traitor stealing secrets; there’s another traitor doing something with the robots.
Admittedly, the scenes of Ed Harris and James Marsden are entirely filler – they add nothing to what we already know and they’re there just to move them into place ready for the next episode (amusingly, Evan Rachel Wood, The Nice Man and The Not Nice Man didn’t get any scenes at all this week. Presumably they’re exactly where they need to be for next week already, which is either really bad plotting or an acknowledgement that there was so much already happening there didn’t need to be more), but as they were almost the only scenes set in Westworld itself, they presumably needed to be included to justify the title.
Then there was the revelation that Anthony Hopkins has his own robot family, a present from Arnold. It’s a pretty sick present, when you think about it, and the sort that would leave most people with some serious psychological damage as a result, but never mind. It did at least establish that there are extra robots in the theme park that no one knows about, and that they can lie. This is a big development as it goes against everything we’ve been told about them so far. Whether this is down to Arnold’s involvement or Anthony Hopkins’ is yet to be revealed. Hopkins, incidentally, is still downplaying this incredibly. It’s the most restrained performance I’ve seen him give in a good…well, ever, actually. I didn’t think he had it in him.
Clearly Arnold isn’t dead. I’m expecting one of the cast to be revealed as a robot with Arnold’s intelligence installed, although who it can be is quite limited as there aren’t that many people to choose from (unless he’s a robot disguised as a robot, in which case he could be one of the many hosts). There aren’t that many people to choose from as the industrial spy either (I know we’ve just been told it’s Sidse Babett Knudsen, but I imagine that’s a red herring and she’s innocent), but at least questions are finally being answered.
So, Arnold’s the man behind things, disguised as a robot (this is my guess – none of this has been stated in the programme, although we do at least know there’s a someone doing something with the robots); there’s a spy; Thandie Newton is about to launch the robot revolution; Ed Harris is still looking for the centre of the maze (or the next level, or whatever it is he calls it); security woman has just been attacked whilst working out who might be behind things; and corporate have just arrived to see why so many things have been going wrong recently.
Had the programme had this pace from word go I imagine everyone would be talking about it in the manner usually reserved for ‘Game of Thrones’ revelations. As it is, I hope that 1) it’s not come too late before too many people desert the programme and 2) next week doesn’t dial things back down completely and return to nothing of any significance happening. If they can maintain the momentum of this for the next four episodes ‘Westworld’ is going to be hugely compulsive and engaging television. Just best not watched weekly.
❉ ‘Westworld’ airs on Sunday nights in the US on HBO, and on Tuesdays in the UK on Sky Atlantic.