❉ We continue with our reviews of HBO’s new series ‘Westworld’, inspired by the 1973 film of the same title written by Michael Crichton.
This is going to be an easy one, because frankly there’s nothing that happens which could be classed as a spoiler. It’s more of the same – hints at the backstory, hints at what’s coming, but other than that nothing.
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Yes, we get it; it’s rapey. A theme park filled with robots (sorry, Hosts) that are there for mostly sexual gratification with the occasional foray into violent fantasy is an adolescent rape fantasy. People are awful. I get that. I can get that from looking at any newspaper. I got it from the beginning of Westworld, and the show’s now beating me in the face with it constantly. It’s a horrible idea.
How the Guests treat the Hosts is pretty much representative of how people are treated in the real world and seeing it played over and over again is starting to appal me. When these Hosts achieve sentience it won’t be through some magical breaking point in self-awareness through philosophical realisation it will be through PTSD. It’s not surprising, given what they’re going through, and it’s starting to make for uncomfortable viewing. That we keep seeing it repeatedly is becoming a narrative problem, though. I realise that HBO want a new ‘Game of Thrones’ so they’re going to stretch this as far as possible, but I really don’t see how this can maintain another seven episodes without something staggeringly unexpected happening. And so far there’s no sign of it.
Yes, Anthony Hopkins is promising us an exciting new narrative for the theme park, one which is probably going to go against everything the executives want, but so far the only hints of it have been a submerged Black Church (which doesn’t seem to be as excitingly Lovecraftian as it sounds) and a cult of religious robots in the desert. That these religious Hosts are starting to develop their own narrative may or may not be part of what Hopkins is doing. Aside from that, nothing.
Okay, you have Jeffrey Wright trying to bring back his dead son by developing better and better Hosts. something we’d already realised before Anthony Hopkins all but turned to camera and shouted “you realise what he’s doing, right?” Not that Hopkins is doing any shouting at all because he appears to have been tranquilised. I’m really hoping he has a breathtakingly over the top moment of pure ham when his true intentions are revealed because so far he’s been very lacking in that department. Even when he revealed that he had a business partner who died in the park under mysterious circumstances – and who now appears to be communicating with the Hosts from beyond the grave – he could just as easily have been talking about what he was going to be making for tea.
The rest of the cast aren’t faring much better either. Sidse Babett Knudsen once managed to make Danish politics fascinating, but she’s not doing so well when it comes to management policies. Thandie Newton is reduced to pouting in a saloon. Evan Rachel Wood’s narrative requires her to look increasingly pained, by the constant threat of rape, her memories of the threat of rape and the slowly dawning realisation that her entire existence is justified by, well, rape. I don’t like to keep saying rape, but there’s little else going on here.
Well, there’s the concept of the bicameral mind, a fascinating concept which has been largely rejected by mainstream science but is nonetheless being studied by those on the fringe. Seriously, do some research. If you go further into the fringes there are some fascinating suggestions as to how much this still happens and how much influence the bicameral mind has had on religion. I’d consider the notion irrelevant to a review such as this if it weren’t for the fact that this is the exact route Jonathan Nolan seems to be taking now that we have a religious cult listening to the voices in their heads -unless they’re actually hearing the voice of Arnold himself who’s now living as a synthetic entity in some kind of cyberspace within the park. (I’ve not been reading anything about the series, so don’t consider that a genuine spoiler for future episodes. Unless I’m right, of course, so apologies in advance.)
Last week I said that something major needed to happen at the end of this episode to maintain viewer interest. It didn’t. A Host went (apparently) mad and started stoving his own head in with a rock, but given the brutality we’ve seen meted out to these poor bastards that’s actually quite mild, hardly a moment of unexpected excitement. Dolores shot another Host and suddenly seemed immune to gunfire, but that wasn’t really the level of excitement I was hoping for either. And Ed Harris only appeared in flashback so it’s not as if his search for the next level is going anywhere soon. If it wasn’t all so well made, I’m not sure I’d still be watching. But it is well made (dazzlingly well made, in fact) which is why I’m still here. I just wish that something would happen (you know, something along the lines of robots going mad and ending up on a killing spree. Like in the film on which this is based and is the reason most people are watching).
Maybe next week.
❉ ‘Westworld’ airs on Sunday nights in the US on HBO, and on Tuesdays in the UK on Sky Atlantic.