A refreshing new show is dissected and reviewed.
January 5, 2017
It’s no secret that this year has been abysmal in terms of entertainment. Film and TV have delivered lackluster returns to series and franchises across the board. However, HBO uncovered its diamond in the ruff, the only standout new show this year, West World. Written by Jonathan Nolan (brother of genius filmmaker Christopher Nolan) and his wife Lisa Joy, this brilliantly executed modern Frankenstein is immediately captivating.
The show revolves around a “theme park” called Westworld, an authentic recreation of the west, populated by artificial humans called hosts. These hosts are virtually indistinguishable from the guests of the park, except their minds are programmed on loops, so they never leave their general area, and forget the events of the day before. This is important, because the patrons of the park are given no rules; they can do whatever they want. For some this is relegated to following story arcs or going sight seeing, but for others, complete freedom without any sort of consequences sets them loose on murderous rampages. The primary conflict in the show starts with a handful of the hosts beginning to remember what has happened to them, and start to feel like there is something wrong with the world they live in.
This series wouldn’t work without its captivating writing and direction, but the acting and music are both a huge part of the shows appeal. All four primary story threads are grounded by an actor who plays out their part expertly. Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton play Dolores and Maeve, two hosts who are starting to see the holes in their reality. On the side of administration, Anthony Hopkins plays Robert Ford, the founder of the park and a possible sociopath. Hopkins’ cool and menacing portrayal of the character bounces nicely off of his right hand man Bernard (Jeffrey Wright). His portrayal of the character serves as a reminder that not everyone in administration is a monster, trying to play God. The glue that connects these stories is also the biggest question mark, The Man In Black (Ed Harris). Even though he has revealed his motives over the course of a few cryptic monologues, he remains the focal point of most of theories surrounding the show.
All of this is fine and well, but the mark of a great show is its underlying themes and messages, and Westworld doesn’t skip a beat in that regard. Among the many themes explored in the first season, are what makes something alive, finding one’s true self, the morality of A.I., and the deeper meanings of the universe. Helping to drive these themes home was the expert direction and editing, which often times focused on the repetition of the hosts lives. This all supplemented by terrific original music, and beautiful westernized covers of song like “Paint It Black” and “House Of The Rising Sun.” All of these elements unite to form a unique tone, one of contradicting ideas, free will and total control, old and new, love and coldness. Over the course of the season, one could see how the hosts can be even more human than their creators.