RogerBW's Blog

Westworld season 1 19 June 2017

2016 science fiction, 10 episodes. At the Westworld holiday resort, the android "hosts" exist to be shot, slept with, and generally taken advantage of. But some of them are starting to remember.

This is a series that starts out very strong, weakens for many of its middle episodes, then rallies towards the end and almost pulls it off. Where the principal theme of Crichton's film was the civilised man losing his civilisation (Deliverance with cowboys and tech-fear), this series much more sensibly looks first at the hosts: are they genuinely sapient? Does it really matter whether or not they really are, if they "think" they are? What about Julian Jaynes? And, as a strong secondary consideration, what is the effect on humans of being told "these things, which look and act just like people, are your playthings and you can do anything you like to them"? Really, given how badly some of the guests are affected by having the rules removed, one wonders how the resort has lasted as long as it has.

This is a massive and complex story, with more than twenty "main roles" and lots of moving parts, and plots that intersect and collide with each other. At least two deeply-opposed groups seem to be trying to engineer the same thing; although creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy have ended up with at least co-writing credits on all but one of the scripts, there's rather less consistency in what is very much a single long story than one might have expected. Some stories go nowhere at all, just dribbling to a stop (particularly noticeable with the role of Luke Hemsworth as the head of security, who really only exists to have other people tell him bits of plot).

The nature of the resort itself also seems to fluctuate: the hosts are on endless loops of their own narratives, which can be modified by interaction with guests, but some of those narratives would clearly take much longer to play out than others; does someone on a long stay notice that the bank is being robbed at the same time every Monday? Or indeed is it? For the most part there's no real sense of how long things are taking, and it's quite possible that there are many multi-day gaps in the story as presented.

At times it feels like an attempt to make "science fiction with tits" in much the same way that Game of Thrones is "fantasy with tits"; there's very little of the story that would have changed had gratuitous nudity not been available. I suppose HBO has to justify its subscription fees somehow. (Indeed, there's talk of adding a Game of Thrones World in the second season of this show.)

Music, by Ramin Djawadi, is mostly effective… except that the main theme, in various arrangements, is re-used to excess in both diegetic (often on a player piano, because it's constrained by its programming, geddit?) and non-diegetic modes. Acting is universally solid among the main cast, with Jeffrey Wright particularly impressive, and Thandie Newton finally given a role she can get her teeth into. And the production is gorgeous, with classic backlot Western towns, sweeping vistas, and cramped underground labs.

The story very nearly comes together, with some disappointing choices in the last couple of episodes. I'm still interested to see where things go next.

A second season is expected in 2018.

Add A Comment

Your Name
Your Email
Your Comment

Your submission will be ignored if any field is left blank, but your email address will not be displayed. Comments will be processed through markdown.

Search
Archive
Tags 1920s 1930s 1940s 1950s 1960s 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s 3d printing action aeronautics aikakirja anecdote animation anime army astronomy audio tech base commerce battletech beer boardgaming bookmonth chain of command children chronicle church of no redeeming virtues cold war comedy computing contemporary cornish smuggler cosmic encounter coup cycling dead of winter doctor who documentary drama drone ecchi espionage essen 2015 essen 2016 existential risk falklands war fandom fantasy film firefly first world war flash point food garmin drive gazebo geodata gurps gurps 101 harpoon historical history horror hugo 2014 hugo 2015 hugo 2016 hugo 2017 hugo-nebula reread in brief avoid instrumented life kickstarter learn to play leaving earth linux mecha museum mystery naval non-fiction one for the brow opera photography podcast politics powers prediction privacy project woolsack quantum rail ranting raspberry pi reading reading boardgames social readings real life restaurant reviews romance rpg a day rpgs science fiction scythe second world war security shipwreck simutrans south atlantic war stationery steampunk stuarts suburbia superheroes suspense television the resistance thirsty meeples thriller tin soldier torg toys trailers travel vietnam war war wargaming weather wives and sweethearts writing about writing x-wing young adult
Special All book reviews, All film reviews
Produced by aikakirja v0.1