| The story takes place in the fictional Westworld, a technologically advanced, Western-themed amusement park populated completely by synthetic androids dubbed “hosts”. Westworld caters to high-paying visitors dubbed “newcomers” (or just “guests”), who can do whatever they wish within the park, without fear of retaliation from the hosts.
Shot on 35mm film, the first season of Westworld is built with rich storytelling and superb acting from its all-star cast, especially a fantastic performance from Anthony Hopkins, providing an insight into humanity and society through strong characters and expert revelations, leading to an excellent finale. Every Westworld episode, despite small slips, has been chock full of powerful, heart-stopping emotional moments. In the stellar cast, led by Evan Rachel Wood, HBO has assembled a group that excels at projecting emotion and scene tension directly at the audience.
The scenery that serves as their backdrop has been nothing short of stunning. Despite being stuck in a singular themed park, each episode has found ways to poke open a new room in the park, revealing wrinkles that have taken me by surprise each time. And that’s saying nothing about the ethical, economic, political and religious debates the show casually rages each week.
The one thing that I absolutely loved was when they introduced the ‘bicameral mind’ concept when considering consciousness. That is one of the more important concepts when considering the origins of consciousness. It is rare indeed to have a fictional work undertake such a complex topic without trivializing it. I definitely have to compliment the writers for undertaking such a complex topic and I hope they continue to explore the implications. If you don’t know about this concept, please do research it and read the book ‘The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind’ by Julian Jaynes which is very interesting.
“These violent delights have violent ends.”
Evan Rachel Wood is a wonder to watch. The subtle changes in her expression and voice as she shifts from her android self to the sentient host she is programmed to play is enchanting. Jeffrey Wright absolutely excellent together with Ed Harris and Anthony Hopkins, their charismatic screen presence is once more just impossible to ignore and they simply own every scene they’re in. The supporting characters are equally brilliant from Thandie Newton’s hustling madame to James Marsden’s noble cowboy, down to the extras playing unmoving bodies being repaired. Every body movement, eye glance or pause, they execute it without the slightest of mistake.
The show has successfully poked at our humanity and at the darkness inside us. Despite the wailing of easily offended viewers (some people had problems with the violence shown against women), Westworld has continually given its female characters agency and power, with increasing depth to their personalities each week, making the faux-feminist critiques from the first few episodes seem sillier by the minute.
I did however had a different problem with its first 4 episodes. As I said before there have been small hiccups in the beginning of this show, moments of one too many repetitions or brief stalls in the narrative as the creators retool the focus of the episode, but I found it difficult to grasp and love the show. It wasn’t until Episode 5 came along where I started to have an idea of where it’s headed. From there on it was an absolute blast to watch, and I couldn’t wait for each Monday to see the new episode.
Westworld’s bold experimentation captivates our imagination in a way that jazz does- by throwing out traditional formats to give space for chaos and unpredictability. Westworld exposes us to great secrets and instability bursting with tension. It wanders deeper, each episode, into a maze on the fringes of the park with no certain outcome.
It is yet another example of why this new and exciting age of television, as well as the expansive narratives they provide, is causing a tectonic shifted in cinematic storytelling. Kudos to Lisa Joy & Jonathan Nolan for bringing us such a fresh new take of the 1973 movie.
‘Westworld’ (Season 1) gets an 8.7/10.
Shot on 35's rating sheet: 9.5 – 10.0: Excellent! 8.5 – 9.5: Fantastic, but with minor flaws 7.5 – 8.5: Great, but with issues 6.5 – 7.5: Okay, but with major issues 5.5 – 6.5: Had potential, but falls flat hard. 4.5 – 5.5: Disaster!