Westworld Review: Episode 1 – “The Original”

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Based loosely on Michael Critchton’s novel and 1973 film release, Westworld is set in a Wild West theme park/real life video game in which ‘guests’ (humans) can pay to visit. The show was marketed as a Game of Thrones shaped void filler, but its budget and star-studded cast suggests Westworld could surpass it.

The Plot – *Mild Spoilers*

The park is occupied by robots, or ‘hosts’ as they’re called by their creators, whose existence is based on a series of intertwined story lines on a constant loop.

The audience is thrust into the scripted life of Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) as she greets her rancher father and sets out into the emblematic Western town. We then see Teddy Flood (James Marsden) on his looped train journey into town in search of his beloved Dolores. However her looped day ends in tragedy as her parents are murdered by bandits and is later assumedly raped by The Man in Black, the show’s apparent antagonist played by Ed Harris. Teddy’s attempts to stop him fail miserably as we learn that hosts cannot inflict any pain on the guests, allowing the MIB to fulfil his every wish. Whilst the sexual assault is not made explicit, it is assumed – perhaps this is a result of the criticism HBO has faced for its reliance on graphic and explicit sexual assault on women in its productions.

Whilst most guests simply visit to “shoot or **** something”, The Man in Black is revealed to be a serial player and loyal customer to the Westworld game and is in search of a secret and deeper level. It is clear he will be causing a fair amount of havoc this series.

westworld-man-in-black

The Man In Black played by Ed Harris

We see some of the hosts, including Dolores’ father, develop glitches as a result of Dr Robert Ford’s (Anthony Hopkins), the park’s creative director, latest update and as we’re told “the park hasn’t had a critical failure in over 30 years” – it’s pretty clear that things are about to change. The hosts begin to regain past memories, hinting at the development of consciousness and awareness of their artificial state. This raises one of the show’s key themes – the notion that technology is advancing faster than we are able to control. It poses the question; will artificial intelligence ever gain consciousness and self awareness? The episode concludes as we see Dolores begin to question her existence, setting the scene for the remainder of the series.

Westworld completely redefines escapism as a theme of modern television. The guests visit Westworld to completely immerse themselves in a world where they are untouchable – an opportunity for man to play god. The show has posed some intriguing questions and introduced the audience to an enticing and visually stunning artificial world full of slaves that may start breaking their chains.

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