Let's talk about "Westworld," because it's crazy
Tonight was the premiere of Westworld, the much-anticipated HBO show from Jonathan Nolan (writer of The Dark Knight and Interstellar) and J.J. Abrams (Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Lost), and we’ve been looking forward to this for SO long. It’s been clear this was going to be our in between Game of Thrones fix for super beautiful shots, great music (from the same composer as Game of Thrones, so obvi the opening credits and theme music were sooooo gooooood), and crazy twists and turns.
After watching the pilot, I can confidently say our ‘crazy’ quota will be met.
Westworld is jam-packed with good stuff, but no offense HBO, I have like 500 questions about what in the WORLD is happening here.
Let’s start with the basics: Westworld within the show refers to a cybernetic theme park rich guests can pay to inhabit. Westworld is peopled by ‘hosts’ which are… what, exactly?
The ‘hosts’ for all intents and purposes appear to be normal people within Westworld. Okay, fine. But sometimes we’re not IN Westworld, we’re in the lab that makes it all happen, and that’s where it started to break down a bit, because in that world the hosts are just chilling naked in chairs.
We also see the hosts being created, and I’ll be honest: this looked like some serious scientific nonsense. It’s literally some kind of vitruvian (wo)man dipped in what appears to be milk and then sculpted into a person. I just feel like that’s not how this would work? What are they made out of? If they’re robots, wouldn’t there have to be some kind of… tech input into them, instead of crafting them out of Elmer’s glue?
Also, when the hosts are hanging out in their birthday suits with a bunch of business and science people ogling them (I guess I should’ve seen this coming — it’s HBO, after all, anything to fit in an extra pair of boobs) it sort of brings another confusing issue to the forefront. I seriously had to back up at points because I got so caught up wondering…
Where *physically* is everybody?
We have yet to see the guests to Westworld outside of the virtual reality. But that’s the thing — IS Westworld a virtual reality? And if it is, why aren’t the hosts just lines of code within the program instead of actual physical beings? Was Anthony Hopkins building this thing thinking, “how can I design this so that the fallout can cause the MOST POSSIBLE DAMAGE if things go wrong?” Because we’ve all seen enough movies about artificial intelligence to know how this is going to end.
We also see the hosts making some facial expressions and hand motions while they’re being observed by the people who work at Westworld (carnies is probably not appropriate, but like, they DO work at a theme park), and they’re clearly still within the VR world at the time. So why do they make some hand motions, but don’t move when they’re riding horses or painting or having sex with random creepy rich dudes?
Also, why do the scientists or whatever who go into the VR to pick up after Walter when he goes nuts and massacres the town where, like, protective CSI suits? We’ve clearly seen from the naked hosts in chairs (I’m really fixated on this, guys, it’s just so WEIRD) that the clothes are part of the VR, so… why… bother? Obviously these people are not PHYSICALLY PRESENT in the VR, so they shouldn’t leave any real traces behind anyway.
I have the same question when it comes to the photograph that causes Dolores’s dad to glitch — how did somebody bring a photograph into a virtual reality? So… ARE they physically present after all? AND IF SO WHY ARE THE HOSTS STILL NAKED IN CHAIRS?!?
Also, how long can guests stay in the park?
Since we’re told that the hosts have their memories purged at the end of every day, and we even see Dolores and Teddy going through different iterations of the same day, it’s a little confusing to see the same guests in the park day in and day out. How do their storylines advance if the characters they’re interacting with forget them every morning? How do the hosts play their roles if they’re constantly meeting people who know them?
And for people who go back repeatedly — as the freaky dude in black clearly does — wouldn’t they want the hosts to remember them? It seems like the sort of rich, important people who would pay exorbitantly to indulge their fantasies would want folks to remember them.
One of the hardest things in any genre show is establishing the rules — since the worlds presented aren’t the world we know, it’s important to give your audience some metric by which to measure what’s happening.
Westworld‘s pilot didn’t necessarily give us any rules beyond knowing that the hosts can’t harm a living thing (which is why that last beat with Dolores killing the fly is SO DARN GOOD) and so I have this laundry list of Things I Need to Know to Understand What on Earth is Happening. Please, TV gods, heed my prayers and TELL ME WHAT IS GOING ON.
On the up side, I have so many questions that I’m definitely hooked for another week. But for the love of god somebody tell me why there are all of these animatronic people sitting naked in chairs.