Westworld has me torn. I’m compelled to watch it and yet two seasons in I still can’t dedide if I actually like it.
There is quite a bit I enjoy and find engrossing. There have been some interesting mysterious twists and story compositions. I have been forced to think and deduce and I quite like shows that force me to do so. And yet…
I can’t shake the nagging feeling that they are making it up as they go along.
There is a rather ominous Lost vibe running through the show and I do not mean that as a compliment. The fact that J.J. “Star Wars killer” Abrams and Bryan Burke are involved doesn’t help my anxiety nor do the copious amounts of Lost-like time jumps.
I hope I am wrong but I worry the Westworld writers are building these enigmas and puzzles with a plethora of MacGuffins that won’t ultimately pay off. In addition there have been some significant reveals that an utter moron could have seen coming a mile away.
I imagine a room full of self-congratulatory, millennial (or even worse, middle-aged acting millennial) douchebag writers in skinny jeans, patting themselves on the back for their modern-day, Conan Doyle brilliance.
That and there is one character that annoys the living shit out of me.
Yet there is much to love.
I could certainly watch a show with only Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Oz Frankenstein. Ed Harris as the emotionally broken, malignant narcissist Man in Black, Evan Rachel Wood’s calculating Femme T-1000 is terrific, beautiful and menacing.
Two recent standouts have been Zahn McClarnon’s Indian poet warrior, Akecheta and Hiroyuki Sanada’s Kurosawa-esque Musashi. Check out his film Twilight Samurai if you want to see a masterpiece. Jeffrey Wright (always excellent) is both sympathetic and fantastic in his role as Hopkin’s modern Prometheus, Bernard. While Westworld has a number of prominent characters it’s Wright’s Bernard whose own journey intertwines with the rest of the narrative.
One of my main beefs with Westworld is a lead character that sucks all joy and goodwill I’d usually derive from the show and brings a whole new meaning to Mary Sue, even for a Cylon: Thandie Newton’s Maeve. Thought to be the show’s Pinocchio who is revealed to be nothing more than another puppet on Hopkin’s strings.
I generally find Thandie Newton’s scene chomping, ham sandwich style of acting off putting and here it seems the showrunners intentionally removed whatever filter she may have and amped up her smarminess. Coupled with how her character is presented as some sort of nearly omnipotent feminine Cylon Christ-figure makes her as likable as herpes.
An unlikable character dialed up to smug factor of 10 multiplied with ridiculous, Mary Sue Rey Jedi-like powers plus far too much screen time makes for a shitty formula.
The other character I just can’t wrap my head around is Tessa Thompson’s Charlotte Hale. Tessa is a pretty actress and has a certain confident charisma. On Westworld they’ve chopped her beautiful hair and given her a decidedly frumpy look with a Shemp hair cut. I can’t put my finger on it. The Shemp hair certainly irks me but something is just off-putting about the character. Really a shame as I liked her in Creed and Thor.
As of last evening there were a couple major revelations that I will not spoil but were not perhaps as obvious as most of the previous reveals. That coupled with the fact that there was decidedly less Thandie Newton gives me great hope about the show. Further, the episode previous to last evening was fantastic.
This has all happened before and will happen again. We’ve seen these very same themes played out before.
In Battlestar Galactica, Blade Runner, Frankenstein, Star Trek The Motion Picture, A.I. and Metropolis to name a few. The ideas of man creating machine and the concept of what constitutes life. Do Androids have souls? Do androids dream of electric sheep? Man’s creation exceeding and turning on its creators, and the concept of self-awareness.
The show is, at its core, very entertaining but it isn’t groundbreaking.
If the showrunners can trim the fat, pay off on the heady ideas and continue to build on what works I will be happy. The season finale of Westworld airs next Sunday on HBO.