Musings on HBO Westworld Episode One

teddy-and-doloresI’m not going to recap HBO’s ‘Westworld’ episode one “The Original” in minute detail  but I did have some thoughts, both as I was watching it and later.

The first thing that struck me is how very much like “Jurassic Park” the plot structure is. I guess that’s not surprising since Michael Crichton’s story telling style is at the root of both. Big, elaborate high tech park, with ‘hosts’ instead of dinosaurs, although the hosts are just as deadly and just as underestimated. The elderly, quirky founder-creator, actor Anthony Hopkins character Robert Ford in this case, who maybe loves his creations a bit too much. Luke Hemsworth’s Ashley Stubbs the security chief who thinks the management underestimates the danger but sticks around to collect the paycheck and be involved in the cutting edge situation. Theresa Cullen, played by Sidse Babbett Knudsen, seems like the equivalent of the lawyer in JP but much, MUCH more dangerous. A jaded, cigarette-smoking corporate shark.

But where’s the Jeff Goldblum Malcolm figure to sound the alarm early on?

And a Dr. Alan Grantlike character to inject a few moments of humor (remember his computer issues in JP? And aversion to kids?), derring-do and above all, common sense.

I miss the fact that you can’t tell for sure who’s a host versus who’s a guest. I suppose it’s to heighten the dramatic tension but I think in a way it has the opposite effect. I tend to feel like everyone is a host, running through their stories for the amusement of the creator maybe (ooh). In the old version of the story, the character we followed was a guest, so he was there as us. Now we’re relating more to the hosts, especially Dolores. How much are we going to care when the hosts start killing the guests? Not too much. And so far the WW staff is so unlikable we aren’t going to care when they go down either.

I could watch Evan Rachel Wood all day and I want to be besties with Dolores, the character she plays. They’ve made her so relatable. When she casually slaps that fly in the last scene, oh boy! Serious trouble ahead. Well done foreshadowing.

I do like the new spin on the worldbuilding, that the hosts are slowly becoming self-aware, noticing anomalies about themselves and their world, remembering things…I’m on their side already!

I miss Roman World and Medieval World, although I suppose if this series does well there could be spinoffs. And I can see why HBO wouldn’t spend the money to create those worlds right now.

I think they should STOP having any storyline which includes children. I don’t buy the idea that you can run a family friendly vacation spot where people bring their kids AND also have the violent Wild West scenarios we’ve concentrated on mostly. That’s a big huh? For me.

I get that there are supposed to be layers upon layers upon layers here. As they said in one scene, the guests see one thing, the staff sees another, the stockholders see another and…management evidently has serious PLOTS going on. Total world domination maybe? Jurassic Park had that whole other island where herds of dinosaurs were being created. I’m not convinced as yet about WW and what the plots could be. Mind transfer into immortal bodies maybe?

The actors are doing a marvelous job, especially the ones called upon to play glitching hosts. Wow.

I loathe the gunslinger serial killer conspiracy theory guy. Absolutely loathe him and not for the reasons the showrunners probably want. Yeah he does awful things to the poor hosts but he seems a very grafted-on plot element here to me. I don’t care what he wants to know or why he does what he does.  (Is he a simple psychopath?) And I do love actor Ed Harris, who has played some of my favorite characters in movies over the years, so I’m not criticizing him. Yul Brynner’s  Man in Black gunslinger in the original movie was an unstoppable force and the very fact that he didn’t talk much made him truly scary.

I have a feeling actor Jeffrey Wright’s character Bernard Lowe the chief programmer is probably not as nice as he seems. He’s like a favorite uncle right now but I just don’t trust him.

Raise your hand if you can’t wait for that army of deactivated hosts down on icky level B83 to wake up and start killing people? Probably with Dolores’s unhinged Dad who just wants to protect her as its general. And good old fashioned Cowboy Bill probably gets to kill or at least seriously menace his fond creator.

Why does Westworld have all those abandoned levels?

The guests so far are unpleasant and/or buffoons.  Or seemingly somewhat out of their depth, like the family who met Dolores by the river.

The guest who ended the town shootout scenario early reminded me of the doomed guest in Medieval World who thought he was going to defeat the Black Knight and have sex with…uh, marry the Queen. Yeah, he came to a bad end.

The behind the scenes glimpses are creepy and interesting, like the ones in the original movie were, and I get the advanced 3D printing technology going on but I’m not sold on milk baths. Is that why the one glitching outlaw drinks milk and pours milk on his victims? I’m always more fascinated by the behind-the-scenes than I am what’s happening in those scenarios out in the Wild West Fake town.

I get that the player piano restarting is the beginning of each day. And how effective to use a player piano, one of the first ‘automated’ devices. But I miss the scenes in the original movie where all the hosts stop and the crew comes out to pick up the ones that need repair. We did see a bit of that after the rampage shootout in the village though. I need moar behind the scenes stuff!

Wow, that blond girl sharpshooter is deadly – we’ll see more of her I bet. Perhaps she’ll turn on the clunky guest who shot her? I wonder what her backstory is supposed to be?

Yeah, good idea to give the hosts ‘reveries,’ when the very name implies dreaming or fanciful musing. A subconscious busily thinking its own thoughts below the programmed WW story lines to amuse guests. Interesting choice of upgrade.

I can’t wait for the moment all the verbal controls fail and don’t work anymore. The WW workers are so casual about using them to paralyze a host, and feeling safe in doing so.

The guy playing the scenario writer Lee Sizemore is overacting. Tone it down, dude. I had to grit my teeth when he was on screen. I’m sure the actor himself is a charming person but the character is OVER THE TOP.

Actor James Marsdens’  Teddy Flood needs to man up more, which I have a feeling he’ s working on in his reveries. He’s got the instincts but they’re pretty buried at the moment. Who can’t wait to see him throw down his own ineffective popgun and grab a gun (from somewhere) which does work on humans?

Teddy seems a bit obsessed with chivalry but I like the sweet love story between him and Dolores, although she seems much stronger than he is – unequal partners at the moment.

Who the heck drops a photograph on the ground in a remote Western theme park???  I found that totally unbelievable as a plot device to trigger Dolores’s ‘father’ into glitching. Maybe if he’d found a lost cell phone full of photos…

I have the feeling the character played by Thandie Newton could be really important as the story moves forward. She seems to have an edge to her personality already.

I’m intrigued enough to hang around for more. I’ve read in interviews that the showrunners have a theme for each of the five seasons they hope to have, and this season is all about the hosts waking up to who and what they are. Bring it on!

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