Westworld Will Have You Questioning Nature of Reality

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Westworld Season 1 on BD

HBO's WESTWORLD is a first-class, grade-A mindf*ck of epic proportions.

The future is populated by people who have reached the pinnacle. And now they're bored. To that end, they have created a diversion -- WestWorld, a theme park populated by automatons designed and programmed so realistically that they begin to achieve consciousness. To prevent this from happening, the hosts are gathered every night for analysis. Those who have been killed are reset and their memories wiped, while others have their programming altered so that they follow their storylines, with allowable variations based on logarithms for improvisation.

The writers do a smashing job retelling smaller story loops repeatedly without them ever getting boring. There's always some minor, important difference in the narratives (as they're called in the series) that leads things into a totally different direction. It's also a rather cynical outlook on human nature, because the human guests (who pay through the nose to enter the park) are allowed to do whatever they want with the "hosts" inside, knowing that the hosts can do nothing to harm them back. As a result, most people revert to their baser natures: copulating and killing. Only the hosts are starting to recall memories that were supposed to have been wiped--and they're starting to hold grudges.

One of the central storylines involves Dolores (EVAN RACHEL WOOD), a rancher's daughter and damsel-in-distress, who begins to hear voices leading her to areas of the spacious park where she has never before ventured. Along the way, we see her become close with a human guest, William (JIMMI SIMPSON), who aspires to be her hero, and also fall victim to the guest who has become WestWorld's most vicious villain (ED HARRIS). Also vying for Dolores's attentions are Teddy Flood (JAMES MARSDEN), another host, who hangs on her every word and has a secret past he is only learning about as it gets programmed into his backstory.

Elsewhere in the fictional town of Sweetwater, brothel madame Maeve (THANDIE NEWTON) is also having memories: memories of a daughter she never knew, and memories of men in strange suits standing over her sleeping body. When she acquires the ability to wake herself during her repair periods, she leverages this to make changes to her own programming, with the end goal of escaping the park into the real world, no matter the cost.

Outside of the narratives, there's deeper intrigue. The park is overseen by Dr. Robert Ford (ANTHONY HOPKINS), who has godlike control over the hosts that surpasses anyone else's authority. The owners of the park want to force him into retirement, but he has one more grand story to tell, and he's razing half the park's resources to build the new narrative. But Ford also has secrets, as his best programmer, Bernard Lowe (JEFFREY WRIGHT) is learning, secrets involving Ford's dead partner, Arnold. But when the malfunctioning hosts begin to identify the voice in their head as being Arnold's, we're left wondering just what truly happened. Bernard's journey of self-discovery through his investigations is, perhaps, the most shocking and jarring of all.

With an ending that eliminates some of the series' major players (or does it?) it will be interesting to see how Season 2 picks things up, as the hosts have had enough, and are ready to inherit their world. (Think RISE OF THE PLANET OF THE APES, with artificially intelligent wetware.) WESTWORLD will have you questioning the nature of your reality much the way THE MATRIX did.

Grade: 
5.0 / 5.0