I had forgotten that Westworld was premiering on HBO, but randomly managed to catch it Sunday night, a pleasant surprise to wrap the weekend. All I could really remember from the trailer was sci-fi and animatronics, or something like that. What I got was a more complex question about the realities we live in and human nature when it has no checks and balances.
Jonathan and Lisa Joy Nolan created this show lead by a cast of familiar names. Anthony Hopkins plays Dr. Robert Ford, who created Westworld and continues to see it advance with technology. Westerworld is an amusement park of sorts that takes visitors to the wild west and gives them a completely immersive experience with life-like robots who act as the town’s inhabitants. Evan Rachel Wood stars as Dolores Abernathy, one of these robots, who is programmed to see the joy in everyday and fall in love with Teddy Flood (James Marsden), also an artificial person.
Paying guests come from the real world to experience whatever story line the want, whether that’s getting the girl, sleeping with prostitutes, killing the bad guy, or being the bad guy. The robots cannot hurt the guests, but guests can do whatever they want to the robots.
Westworld’s Head Engineer Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) notices a problem with the AI’s most recent update after one of the robots malfunctions and shuts down while interacting with guests. At first Lowe and the rest of the team write this off as a fluke, but when other robots start acting outside of their programmed narratives and even show signs of self-awareness, all 200 updated robots must be pulled for testing.
The episode ends on the question of just how self-aware and altered this update has left the robots.
Dolores is the simplest of these robots, being completely good and loving all life. At the end of the episode she says she wouldn’t hurt a fly right before smashing one that lands on her neck. Some of the updated robots are changed in obvious ways, while others are more subtle, like Dolores. How will they react now that some of the limits have been lifted on their reality?
The question of human nature seems to be passe for the Nolans and the shows writers. So far the idea of guests coming into Westworld and doing whatever they want has been mostly addressed for its obviousness and skipped over. This episode did have a subplot on human cruelty, though, in The Man in Black (Ed Harris), a guest who comes (apparently every day) to play a villain and see how far he can push the fake reality. He looks for an answer to a vague curiosity about what the theme park is hiding.
The shows theme in this episode seemed to be about questioning surroundings. Do we really know who we are? Do we really know those around us? These robots certainly don’t.
This episode was a great setup, really jumped head-first into the story. I’m looking forward to seeing where the show goes and hoping it won’t be predictable.