Westworld Season 1 Review: What Does It Mean To Be Human? - GMonsterTV

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Westworld Season 1 Review: What Does It Mean To Be Human?

Yes, I'm late to the game. Season 1 of "Westworld" aired in 2016 and I'm just getting around to watching it. The HBO series is based on a 1973 movie "Westworld" (from Michael Crighton). There was also a 1976 sequel called "FutureWorld" (which I did not see). 

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven watched "Westworld" turn back now. Major spoilers ahead. 

"Westworld" is an adult amusement park operated by a company called Delos. There are "hosts" (very life-like androids) which guests pay top dollar to interact with. Visitors can do whatever they wish to hosts without fear of repercussion. Hosts cannot harm guests and follow a pre-programmed script (or loop). Their memories are wiped after each story so they can be used in the next.  

There are three major differences between the movie and the TV series:
  1. In the movie there are three amusement areas-- WestWorld, RomanWorld and MedievalWorld. There is a fourth in the sequel FutureWorld. In the series there's only WestWorld but another is hinted at in the finale (when we witness samarais being prepped for battle).  
  2. The Man In Black/MIB in the movie is actually a host (played by Yul Brenner). Ed Harris plays him currently. In the TV series he's a guest. This puts an interesting new spin on the story. 
  3. The older is a fantasy shoot-em-up. The current version is more psychological. 

The extensive cast includes both hosts and the staff (who operate behind the scenes). Main characters include:

The Staff:
  • Robert Ford- creator of WestWorld. Delos now has major stake in the company and so feel they can tell him what to do. Their primary concern is profit. Ford is played by the always wonderful Anthony Hopkins.  
  • Bernard Lowe- Ford's trusted employee and head of the programmers. Bernard is portrayed by Jeffrey Wright. In one of the biggest shockers of the season, Bernard is revealed to an android (created as a replica of Arnold). Wow, I didnt see that one coming. 
  • Theresa Cullen- head of operations and potential foil of Ford. She also has a relationship with Bernard.  
  • Elsie Hughes- works with Bernard, her curiosity may get her into trouble 
  • Charlotte Hale- arrives to protect the IP (intellectual property) of WestWorld. They're worried that when the company pushed out Ford, he will take everything with him (or destroy it).  
  • Felix and Sylvester- lab techs who repair the hosts. They play a larger role later in the season. 

The Hosts:
  • Dolores- the oldest Android in the park. Typically used as a rancher's daughter and typical "damsel in distress" character. Dolores is portrayed by Evan Rachel Wood. It is eventually determined that Dolores killed the original Arnold at Ford's command. 
  • Maeve- currently used as a madam at the Sweetwater saloon. She is definitely a survivor. Not sure where the English accent comes from but it's still easy on the ears. Maeve is portrayed by Thandie Newton. 
  • Teddy- often a love interest of Dolores. He also plays a soldier but doesnt have much of a backstory until later episodes. Teddy is portrayed by James Mardsen. 

The Guests:
  • The Man In Black- a frequent visitor and majority owner of WestWorld. MIB is ruthless and terrorizes Dolores and others at every turn. He has grown bored with the park because the residents can't fight back. I agree on that point. If you know you cant get hurt, that greatly lessens the stakes. 
  • William- a visitor who arrives with Logan. He is kindhearted (unlike his brother in law). He develops feelings for Dolores. In one of the biggest reveals of the series, we learn that MIB is actually William. We are seeing him as a young man in Dolores' memories so there are two different timelines. He has become a horrible person. What happened to the gentle man that Dolores met all those years ago?
  • Logan- future brother in law of William. He's all about having fun. 

The main story lines of the season include:
  • Maeve figuring out who/where she is and trying to escape. Dolores is on a similar journey (but Maeve is more aggressive in her pursuit of the truth). 
  • The MIB searches for the maze. What he thinks this will bring him, I have no idea. Dolores says several times "The maze is not meant for you". We later learn that the maze is a physical representation of the levels robots must go through in order to achieve consciousness-- memory, improvisation, self interest and lastly suffering. Finding the center of the maze means reaching inside yourself and trusting your own voice. 
  • The ruckus with Theresa and Charlotte trying to force Ford out of the company.  
  • Ford is working on his final story. We dont know the specifics until the finale. It turns out Ford was playing a LONG game. Everything Maeve and Dolores has done is actually set into motion by Ford. The final step of his plan is for Maeve to infiltrate the mainland.

So where do we stand at the finale? The human party goers are under attack by Dolores. Ford appears to be dead at her hand (but maybe he built an android of himself and she shot that). Meanwhile Maeve WAS headed to freedom and the outside world. But she still yearns for her daughter. Instead she plans to visit where she thinks the girl is (Park #1). Wonder what's there? All the robots are missing from the storage area. William/MIB sees them coming over the hill. He's shot in the arm. Looks like MIB just got his wish of increasing the danger factor. Many of them would be more than happy to kill William given his previous behavior. 

Grade: 4 3/4 Monsters (out of 5). Excellent on all fronts! The show will definitely be on my "best of" list for 2017. The actors really sell the story-- particularly Anthony Hopkins (wonderful in everything he does), Thandie Newton (Maeve) and Evan Rachel Wood (Dolores). It is amazing to witness the range of emotion they can portray (while pretending to be robots). Maeve's visit to HQ was particularly touching. When she sees the bodies of all her fellow hosts piled on the ground, it's the stuff of nightmares. Both women won Critic's Choice Awards for their portrayal. Wood was also nominated for an Emmy but did not win this year. 

There were a number of great twists that I didnt see coming. I purposefully did not read any reviews or fan theories in order not to spoil it for myself. My own criticism is that the show was a bit slow in the middle. Other than that, it's perfection in my book. 

"Westworld" raises interesting questions about what it means to be truly human. Arent we all preprogrammed to a certain extent? Do our memories make us human? At what point are we conscious? If someone/something feels pain are we not required to treat them with kindness, dignity and respect?  I cant wait to see what season 2 has in store as we continue to follow the robot's path to self actualization.  

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TV: Heavy On Sci Fi, Horror & Adventure

December 13, 2017

Westworld Season 1 Review: What Does It Mean To Be Human? Reviewed by GMonsterTV on 8:30 PM Rating: 5 Yes, I'm late to the game. Season 1 of "Westworld" aired in 2016 and I'm just getting around to watching it.  The HBO ...

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