Episode 1: The Original
Westworld is a world where android hosts are built to please human customers. When one of the androids goes awry, senior programmer Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) is called in to find out what the glitch is. Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babbet Knudson) wants all the defective androids recalled, but the creator of Westworld, Dr. Robert Ford, (Anthony Hopkins) doesn’t want the androids shut down at all.
This is a very interesting episode, the writers are intentionally vague about several things, when this world is built, who the humans are, and if the robots are becoming self-aware. The last factor is perhaps the most interesting and makes this series worth watching, at least so far. The writers are Jonathan Nolan and his wife Lisa Joy. Jonathan Nolan has co-written some of the most interesting sci-fi movies in recent memory, Interstellar, The Dark Knight, and Memento, to name a few. So. I hope the writing stays this sharp.
Anthony Hopkins is great as the founder, he’s obviously conflicted between making the androids as lifelike as possible, and keeping people safe. It’s a very subtle performance. Jeffrey Wright is also very good as the lead programmer, desperately trying to find out what’s going wrong with the androids. Evan Rachel Wood is interesting as an android just starting to realize that she may not be human. Sidse Babbet Knudson gives an intense performance as an operations leader, she wants to keep Westworld safe above all.
The cinematography is superb. There are beautiful exterior shots of mostly Utah, and those shots set the stage for what is essentially a Western drama.
Episode 2: Chestnut
Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) is having private conversations with Bernard, which Bernard doesn’t want anyone to know about. Bernard’s relationship with Theresa Cullen extends beyond the boardroom. Two guests arrive at Westworld, Logan (Ben Barnes) has been there before, William (Jimmi Simpson) has not. Maeve (Thandie Newton) is having flashbacks to an earlier adventure. The Man in Black (Ed Harris) wants to know what’s going on behind the scenes at Westworld. Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) creates a new storyline for Westworld, does Ford approve?
What I like about this show is that there are about 5 storylines going on, and all five are interesting. The androids having memories, and the programmer and the android having private conversations are the most interesting. Great acting by Hopkins, Ed Harris and Thandie Newton keeps the tension in the script high, and it never lets up. The least interesting of the storylines are the new guests, hope that gets better, but I am hooked, oh yes I am.
Episode 3: The Stray
Bernard is still talking to Dolores. He gives her a book, Alice in Wonderland. Dolores learns to shoot from Teddy, after recalling a distant memory. Bernard learns about an old programmer named Arnold from Ford. Teddy gets a new storyline. William gets a new adventure. Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) and Elsie Hughes (Shannon Woodward) go in search of a stray android. Dolores finds her way to William and passes out.
There are some interesting bits here, the continuing evolution of Dolores, Bernard’s fascination with Dolores. Maeve’s continuing recall, but I don’t like William and his friend, and don’t like Ashley and Elsie. It’s funny the human characters are less interesting than the android characters. I don’t know if Luke Hemsworth is any better an actor than his brothers, Chris and Liam.
Episode 4: Dissonance Theory
Bernard tells Dolores that she can go search for the maze and that will set her fee, instead she gets caught in a bounty hunt with William and Logan. The Man in Black is getting close to finding the maze himself, but isn’t there yet. Maeve continues to have visions, and turns to outlaw Hector Escaton (Rodrigo Santoro) for help. Theresa has a disturbing conversation with Ford.
It’s interesting that the androids are becoming self-aware, but I think the most interesting aspect of this episode is Ford. I also found Maeve to be more and more sympathetic of a character. I have my theories about the world that Ford has created, but I will keep those to myself, because it’s only speculation. William and Logan are not interesting characters, William is supposed to be sympathetic, Logan is a macho know-it-all creep. Dolores is starting to annoy me as a character, too much Hamlet type indecisiveness. Get on with it, writers.
Episode 5: Contrapasso
Dolores, William, and Logan reach Pariah, another Western town. Dolores is hearing voices, who are the voices coming from? The Man in Black finds Ford, what do they talk about? Elsie finds something odd inside The Woodcutter. Felix Lutz (Leonardo Nam) one of the techies, who patch the androids together, is working on building an animatronic hummingbird. Maeve comes in for more repairs, and then Felix gets quite a surprise.
Westworld is getting really interesting now, Dolores is hearing voices and lying to protect herself and the identity of the voice. Maeve is getting more self-aware, and her storyline is coming to a head. I don’t like the William and Logan characters or their involvement in the storyline, or Elsie and the Woodcutter, which sounds like some kind of fractured fairytale. But I do like Ford’s character because he always keeps me guessing. A great performance by Anthony Hopkins, Thandie Newton is also superb as Maeve, quick witted, acid tongued, yet vulnerable, it’s a very good performance.
Episode 6: The Adversary
Maeve begins a regular day and ends up passed out in the lab with Felix. Elsie sends Bernard to find out what made the Woodcutter act strangely, and then she goes out alone to do more digging. Lee goes on a drunken rage and runs into Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) a new arrival in Westworld. Teddy and the Man in Black encounter Union soldiers when trying to cross into Mexico.
I really like the Maeve storyline, that’s the best one they’ve got right now. Thandie Newton turns in another great performance in this episode. Elsie’s storyline was a bit creepy in a scary way, but also dumb. Why is Elsie going to these places at night, alone? Where is Ashley Stubbs? Isn’t he head of security? Why isn’t he with her? Not sure what’s going on with Lee and Charlotte, but Lee is a jerk, so I hope it ends badly for him. Not sure where the Man in Black Teddy storyline is going, but it seems to be going in circles. No Dolores, William or Logan this week, which is fine by me, I was bored with them anyway.
Episode 7: Trompe L’oeil
Bernard dreams of his dying son. Theresa and Charlotte want a fall guy for the malfunctioning androids, but Ford has other ideas. Elsie is missing, Bernard tries to look for her. William, Dolores and Lawrence encounter a Native American tribe in their quest to find the maze. Maeve has a plan, but will Felix and Sylvester go along?
There is a big reveal in this week’s episode, I can’t say I was shocked by it, I wasn’t. I don’t like the Dolores William storyline. William already knows the secret of Westworld and Maeve has already found out, so why have Dolores and the Man in Black trying to find the same thing? I like the Maeve storyline, her character has grabbed the center of attention in the show, and again, Thandie Newton is very good. She doesn’t have a lot of dialogue in this episode, but it packs a punch. Anthony Hopkins is at his creepy best, the viewers will grow to loathe him, but that’s just good acting.
Episode 8: Trace Decay
Maeve wants new skills to advance her plan, will Felix and Sylvester help her? Bernard tries to forget what has happened to Theresa. Dolores and William are still looking for the maze, as are the Man In Black and Teddy.
The Maeve storyline continues to be the best one, the writers tried to integrate the Maeve and Man in Black storyline and did not succeed, on my opinion. The Bernard storyline is pointless after the reveal. I do not like the Maze storyline, the writers seem to want to shroud this Maze in mystery, but it is not interesting to me. The writers leave this episode on a cliffhanger, but not a very interesting one.
Episode 9: The Well-Tempered Clavier
Bernard and Ford have a long discussion about existence in Westworld. William and Logan reconcile, or do they? Dolores meets Arnold, or is she simply losing her mind? The Man in Black is still looking for answers, does he find any?
This is a much too philosophical episode, too existential, too metaphysical. The episode reveals more about Bernard, but the viewer already knows about him, so it doesn’t really help. It reveals more about The Man in Black, but I never really cared about him. The lead up to the finale is muddled and raises more questions than it answers.
Episode 10: The Bicameral Mind
Ford unveils his new narrative. Maeve sets her plan in motion. The Man in Black reaches his destination. Dolores realizes what she’s meant to do. William learns the art of survival in Westworld.
This episode reveals a lot, but there are more questions raised, some of them frustrating. The viewer and the blogger (me) will supposedly have to wait until 2018 to find answers to these burning questions.
Overall, the storylines were incredibly well-written. I wasn’t as enamored with the Western storyline as the others, it seemed to drag on and on, neither William Logan, nor Dolores was very interesting. Dolores started out interestingly, but they made Dolores too much of an enigma for my liking. The Maeve storyline was the best storyline, so I was bit disappointed in her character’s finale. Bernard was an intriguing character for a while, but after his reveal, my interest in him waned. What the writers did best was blur the lines between android and human. The show did it right off the bat, and kept viewers guessing who was human and who was android. What I didn’t like was the extremely violent finale, and the never ending bullets. Nobody ever runs out of bullets in Hollywood. But whatever shortcomings the series has, it asks big philosophical questions like. If we create self-aware beings is it right for us to keep them as playthings? Sometimes it gets too philosophical, but mostly it’s a great sci-fi adventure.
The acting was superb. Anthony Hopkins played the role of his life and played it to the hilt. He has a God complex and he thinks he can control people just like he controls androids. Hopkins really turns up the creepy factor in this performance. Thandie Newton was amazing as Maeve Millay, this was undoubtedly the best performance of her career. She mixed excellent comedic timing with a sad irony that showed in her face and her words, just a great performance. Jeffrey Wright was also very good, a very restrained understated performance. On the other hand I didn’t like Evan Rachel Wood’s performance, it was too much a one note performance, she’s not supposed to be emotional, but she could have been a little more emotional than she was. Jimmi Simpson was just plain dull as William, he had a big role, but he is not very good at playing the complexities he was given. I like James Marsden, but his character was a total non-entity in this season’s episodes, maybe that will change. I hope so. I expected more from Ed Harris too, he put in a routine performance as the Man in Black.
The direction was good. Jonathan Nolan directed the pilot and the last episode, and other directors directed the episodes between. The pacing was generally good, the cinematography was excellent, and the performances were mostly good.
Westworld: It rocked my world!