Westworld Season 1 Review: A Must Watch – The future of artificial intelligence (AI) is something that is particularly intriguing. There will be, without a doubt, robots with the same capabilities as humans. Elon Musk, among other worldwide leaders, has warned of the danger AI could potentially bring to the world if it is not controlled properly. Westworld skips years into the future and creates a unique world where robots are identical to humans and capable of anything one desires. However, as Elon Musk warns, things can go south when AI is not properly controlled.
Westworld Season 1 Review: Welcome to Westworld
Based on the original 1973 film of the same name and its sequel titled “Futureworld” (1976), Westworld is a western-futuristic fantasy park that allows anyone to enter a world of the past in the future. In Westworld, one can do as they please. The visitors are referred to as “guests” or “newcomers” which are real people with, mostly, tons of money to waste looking to escape the real world. It costs $40,000 a day.
The park is filled with “hosts” or “androids” that look, feel, act, and react the same way a human would. This allows the guests to have an elusive experience of their choice. Whether that is killing tens of hosts, have sex with them, go on a hunt to find the most wanted criminal in Westworld, among tens of other adventures. Since hosts are programmed to not kill the guests, this is essentially a place where you can do anything without real life consequences.
Every single host or android has a story to tell, leaving the guests plenty of room to explore. However, with every story is a different path, and each path reveals more of the creepy secrets hidden in Westworld as some of the guests and employees would find.
Westworld Season 1 Review: The Story Behind Westworld
Robert Ford along with Arnold Weber are the founders and creators of Westworld. Both spent over four years+ creating the fantasy park, testing hosts(the robots), and creating their fake lives and backstories. It is revealed that Arnold Weber died, but the causes of his death are unclear. This left Robert Ford in charge of Westworld. However, he still has to answer to the organization’s board of directors who have tried to get rid of him, which leads to a deadly secretive feud between Robert Ford and corporate management.
We also learn that Arnold Weber and Robert Ford had different stands on their creations. One (Robert) wanting full control over the host’s minds, stories, and everything else. While Arnold was intrigued by them, wanting to develop a full-on “conscious” host, essentially, creating full consciousness. Atleast that is how viewers will see it for most of the season.
Prior to his death, Arnold Weber created hosts which are referred to as “first generation hosts”. Throughout the show, we notice differences between Arnold’s hosts as their unique thinking, built and coding differentiates them from Robert’s hosts and newer models. Needless to say, all answer to Robert’s commands as if he was the god of an entirely new species.
Westworld Season 1 Review: Stars
Packed with a fantastic crew of actors, directors, writers, producers and creators, Westworld shines most through the individual talent. From J.J. Abrams‘ production, Jonathan Nolan‘s direction, Lisa Joy‘s writing to the acting of Evan Wood, Jeffrey Wright, and Thandie Newton.
Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores Abernathy
The actress, known for her roles in films like Thirteen (2003), The Wrestler (2008) and most recently HBO’s TV Series Doll & Em (2014), plays one of the main characters in Westworld named Dolores. The character is a first generation host who, like the other hosts, wakes up every day with the same routine for the first episodes. That all changes later on, which brings out the best of Wood’s acting.
Evan Rachel Wood truly plays this character magnifically. Her ability to transform from an innocent persona to a complete badass is something that makes her character rememberable. While her character may be a little annoying in at first, this completely changes afterward. Her character, along with her acting, will grow on you with each episode.
Thandie Newton as Maeve Millay
The very well known Thandie Newton takes on the role as Maeve Millay, a host that is in charge of the prostitution house in Westworld. Although that is her assigned job for the majority of the season, she was previously the mother of a young girl and would eventually be more than another host.
As Maeve, Newton needs to act as a caring mother, an innocent but yet seductive woman, and a killer super-intelligent robot all in 10 episodes. With her experience in spiced-up movies such as Mission Impossible II (2009), 2012 (2009), and The Chronicles of Riddick (2004), Thandie Newton knows how to bring the “don’t f**k with me” attitude the show needs. Her character is strategic but yet impulsive, caring and loving but aggressively demanding, and Newton perfectly portrays that.
Jeffrey Wright as Bernard Lowe
Initially, Bernard Lowe is an employee who works for Robert Ford. Both work together in analyzing and developing the hosts, however, throughout the show, Bernard Lowe discovers a “bug” in hosts that would lead him to a bigger challenge and discovery path. He begins to question his boss, Robert, and the story behind Westworld.
Jeffrey has the ability to bring this character to life. He gives the sense of a geeky smart guy, but at the same time, someone who fits the description of the late Arnold Weber as he is interested in the host’s minds, development, and feelings. All these characteristics make the viewer wonder who is this guy really? What is he going to do next?
Let’s not forget about the way he is throughout the show; Mysterious, keeps to himself (except for some sneaky late night action), and certainly weird at some points. Needless to say, Jeffrey Wright does an excellent job as Bernard Lowe.
Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Robert Ford
Hopkins is the bad guy everywhere, isn’t he? From his iconic role as Hannibal Lecter to Westworld’s Robert Ford, Anthony Hopkins knows how to act accordingly to his evil characters. Dr. Ford goes through a series of cold-hearted decisions that make him seem like the bad guy of the show. And in a way, he is. But depending on how you view the show and which side you choose, he can potentially be a hero.
Anthony Hopkins appears in every episode of Season 1 but in a limited amount of minutes. He makes the most out of them to leave the audience intrigued by his character, and with his experience, he makes it seem like a piece of cake.
Ed Harris as The Man in Black
The Man in Black is the most hated guest in Westworld. He has possibly killed every host in the fantasy park, but not because he wants to, but because he is determined to find everything there is to know about Westworld. Remember, with every host, there is an adventure and story.
Ed Harris, one of the best actors of our time, brings the classic western feel to Westworld. His heartless ways, cool look, and careless attitude make the show much more interesting. He is accountable for some of the most visually disturbing scenes on the show. One wonders why he has to go on a killing spree every single time he is on an adventure, but as you later find out, there is a reasonable excuse. Ed Harris holds a great deal of mystery behind him but he is capable of hiding his true intentions and thoughts, which makes him one of the stars of the show.
James Marsden as Teddy Flood
Know for his roles in X-Men (2000) and Superman Returns (2006), American actor James Paul Marsden takes on the role of Teddy Flood, a host, who is programmed to be in love with Dolores. He goes through a lot of suffering in almost every episode and, eventually, dying at some point over and over again. His expression of feelings via his body language is a skill that makes James stand out. Although he continuously dies one way or the other, he never screws up his acting making every scene involving him as real as it gets.
All of the above actors make Westworld one of the best TV series of 2016. Other standout actors and actresses are Sidse Babett Knudsen as Theresa Cullen; Shannon Woodward as Elsie Hughes; Angela Sarafyan as Clementine; Jimmi Simpson as William and Rodrigo Santoro as Hector Escaton.
Westworld Season 1 Review: The Best EpisodesNote: The season finale has been excluded from the list due to major spoilers.
Not to get confused, all episodes in Season 1 are great. However, the below stand out:
The Original | Episode 1
Directed by Jonathan Nolan
Written by Lisa Joy, Jonathan Nolan, Michael Crichton
Air Date: October 2, 2016
Where it all begins. The first episode goes down as one of the best simply because it introduces the entire series perfectly. Right away, we get the chance to see what Westworld is all about. A playground for the rich who escape reality by traveling to the western past. In addition, we get a sense of what the conflict will be without revealing too much about the next episodes.
Contrapasso | Episode 5
Directed by Jonny Campbell
Written by Lisa Joy, Dominic Mitchell
Air Date: October 30, 2016
Episode 5 is where Westworld starts to prove it is worth our time. Every single minute of the episode matters, which means you can barely look away. Went for a bathroom break? You probably missed something important. Viewers start to see the possibilities for the show, how it can expand in the future into a much bigger picture if the series succeeds, and what we can expect for the rest of the season.
The Well-Tempered Clavier | Episode 9
Directed by Michelle MacLaren
Written by Dan Dietz, Katherine Lingenfelter
Air Date: November 27, 2016
This episode is the best of the season. It will leave the viewer wanting to see the season finale badly enough that you would be okay with paying a million dollars for an advanced screening. It drops major secrets, huge revelations, and it’s filled with “what the f**k” moments. There is not much to say about the episode without spoilers, but one thing is for sure, this episode is gold.
Westworld Season 1 Review: Conclusion
Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy created something beautifully original. Although Westworld is not an original concept, their perception of it is. In addition to Jonathan Nolan as an Executive Director, J. J. Abrams and Bryan Burk join him in the same position. Just that alone makes this a huge deal. If that is not enough, HBO has given this an estimated $100M budget, with the 90-minute Westworld pilot costing $25M itself. In addition to big budgets and a great crew, every single person in the cast acts as if they were the actual character, something you rarely see in TV Series.
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Merging a western past, and an inevitable future of AI, there could not have been a better time for Westworld. We are living in a period of humanity in which technology is advancing extremely fast. Artificial Intelligence is legitimately happening, robots are being made to satisfy people’s needs. All these factors make Westworld a unique viewing experience in 2016.