HBO’s new thriller, Westworld, is halfway through its first season. Going into it I thought I knew what to expect, but the show has turned into something completely different. The show is not so much an action-thriller as much as it’s a mystery/suspense thriller. This show was supposed to be about some badass cowboy-robots revolting against human, but Instead, Westworld has forced me to think, ponder, and analyze everything that’s going on. This isn’t a bad thing, just not what I was expecting.
Visually, Chapter 5 was some of the best we’ve seen. Dolores, William, and Logan travel to a new town called Pariah that feels like a combination of Agrabah and a Southwest nightclub on Halloween. Here, they meet gang leader El Lazo and some ex-Confederate outlaws. This part of the episode looked amazing. Between the lavish costumes and jewelry and the nightclub/orgy feel, this whole episode felt immersive. It also helps that Dolores is becoming a total badass. After escaping Pariah on a train with William, they are held at gunpoint by El Lazo who turns out to be Lawrence. Dolores, however, threatens to blow the whole train up if he doesn’t calm down. Before this, she kills a bunch of ex-Confederates to save William and tells him, “I imagined a story where I didn’t have to be the damsel.”
Dolores has seemingly been the most important character so far, but one we also know very little about. It’s nice to see her finally start to come into her own but she’s still not there. In fact, the biggest problem Westworld has is that none of the characters have made any real progress. The show has this obsession with teasing us with countless moments of foreshadowing. They want us to feel like something is happening. At some point though, the show must give us something more than just glimpses of what might happen.
When your audience already has an idea about what’s going to happen, it can be difficult to keep things interesting, I realize that. But instead of manufacturing things Westworld wants us to be interested in, the show needs to start giving us what it knows we are interested it. People watch this show because they know these robots are going to go rogue. Instead of constantly hinting at it or giving us a watered-down malfunction, the show needs to make some real progress and start answering questions, not leaving us with more.
For example, this week gave us an interesting conversation between Ford and the Man in Black. From the way they spoke to each other, it is clear that they have known one another for years and Ford seems to have no problem with MIB’s quest to find the maze. He even tells Ford, “I always felt this place was missing a real villain, hence my humble contribution.” The problem with this scene, though, is nothing really happens. Two of the most intriguing characters in the show finally share the screen and the only thing revealed is that they know each other. Our view of both Ford and the MIB hasn’t changed. They are both villains in their own sense and have too many questions surrounding them.
Westworld has the potential to be a great show. It’s immersive setting and high budget gives the show some great visuals which were on display in Chapter 5. Where the show struggles, though, is garnering emotional interest. Because we don’t know much about any of the characters, it’s hard to connect to a character and truly become invested. And because of the constant foreshadowing, what we think we know about a character could change at any time. Chapter 5 was a perfect episode for showing both the strengths and weaknesses of Westworld. It can draw your attention in, but the real question is how long can the show hold it?