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There’s no questioning the quality of the shows HBO puts out. The writing, acting, and effects are always top-notch which has been seen in programs like Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, and Boardwalk Empire. You know you’re doing something right when reputation alone is enough of a reason to watch a show, which is exactly how I felt about Westworld. I had never seen or even heard of the 1973 film that gave the show inspiration (I’ve seen it now, though!), but I felt the need to give Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy’s Sci-fi thriller a shot because of the network alone.
Westworld takes place in a technologically advanced Western theme park that features robotic hosts, that at times, seem more human than the people who visit the park. Season one introduced us to a number of characters, both host and human, who are all searching for answers, an identity, and even freedom. People like Maeve, Ford, and the Man in Black are the backbone of this show because they are both deeply flawed and very motivated. Watching these characters navigate the “Wild West” each week was great, but knowing their motivations was even better. Maeve was looking for answers, Ford wanted control, and the Man in Black was looking for meaning. The character development in this show was some of the best I’ve seen in a long time.
That being said, it was still hard to relate or even care about some of the characters at times. Dolores, for example, would probably be considered the show’s main character but the amount of information given about her at times was so little it was hard to get invested in her story. Each week added a little bit more to her loop, but by the time she and the viewers were conscious to what was going on it was hard to care. Her story, like many others, couldn’t peak until the finale so we were given unnecessary loops and distractions until the end. The biggest problem with this is the finale didn’t justify the painfully slow buildup.
The setting and visuals on this show are great. The contrast between the old west and the futuristic lab were awesome and the way they made the actors look more like robots was amazing. This aspect was fun to watch. The story this season, though, was flat-out boring at times. I don’t know if it was the unnecessary suspense or the repetitiveness of the season, but much of it just didn’t feel important. If this show goes three or four seasons, how much from season one will have felt necessary? Season one told a roughly ten-hour story that should have only taken three to five hours. Much of the second half of the season focused on the evolution of William only so his real identity would appear more meaningful. A pure and innocent man who entered a situation that brought out his true self. His story was so cliché, even up to the point where he changed forever and donned a black hat for the first time.
For as good as this show is, this season couldn’t help but to feel disappointing by the first season. Going into it I was expecting to see cowboy robots revolting against humans. Sure, we got to see some of the hosts malfunction, but the whole season felt repetitive. The first season was really a prequel to what everyone expected and I feel like this was only done so the show could get as many seasons as possible. At times the first season felt less like a sci-fi thriller and more like a soap opera. It was mysterious and suspenseful, but also a bit overdramatic.
With Game of Thrones nearing its end, HBO is looking for its next big show and the execs at the top are hoping Westworld will be just that. It has the suspense, the visuals, and even the sex, but so far it doesn’t have the writing. Don’t get me wrong, the scripts are good and the show has great potential, but the vision isn’t there right now. GoT is amazing because each season is a series of peaks and valleys. It doesn’t just save everything for the last episode. If Westworld wants to last it needs to space things out better and tease us with more than just the promise of a robot uprising. And what happens after the robots’ revolt?
When you look back on it, the show took too long to really get going, and when it did we were only given enough to keep us coming back for a little bit more. The creators of Westworld know people are going to come back for season two because they teased us with what everyone wants to see throughout the finale. However, it still didn’t justify the slow ascend that was season one. Even with the great visuals, the interesting story, and the great acting from Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, and Thandie Newton, season one of Westworld consisted of repetitive and slow moving character revelations with a little bit of action and revolt.