Westworld The Original Review
HBO‘s Westworld: Season 1, Episode 1: The Original was the beginning of the most exciting sci-fi TV series since Ronald D. Moore and David Eick‘s Battlestar Galactica, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, and Orphan Black. As the camera lifted from the desolate, unforgiving vista, the western, frontier music faded as the mechanized real world outside of Westworld (accompanied by a fitting melody) revealed itself.
After Westworld‘s setup, landscape, characters, and music were introduced, this TV series had one of the most grim first fifteen minutes that I have seen since Game of Thrones‘ first fifteen minutes. It was a good idea to keep the rape off-screen yet blend it with Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood)’s ‘This World is Beautiful’ speech. Seeing it through the eyes of a “dead” Host made it even more unforgettable: perfect screenwriting and shot choice for that pivotal scene. It was a character moment for the series’ supposed big bad (though that title is subjective since his animus is solely directed at the non-living), The Man in Black (Ed Harris), and he didn’t falter. The Man in Black turned out to be something that I never expected on three levels: what he truly was, his temperament, and his agenda.
The conversation between curiously detached Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) and Old Bill (Michael Wincott) was wonderful in its brevity. Wincott is not even credited for playing the role. It was literally like the creators of Westworld asked Wincott for a personal favor: to play an unaccredited role in a single scene with Anthony Hopkins and Top Dol…I mean Wincott jumped at the opportunity. Most actors would, especially when that character speaks to the past and the present of the world they formerly inhabited.
The Original alluded to a concealed agenda that management has for Westworld but thankfully, it wasn’t divulged. Westworld’s Host scriptwriter Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) could sense there was a larger game at play. Since he had written the scripts for most-if-not-all of the scenarios playing out in Westworld‘s interconnected scenarios, his storyteller’s mind saw a story behind the story management was propagating. Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen) obviously knew of that agenda in its entirety. Cullen also had no intention “talking down” to someone about that agenda that wasn’t intelligent enough to see it and full grasp it for themselves.
Cullen’s disclosure reluctance and the implications of Cullen and Sizemore’s conversation brought up three subjects that will have implications for the future of Westworld: 1.) Cullen has been sent by management to eventually replace Dr. Ford, 2.) management sees Westworld as a long-term testing ground for the Hosts. The company behind Westworld makes a lot of money (I assume) via Westworld. That revenue pales in comparison to how much money management and the shareholders would make if Hosts were sold domestically to home owners, to companies to work in factories, hospitals, and to the military for war theater uses (remember Zhora and Roy Batty from Blade Runner? Both were combat models). If Cullen and management, through Dr. Ford, can get out all of the kinks with Hosts, make them fully safe with no questionable behavior, the domestic sales phase of the company’s plan could commence but not until. That was why management hadn’t replaced Ford yet and kicked him out. They still need him and his genius to complete what he started. To perfect it., 3.) Dr. Ford, like Sizemore, is unaware of management’s true plan (unless Ford is aware and is only pretending not to know. Someone of his intelligence could certainly pull that off). Sizemore could sense the bigger picture but he couldn’t see it. He’s mind was incapable of seeing beyond what was in front of him. He could sense the edges of the box but he could not look outside the box.
Delores’ father, Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum), eventually found himself in a similar situation during the third act of The Original. Peter sensed the edges of his world via the picture and the glass buildings within it. The resultant creator / creation moment between Dr. Ford and Peter Abernathy was one of the best scenes in the episode. Dr. Ford writing off that moment as old programming was not intelligent. Peter Abernathy mentioned getting revenge (“I shall have such revenges on you…both”). Revenge may have had something to do with a previous character (The Professor) but before that Peter said: “My most mechanical and dirty hand.” What past character had Peter played that was mechanical? That, in my opinion, was self-awareness. The Professor somehow knew it was a machine. How did Dr. Ford and Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) both miss “mechanical”? Dr. Ford sure was quick to cover it up though with his William Shakespeare / John Dunne / Gertrude Stein / The Professor / past build explanation.
Perhaps Dr. Ford’s reveries update was far more than it seemed. Clever. Very clever.
Ask yourself these questions: How did Peter know that Dolores’ creators “did things to her?” How did Peter know that Dr. Ford did things to her? Even then (sitting in front of his creator), Peter’s dad programming felt a need to protect Dolores from predators.
As Peter Abernathy walked to cold storage to find a spot to stand, why was he at the point of tears? Was it because of what Lowe whispered in his ear? After everything that his creators did to him, was it that Peter was still in there and that he was sad that he wouldn’t be able to protect Dolores anymore? Or was it because he was walking into his new home, his own hell, his cold storage prison?
What was made very clear, though, is that there is a lot more story to tell within and outside of the amusement park dubbed Westworld.
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