I knew I was going to like HBO’s Westworld. A sci-fi Western? Um, yes please! Throw in showrunners J.J. Abrams, Christopher Nolan, and Lisa Joy, a huge budget, a phenomenal group of actors led by Anthony Hopkins, Rachel Even Wood, and James Marsden and you’ve got yourself the makings of a Game of Thrones sized hit. But at the same time I wasn’t sure if I was going to love it. The plot seemed too obvious. The theme park’s androids would eventually gain consciousness, rise up, and feud with the humans running the park. It would be just like Jurassic Park all over again, which makes sense since Michael Chrichton conceived of both ideas. Would it still be enjoyable even if it was predictable? Probably. There would still be random acts of violence, gratuitous nudity, slick dialogue, and food for thought regarding artificial intelligence, how consciousness works, the nature of dreams, and what it means to be human. A no doubt hit if done properly.
But boy, was I ever wrong. The show is anything but predictable and has quickly become my new obsession. Sure, it’s inevitable that the androids will rise up but before we get to that point there are a million other things that could happen. That is, if we can make sense of what is happening. For starters, when you first meet a character you don’t know if they’re a guest (real person) or host (android). And so you don’t know what rules apply to them. Like any good show you also don’t know who has good intentions or bad. Everyone seems to have a hidden agenda and mysterious past. But more importantly than all that, since this is a Christopher Nolan and J.J. Abrams production, we don’t know if what we’re watching is even real. When we see something on screen is it happening in real time or as a flashback or as part of an android’s memory that’s just slightly ahead of reality since almost everything that’s happening to them has already happened to them at least once before. And is everything we’re seeing in real time actually even happening in real time? Could it be that two different characters are actually the same person thirty years apart?!?!
I told you it was anything but predictable. But, wait. There’s more! As the plot thickens we come to realize that when we see a host do something we don’t know why they did it. Are their actions scripted or are they starting to improvise as they make their way up the bicameral mind pyramid? If they are still acting on script, which script are they even following? Their current story arc or an older version from a different character that they used to play? And if they are starting to improvise are they just malfunctioning randomly like a crazed lunatic hearing the voice of God in their head for the first time or are they consciously making their own choices, realizing that the voice inside their head isn’t a God’s but their own?
In Westworld left is right. Up is down. It’s hard to make heads or tails of what’s going on. And I haven’t even gotten to the mysterious person or persons from the park’s past who may have found a way to control the androids. And who may or may not now be androids themselves. Or the “incident” that took place in the park thirty years ago. Or who the saboteur is that’s been planting clues around the park. Or what the new main attraction is going to be. Or what the point of the maze is, how you find it, and where it’s located. Come to think of it where is the park even located? And is it even the only park that there is? If it’s not, how many other parks are there? What’s going on outside the park in the real world anyway? Why do so many people want to come to Westworld in the first place? What’s the point of it all? Better yet, is anyone else aware of the deeper game that the Man in Black refers to? Who is that guy anyway? Oh wait, I may have already told you that!
Suffice it to say Westworld is one of a kind. Ironically, a show based on a movie, starring robots that mimic human behavior, is as unique as it gets. It’s the rare show in today’s day and age that really makes you think. You have to hang on every word of dialogue hoping for the tiniest morsel of a clue. Easter eggs hide in plain sight in the background of each frame. Every detail from the color of ink used in a wanted poster to the type face of a logo on a worker’s jacket has meaning. Watching this show requires absolute silence, an uncanny attention to detail, access to a CSI lab, and infinite time to peruse bat shit crazy internet fan theories. It’s a Redditor’s wet dream.
So, if you haven’t already done so, please, please, please stop everything you doing and binge watch the first three episodes in short order. Then get ready for a wild ride for the next seven seasons. That’s right. Westworld isn’t messing around. The greatest show of all time is going to be here for a while.
**Spoiler Alert** – Do not read on past this part if you haven’t watch the first three episodes yet. Theories and spoilers abound.
Since I’m officially obsessed with Westworld here’s a look at some of my own bat shit crazy theories:
- The Man in Black is one in the same as first time park guest William. I can’t take credit for this theory but there is plenty of compelling evidence starting with the fact that his signature white hat and shy demeanor makes for the perfect contrast to the Man in Black’s present day persona. There’s also the fact that the Man in Black has been coming to the park for thirty years, has a history with Delores, considers Lawrence a friend, and seems to know more than your average guest. But more compelling than all of that are all of the little clues that suggest we’re seeing a different timeline. From different corporate logos in the background to hosts acting in different roles peddling different side quests to different people appearing on the wanted posters. Something is definitely up with this. Don’t believe me? Then riddle me this. Why is it that when William gets shot the bullet stings him but when everyone else gets shot including the Man in Black there’s no effect at all? Has the bullet technology improved over the course of thirty years?
- One Man in Black theory that I do have on my own is that he’s the one who left that old picture of that girl in Times Square that Delores’ father found which set off Delores’ pursuit of freedom. Except that he did so inadvertently thirty years earlier. That girl is the girl that William has waiting for him back home. And since he’s now befriending Delores it makes sense that the picture would wind up buried on Delores’ family farm.
- Teddy’s new story line takes him and his merry band of bounty hunters out into the wilderness to look for the villainous Wyatt. But we don’t see Teddy die when surrounded by the savage hoard which is odd because Teddy dies all the time. I think he’s kept alive this time for a reason. Perhaps because he is actually Wyatt as it will turn out.
- What’s the point of turning Teddy into Wyatt though? I think it’s because Ford is trying to create a new narrative, one based in truth i.e. the actual backstory of the park and its founders. This new narrative would take place near Red River which is allegedly where the entrance to the secretive maze is located and just so happens to also be the same location where that mysterious Church steeple was buried. By holding the narrative here Ford could have a cover story to hide his movements thereby allowing him to excavate the site where the park was originally located in order to unearth the truth about what happened to his former partner Arnold. This explains why he nixed the other new story line that was set to take place on Red River.
- As for Arnold, the mysterious former co-founder of Westworld who allegedly died in the park before it opened, I think we’re going to see a major twist here. Namely that he’s still alive and has been living inside the park this whole time…as an android.
- Speaking of androids in a Battlestar Galactica style twist I think it’s likely that someone that we think is human is going to turn out to be an android. My money is on the latest Hemsworth brother as I think that the throwaway lines used to make fun of him aren’t throw away lines at all. You’re supposed to think he’s a dumb jock who can’t be trusted with a weapon but the trust issues actually refer to him literally being an android. Besides, if he’s not an android how do you explain how the stray was able to hurt him? After all, hosts aren’t supposed to be able to hurt real people.
- Finally, I’d like to share a pretty juicy rumor that I just heard about the future of the show. Fans of the original movie will know that Westworld isn’t the only world that there is. There’s supposed to be a Medieval times world for starters. But what if instead of a Medieval world they opt for a HBO tie-in and create a Game of Thrones world?!?! One in which Ned Stark is still alive as an android! Apparently this is an actual consideration.
Is Westworld the Greatest Idea Ever?