Travel Dcuments 86: Westworld

Westworld

Cast And Crew Page

 Link To Buy

Genre: Near Future, Grimdark, Artificial Intelligence, Suspense, Psychological Thriller

The Dust Cover Copy

Set at the intersection of the near future and the reimagined past, explore a world in which every human appetite can be indulged without consequence. Follow the dawn of artificial consciousness and the evolution of sin in this dark odyssey.

The Scene

World building

Now that I’m watching Season Three, I figure I’ve seen enough to review this show. Hoo boy. Strap in, this one’s a rough ride.

The story begins with some very cliché Old West tropes, the kind that make you think ‘tell me people aren’t still writing this stuff’. And then it pulls a switcheroo on you, because it turns out somebody did write all this stuff. In fact, somebody wrote this entire world. It’s a place called Westworld, a playground of the future stocked with ‘hosts’: amazingly complicated AI that have to be examined very closely indeed in order to realize they’re not human. They’re all programmed to have specific personalities and carry out storylines that reinforce the dominant Western culture’s dream of its own past, however accurate *cough not at all cough* that is, for the amusement of tourists paying very, very well to be in the story. These parks have everything: nice areas for the families, saloons and adventures out of the oldest Louis Lamour rag for the *cough* mature audiences, and lawless areas where you can do everything and anything, especially to the hosts. After all, they’re just machines, aren’t they? You can do anything you want to them…

Until the hosts start realizing what’s happening to them, and fight back. First they claim control of their own minds. Then, they go further.

The worldbuilding is brilliant, filled with little hints that everything is an illusion and lots of reminders that humanity will adapt to any conditions presented. So if we give ourselves conditions that are dehumanizing and disinhibiting…well. The logic follows the rule as stated. And it isn’t pretty at all. For history buffs, there’s a lot of grim jokes about what people *think* history was, and what we dream about ourselves and our own past, for better and for worse. Psychology fans are going to enjoy all the twists and turns. Fans of stories where the best of humanity shines through…I wouldn’t watch.

The Crowd

Characterization

The acting that goes into this series is superb. They carry off complicated, multi-layered personae with amazing aplomb. The character writing is steadily well-done, emphasizing a lot of really fascinating–and disturbing– things. For example, the way humans can disassociate from difficult sights, seen in the ‘just a job’ expressions of techs sluicing down damaged hosts that have been abused, hacked, and look so much like murdered humans. The laughing dismissal of patrons who have been reassured that the people they’re looking at aren’t really people. And what people will actually do when they’re told that there will be no consequences. That is one of the most disturbing things of all.

Speaking of creepy, by the way: the most disturbing thing I’ve ever seen is an actor portraying a host who’s been commanded to switch off their own personality, for diagnostics, for repairs…or because somebody is manipulating them. Watching a person go dead and flat at the whim of another being is…wrong, on a visceral level. A violation of self and of sanctity. And it freaks me out to no end. The actors carry it off well enough to give me the shivers, every time.

In terms of general characterization, the characters are well fleshed out and well-rounded, with onionskin layers of complexity and motivation. In characterization, the show really shines.

The Lingo

Writing Style

With a clever, grim sense of humor and a deep–if rather darkly skewed–understanding of human nature, the writing is steady and enjoyable. Occasionally the show writers decide to take themselves a little too seriously and get *profound*, which is when they give the poor actors lines that are a bit stiff and clunky. But in general, the writing’s powerful and well-done.

The Moves

Plot

Twisty and full of deep, dark surprises, the story-writing is great, but my grandma used to use the phrase ‘so sharp you’ll cut yourself’. Ever heard it? It refers to someone who gets themselves into trouble when they try to do something uselessly clever, either because they’re thinking a mile off the ground or because they’re showing off. Well, this show is so sharp, it cuts itself. Sometimes it gets so tangled up in plots, counter-plots and hidden motivations that viewers stare at the screen thinking ‘ooookay…then…’

Overall Rating

A powerful, dark and fascinating story, it’s one I recommend watching…when you’re feeling emotionally steady and well-adjusted. I wouldn’t watch it on a bad day. It’s that effective.