WESTWORLD – A REVIEW

Being an assiduous follower of writer George R.R Martin’s blog, I was intrigued to see him praise fervently a new science fiction T.V. series in one of his tirades. The series in question is called Westworld.

To be sure, I was aware of some partisan feelings mixed in with a generous review, since it was being aired by HBO, the same network that also caters for Martin’s epic fantasy series Game of Thrones. However, I nonetheless resolved to try and watch this new ten-episode series, whose first season had just finished airing during the first week of December.

Once again, I find myself in complete accordance with George R. R. Martin.

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Above: George R. R. Martin, source: Flickr

Westworld is based on the 1973 American film of the same name, and has the same concept as the series – the story of a futuristic adult amusement park which sports androids with a perfectly human appearance, mimicking everyday life in the Far West. The clients or visitors enter the amusement park prepared to not only interact with the fake humans while playing through specific narratives and adventures, but also with the premise of shooting them, having fun with them, and generally doing whatever they want, while being aware that none of the robots can do anything to hurt them back, not even if they’re themselves destroyed, maltreated or used in any way.

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I must be honest, I haven’t watched the original 1973 movie yet. However, what I’ve seen of the TV series so far makes me want to know more for sure. I watched all ten one-hour episodes in three days, and not just because Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris are two of the main characters, though their presence sure further colours and enriches the series.

Westworld, we realise, is not just a way for adults to play with life-sized toy cowboys, nor is it merely a hi-tech facility for scientists and doctors to play God. Westworld, we are told, and truly come to understand, is a place where people come face to face with their true selves. Free from the constraints imposed upon them by civilisation and society, free from the fear of consequences or of hurting any real people, the clients end up realising that their humanity, after all, is only skin-deep, and that it’s not meat and bones which makes a person, but their emotions, fears, and actions.

 

Are the androids which populate Westworld real, or are they mere machines executing pre-arranged loops and motions? Can they feel, and are they actually conscious? Can they remember what happens to them, each time a client rapes, kills, or destroys them? And if they do, what does that make the people who treat them like things instead of thinking beings?

Westworld is a very interesting series, as it sets forth an unusual and deep premise, tackling philosophical and existential concepts not often encountered on T.V. Yes, there’s nudity. Yes there’s bad language. And yes, there are sexual scenes as well. It’s HBO, after all. However, the gratuitous titillation does not detract from the overall premise of the story line, but in fact adds to it in a concrete way.

Needless to say, I’m hooked!

Unfortunately, Season 2 of this series is planned to air in 2018, so there’s quite a long way until it continues. It is however, definitely worth the wait.