This post is long overdue and I was frankly in two minds about writing it, but I really feel like I want to share some of my thoughts on the continuation of the TV show Westworld because it was just as good as, if not better than, some of the other sci-fi shows I blog about. I feel like I’m about the last person to catch up with the show, but in case I’m not please be warned there are some spoilers below.
When I recorded Westworld Season 2, because I didn’t have time to watch it as it was broadcast, I didn’t expect to wait this long to be writing about it. But Siggy wasn’t interested in watching the show again after the complexities of the first season. And I found that there was plenty of other great TV to watch without going through the process of watching ten long episodes of a story that might have been better left where it ended, despite some of the unsolved mysteries of what secret project was going on and what the man in the man maze symbology was all about.
Anyway, I knuckled down and watched it on my own and quickly got hooked. What was immediately obvious to me was that this was going to be no less complex from the first season and if anything maybe more so. Some of the twists, especially near the end, actually seemed like the unnecessary outcome of a writers’ room pissing contest and the mixed timelines in Bernard’s story deliberately complicated to perhaps obscure a rather weak story, but boy was it entertaining and good-looking.
It certainly benefited from binge watching because I don’t think I could retain that much information from each episode over the course of a week before the next was broadcast. While the story, despite the revelations along the way, was quite linear in the end – different teams of people need to reach the same place (the middle of the maze?) for a variety of different reasons – the performances were really very good.
(Mostly) in the absence of Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Wright (consistently confused Bernard), Thandie Newton (witchy mumsy Maeve), Ed Harris (so so wrinkled black hat man), James Marsden (not so cuddly Teddy) were all excellent, but for me the transformation of Dolores from mild mannered meek farm girl to gun toting psychopath was superbly portrayed by Evan Rachel Wood (a psychopath with blonde hair and wearing blue). Her inevitably doomed relationship with Teddy was almost Shakespearean in its pathos. Ring any bells Game of Thrones fans?
Dolores is much, much, older than we knew in the first Season and in fact helped to test out Bernard – in a great twist, all the little meetings they had together in the first season are actually her testing him for ‘fidelity’ rather than vice versa. She knows about the real world outside Westworld because she was actually there helping drum up financing for the theme park. There’s a very satisfying storyline about an arrogant billionaire (nicely played by Peter Mullan who I last saw in Ozark) trying achieve immortality through the robot project (a premise I have at the centre of my book Muta) which goes a long way to explaining what the big secret of the park is.
There were some diversions into unexpected and unusual territories as well as back stories. One that impressed me a lot was the story of Akecheta the Ghost Nation warrior – once a peaceful native American then programmed as a fearsome scalp-hunter who remembers his love for his woman. He wants to protect Maeve’s long-lost daughter and find the centre of the maze. Much as Dolores is ‘woke’ to who/what she actually is and still wants to save her Daddy, Akecheta still holds this love of a good woman in his heart, and so too does a new seemingly all-powerful Maeve for her daughter. Love it seems, even if it’s programmed, is stronger than anything else. Without it we have a breakdown of pretty much all the main Host characters’ (apart from Bernard’s) motivations.
While I wasn’t bothered about the elephants and tigers of RajWorld, I would have liked to see a lot more of the story based in ShogunWorld. I’m a huge fan of anything Japanese and I liked the fact that the band of outlaws from Sweetwater were replicated by lazy story architect Lee Sizemore and indeed the fact that he developed from a selfish coward into someone willing to make the ultimate sacrifice to help Hosts. Quite why he would do such a thing felt a bit crummy on reflection – I mark it down as one of those unnecessary deaths much like the captain going down with the ship in most sci-fi films.
Hearing some of the contemporary rock songs re-rendered in a Japanese style for the ShogunWorld episodes was also great and indeed I really liked all the music on the show. Before I check out the soundtracks on Spotify I didn’t realise how much Radiohead is included although I obviously recognised The Rolling Stones, White Stripes and Nirvana covers along with slightly harder to parse covers of Amy Winehouse and NIN.
All in all I really enjoyed the show despite my brain leaking out of my ear when trying to wrap it around the fragmented timelines. Does it need another season? In my opinion no, but that’s not stopping them doing one and I have read that they intend to make it simpler in it’s telling. The challenge therefore is to come up with some believable characterisations that develop the worlds and lives we’ve already seen in a novel way, otherwise I fear it may turn into a dragging cash cow. It’s exactly the same fear I have for Stranger Things if/when they do a season 4, but that’s quite literally another story.
However. However. However…
If they make season 3 as good as the trailer I just watched then it’s going to be brilliant. I watched this, said ‘holy shit!’ and laughed. Despite the introduction of two actors who I’m not convinced have the chops for this show, this looks great…
Photo by Fré Sonneveld on Unsplash