Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Westworld Season 1 ★★★★★

“Westworld” is undoubtedly one of the best artificial intelligence dramas in recent years. Based on a film of the same name, written and directed by graphic novelist, Michael Crichton, HBOs hope to revive the franchise has paid off by breaking their network records with over two million viewers for the season finale.

The premise is similar to the original—"Westworld” is a futuristic amusement park for friends or families of all ages who wish to indulge in the adventure experience of the Wild West. Bandits, saloons, brothels, violence and murder are but a taste of what this vacation has to offer. Those who can afford the grand entrance free are some of the wealthiest in the world, and the victims of their fantasies are robots, patched-up and revamped after a long day of torture. Each of the park's inhabitants fit into an intricate interactive storyline an entire department spends months developing. Their attributes are tweaked to please customers and their memories are erased every evening. But a new software glitch causes a few robots to remember their previous days and past roles. 

The cast is one of quality. Anthony Hopkins plays Dr Robert Ford, the parks director, and one of the two original creators. Thandie Newton is Maeve, a rebellious brothel Madame whose flashbacks lead her to question her reality. Evan Rachel Wood is Dolores, a damsel in distress who begins to search for “the maze” after the Man in Black (Ed Harris) visits her with the belief that the maze is a secret story-line for guests. 

The season attempts to conceal some truths with multiple timelines and angles that are only revealed in the finale. Past and present are blended for character development, particularly as Dolores is in a continual state of confusion as she journeys towards self-awareness. However, one of the most unexpected twists is that of head programmer, Bernard. The countless hints throughout the season don’t seem to compute until the second half of the season when he fails to notice a door—classic host behaviour.

“Westworld” raises the question that we have pondered for years. The first also happens to be the first noble truth in Buddhism—suffering—the idea that it is essential to one’s existence. Dolores, the park’s oldest robot searches for “the maze” throughout the season while enduring the wrath of visitors. Later we discover that “the maze” is consciousness. The concept of free will is portrayed by Maeve. Throughout the season Maeve is portrayed to make her own decisions until the finale when she discovers every rebellion she has made to that point was programmed. There are also undeniable parallels with the story of creation. The park plays God, creating that which is unaware of their reality, then self-aware, and finally falls from grace. 

“Westworld” is a crafted series. Cinematically, the series is beyond impressive. Digital effects, real locations, and persuasive performances have raised the bar on artificial intelligence works we have always been fascinated with. But it also goes beyond by dealing with philosophical questions we are yet to answer ourselves. 

Cayleigh Chan

Westworld Season 1 at CeX

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