[Westworld] The Original – Episodic Review

From+IMDb

From IMDb

Joel Freecheck, Editor-In-Chief

 

WESTWORLD

SCORE: A

In this series of reviews, Joel Freecheck will be analyzing the first season of HBO’s Westworld. The program takes place in fictional Westworld, a technologically advanced, Western-themed amusement park populated completely by synthetic androids dubbed “hosts”. Westworld caters to high-paying visitors dubbed “newcomers” (also known as “guests”), who can do whatever they wish within the park, without fear of retaliation from the hosts. – Synopsis directly from Wikipedia.

SPOILERS

With Game of Thrones coming to an end in the next couple of years, HBO has been desperate to create a replacement to their series that averages around 20 million viewers an episode. Last year they debuted the vintage-themed Vinyl with help from Martin Scorsese and Mick Jagger, but the series only lasted one season because of mixed reviews and low ratings. HBO reportedly spent over $100 million on the failed series, making their last resort, Westworld, critical to keeping them in the top tier of blockbuster television.

Jonathan Nolan, the writer of The Dark Knight (2008) and Interstellar (2014) and brother to famous director Christopher Nolan, is signed on as Westworld‘s creator, with sci-fi king JJ Abrams is producing. Lisa Joy is also co-creator with husband Jonathan Nolan and is known for co-producing USA’s Burn Notice.

From IMDb
From IMDb

What first caught my attention about this show is who’s going to be in front and behind the camera. The talent crafting a science-fiction epic such as Westworld is perfect and immediately made me put the show on my watchlist for this fall. I also have a lot of faith in network HBO, as they tend to produce shows with a large scope and even larger budgets, making their series at a cinematic level of production. The show’s premise itself inspired my excitement, and although I have never watched the original film the new show is based on, it seemed like Westworld was going to be a potent mix of sci-fi and western.

Despite my pre-conceived excitement for the pilot, I had my doubts. The marketing came out much later than most shows and featured what I thought to be “buzz” moments of the show to come. I also was doubtful of the show because of the immense pressure placed on it, but just the first minute of Westworld blew these concerns out of my mind.

The pilot opens to a dark room, slowly being lit by ceiling lights and revealing an apparent lifeless figure perched on a stool. We come to know this figure is actually a “host”, or AI human designed to please human visitors of the theme park Westworld.

Much of the first episode is told in a non-linear fashion and may confuse casual viewers at first. It starts by telling the story of a host named Dolores, who follows her programmed life and meets a park visitor named Teddy. We come to realize that Teddy has visited once before, and he and Dolores were involved. Soon they find themselves going to Dolores’s home, and are surprised to see it besieged by invaders. Blood is shed as Dolores loses all who is close to her and forces the park’s staff to “reset” her.

The remainder of the hour-long pilot focuses on the park’s staff and their desire on keeping Westworld’s stories flowing and their visitors pleased. To begin I want to admit that The Original is one of the best pilot episodes I’ve ever seen. Episode director Jonathan Nolan sets everything up, establishing plot lines and character with conflicts and drives. The show’s tone and themes are brilliantly laid out, and much like Jurrasic Park, it explores human dominance over something we can’t entirely control.

mv5bmtywmdq0njk1nl5bml5banbnxkftztgwmtg0mjg3ote-_v1_The episodes score, conducted by Ramin Djwandi (Game of Thrones), is one of my favorites and perfectly suits the production. Classics like Paint It Black by The Rolling Stones is deconstructed into a stellar piano rendition and Djwandi’s usual flair is present and thrives within Westworld’s confines. The opening intro is set to his score and features an outstanding collection of surreal art that comes together to form the show’s logo.

The cast features Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffery Wright, James Marsden, Ed Harris, Anthony Hopkins, and much more. All perform excellently, especially Evan Rachel Wood, who gives her otherwise emotionless AI character a heart.

If Westworld continues to impress and provide on this level of quality, HBO will soon be hosting of the greatest shows of this decade. All in all the pilot was one of the greatest I’ve ever seen, and I have no doubt that I will love the following episodes.

Thanks for reading, Joel Freecheck.