The Superb Storytelling of Westworld
The Superb Storytelling of Westworld
Spoilers for the entire season of Westworld…
After ten episodes, season one of Westworld has come to a close putting to bed a lot of theorizing, speculation and discussion. While some threads have been left dangling for a second season, for the most part we were given answers to the lingering questions in this week’s season finale. There’s a lot to like about the show but what keeps people talking about it and querying what’s to come is the fantastic storytelling at play which is what I’d like to discuss here.
Created by Lisa Joy and Johnathan Nolan, Westworld hasn’t been afraid to challenge its audience with complex plot and storylines. For example, the show quickly made it clear that the series would not be a linear narrative and would instead utilise multiple timelines to tell one story. This tied into one theme of the show which was the hosts of Westworld becoming more conscious because of ‘reveries’ – essentially lingering memories of the hosts from their past lives before their minds are wiped clean periodically. This was a smart way to tell the story of Westworld because the audience questioned whether what they were seeing was true just as the hosts were. Each timeline also stood on its own whether it was Dolores’s journey with William, the early creation of the park or the present day with the Man in Black each presented its own mystery and intrigue that kept the audience excited to see more.
These timelines never felt like they were meandering and tied together in a satisfying way in this week’s finale. While the audience may have worked certain elements of the show out, we never had the full picture, just pieces to the puzzle. Many had worked out that the Man in Black (played by Ed Harris) was an older William but the reasoning and motivations behind his actions was always a more interesting thread than his identity and since Westworld had more than a few twists and turns I was still in doubt if the Man in Black was who we thought it was right until the end which is a testament to the show’s writers. Since the show was based on deceiving what the audience thought they were seeing it will be fascinating to go back and watch the first season again knowing the reality of what we are watching. Some storylines are still open (what will Maeve do next and who re-programmed her? Is William actually dead?) and we’ll have plenty of time to muse over theories with the show not scheduled to return until 2018.
In addition to wonderful writing, the show’s talented cast and performances have really solidified Westworld as a show not to be missed. There are many standout performances in the show from Anthony Hopkins’s musings on consciousness and what it means to be human to Jeffrey Wright’s incredibly layered performance. Thandie Newton had perhaps the best arc of the show as she moved from passive pawn of Westworld to master manipulator and I’m interested to see what’s next for her character who is still seeking answers. Evan Rachel Wood goes on a rollercoaster of emotions as Dolores and it was incredibly satisfying to see her take back control from an older William in that finale. Special mention should also go to Ben Barnes’s Logan and Jimmi Simpson as young William whose arc has a sense of inevitability and says a lot about human nature.
I’ve already written about the show’s immersion and how it draws from video games but it’s worth pointing out the fantastical nature of the world the show is built around. The concept of a theme park gone wrong is something everyone can understand after the likes of Jurassic Park (whose author Michael Crichton also came up with the 1973 film Westworld which the show is based off) and the Wild West adds an interesting idea of role play that audiences can also take part in, what would you do in Westworld? Would you be a hero or villain? Couple this with bloody action, dueling gunfights and a picturesque setting and its easy to see how William became so lost in this world.
But it’s not just the park itself that makes the show so immersive, it’s the carefully constructed world around it which is often just as, if not more interesting than the park itself. The management of the park is going through some changes and Ford is under pressure when we first join the show. The internal politics of what the investors want Westworld to be vs. Ford’s vision and Arnold’s original vision is fascinating to watch. The hints at another park (presumably ‘Shogunworld’) is also really interesting for the show moving forward. Joy and Nolan have stated before that this season is in some ways a prologue and it certainly feels that way looking back on these ten episodes.
While the action and twists and turns are fun parts of the journey, it’s the deeper meaning behind Westworld that will give the show longevity. Westworld has already explored ideas like what it means to be human and consciousness and will likely go further into these ideas as more and more hosts are becoming self-aware. Westworld as a park says a lot about the human mind and escapism and its been really interesting to listen to a superb actor like Anthony Hopkins’ monologue about what it means to be alive and what it is the hosts and their guests are really looking for in the park. William’s journey of self-discovery perfectly mirrored many of the hosts and despite his arrogance at knowing all the park’s secrets, the one he really wanted was never meant for him.
Those are my thoughts on this first season of Westworld.
What do you think of the show? What were your favourite parts? What are you looking forward to seeing in the show in the future?
Let me know by commenting below this page.