Westworld: Season One – The Maze Review
A stunning debut season
The hosts are the ones who are free. Free. Here. Under my control.
Jonathan Nolan, Lisa Joy and J.J. Abrams have envisaged this remake of Michael Crichton’s 1973 film Westworld, much as Ronald D. Moore reimagined Battlestar Galactica - that is to say whilst the name and basic premise are the same, that is where the similarity ends. The 1973 film was very simplistic; cyborgs in a futuristic theme park break their programming and kill the human guests – it's a plot that Crichton would re-work to even greater success in Jurassic Park. HBO’s 2016 show uses this idea but expands upon it to include the nature of self-awareness, control and sentience, using multi-layered story threads that interweave with each other, twisting and turning to keep you guessing on the true nature of the themes until the very end of the last episode. It is intriguing, intellectual and idealistic, preying on our awareness and playing with our perceptions. Such is the nature of the show that there are several central characters and bit players that combine to bring the whole together, and, as each story thread tightens its knot, you cannot help but be pulled along.
Evan Rachel Wood plays the host Dolores through whose eyes most of the story unfolds; her character is intertwined in the majority of the story threads be it with fellow host Teddy (James Marsden), paying guest William (Jimmi Simpson) or the mysterious, untameable and vicious Man in Black (an awesome Ed Harris). Running parallel is that of another host Maeve (Thandie Newton) whose own quest for freedom brings about great ramifications for the repair crews tasked with patching up the hosts after the guests have had their 'fun'. While overseeing the park is creator Dr. Robert Ford (a magnificent Anthony Hopkins) who, along with fellow creator Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) try to keep the park, and the board members in check. It is with great skill that the narrative unfolds, there are some foreseeable twists, some well-hidden and one out of the blue; and it is only with repeated viewing that the breadcrumbs strewn throughout become noticeable and the whole is revealed.
As such the re-imaging of Westworld is a triumph. By interweaving various story threads, across different characters but all with a common theme, show producers have crafted a mysterious, engaging and thought provoking show the likes of which has not been seen since Game of Thrones. Just when you think you have a handle on the narrative, there is a curve ball, just when you think you know where the show is heading, it veers sharp left, and just when you think you know the characters, you really, really don’t. Hints are sprinkled throughout and become obvious upon the reveal, a second (and third) viewing are required!
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