By Gabrielle Blanchard, Contributing Writer
Based on the 1973 film of the same name, HBO’s Westworld takes place in the theme park of the same name, run by the mysterious Delos Incorporated company. At $40,000 per day, Westworld is a playground for the wealthy to, as Delos promotes it to be, indulge in their deepest fantasies. It is an immersive theme park populated by human-like androids known as ‘hosts.’ These hosts are designed to be as close to human as a robot can be, but still ultimately controlled by the technicians working behind the scenes.
The guests are free to do as they will with the hosts as they play along with Westworld’s Civil War-era storylines. They can play hero or villain by saving the day, or they can indulge in their darkest desires that they would never be able to see through in the real world.
After all, the hosts aren’t really human, and they have their memories wiped at the end of each day, set up to repeat the same storylines over and over again, each day bringing new interactions with new guests. So, what could possibly go wrong?
This is the basic premise of Westworld, which has recently begun its second season on HBO. The show first aired in 2016 and was a smash hit right out of the gate and the two-year hiatus only seemed to heighten and strengthen the fan base, as they cultivated ideas and theories about what the first season meant and what it could possibly lead to in season two.
Westworld’s premise largely deals with the consent and agency of the hosts before and after a seemingly simple coding update sets them up on a journey of self-awareness as their ‘wiped’ memories slowly come to the service. The show often poses the question: what makes something worth our time, emotions, and what truly sets human beings apart from the creations that we make? What makes something worthy of respect and proper treatment? If robots aren’t ‘real,’ does it matter if we program them to have feelings, including coding them to feel love?
It’s a question that’s beginning to surface in our very own world as our technology develops and advances.
To add a layer of depth to the conversation, while there are certainly men on the show, the two clear leads, Maeve and Dolores, are presented as being two very strong albeit very different women. As these two become more aware of their situation, the more they deviate from their assigned roles within the park.
Dolores begins her journey as a sweet rancher’s daughter, designed to make visitors feel welcomed to the park. Maeve is the madame of Sweetwater’s — the name of the town within Westworld — brothel. As the hosts take more control of their stories and own destinies, the more we see them evolve and grow.
The show has a very clear and intense agenda in doing this: the more we see the hosts, the more human they become to us, and the more we want to root for them. The more we want them to win. The more the show makes us feel for these beings, the harder it is to see them suffering.
We see the human guests who take part in the park Westworld as well as the people behind the scenes who rank from one of the men who helped create Westworld, to board executives, to the people in charge for the care and maintenance of the hosts. Some of these people genuinely care for the hosts, while others see them as “merchandise” that’s to be used and nothing more than that.
For some, this type of storytelling might be cliché and overdone. Others may enjoy the questions and situations that Westworld presents to us.
Without a doubt, Westworld is conversation starting television, whether you like it upon viewing or not. It sparks debate and theorizing amongst fans who enjoy the twists and turns, the overlapping timelines (because, yes, Westworld jumps back and forth between showing the viewer various points in time, even, making one wonder when exactly scenes are really taking places) or those who may argue we’ve seen this story time and again and Westworld isn’t really offering anything new.
The show does contain mature and graphic content and those who need trigger warnings or are uncomfortable with that may need to steer clear and/or check the episode warnings, but Westworld is certainly something that is worth the views.
Photo Credit: HBO, Westworld