HBO premiered its new series Westworld, and the immediate reaction was unparalleled. Many viewers will inevitably compare the series to Game of Thrones, especially as the latter is gearing toward its twilight. However, it is not as if the comparisons are unwarranted. Westworld, like Game of Thrones, is set in a parallel world equivocal to others. It has a sprawling cast of characters who will all come to play a major role. Ramin Djawadi, who has scored Game of Thrones since Episode 1, has been brought onboard to compose the music of the new series. Plus, let us not forget the significance of the names Westworld and Westeros.
Westworld certainly has some mammoth-sized shoes to fill with its first season, and the pilot episode certainly did not disappoint. Many were nervous about the series when the show was pushed back for reshoots. And let’s not forget that Game of Thrones had a similarly troubled beginning (last comparison, I swear).
The pilot episode of Westworld made full use of every second it had; within its first showing the series had to establish half of the characters, the setting, the game, and still build anticipation for future episodes. The series also gets the award for creepiest opening credits; I look forward to seeing it every week. Showrunner husband-and-wife team Jonathan and Lisa Joy Nolan seem to have a doctorate-level understanding of the original Michael Crichton story, and they pose even more philosophical questions regarding morality, individualism, and what it means to be “real.”
Even though it's been merely one episode so far, we have a bunch of burning questions that we’re basking in. Questions that will undoubtedly be answered as the series progresses, but will be burning in the backs of our minds until they are. Westworld is unlike anything on television at this time, and that’s certainly saying a lot, but the series looks like a satirical study of entertainment and virtual reality, while also asking some pretty daunting questions about one’s self — A.I. or human. Here are the questions we are asking.
10. What Year Is This Set In?
Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) sees that her father Peter finds a photo of a woman in what appears to be present-day New York City, with bright lights and a swarm of yellow cabs. Our guess is that the series either takes place now or in a not-so-distant future. It is an interesting thing to ponder, because the androids share human qualities and are built to resemble us, but they also suffer from severe glitches and are prone to going off script.
9. You Can Be a Good Guy? Or A Bad Guy?
In the beginning, when Teddy Flood (James Marsden) is listening in to two gentlemen talk about their past experiences in Westworld, one man says that his first visit was with his family and he went for the reserved life, fishing and having fun. The second time he came he was alone, and he “went straight evil,” proclaiming it to be “the best two weeks” of his life. The question is: When you pay to go to Westworld, are you given the choice between a chaste life or that of a villain? It looks like the game itself lasts a long time and you do have the choice between nobility and dishonor, but what does the game have in store for you, based on what you choose to be?
8. Will Past Narratives Interfere With New?
Dolores’s father Peter is later seen spouting Shakespeare at Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) after the New York City photo sends him into a glitch break. Dr. Ford, the perfectionist that he is, realizes that A.I. Peter had an old narrative more then a decade ago when he was a preacher who spouted the works of the famous bard. So, are the A.I.s built and given a narrative for a certain amount of time before they are transferred, based on a rolodex of some sorts? Complex question, but if any character will suffer from a past life syndrome it will probably be Dolores Abernathy, and she will likely keep the information to herself.
7. Is Dr. Hughes In Love With Clementine?
Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) is a saloon prostitute who is being programmed by Dr. Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) and Dr. Hughes (Shannon Woodward). When Dr. Lowe leaves, Hughes goes in for a kiss. The doctor is also seen later in the episode, dressed as another character in the game. The series has set up an interesting dynamic between the two women. Hughes is likely to feel some sort of emotion for Clementine and help her to escape her predetermined life based upon her own guilt. Or Clementine could also use Hughes for information outside of the game.
6. Will Dolores And Teddy Get A Proper Romance?
They appear to know each other. We are not sure if that is a narrative decision based on the writing of the Westworld game creators, or if they remember one another from past narratives. Dolores, as we quickly find out, is the oldest A.I. in the theme park, so she is likely to be, unknowingly, the most experienced of the group. When Teddy and Dolores get their time together, they are disrupted in a flash of violence, but the blossoming romance in which the two run away from game instructors would be an epic way to go for the series.
5. Will We See The Process Of Going Into The Game?
Next week’s episode seems to introduce a new guest named William (Jimmi Simpson). The episode is likely to follow his journey from patron, to his setup for life in the Westworld game. I'm hoping for an insight into the mindset of the individual and a glimpse at the process of living in that environment.
4. What Happened 30 Years Ago?
Dr. Lowe and Dr. Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen) — who is in some as-yet-unexplained position of authority — are discussing the recent glitches that the androids are experiencing. They bring up a “critical failure” that happened 30 years ago. I’m hoping for a flashback to this event; at a guess, I’m thinking it involves Dr. Ford and Dolores. If this is not the first time the theme park has experienced a glitch of this magnitude, I want to know how they dealt with it the first time.
Ed Harris takes on the menacing role of the Gunslinger, originally played by Yul Brynner in the original Westworld movie of the '70s. While the new series seems to focus more on the game, apparently there is some sort of map inside the scalps of androids. Not sure what else to add here. It just seems kind of creepy.
2. What's Up With Dr. Robert Ford?
He neglects the advice of his employers. He does private repairs of the androids after the doctors are done with theirs. He drinks with old androids that are no longer of any use. Dr. Ford is the architect and creator of Westworld, and you would think that he would be cheerfully swimming in cash right now, but he sticks around the theme park and seems distraught over something. As a character, Dr. Ford seems like a conflicted protagonist — or antagonist — depending on your viewpoint. I doubt the showrunners would gift such a significant character to an actor like Dr. Hannibal Lector without a meaty scene or two to remind viewers of why he is one of the greatest actors of all time.
1. Will The Gunslinger Have More To Do Then Just Wreck Havoc?
In contrast to his architect role as Christof in The Truman Show, this time Harris tackles the role of the gamer, and does not disappoint in the slightest. Harris always plays the villain to perfection. The Gunslinger seems to be the only character who takes full advantage of his game role, providing a sense of unease and tension in every room he enters. He also seems to be the only character to actually want to win the game — cutting off someone’s scalp for maps.
Hopefully the series will explore the character more instead of just giving him Ramsay Bolton-esque scenes of torture and brutality. I fully expect the series to dissect (no pun intended) the Gunslinger's inner meaning and show us why the game is so important to him.
Westworld is available for stream Sundays, on HBO. Catch Episode 2 on October 9. What did you think about the new series? Sound off in the comments below.