It’s early times for Westworld (2016) Season 1 (currently at episode 2, with 8 instalments remaining). So far, the scene has been set, and the scenario explained. Guests come to have an experience at the West World resort, either with their families, to relax or for a pleasant bonding experience —or they come alone, perhaps with a friend, to act out violent, and sexual fantasies. The Westworld experience is much akin to a computer game albeit one where the player is physically present within the experience, although the guests are, apparently, protected from danger and cannot be shot (bullets from guns at the resort hit the guests with a harmless puff of smoke).
The ‘robots’, or hosts, appear to be constructed using a 3D printing method, possibly using ‘living’ organic material. They exist in a Groundhog Day-like limbo, endlessly repeating the same scripts and loops, supposedly not fully conscious of themselves or their predicament. The question of their consciousness will probably be explored throughout the show, emerging as a central theme. If they live and feel, experience pain and fear, and happiness, and they’re aware of those emotions: are they not conscious beings? The creators seem to cherish them: sometimes talking to them as companions; sometimes like a parent speaking to a child; sometimes commanding them like a slave; sometimes interacting with them as if they are simply a ‘machine’. There’s plenty of material to explore in the relationship between the hosts, the guests and the creators.
There are puzzling inconsistencies though: why are super-realistic simulations of living people not scripted to automatically get irritated when a fly lands on their face, let alone when it walks across their eyeball? Only the host Dolores Abernathy appears to bothered by rogue flies? It’s probably a device that signifies she’s developed a sophisticated awareness, or actual consciousness, of her situation, one which she’s hiding from the creators.
Then there’s the whole thing about hosts having firmware updates that are causing issues. The firmware update is an attempt to make the hosts behave more realistically, to develop independent reactions to situations (as opposed to scripted responses). How can bullets kill the hosts, but not the guests? Why hasn’t this been adequately explained? And, finally, what is the maze the Man in Black has discovered hidden in the scalp of an unlucky host he tortured? Could this lead to a new level of ‘the game’? These clues might potentially show where the story is heading.
It’s a likely assumption that there will be a plot twist at the end of season 1, to hook the audience into watching season 2. In Lost there was a mysterious underground living space beneath the hatch. In Mad Men we learnt that Don Draper was actually Dick Whitman. What could the clues of: ‘the fly’, the glitchy firmware update, the mystery of the harmless bullets, and the hidden maze map lead to?
- The hosts might develop human-like consciousness and eventually rebel against the guests and the resort’s creators (like the original Westworld 1973 film). At some point a ‘conscious’ rogue host could reactivate the glitchy hosts held in storage.
- Some guests could work with the hosts, seeking to have the hosts recognised as conscious entities, with the rights of a living being, while others will continue to use and abuse them for their entertainment.
- The guests are not physically present within the resort. They’re having a virtual reality experience (in a similar manner to The Matrix, and True Lies). Everything the audience is witnessing about the resort and the creators is an elaborate ruse, a distraction, designed to create the semblance of realism (something like Source Code).
- West World is the entry level of a larger game that leads to other worlds from the original Westworld (1973) film: Roman World, and Medieval World, or new fantasy levels that offer increasing levels of extravagance, luxury, depravity and debauchery.
- It’s likely that at some point the audience will be offered a glimpse of the world outside of the West World resort. What would that look like? It could be something of a shock; or it might resemble today’s world, in a mundane way; it could be a dystopian nightmare (suffering from pollution and repression); or a high tech world devoid of excitement and challenge. (A problem with the original film was: if the androids were so sophisticated why are they not being used in the real world as care assistants, old rig workers, domestic helpers, cleaners, factory workers, etc, etc? How might this question be answered in the new series?)
- It’s possible that hosts could escape into the real world and seek revenge on the creators (something along the lines of Blade Runner.)
- What happens when guests complete the game? What comes after the final level?
- What if the creators are not human?
- What if the creators are also inside one of the levels of the game?
- We may see the guests in their real lives and witness their game persona in context to the real person (along with their backstory).