‘Westworld’ Thoughts (Season 1)

Back at episode 2 (Season 1) of Westworld, I somewhat haphazardly guessed where the plot might be going. Now — at the end of Season 1 — it’s time to review those initial thoughts; to explore how the drama unfolded, and throw in some ideas about where, I believe, Season 2 might take us.

How right were my predictions?

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.

All pretty likely if you've watched the original film, and the writing never attempted to hide this angle. We could, for example, have been told, by a suitably well informed character, that the messed-up hosts are incinerated — and then, later on, had the shocking revelation they are actually kept in a dank, underground storage area.

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.

So far it appears that only the hosts really care about the other hosts (as they develop a sense of an identity based community). Bernard thought he was human, but is in fact a host. William's (AKA: The Man in Black) love for Dolores Abernathy turns out to be a ‘romantic’ dead end, and their relationship becomes a classic battle of opposing sides.

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).

Unlikely. But it’s possible that the whole Delos resort is located off-planet, in something resembling the scenario of Dark City (1998).

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.

We now know that there are other worlds, including a Samurai World. It seems unlikely that we would be teased with Samurai World unless we revisit it in some capacity. Samurai World brings in many interesting cultural possibilities, and what might occur if escapee hosts from West World somehow clash with the hosts from Samurai World (or join forces) — how postmodern would that be? On another note, increasing levels ‘extravagance, luxury, depravity and debauchery’ seems unlikely as there’s plenty of depravity already. The scope for other worlds seems endless.

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?)

Still an intriguing question. Maeve almost leaves, but returns to search for her child within Westworld. My guess (based on Logan’s lost photo of his sister), is that the outside world resembles today's, but with more advanced technology.

It’s possible that hosts could escape into the real world and seek revenge on the creators (something along the lines of Blade Runner).

It almost happened with Maeve: the retribution against humans seems to be a up-and-coming theme, most obviously with the group appearing on the edge of the woods at the end of the Season 1 finale.

What happens when guests complete the game? What comes after the final level? 

The maze or ‘game’ is a dead end. It’s a metaphor for the hosts' path to consciousness.

What if the creators are not human?

Judging by the subtlety of the storytelling so far, this would probably be a bit too heavy-handed, an unlikely homage to late-90s sci-fi.

What if the creators are also inside one of the levels of the game?

It’s possible, but unlikely.

We may see the guests in their real lives and witness their game persona in context to the real person (along with their backstory).

Lost developed from a plane crash survivor story into a series of extended and interlocking backstories. I don’t get a sense of this happening anytime soon in Westworld.

How the drama unfolded

The production standards in Westworld are very high — cinematic even. The West World environment and interactive parameters were laid out nicely, but the timeline shifts (that work so well in a 113 minute film like Memento, which is viewed in a single session), in my view, are less exhilarating in a 10 hour television series experienced over a number of weeks. It felt somewhat predictable and drawn-out, and killed the overall rhythm of the story: prioritising conceptual ideas over the raw thrill of an unfolding drama. The jump from being inside West World — as a guest or a host — to the host repair shop world of Sylvester & Felix felt jolting, not quite believable.

Where Westworld Season 2 might take us

The finale seemed predictable, or at least unsurprising. The appearance of the bandits at the edge of the forest (were they bandits, or re-activated hosts kitted up for a fight?) brought back connotations of the mysterious ‘others’ arriving in Lost. The demise of Ford — not a hugely likeable character — reminded me of Ned Stark’s fate in Game of Thrones. Is that the end of him, or will he return in numerous flashbacks in Season 2 (taking over from Arnold’s ever-present influence, while never actually being physically there)? And, in a world where so many hosts are routinely killed and brought back to life, will Ford also return — revealed to be yet another host, like Bernard — or has Dolores killed a host version of Ford, a stand in for a real man?
There are so many stories within stories in Westworld — plays within plays. The hosts’ conscious identity is another fictional narrative within a narrative. These fictional anchors to their consciousness seem to be their primary motivation, locking them into their contrived world, as effectively as any hardware lock-in can prevent them from leaving. Maeve’s return to West World in search of ‘her daughter’ — curtailing her near escape into the outside — is the verification that her implanted memories (her fake backstory), has successfully moderated her ‘free will’.

Like Season 1, Season 2 will bring in multiple narratives, and (I’m guessing) the focus will be inside West World: Maeve’s quest to find her daughter (to defend that relationship, or to blame the humans in the eventuality that it doesn’t turn out to be that she expects); Dolores and Ted coming to terms with what they believe is ‘their’ consciousness (as opposed to being Ford’s actors); the ‘robot insurrection’ story; and the Man in Black’s continued journey — although human his quest is much the same as the hosts, a journey of identity, getting a sense of who he is. Season 2 might pick up exactly where it left off, or it may jump into a completely new timeline. I wouldn’t be surprised if, say, we ‘wake up’ in Samurai World (much like Lost introduced us to a the new character, Desmond and his backstory).

Mad Men focused on one character, Don Draper; Breaking Bad had Walter White; Lost had Jack Shephard — but there’s no one in Westworld who appears to fulfil the role of the show’s honorary anchor person. Ford is too distant, too clever (and probably a sociopath); one minute William was the polite nice guy and then he turned into the evil overlord; Bernard is a character in someone else’s story; Delores and Maeve have come back from the dead so many times, one feels they will keep suffering but the stakes are low — they can always be re-spawned. I need a character to cheer on and support, someone who is vulnerable, but, enough of a player — however flawed — to feel like it’s worth sticking around for.