TV Series Review
Hey, there, Buckaroo! Glad you moseyed over to this here review. Sit down for a spell while I make you a nice, cool glass of molasses tea, where you can watch them ol' doggies sidle up by the campfire while them deer and antelope play hopscotch and … um …
OK, you got me. I'm not really a cowboy. Which means that I have at least one thing in common with the residents, guests and creators of the elaborate cutting-edge theme park of Westworld: They aren't either.
Home, Home on the Holodeck
Westworld—the park, not the show—is largely the creation of Dr. Robert Ford, who (along with a mysterious partner) designed this elaborate, adults-only land to cater to the whims and fantasies of its wealthy guests. But this is no mere mature-content Disneyland, mind you. The "entertainment" here goes well beyond mere animatronics.
Westworld is populated by robotic "hosts" who walk through storylines that cater to their guests' most heroic or horrific desires. There's a bevy of prostitutes literally built to satisfy the lust of their patrons. White hats and black Barts stroll through the town's dusty streets, programmed to shoot first, ask questions later. Wanna face down a despicable hombre in the All Right Corral? Westworld can help you do that. Gut the sheriff while he's having a drink in the bar? Hey, you paid for your ticket: Westworld makes no judgment. Why, you can even rape Dolores, the beautiful, innocent daughter of a local rancher, if you so desire. This is a place where dreams come true … even if those dreams are truly loathsome.
But no harm, no foul, right? These robots aren't human, after all. They don't think. They don't feel. If a guest hurts or kills them, they're simply taken back to the shop where their bodies are patched, their minds erased and they're back on the job the next day. It's not like they can think about what's happening to them. It's not like they can feel.
Or can they? * It seems as though something's going wrong with these "hosts." They're hearing bits of code they're not supposed to hear. They're remembering things they're not supposed to remember. Dolores—a robot made *specifically to be raped and abused—is growing more sentient. And as her consciousness grows, she becomes less a machine doing its job and more a woman suffering through her own private, endless nightmare. And she, and others, are beginning to act on their own.
The Sleeziest Place on Earth
In some respects, Westworld offers a very Plugged In take on the real world. Through its corrupted, twisted guests, the show speaks to the inherent depravity of humankind when left to its own devices. Moreover, it questions our sex-saturated, violence-obsessed entertainment culture—one that, in some ways, points an accusatory finger at Westworld's home network, HBO.
Consider Game of Thrones, HBO's wildly popular program that many believe Westworld is being groomed to replace. Sure, there are viewers drawn to the show because of its intricate storylines and resonant characters and those cool CGI dragons. But let's not pretend that Thrones' unremitting sexual scenes and grotesque, violent content aren't also a draw. HBO knows that's part of the show's appeal. It includes so many inexplicable scenes involving gratuitous nudity that it helped coin the phrase, "sexposition."
Westworld dares ask us, as viewers, whether it's really healthy or appropriate to be "entertained" by such sex and violence—to watch even fictional characters suffer for our amusement.
But there's a paradox in play. Even as this show asks, it still engages in all the salacious sex and violence that it begs to critique. This is an HBO show, after all. It knows what will draw press attention. It, like the Westworld park itself, has a product to sell. HBO knows how to sell it. The hosts are shot and stabbed and abused and raped for not just the guests' entertainment, but for the viewers. Their naked bodies are propped up in labs or sit as their makers' poke and prod them. The camera does not flinch. It does not move away. It satisfies whatever prurient desires may be present.
The show is not as graphic or salacious as Thrones is. But that's about the best I can say here. Like its titular playground, Westworld is a brutal, messy and ultimately amoral world. It asks the right questions but, by its actions, suggests that it might not care about the answers.
Crude or Profane Language
Drug and Alcohol Content
Other Negative Elements
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores Abernathy; Thandie Newton as Maeve Millay; Jeffrey Wright as Bernard Lowe; James Marsden as Teddy Flood; Luke Hemsworth as Ashley Stubbs; Sidse Babett Knudsen as Theresa Cullen; Angela Sarafyan as Clementine Pennyfeather; Shannon Woodward as Elsie Hughes; Ed Harris as the Man in Black; Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Robert Ford