Westworld – HBO’s Next Big Thing That Deserves Your Attention

It’s been just over a week since HBO’s sci-fi drama Westworld concluded its first season. And man, what a rocking first season it was!

The much-anticipated series which was touted as the “Next Game of Thrones” before it began, had some big expectations to live up to. And fortunately for its makers and HBO, it more or less did. While it’s too early to decide whether it will be able to fill the “Game of Thrones” sized hole once that juggernaut finishes in 2018, I think it’s safe to say that Westworld will definitely manage to pull in a dedicated audience base to HBO, if it continues the way it has started.

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Now, anybody who’s seen the show will agree when I say that it is almost impossible to explain all that goes on in the first season of Westworld. But for those who still haven’t watched this mind-bending show yet, here’s a short summary:
Westworld is literally a futuristic, artificial world based on the Wild West times (if the name wasn’t indicative enough), created by Dr. Ford and run by a company named Delos. What makes this world fascinating and unique is its more-human-than-human like robots, referred to as ‘Hosts.’ And all those people who have a predilection to indulge in wild adventures and are rich enough to spend a considerable sum on the same, visit Westworld to enjoy the escapades that this world offers. In simple terms, one can literally do anything with the ‘Hosts,’ including hit, torture, rape, and even kill them, and be a part of their story without any consequences, because the guests can do whatever they want, but the Hosts in turn cannot hurt any living thing as they are programmed not to do so. But the biggest catch here is that the Hosts have no idea they are not really human. They follow the same routine and are oblivious to the fact, as their memories are wiped off each day. However, as the show begins, we realise that the Hosts may be malfunctioning and gradually figuring out the truth about themselves and their world after all. Cue massive level of mayhem! For any fan of the genre, if this plot doesn’t excite you, then I don’t know what else will.

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Created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, Westworld is a treat to watch from the very first episode to the last, thanks to its intelligent, fast-paced narrative and more importantly, a brilliant cast which includes Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores, Thandie Newton as Maeve, James Marsden as Teddy, Anthony Hopkins (Highest Order Genius!) as Dr. Ford, Jeffrey Wright as Bernard Lowe, Sidse Babett Knudsen as Theresa Cullen, Jimmi Simpson as William, Ed Harris as The Man in Black (no, it has absolutely nothing to do with the movies), and Ben Barnes as Logan, among others.

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While all the actors involved do complete justice to their characters no matter how little screen time they are given, there are a few who absolutely steal the show. Evan Rachel Wood masterly blends robotic apathy with human eloquence and brings just the right amount of naivety, curiosity and strength to Dolores, such that the character’s transition from a gullible bot to a fierce one, feels beautifully smooth and natural given the circumstances. Similarly, Thandie Newton and James Marsden are more than brilliant in playing confused, yet determined, and somewhat malicious Hosts. So much so, that Maeve’s storyline often becomes the most interesting aspect of the show during a mid-season lull. Jeffrey Wright acts as the quite pillar who lends solidity to the storyline with his subtle yet powerful performance and his character gently compels you to pay more attention to him as the series progresses.

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This review would be incomplete and ineffectual if I don’t mention the world-class artistry of Anthony Hopkins.  You know how people claim to get goose bumps when they see something extraordinary? That happens to me every time I watch Tony Hopkins perform. He has the ability to captivate even a bored audience with his flawless, often chilly delivery. And as the ruthless and borderline maniacal Dr. Ford, he brings back the Hannibal Lecter vibes without being repetitive or stereotypical. Everything he does or says has an ulterior motive, and you can’t help but feel disturbed every time he comes on screen. As a matter of fact, some of the best scenes of the season include his interactions with Jeffrey Wright and Sidse Babett Knudsen.

As one would expect from an HBO show, there is considerable violence, torture and a good measure of nudity in Westworld, but none of it feels gratuitous. Moreover, the show has enough twists and turns to boggle your mind and keep you on your toes to find out what happens next. (If Game of Thrones changed the way you feel about “holding a door,” Westworld will make you question your reality every time someone says “doesn’t look like anything to me.”) Suffice it to say, Westworld has all the elements that make a show worthy of binge-watching in one day/night.

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One thing which really works in favour of this show is the fact that it is unlike anything that is currently running on television. And thanks to a big budget allocation by HBO, the show is also a visual treat to watch, with all its classy and vivid special effects. To complete the package, Ramin Djawadi’s harmonious music (that piano!) adds a sense of foreboding to the whole narrative, while perfectly complimenting the individuality of each character and their traits. And if you are a rock music fan, you’ll definitely enjoy the piano versions of some of the most popular rock songs like Paint It Black by The Rolling Stones, No Surprises by Radiohead, A Forest by The Cure, and Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden.

Westworld has all the intelligence, finesse and ingenuity that one would expect from something created by the likes of Jonathan Nolan and J.J.Abrams. It is not an average TV show to be watched when one wants to relax their minds; rather it is a show which often requires repeated viewings of the same episode to fully grasp what is happening with its multiple storylines. So if you fancy a nice, warm drama to soothe your nerves, then Westworld is definitely not your cup of tea. But if you are willing to invest your time, attention and brains to understand the complexities associated with dramas involving high-end artificial intelligence, then it’s about time you get that HBO subscription and dig your claws into this sexy and sophisticated show now!

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