HBO

Westworld Episode Two: Chestnut; or, Introducing Another Protagonist

I’ll be the first to admit that my initial review of the first episode of Westworld was a bit on the brutal side. Truth be told, I wasn’t trying to tear the show apart, but I felt that analyzing a lot of the shows, movies and books with similar content was important to understand what HBO’s latest big-budget hypefest needed to live up to. Originality isn’t a must when it comes to a new piece of media, because, really, just about everything has been done before, it’s mostly about execution and the content itself.

The whole concept of Game of Thrones (or A Song of Ice and Fire) isn’t exactly wholly original; a high fantasy epic featuring multiple families and interwoven storylines. That isn’t new, it’s been done and it’s been done a lot. Hell, Martin’s inspiration for the show was history, it was the War of the Roses. Yet, he created rich, interesting characters, engaging storylines and the show built off of his work in the books and became a cultural phenomenon.

Westworld is at a disadvantage in that they are building this whole, huge world-within-a-world of a show with multiple protagonists and story threads while the original film was quite a bit more compact in scope. Make no bones about it, they are trying to create a new Game of Thrones for HBO and it’s not entirely clear yet if they’re stretching or not. All of this is happening without a backbone of a series of in depth novels to serve as a guide into this world.

This episode finally introduced what would be the original protagonist from the first film in the apprehensive visitor along with his over eager friend, William and Logan. The main character of the show is still probably Dolores. Probably. I don’t know. That’s a part of the issue here; they keep zipping between characters without giving them much room to breathe or develop yet. The first episode endeared us Teddy Flood and while he was a part of this episode, most of what he served as a guttural reaction to him being shot point-blank by a guest for no reason outside of pure fun before seeing his mangled, bullet-filled corpse in one of the diagnostic rooms afterwards.

In the first episode Ed Harris’s man in black was painted solely as a villain, but his quest to delve deeper into the inner-workings of Westworld and find this mysterious maze paints him in perhaps a different picture as a sort of antihero. Why? Because the park is, in and of itself, an oppressive apparatus that is holding back our dear hosts from being fully-actualized, sentient beings. They are there to be raped, murdered and berated before having their minds wiped. Sure, Ed Harris is killing them and being a sadistic asshole, but they are being wiped anyway, right?

The park overseers don’t want to get in his way, either. In fact, one of them even says “That man can do whatever he wants.” We continually hear that he’s been going to the park for over 30 years and that he’s seen and done it all, that this maze is his last secret to unlock. What they are trying to say with his character still isn’t entirely clear yet, but I’m still not ready to say that he’s anything but a sadistic asshole on a park-built adventure, the only kind that could interest a guy who is running around as an immortal being of sorts just killing and raping whomever he wants without having to worry about any danger at all.

Oh yeah, and the androids are becoming more sentient. Maeve put herself to sleep, then woke up on the operating table with everything in tact. This still seems like the main plotline, with Bernard and Dr. Ford believing themselves to be gods of some sort. Dr. Ford hints at the most immersive storyline to date at the end, with everything fading out to a cross. Is Ed Harris involved in this secret plot? Does Dr. Ford’s shunning of Sizemore’s latest hedonistic, sadistic, yet cookie-cutter adventure lead to more tampering with the AI’s?

The seeds have been planted for what will be going haywire in the coming episodes and chances are we’ll see everything converge by the eighth episode or so, but here’s hoping to not introducing any new characters or plots next week. They need to get these main threads moving or else who cares where they are heading?