'Westworld' Is Amazing and You Should Watch It
Danger: This article contains minor spoilers about the first two episodes of Westworld, which are both available to stream on HBO GO and HBO Now. To read more about the mind-bending series, head over to Westworld World, the home for all your Westworld needs.
Robots! Who doesn't love them? The creators of HBO's weird, wild, and wonderful prestige drama Westworld certainly do. But whether you'll want to visit the sexy, violent, old-timey theme park creators Jonathan Nolan and Laura Joy are beckoning you to every Sunday this fall (and join the hordes of HBO-watching humans who have already heeded the call to watch the two mind-melting episodes now available to binge) depends on how you want robot action delivered.
I'll try to resist the strong, cybernated urge to break into robot-voice as I present the case for why Westworld could be your new favorite series, and why now is the time to jump in.
Do you want your robots to have skin?
Is there anything better than the perturbed sci-fi character who refers to a bumbling machine as a "bucket of bolts"? That's unlikely to happen on Westworld, sadly; the robots on Westworld seem to be constructed in the vein of Bishop, the android played by Lance Hendrickson in James Cameron's Aliens, who memorably responds to being called a "synthetic" by saying, "I prefer 'artificial person' myself."
The automatons of Westworld flash no metallic parts. If you cut them, they will bleed a viscous approximation of human blood. And when their faces get blown off by shotgun shells, they do not open up to reveal horrific robot face, à la Yul Brynner in the 1973 movie the HBO series is based on. Sure, you'll see circuitry and cold, dead robot eyes and smiles, which aren't creepy at all, but their mysterious human overlords, led by Anthony Hopkins' weary Dr. Robert Ford and Jeffrey Wright's sad, surreptitious Bernard Lowe, have done a superlative job of making it tricky to discern the real McCoys from the robot McCoys.
Do you want to see robots have sex?
Ever since that infamous sex waiver leaked last year, we knew that "gratuitous sexual situations" would be an element in Westworld. But how much shagging is there, and who the hell is having it? Well, judging from the first two episodes, this is a fantasy theme park where few of the human visitors seem to have much interest in the sex part of the fantasy vacation they're paying a shit-ton for -- or maybe they're just getting their robot jollies offscreen. A notable exception: this one total bro (played with extreme dickishness by Ben Barnes) who is seen in a quick montage engaging in a foursome with three "hosts" -- an orgy that of course also involves one of the robots slapping him across the face.
Does this mean Westworld is chaste? Not at all. The premiere episode includes an already much-discussed scene that strongly implies that the relentlessly unpleasant frequent visitor played by Ed Harris may be doing vile things to Dolores, the sweet-natured protagonist robot played by Evan Rachel Wood. Bernard gets it on with Theresa Cullen, the cunning, no-nonsense Quality Assurance Director (played by Borgen's Sidse Babett Knudsen), even if that scene is mostly an excuse to deliver exposition about the park robots' talkativeness via brainy pillow talk. Nudity is everywhere, though.
Does the idea of naked robots leave you cold?
Pack a sweater. Countless robots, both male and female, appear onscreen devoid of the unnecessary, illogical fabric coatings that humans refer to as clothing. Other than the aforementioned fourgy, though, none of this synthetic skin-baring is the least bit titillating; much of the nudity is confined to the diagnostic lab, where scientists ogle these exposed androids with the clinical eye of a Furby repairman fixing a Furby (that's a thing, right?). In fact, few scenes taking place at the laboratory headquarters of the company that runs the theme park don't involve bare boobs, buttocks, or penises. Sniffling horndogs just here for the orgies will be (mostly) unsatisfied with what they see, and the prudish just need to look away at precisely 29 minutes and 45 seconds into Episode 2.
Are you interested in "a dark odyssey about the dawn of artificial consciousness and the future of sin"?
If so, then, boy, does HBO have a show for you (to paraphrase a tagline of the 1973 movie). Questions explored: Can robots "feel"? What happens when they start to remember things? Can a robot who seems to be acquiring sentience be an adequate surrogate child for a grieving parent? Does viciously killing and greedily having sex with robots make you a terrible person?
Do you love robots but loathe Westerns?
This is a challenge that many of us modern city slickers face with this show, and I am very much aware that Westerns don't make everyone say yee-haw. I keep coming back to two seemingly incongruous words: robot horses. Whenever the 19th-century goings-on in Westworld switch on my innate urbanist aversion to all things involving dander and hayseeds, I remind myself that this is a place where robot cowpokes ride robot horses, where robot posses get a hankerin' to hang robot outlaws, where robot floozies take guff from robot brothel-goers, and where countless robots essentially reenact the "Want some rye? 'Course ya do!" scene from Return to Zork. Robots will always win the tug of war taking place in any sentient oater-averse viewer's soul.