The first episode of HBO's scrupulous sci-fi western Westworld provoked theories of human failure and robot revolt. But like any good J.J. Abrams-produced television show, there seems to be plenty hidden under the veil of secrecy that could reboot the dramatic mainframe (to put it in AI terms). Here's what we woke up thinking about just hours after the big premiere. Are the answers right under our synthetically sculpted noses?
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Where, exactly, is this place? How do paying customers catch the train? It's a nice touch that customers arrive in town along with hosts, but it's also confusing. It's a bit more clear in Michael Crichton's original flick, in which visitors travel in together from a real-world location via hovercraft and arrive at a futuristic-looking greeting area at an adult amusement park called Delos, where they are outfitted and then shipped off to one of three themed subsections: West World, Medieval World, or Roman World. Will the HBO series pull back to reveal the functional world outside the park?
Is Delos still a thing?
In the middle of the premiere episode, Luke Hemsworth's security chief (yes, there's a third Hemsworth) and his crew head to what appears to be an abandoned storage area after receiving a "livestock alert." In the scene, a rusted globe bearing the name Delos can be seen in the background. What the heck does that mean? Is the corporation still functioning, and if so, could that indicate that Romanworld and Medievalworld are or were part of the show's mythology? Will we ever see Futureworld and Spaworld from Futureworld, the 1976 flop sequel to Westworld? Is this just a sly shout-out or a legitimate clue?
How and why are kids allowed in Westworld?
It seems odd that children would be allowed at Westworld, a place designed to please deviant adult visitors looking to screw and kill. Yet a human boy and his parents approach Dolores in that scene in which she's painting horses. Weird! Are certain parts of the park designated as family-friendly? Or can any human children who come to the park also drink, screw, and murder armed and defenseless androids? Suggestion to any parents thinking about bringing their kids along on their Westworld vacation: take them to Gettysburg instead -- it's educational, safer, and way cheaper.
How do the robots eat and drink like humans?
James Marsden's character likes his alcohol. And remember the scene where the rogue robot goes crazy with the milk, and white liquid poured out of his stomach wound? Are these guys supposed to be garbage disposals? Where does the food and drink go? Do they actually crave nourishment, or are they merely programmed to do so? Also: does this mean they're capable of going No. 1 and No. 2?
Why do the tourists want to be cowboys so bad?
This is something the creators of this show need to address, pronto: why are so many people into the Wild West? Sure, The Magnificent Seven remake is doing well at the box office, but it's hard to imagine a large section of the population wanting to pay big bucks to spend time in a dusty, anachronistic place like Westworld, even if it is filled with robots built for human amusement. Does this fondness for the cowpoke lifestyle mean that the world that exists outside the theme park on the show is pretty bleak? It must be, if all so many rich people are eager to fork over their cash to play Gunsmoke.
How do the guns in Westworld work?
When we meet Ed Harris' character, the Man in Black, we learn that he's impervious to bullets and that he's a long-time patron of Westworld, so presumably the guns in HBO's reboot would work similar to the guns in Crichton's original, right? Do weapons have heat sensors that render them inoperable when pointed at humans? Or is the tech different on the show? Also, are the so-called newcomers impervious to all harm, including bullets fired by other humans, or does this just apply to guns fired by robots?
How do the robots get from the repair site back to their world?
We see hosts arrive at Westworld and hosts switched to stasis mode at Westworld HQ. What we don't see is a transition shot of how they get to and fro. Crichton's Westworld had a Monsters, Inc.-like clean-up crew swoop in each night, rebuild and recalibrate the bots, then place them back in position for the next day's activity. Is it more complicated this time? At one point, Shannon Woodward's character, wearing Wild West clothes, covertly deactivates Dolores. In another scene, Westworld employees appear on the map in present-day work clothes. What's protocol here?
How does the Man in Black know Dolores?
Near the beginning of the pilot, Ed Harris' character tells Evan Rachel Wood that it's been a long time before dragging her into the barn to do (presumably) horrible things to her. Later, we learn that Dolores is the oldest android model currently walking around Westworld and that the Man in Black has been visiting the park for three decades. Is their history more complex than we've seen so far?
What "level" is the Man in Black trying to unlock?
"There's a deeper level to this game," Harris' character tells Kissy the Card Dealer, right before scalping the bot. Not only does the lifelong Westworld patron hint that there's something deeper hidden in the park, he calls it "a game." The top of Kissy's head reveals a brain-like maze with a Vitruvian Man at its center -- just like the ones at Westworld HQ. Is Harris trying to locate the base or something else? Will there be a robot minotaur in the labyrinth?
Who the f*ck is Arnold?!
Right before the crazy milk-drinking bot guns down his fellow hosts, he mutters, "Not gonna die this time, Arnold." To whom is he referring? Another robot? Or some sort of human overlord? The line's even spookier considering the bot's malfunctioning, "memory"-filled state of being. One thing's for sure: Arnold, whoever he is, made a lasting impact on at least one robot -- the kind that sticks with a computer after it's supposedly been wiped.
Who planted that photo on Abernathy Ranch?
Easily the biggest mystery of the premiere, Peter Abernathy discovers a photograph underneath the soil by his cattle pen depicting a woman in the middle of what looks like Times Square. Who's the woman? And why did the picture make Dolores' dad go all screwy? Was it dropped on accident or planted on purpose?
What is the corporation's real interest in Westworld?
The tension-filled conversation between the park's no-nonsense operations leader Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and its squirrelly narrative director Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) was one of the episode's most cryptic and tantalizing scenes. "This place is one thing to the guests, one thing to shareholders, and something completely different to management," said Cullen, suggesting that the Westworld corporate-overlords have something secret in store for all our favorite robots. Are they building an army? Are they creating an alternate reality to retreat to when disaster strikes in the real world? Are they casting an all-robot remake of Blazing Saddles? We need to know now.
What happened to Bernard's kid?
In the latter half of the premiere, viewers learn that Bernard Lowe has, or had, a kid -- an aging family photo gets a close-up. Not much else is said, meaning we have tons of questions about this: who did Bernard have this kid with? Is she still alive? What happened to the kid? Did Bernard's job have anything to do with this? Maybe most importantly, in terms of his involvement in the saga: where did Bernard come from, and what brought him to Westworld?
What did Bernard whisper to Dolores' defunct robot dad?
It's like the Lost in Translation whisper all over again. The discovery of the photo on his ranch triggers a memory in Dolores's dad's robo-brain. He starts assuming the characteristics of his old storylines. He doesn't do his daily duties. It's creepy, and it elicits an inaudible comment from Jeffrey Wright's character. But what was it? Will we see him again? And how did Bernard send him off into the great android containment unit in the sky (er, basement)?
How are the robots able to dream and feel emotion?
Throughout the episode, the term "dream" is used rather loosely. Can the hosts actually dream? Or are they programmed to experience specific episodes when they're turned off -- which they believe to be dreams? What about emotion? One of the most uncanny elements of the robots is how easily they can turn on and off their affects -- shout out to Evan Rachel Wood's phenomenal acting -- but how are they programmed? And how legit are these emotions? There's something almost too sincere about Dolores.
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