The Depth of 'Westworld'
“Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could that they didn’t stop to think if they should.” — Dr. Ian Malcolm, "Jurassic Park"
"Westworld" is the latest drama series to debut on HBO, and it's a series the network has spent years developing. Based on the 1973 film from Michael Crichton, and produced by Jonathan Nolan and his wife, Lisa Joy, the series debuted on October 2. It carried with it the weight of critical and fan expectation.
HBO has struggled of late. That seems funny to say about a network that just cleaned up at the Emmys, but it's the truth. HBO's bench is shallower than its ever been. "Game of Thrones" is the best show on TV, but it has two seasons and 13 episodes left. "VEEP" and "Silicon Valley" are great comedies, but they're getting older. And HBO's big hopes for the future haven't materialized.
"Vinyl," the series from Martin Scorsese, was cancelled. "True Detective" flamed out in the second season. "Boardwalk Empire" is gone. "Girls" has one season left. HBO, in other words, has some holes to fill. Enter "Westworld," a pricy show that hopes to fill that prestige void.
Through two episodes, the ratings haven't matched that, but the content certainly has. It's one of the finest new shows of the year, and an incredibly compelling watch. And that's thanks to the brilliant fusion of the ideologies that work for Crichton and Nolan projects.
I am a huge Crichton fan, and always have been. One of the things I love about his work is the depth of thought. His projects — from the most famous to the least — have a common thread — what happens when man over reaches or tries to play God? And that is very much a part of the fabric of Westworld.
The show is about a theme park, of sorts, that's been created to give people a place to live out their darkest fantasies. Everything has been created to be a "real" as possible. And that's where the trouble lies. The creators have attempted to play God in creating the park and the "hosts," human-like beings made to serve as victims to the whims of the park patrons. In the original film, the hosts rebelled against their human leaders. I sense that is coming in this series as well, and would dovetail with the typical themes from Crichton.
But there is something else here that makes "Westworld" as fascinating series, and that's the typical exploration in Nolan projects — which look at the fallen nature of man. This series has done a good job, so far, of exploring what a park like this means — a place where people give into their darkest nature. And that, too, is fascinating.
"Westworld" isn't always an easy series to watch, but it's incredibly well put together. That makes it a fascinating journey, and one I look forward to continuing. And for the first time in a while, it gives HBO hope that it might have found the next chapter in its legacy of great drama.