Friday, October 7, 2016

Pilot Review: Westworld

Westworld (HBO)
Premiered October 2 at 9pm

I had heard a lot about this show for a few months, and partially because I’m not familiar with the movie that it inspired it, I had no idea what it was about. I’m well aware that when HBO invests in a project, it’s well worth checking out to see what motivated the strong talent at the network to select it. This show definitely fits the bill of momentous epic, with lavish set design recreating the Old West and then a much more clinical science fiction laboratory where all the behind-the-scenes machinations exist. This show is definitely about people playing God, moving around little parts to create storylines and help people indulge their fantasies in this very elaborate world that they’ve created. What’s strange to me is that Jeffrey Wright’s Bernard and Shannon Woodward’s Elsie seem like noble scientists, and that doesn’t exactly track with the kind of work that they’re doing. We also have Ed Harris’ chilling villain, who seems set on getting to the next level of the game and figuring out the deeper purpose, which makes the notion that the “newcomers” aren’t being carefully tracked by the engineers of this world extremely disconcerting. I’m impressed by the talent this show has amassed, starting with Wright and Woodward, as well as the always unrecognizable Rodrigo Santoro as the purposely homicidal Hector. Film veterans Anthony Hopkins and Harris both seem like perfect fits for their roles, and their interest in this project speaks volumes. Evan Rachel Wood and James Marsden both demonstrate extraordinary commitment to their parts, and I think they’ll prove even more interesting as the show progresses and more glitches emerge. This show definitely has potential, and I’m pleased to report that it’s less dense from the start than a number of terrific HBO shows were.

How will it work as a series? Ending the episode with Wood’s Dolores killing a fly after just minutes earlier asserting that she wasn’t capable of killing a living thing proved a strong finish, and those kinds of small defects are honestly even more intriguing than the big mistakes. There’s definitely a long story to be told here.
How long will it last? This show is incredibly expensive to make, but fortunately it seems to be paying off. Reviews have been pretty solid, and the ratings as initially reported seem to be decent. This doesn’t compare to some of HBO’s bigger juggernauts but ranks above unimpressive debuts, so for now I would give this one a shot at a long, healthy life full only of bugs on the show.

Pilot grade: B

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