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TV REVIEW: Westworld Season 1 – ‘A Truly Phenomenal Start’

When it began, I never thought that Westworld would be the kind of series I would be endlessly pondering over, reading fan theories, and generally indulging into quite the degree I did. What begins as a seemingly simple premise quickly expands into something quite spectacular: Jurassic Park but with robots turns bad when said robots learn of their sentience.

The clever twist (or at least, one of many) is that Westworld isn’t really about this at all – it’s about humanity. Very much a character study, the show seamlessly switches between multiple characters and shows the ways in which they react to the world around them. Take newcomer to the park William (Jimmi Simpson), for example; he enters Westworld as a morally righteous, yet impressionable young man. William doesn’t become the epitome of evil, but one of the show’s major plotlines is following his adventures in the park, and how they imprint upon him as a person. Can a simulated world reveal one’s true intentions?

William’s story is just one of several throughout the show, and that’s why it remains so engaging week after week. If, for whatever reason, you don’t find one character as interesting as some others then there’s almost a certainty that you’ll enjoy another. Inevitably, however, everybody’s story comes together before the curtains close; that’s just good writing. And writing is certainly the crux of where Westworld’s successes lie. In both the dialogue and the overarching structure of the series itself, everything is purposeful and feels like it ties naturally into something else. No stone is left unturned, and no character is left without a purpose – everything has been meticulously crafted to lend itself to a mysterious overarching plot.

I won’t spoil that plot here, but half the fun is trying to predict where things are going to be taken next. Perhaps it’s because I watched it weekly, but I can’t see Westworld being a show that’s quite as satisfying if watched in large, binge-filled sessions.

Westworld Review
Source: HBO

Many of the show’s major cliffhangers are resolved by the subsequent episode, and so immediately having that concluded by blazing through all ten in a weekend might not be as fulfilling as pacing them out. Where this might benefit, however, is during the mid-season episodes; they’re not necessarily boring, but the pacing definitely dips from the opening handful, and the concluding ones. This is understandable, as the stunning revelations wouldn’t be quite as poignant if characters weren’t properly built, but it’s a jarring change of pace that might leave a sour – if brief – taste in your mouth.

Overcome this, though, and you’re certainly in for a treat. By gradually hinting at details, creators Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan have created a world that’s just as deep as it wants to be. It’s easy to get wrapped up in these characters and their own lives, but the park as a whole feels like a real, living place. Events unfold in tandem with one another, and sneaky editing means that you’ll constantly be guessing as to where things will be headed next. It’s hard to properly talk about the show without giving away many of its startling twists and turns, but they’re certainly worth checking it out for. Recurring themes and repetition may at first seem strangely dull, but it’s crucial in understanding the story that’s being told.

Trust me on this: you’ll want to stick around till the end.

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