In the ‘Westworld’ recap for the series debut, welcome to a fantasy world where you are bound only by the limits of your imagination and morality never rears its ugly head…
By Damon Martin — Editor/Lead Writer
Imagine a world where you are bound only by the limits of your own imagination where no rules actually apply.
A world where everyone and everything around you lives to serve out your fantasy without the moral conflictions that might restrict your ever wish or desire. Mix in some human-like androids known as hosts and “rich assholes” who can afford to satiate their every thirst and you get ‘Westworld’.
The very expensive and much beleaguered series on HBO that is being launched as a successor to ‘Game of Thrones’ — of course they’d never say that but with only two seasons left of that show it’s impossible to ignore what’s happening here — finally debuted on Sunday night and admittedly the show was as good as advertised.
Of course when you pack a series with Oscar winners like Anthony Hopkins and incredibly underrated ‘A’ listers like Jeffrey Wright, it would be tough for ‘Westworld’ not to be at least mildly watchable. Thankfully at least through the first episode, HBO might have a sci-fi series that strikes with equal parts of ‘Battlestar Galactica’, ‘Deadwood’ and ‘Jurassic Park’ and thus far it’s a very interesting show that should probably be added to your DVR now rather than later.
The first episode introduces us to this fantasy land for adults and children where the Wild West comes to life in a modern day ‘pick your own adventure’ type story where people plunk down what we have to imagine are millions of dollars to play cowboy, outlaw or any number of other roles that have been dreamed up by a group of programmers who build robots to serve as real life video games for the people in attendance.
It’s a fascinating premise — one that Michael Crichton first dreamed up back in 1973 — and it’s now being turned into a full series on HBO. One that had us intrigued from the day it was announced, but now we’re really paying attention.
With that said let’s recap the debut episode of ‘Westworld’ titled ‘The Original’….
The story in ‘Westworld’ opens with a bit of misdirection and confusion but it doesn’t take long to shake out what exactly is happening in this story.
At some point in the future, a theme park is built that allows customers to pay to play in a fantasy world that’s set up to look like the Old West. The customers — called newcomers — are dropped into the Old West setting with hundreds of possibilities for stories in a ‘choose your own adventure’ that could involve something as complex as searching for a murderous outlaw or simply toiling away in the local saloon (where songs like ‘Black Hole Sun’ and ‘Paint It Black’ are played on the piano) and spending the night with a mechanical prostitute. Meanwhile the androids are known as “hosts” and their job is specifically to interact with the “newcomers” and get involved in their adventures in whatever way their storylines take place. At the end of any particular day, the story is reset and everybody does it all over again tomorrow.
The first two ‘hosts’ we become familiar with are Teddy and Delores.
Delores is the picture of prairie beauty — complete with a little Southern lilt in her voice — and she spends her day painting in the fields or going into town to get groceries for her parents. Delores is essentially the Old West girl next door. Sadly, Delores’ beau Teddy seems like a patron at first, but we soon find out he’s actually one of the androids who is programmed to act as the love of her life over and over again.
This all comes to a head in one particularly violent scene early in the episode when Teddy encounters some bandits robbing Delores’ home and killing both of her parents. Teddy fights back and kills both of the murderous thieves but that’s when he rungs into “The Man in Black” (played by Ed Harris). It seems he’s been coming to the park for the past 30 years and with each trip, his fantasies apparently get more twisted and maniacal.
In this particular fantasy, the Man in Black kills Teddy and then rapes Delores because that’s what he wants to do. Every level of depravity is served at Westworld.
While the patrons play a Wild West version of ‘Grand Theft Auto’, the programmers upstairs are tweaking and tinkering with the androids to make them better, more realistic but most importantly still under their control.
According to the story the last tragic incident in this park too place 30 years ago and while details weren’t given, it obviously wasn’t good. In other words, we’re about due for some dinosaurs to break free and start eating motherfuckers.
The head programmer is Bernard Lowe (played by Jeffrey Wright) and he’s the main in charge of the day to day running of the androids created by the man responsible for Westworld — Dr. Robert Ford (played by Anthony Hopkins) — and he’s the Dr. Frankenstein meets Hannibal Lecter, who makes and ultimately controls whatever happens in this fantasy land.
Lately many of the ‘hosts’ have started to exhibit some strange behaviors after an update was run on the software to introduced ‘reveries’ into the programming. Something as simple as a swipe across the lips from one of the prostitute robots absolutely amazes Bernard, but the problem is the new update is seemingly misfiring in many of the other androids.
Cullen — the head of operations — decides that the 200 or so hosts who have been reprogrammed with this new update should be taken offline immediately and checked for similar tics. This enrages Lee Sizemore — the loud British chappy who writes the narrative for the storylines that take place in the park — because removing that many robots could disturb the 1400 or so guests who are currently enjoying their fantasy experience. Of course, Sizemore is also the one who notes that the technology being used in this theme park could go far beyond indulging the overpaid people who visit on a regular basis.
Over the course of the next few “loops”, we see even more androids bugging out as a result of the most recent update.
The sheriff in one story freezes up and has a stroke of sorts right in the middle of a hunt for an outlaw. One of the murderous thieves that killed Delores’ parents in the first loop, has now gone completely psycho during a robbery and he ends up killing his partner and just about every other ‘host’ who interacts with him. Thankfully the primary programming behind every android — that no living thing can be harmed — is still holding up (which is pretty much a sign that it’s all going to fall apart soon enough).
The strangest occurrence happens with Delores’ father Pete Abernathy, who finds a photo laying underneath the dirt on his farm and as he examines the picture, he’s absolutely transfixed by what he’s seeing. The photo shows a woman in a modern city — New York perhaps? — and he’s enthralled and mystified by what he’s seeing. When he shows the photo to Delores, her programming kicks in and she acts like this is no big deal, but her “father” is somehow malfunctioning at the mere sight of this image.
The repeated problems force Bernard to pull the malfunctioning ‘hosts’ out of circulation, which then makes Lee adjust his storyline so the customers are still getting their money’s worth.
Meanwhile, the Man in Black continues to exhibit his own odd behavior as he finds an android, drags him into the middle of the desert, scalps him and finds a map of sorts on the underside of his skull. Why is the Man in Black so curious about what lies beneath this place? Every sign points to the Man in Black being an android instead of a human, but during an early scene when he gets into a firefight with Teddy (who is a robot), he can’t really harm him. In other words, Teddy can’t hurt a human, which means the Man in Black must be a human. Right?
Finally, all of the troubled robots are pulled from their stories and put into examination rooms upstairs.
Dr. Ford talks to Abernathy when the robot spazzes out and grabs him at one point before quoting back Shakespeare to him. As disturbing as the scene was to viewers, Dr. Ford explains that “Abernathy” was actually just accessing an old file that was a story of his from more than 20 years ago when he played a cannibalistic killer used in a horror fantasy. Back then that killer quoted Shakespeare.
The androids are wiped and reset at the beginning of each day but think of this as a computer file — you can erase, reboot and rewrite over and over again but a lot of hackers would tell you that the information is never truly gone. It seems these androids who were given the latest update, are now twitching and in some cases actually finding old program files that were left behind while they were reprogrammed.
That means poor Pete Abernathy is going to be taken down into cold storage — a sub basement room where all the old, malfunctioning robots are left to rot when they can no longer be used or reprogrammed. It’s the same place where Old Bill — the second oldest android in the park is kept — a robot that Dr. Ford still interacts with from time to time. When Abernathy and the psychotic robot who went HAM in the saloon are placed in the storage locker, Pete looks glassy eyed as if he’s about to cry.
Upstairs, Stubbs (played by Luke Hemsworth), the head of security, is “interrogating” Delores after this latest series of incidents. Delores is the oldest still functioning robot that’s operating in the park and Stubbs questions her about a wide range of subjects including the question of whether or not she’s ever lied to them. During the questioning, Delores tells Stubbs about the words her “father” whispered into her ear after showing her the picture back on the farm.
“These violent delights have violent ends”
Of course, Delores has no idea what this means and neither does Stubbs, but he’s clearly curious about the behavior exhibited by the robots since this dangerous update.
After this line of questioning is finished, the day is reset once again and Delores along with her beau Teddy are put back into the storyline. Teddy rides a train into town like he does every other day and Delores wakes up in bed before going downstairs where she encounters a new father that replaced the malfunctioning Abernathy, who is now in cold storage.
The conversation between father and daughter is nearly identical to every other day the story begins except for one huge difference. When a fly lands on Delores — an act that happens throughout the opening episode for effect to show that these androids can’t hurt any living creature, not even a fly — she reacts and smacks the bug dead on her neck.
The prime directive has been violated.
‘Westworld’ returns with a brand new episode next Sunday night at 9pm ET on HBO