WESTWORLD OR HOW I STOPPED WORRYING AND LEARNED HOW TO LOVE ANDROIDS
In 1973, Michael Crichton wrote and directed Westworld, a movie about an amusement park in the future where the androids who were built to give people a real Western movie experience, suddenly rebelled. A few years later, a TV series called Beyond Westworld was made based on this premise.
The movie was a mild hit, but the TV show was cancelled after just five episodes.
In 2016, HBO made a new TV series based on this premise. Westworld is an amusement park where wealthy guests pay to live out their wildest fantasies. Set in the old West of Hollywood movies, the good guys wear whites hats and the bad, blackl. The 'hosts' are all androids who look and act as humans - except, they can never harm or kill any guest. The hosts are given elaborate back stories, often requiring them to find someone or some place. Meanwhile, the guests are as good or as bad as they want to be. With no restraints on their behavior, guests can kill, rape, impede or help the hosts. As one human character says, you find out who you really are.
The first season of Westworld was the set-up. Various guests come to the park for various reasons and we see the hosts being programmed and recharged by the management that runs the park. The drama is injected into the show by the fact that the original creators and investors have different views on how this unique business should grow.
In its second season, Westworld aims for a higher dramatic arc:what does it mean to be human? What does it mean to love, to care for, to imagine, to be free?
The androids have rebelled. Delores is an android who gave to the guests in the first season the feelings they yearned for - gentleness, innocence, kindness, beauty. In the second season, she has turned on the guests and the management - she has become free and, like so many free humans, has chosen to revenge those who had so callously manipulated her. Now, she is a killing machine, willing to do whatever it takes to break free into the 'real' world.
All of the emotions we think of as truly human are questioned. Delores' lover, an android character, is reminded by a human manager that he was built to love someone else; he responds that what he felt for this other woman was 'just words in my head.' And what is love? Is it more than just words in your head? Feelings? What are they if not a way to react to the world or to a person with something that has been programmed inside of us?
Westworld has elaborate plots, complicated characters, incredible sets and costumes - but in the end it is a TV show about soul. What is it and who has it? As its characters search the depths of the human experience, there are battles, shootouts, excursions into other 'worlds' (such as Empire world that takes place in British Raj India) and flashbacks to the origins of these virtual worlds. Lots of blood, nudity (the androids aren't real, so it's just like seeing a naked doll, right?) philosophising about the nature of being human and some real drama. You may like it if you liked Lost or Star Trek or existential philosophy. Or John Ford movies.