Philosophy, suspense make ‘Westworld’ prime television

Star-stacked: "Westworld" boasts a talented and amazing cast list. Names like Sir Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood, Luke Hemsworth, Ed Harris, Tessa Thompson, Clifton Collins Jr, and Jeffrey Wright should be somewhat familiar names. Don't sleep on the show's lesser-known actors though, Rodrigo Santoro, Sidse Babett Knudson, Leonardo Nam, Ingrid Berdal, and Thandie Newton also do amazing jobs in the series.

Andrew Shermoen

Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality? That’s the question that the Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan duo asks the audience of their newest show “Westworld.” Joy and Nolan fill the screen with cerebral moments constantly begging the audience to question if they are comfortable with what they are seeing. The show asks deep questions about the nature of humanity, the future of artificial intelligence, and what our world is for. “Westworld” is wonderful viewing although it has its flaws, but the end result is a captivating season of television filled with deep questions and twists you may never see coming.

“Westworld” is a western-themed amusement park that provides attendants with incredibly lifelike experiences. The park is populated by androids, called “hosts,” that believe their world is real. These hosts have their memories wiped of past interactions every time they are killed or the story they tell reaches its conclusion. The human guests are encouraged to take part in the park’s numerous story lines, but the guests usually just murder the hosts, or torture them in an even worse manner. After an update is made to the code of several hosts, as they begin to malfunction and can remember past deaths and memories, they are beginning to gain sentience. After realizing the actions of their creators, only one thing is on their mind: revenge.

That’s how this story kicks off with a desire for revenge. The shows narrative is compelling, it tells the story of a subjugated class rebelling against their oppressors. The show almost works as a very convincing slavery allegory, if not just a tale of minority uprising. What is most compelling, is that the uprising is led by characters who are, in fact, minorities. The two main hosts that begin to gain sentience and fight back against their oppressors are Dolores, played by the consistently amazing Evan Rachel Wood, and Maeve, played by the equally amazing Thandie Newton. Both are female characters who have found themselves rebelling against a primarily male dominated industry. Their lives have been controlled and written by men, and now they write their own story. The show handles its politics with a subtle and hidden hand, but there’s just enough that you can’t help but appreciate the risks the show takes. It also features a racially diverse cast featuring many hosts whose rebellion resembles a world turning towards diversity and inclusivity.

Amongst the show’s other moral conversations, is the nature of humanity and reality. “Westworld” features dozens of theories on what constitutes humanity, each more compelling than the last. The show presents you with characters who appear human, but are distinctly not, because when they are killed by a guest they can just be rebuilt. While many complain that this removes the potency of death, “Westworld” is not occupied with death as a concept for what defines human life. Yes, taking away the ability for a character to die means their death will mean nothing. Their constant death is not the tragedy of these characters though, it is the wiping of their memories. The show’s unique perspective on what defines a human soul is unique and fascinating and makes you care for these characters even more.

There is still much more to like about “Westworld” other than its philosophical ponderings. The show has a plethora of mysteries for you to sink your teeth into and obsess over. Although, the show is a bit overabundant with these mysteries. The show often sacrifices character development in favor of adding more twists and mysterious elements. It’s an obvious weakness that the show does not feature as many interesting and strong characters as something like “Game of Thrones” does.

“Westworld” is an incredibly well-done show. It falters in many moments and many of its characters, who are not hosts, lack nuance. It is still an amazingly fun and intriguing sci-fi mystery with a lot to say about the human condition, the nature of life and how we treat artificial intelligence.

Rating: 3.5/5