Back in 1973, one of the robots (Yul Brynner) in a Wild West theme park went a bit berserk. Fast forward 40-plus years, and the new Westworld shows that sometimes revisiting old ideas really is a good idea, and that TV is no longer the poor cousin of the big screen. In fact, this 10-hour series shows that the mature format is a really excellent way of telling complex, layered stories.
Without giving too much away, Westworld is still a theme park – the theme park, a place where (very rich) people can go to live out their wildest fantasies. Want to shoot bad guys, play with the saloon girls, discover who you really are? Let the park’s ‘hosts’ (aka robots) cater to your every whim.
Meanwhile, we also get to see behind the scenes. The programmers, the behavioural specialists, the cleaner-uppers, all striving to make these automatons as real as possible. And that’s not ever going to go wrong, right?!
I can’t praise this series highly enough. The cast is absolutely amazing, often called upon to display several different versions of their characters. The set design is outstanding, from the futuristic, rather sinister working areas, to the expanse of the old West in all its glory and otherwise. Oh, and the soundtrack: excellent original scoring, but then – wait, is that honky-tonk piano playing Radiohead?! Yup, and The Stones, The Cure, Soundgarden – it’s just another layer of ‘wow’ on a show that has been done *so* well!
Then there’s the plot. Westworld is one of those shows that is made to mess with your mind. From the opening scene, nothing is ever as it seems, challenging the viewer to question their expectations and perceptions – which is just so damned perfect for a show in which reality is absolutely up for question.
The mark of an amazing story, in any medium, is that it is something you can watch again and again. Westworld is a whole different place when you view it for a second time, knowing some of the ‘twists’, and I have no problem with the idea of watching it again, again (!), and probably picking up more every time.
First broadcast: October 2016
Episodes: 10 @ ~56 mins each
My rating: 10/10