Westworld: Chestnut

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“Everything in this world is magic, except to the magician.”

Season 1, Episode 2 – Chestnut

Westworld’s setting is vast and rich in history. It’s clear that we’ve only begun to scratch the surface of the show’s potential, and on its second episode Westworld reinforces to the audience that this will not be a simple tale of enslaved robots rising against their masters. Which is a comfort, because that story arc can be covered in the span of just a few episodes. How long the series gets to that point, however, is still up in the air. But an even more interesting question is if the show will even reach that point.

Yes, Dolores, her father, and now Maeve have become more self-aware, but not to the point where they are longing to improve their current situation. Right now, the hosts’ moments of “there’s-a-glitch-in-the-matrix” are just that: glitches. These moments seem to come and go and the hosts have yet to retain most of the memories in order to reach a point where they want to put an end as being the playthings of their guests.

Obviously the series has only just begun and these developments will take time to become fully realized (if they ever do), but I’m getting the sense that this series is far more interested in the creators than the hosts, simply because there seems to be more potential with exploring the idea of what it is to play God than triumphing over the cruel masters. Where Anthony Hopkins’ Robert Ford character gets a cursory introduction last episode, in this one we are made aware that his ambitions run far deeper. It’s simply not enough that the hosts look, act, and feel like humans. They have to think in ways that humans can, including being able to believe in a higher power.

The hosts are in a continual state of being “improved” upon, and this show is able to tackle far more than the usual dreams and memories that have humanized artificial intelligence in past films, TV series, and novels. We get to see how the hosts evolve and adapt with their new upgrades, which elevates the series far above the seemingly inevitable violent revolt that it keeps foreshadowing. I’m almost hesitant to see the show go in that route at this point, because it’s easy to imagine the hosts finally taking arms and killing their masters, but that seems to be a bit below what the show is trying to achieve. It’s easy to root for the unfortunate hosts as they become more human, but if the end goal is to simply escape Westworld, I’m afraid that the show will become less interesting than it is.

There are mysteries in the world itself that have yet to be explored, as evidenced by Ed Harris’ Man in Black character. It’s become apparent that Westworld isn’t just a futuristic amusement park. It’s a completely different reality in and of itself, and exploring what it means to go deeper into Westworld is a more exciting proposition than the plight of the hosts.

Of course, the beauty of long-form storytelling such as a series of novels or a TV show is that there’s a lot of time to explore every interesting concept and direction that the story can go. I mentioned in my review of the first episode that Jonathan Nolan and HBO wouldn’t have invested in this admittedly simple story unless they have some major plans of expanding it beyond what Michael Crichton presented in his novel and film. Seeing the world-building take its roots as early as the second episode shows a lot of promise and confidence that Westworld has the potential to throw out more than enough surprises down the line.

8/10

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