Or Should We Get Involved In Another Mythology Series
There’s some part of me as a television viewer that has always been drawn, moth-like, to a mythology based series. And really, more than most people, I should know better by now. I devoted more than a decade of my life to X-Files, even though the longer the series was on the air, the more worn the narrative thread got. And I defended Lost to the last, even though it kept giving us more question than answers up to the very last second. I’ve watched at least half a dozen other mythos based series try to mine that same story with even less success than they did. So when Westworld debuted on HBO nearly two years, I was very reluctant to get involved. It came from the wellspring of J.J. Abrams, who brought us that crazy island in the first place, and it seemed to just offer fewer revelations than it actually promised to give.. But considering that millions jumped on board Season 1, the incredible starpower connected to it, and over 20 Emmy nominations last year, I figured I needed to at least watch a few episodes of Season 2 before I dismissed it outright.
Unless you were one of the host robots whose mind gets erased and rebooted, Westworld originated from a cult 70s movie series. In Season 1, Westworld, one of many theme parks owned by the Delos corporation, began to malfunctions. The hosts began to act without the controls and safeties that had worked flawlessly for thirty years. These included Dolores, a sweetheart homesteader (Evan Rachel Wood), Teddy, a would-be gunslinger (James Marsden) and Maeve (Thandie Newton), a brothel owner. Operated on by Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and Ford (Anthony Hopkins), it was eventually revealed that Ford, the designer of the park who was about to be fired, had begun to start ‘a new narrative’. To wit, the total revolt of the hosts and their overthrow of the park. The series climaxed with Dolores putting a bullet in the back of Ford’s head.
As Season 2 progresses, the chaos has, if anything, only amplified. Dolores has become a cold-blooded killer, willing to slaughter anyone, human or host, who gets in the way of her search for freedom. One can empathize to an extent, considering that for more than thirty years people have been using her for sex and murder, but the ruthlessness in her has gotten to the point that Teddy, the man (?) who loves her has begun to doubt her in a key moment. Maeve has reunited with some of her fellow companions with the vague admonition of finding the daughter that she had in an earlier incarnation. Bernard, who we learned late last season was nothing more than the robot incarnation of Ford’s initial partners, has been trying to play both sides, but its clear that there is some level of malfunction in him that can’t be easily corrected. Meanwhile, the corporation is in the process of trying to take back the park from the robots, viewing this as a financial matter, and its also become clear that the flaw in Westworld is spreading throughout the parts, one of which bares the resemblance of a safari. And I haven’t even gotten to the Man In Black (Ed Harris) , a man who has spent thirty years going through the park over and over like a gamer searching for Easter eggs — and has finally found one.
All of this is very well done, acted and written. Yet I can’t escape the premonition that much like so many other mythology series, there may be, in the long run, no ‘there’ there. We still don’t know when or where this park is, we keep getting fewer and answers and more questions with each episodes, and every episodes seems to include some kind of time shift that makes things more confusing. (It also doesn’t assuage my doubts that one of the hosts is played by Rodrigo Santoro, and anyone who watched Lost knows just what happened last time he was in an Abrams based series.) Even when X-Files was at is worst, it could fall back to something lighter in MOTW’s. And Lost, for all its faults, made up for them by having some of the most well drawn characters in the history of medium. Westworld still doesn’t seem to have much of a ‘new narrative’.
Now, I’m willing to give the show a fair amount of rope, mainly because I’m a huge fan of the cast. I’ve been in awe of Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton for more than twenty years, and their work as two completely different liberated hosts is fascinated. Jeffrey Wright has always been a good actor, and he seems more conflicted than anyone else in the cast. And of course, Harris has always been one of the greatest actors in history, and he bites into this role with the ferocity of wolf eating a T-Bone.
I’ll give it a chance because I’ve learned enough about mythology based series to know its about the journey, not the destination. But that doesn’t change the fact that at some point Westworld, as Hugo ‘Hurley’ Reyes might say, should give us ‘some frigging answers!”
My score:3.75 stars.