30 Pilots in 30 Days: Westworld

Had I seen it before: Nope.

What IMDb says: Set at the intersection of the near future and the reimagined past, explore a world in which every human appetite, no matter how noble or depraved, can be indulged without consequence.

I picked this show because I literally have no clue what it’s about, and that thrills the crap out of me. It’s really quite rare that we get that opportunity. When you watch the Breaking Bad pilot for this first time, you know it’s about a chem teacher that gets cancer and starts cooking meth. When you watch the Buffy the Vampire Slayer pilot, you know it’s about a teenage girl who slays vampires. Usually some combination of marketing materials and word on the street tells us a general concept before we watch. I mean, how could we decide which pilots to watch if we didn’t have any information about any of them?

Somehow Westworld managed to get a decent amount of word on the street and awards nominations without me ever actually learning the premise, and so I was able to evaluate its ability to singlehandedly build its own world.

What I liked: The premise here is off-the-wall in the best possible way. There’s this old west virtual reality world where tourists can go and fuck around as they please. All the robots (I think they’re robots?) have strict narratives they’re supposed to adhere to, barring interference by the tourists. Only in the pilot, there’s been some updates and things are starting to go awry and sometimes they aren’t adhering to the narratives. There’s a strong possibility that Westworld might not be safe for tourists anymore. From the very first scene I was interested to see what would happen next, and that feeling never went away.

It’s also the kind of concept that makes you think about real issues without being too heavyhanded. Should humans really be given a virtual world where they’re allowed to act out every terrible impulse they have? Should we trust tech companies that offer such opportunities or is something bound to go wrong when we try? What happens when the lines between human and machine get too blurry? It’s the type of fascinating shit I’m happy to explore for years to come.

It turns out that Westworld is actually based on a 1973 Michael Crichton film, which I didn’t know when I started watching. After I knew that I was like “duh, OF COURSE it’s a Michael Crichton idea, how could it have been anyone else’s?”

I don’t always make a point of talking about this kind of stuff because I’m not good about it, but I need to make a point of saying that the technical execution of Westworld was fantastic. It’s a show I wish I could watch in a theater. and the soundtrack is lovely as well. Orchestral arrangements of sad rock songs? Sign me up.

What I didn’t like: This one is almost a little too mysterious for its own good. It raises a fuckton of questions which is great but it would be nice if it answered at least one of them. I was waiting for it to build up to some fascinating revelation that would change everything and I’m not sure it quite got there. It’s like they realized there’s something wrong and something bad is gonna happen and at the end of the pilot all we really know is… something is wrong and something bad is gonna happen. I’m sure that payoff will happen in a future episode but it would be nice to get a little more by the end of the pilot, especially considering it’s a little on the long side.

There’s also so many characters introduced that it’s pretty much impossible for any of them to get any development. It’s like I went to a friend’s dinner party and shook a bunch of people’s hands but didn’t get to sit down with anyone and really delve into their life story.

Do I want to watch Ep. 2: Yes. I’m intrigued but I would also want it to get really fucking good within the next episode or two. If I still feel like I’m just waiting for something to happen on ep. 4 I’d probably call it quits.

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