Westworld Season 1, Episode 1: A Fly in the Ointment

There’s something really pleasing about a high concept, high budget show that juggles complex issues and many storylines, while at the same time not taking itself too seriously. Thanks to the staged aspect of the park, the writers are able to wink at the audience without shying away from the ethical implications of a world comprised of AIs.

Westworld Season 1, Episode 1

Before I begin analyzing the episode let’s get some things straight:

  • I have not seen the original film.
  • As a pro-cylon moderate I consider all acts of violence on AIs pretty much equivalent to acts of violence perpetrated on humans.
  • I will continue the RPG and VG jokes in the recaps for as long as humanly possible. (I didn’t even use any Asimov material this time around!)

The Good

  • The opening is gorgeous. It taps right into my love for How It’s Made, 3D printing, and vaguely creepy anatomy and body engineering.
  • The use of piano roll between scenes is an act of pure genius. It seamlessly manages to connect the birth of programming to the futuristic technology of the world in which it is set. Deliciously meta of them.
  • There is a fine line between going ridiculously theme-parkish with the setting and making it implausibly realistic, which they are currently balancing well. The campiness of certain NPCs was welcome, but that was not always the case.
  • The mere fact that the script plays with the lives of NPCs gives my nerd heart joy. What are they doing when no waiting for an adventurer to walk by?
  • The acting is extraordinary as is to be expected and I’m looking forward to more from the rest of the ensemble.
  • Dolores is being set up to have an amazing arc and I for one can’t wait. Never has the swatting of one fly promised so much.

The Bad

  • My problems concerning nudity and sexual violence are hardly as many as with that other HBO show, however, I understand why many find it off-putting. (Why on earth would an NPC be programmed to talk about Dolores’ -otherwise unseen- mother like that?)
  • I have yet to warm to the actual humans. When recapping I was surprised to see how little footage we had of the facilities, compared to how long I had thought the scenes were. I’m never a fan of too much exposition though I understand why so much of it had to happen this episode, and I’m a known AI sympathizer, so hopefully that changes in the coming episodes.

The Unclear

  • Even setting aside the possibility of AI on human violence, and accepting that the guns use some form of technology conceptually similar to laser tag -thus harming the AIs which are programmed to react, but not the humans- we still have the matter of human on human violence. The man in black carries a pretty serious knife and there are plenty of other ways one could kill. Considering the rocky terrain, one doesn’t even have to be particularly inventive.
  • The sexual aspect and the gritty violence may be a little trumped up when seen from a worldbuilding point of view. This is a park available only to the very wealthy, almost all of which could probably get away with murder and would definitely get away with assault or any other number of crimes they can throw lawyers at. I’d have loved to have seen the roleplaying given more of the love it deserves.

Here’s to a brilliant season of TV!

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