5 Ways Westworld Is Re-Writing TV’s Rulebook
By Olivia Armstrong
Westworld is not your average drama. While it harnesses all of the elements of prestige television — sweeping production values, top-notch writing, award-worthy performances, there’s a boldness in its development and storytelling that defies expectations. A binge-worthy parable about the evolving face of technology, Westworld is also an example of how “peak TV” continues to charge forward. Here’s why.
It defies genre.
Co-creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy took two of entertainment’s more polarizing genres — western and sci-fi — and layered them together in a way that’s not only compelling, but increasingly relevant, thanks to the rise of artificial intelligence in our everyday lives. Westworld’s emotionally-gripping themes of revolution, destiny and curiosity transcend to a place of empathy for both the robotic “hosts” and the humans who interact with them.
Characters (literally) break their molds.
The draw of Westworld’s fantasy playground is that wealthy vacationers get to interact with hosts who look, feel and act human, and are programmed to fulfill an exact role — farmer’s daughter, madam, cowboy next door, outlaw, to name a few. But as the hosts grow aware of what’s happening, they begin to challenge their programming. Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton), for example, has been coded to serve as the madam of Westworld’s saloon. She’s also a deceivingly adept business woman who learns how to make newcomers and Delos employees work for her, and is anything but a damsel in distress.
Women lead on and off screen.
The cast spotlights a slew of complex female characters, played by Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton and Tessa Thompson. Behind the camera, Westworld features a number of women in positions of power: co-creator Lisa Joy produces and writes, director Michelle MacLaren (The Deuce, Game of Thrones) was the eye behind Season 1’s buzzed about ninth episode “The Well-Tempered Clavier”; and the production management, set decoration, costume design, makeup, and casting department are all run by women.
It's a reminder ethics come with tech interactions.
With the rise of virtual and augmented reality in apps, fan events like Comic-Cons, and video games, the hosts of the park feel like the walking and talking next step in technological fantasy play. As these hosts become conscious, and wary, of this strange world around them, it gives viewers pause: What if the artificial intelligence around us — Alexa, Siri, characters in video games — felt oppressed by human demands, wants and needs?
Salon writer Catherine Baab-Muguira delves deeper into this thinking: “How you see the show depends on your own programming, and how aware you are of it. Westworld is a kind of litmus test for wokeness.”
There's plenty to think on.
If you allow yourself to fall down the Reddit rabbit hole of Westworld, chances are you’ll discover a fan theory or two (but more likely, a few dozen). Though the drama is based on Michael Crichton's 1973 movie and book of the same, it leans into its own originality, which has catalyzed fans to scour the web for any and all answers they can find. Binge-watching from start to finish is the perfect way to play along.
Westworld Season 1 is available to stream. Watch the first episode for free.
“I think there might be something wrong with this world.” What happens when Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) begins to question her reality? Find out in Episode 1 of Westworld.
Watch the first episode of Westworld for free without an HBO subscription. Co-created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, the genre-defying drama follows the dawn of artificial intelligence and the evolution of sin. Catch up now before it returns in 2018.