When a television show is dubbed as ‘the new Game of Thrones‘ then it’s very clear that there will be a heavy level of expectation immediately planted on its shoulders from the offset – Westworld had that very label. The latest show from HBO that presented a spanning catalogue of characters in a wholly expansive world, the television revision of the 1973 film was immediately faced with a heavy burden but, armed with a superb A-list cast and the likes of Jonathan Nolan and J.J. Abrams attached, it has thrived to become the breakout show of the year.
Westworld‘s premise is a rather simple one, with a strand of ongoing narratives that makes it one of the most engaging and intriguing television offerings for quite some time. Its basis is a theme park that allows visitors to live out their wildest fantasies within a land based on the Wild West, allowing copious gun-toting, prostitute-seeking and so much more in a land with seemingly limitless bounds.
Controlled by an expansive team, Westworld appears to be the ultimate escapist attraction but when technology begins to evolve and malfunction it spirals into a world where human power struggles emerge and the machines themselves begin to gain much more consciousness and power than could ever have been imagined.
Part of the beauty of a show such as Westworld is the ongoing story arcs that are unfolding within this vast landscape. Whether the machines who are programmed to carry out their regular narratives in the world itself or those ‘overlords’ who are controlling the proceedings, there is plenty for the audience to sink its teeth into in terms of story, character depth and unfolding mystery. From in-world madame Maeve (Thandie Newton) and her ongoing visions, to the attraction of the understated Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and the power struggle seeping its way into the hierarchy of the company running the show, this is a series that rarely lets up in its slow build of stories.
Perhaps most impressive about Westworld is its wonderful ability to pull the wool over the audiences’ eyes and create effective and shocking twists and turns throughout its ten episode stint. Starting with a true slow burn in its introduction to the world characters and their ongoing scenarios, we’re left with a desire to know more instantly but creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy aren’t prepared to give much away until it is really deemed necessary and, of course, highly effective. Many shows these days are guilty of producing shocking and high-powered openings only to falter at the hurdles to follow but not Westworld; here is a show that saviours its time to evolve stories, that tantalisingly teases the twists to come and even dangles them in front of you, but still manages to catch us off guard at the pivotal moments.
The presentation of the show is also second to none, with every inch of the sand-trodden landscape looking breathtaking and a real attention to detail with the appearance of each and every individual. The dark corridors of the Westworld headquarters themselves help to hide the deepest darkest depths of depravity that they contain, while the brightness of the world that has been forged is soon turned crimson with the bloody corpses of its hosts. It’s a wonderful concoction of beauty mixed in with the ugliness of human nature, culminating on sheer wonders unfolding before our eyes.
What’s also so tantalising about the show is the characters themselves; vast in their numbers, yet so beautifully rendered with the utmost care and attention. From the offset it is clear who the core characters are, but this is a show that can often surprise and release into the wilderness some individuals who you may have expected to be background players. One said person is Anthony Hopkins’ Dr. Robert Ford, seemingly set for a quick-fire cameo only to be a pivotal figurehead in the final half of the show. Ford is not the only fascinating individual among the cast; Jeffrey Wright’s Bernard is the character with possibly the biggest evolution throughout the ten-episode stint, while the likes of Dolores, The Man In Black (Ed Harris), William (Jimmi Simpson) and even Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr) all have their major parts to play. One particular character who stole our undivided attention was Maeve, played succinctly by a world-beating Thandie Newton and paving the way for much intrigue heading into a further season.
Westworld is a delight to behold and one of those television shows that proves that we really are in a golden age on the small screen. It may be way too early to gage whether this could well be the next Game of Thrones but it’s certainly a fantastic start to proceedings and there’s plenty of scope for us to hit the saddle once more and fire those six-shooters time and time again.
Westworld is available NOW to download, discover and watch on iTunes