For Westworld co-creator Jonathan Nolan, intricate plots run in the family. There are times where they’ve really worked for his brother Christopher (Memento), and times when they’ve been so fiddly and capricious that you kind of lose patience/interest (Inception, don’t @ me).
Westworld, I fear, is veering towards the latter.
*This review mentions spoilers in passing*
Tonight’s season 1 finale was an undisputed feast for the eyes, a feature-length instalment packed full of action, suspense and twists, showcasing some incredible set design and set pieces.
Bernard was brought back online, the true nature of The Maze was revealed, Maeve made her escape only to have a change of heart/motherboard, major characters were bumped off, true identities were revealed and Ford let his hosts roam homicidal and free.
That's just scraping the surface - there was a ton of plot information unpackaged tonight for fans to compute and chew over until season 2 (which is just as well as it’s going to be a lengthy wait - probably until 2018), but again this came at the sacrifice of character.
The only characters I’m really invested in in the show are Ford and Bernard, one of whom is now dead, going the way of Ned Stark, while the other can seemingly be fixed infinite times, undermining any sense of peril to his storyline. There’s no Walter White or Tony Soprano in Westworld, there’s not even a Tyrion Lannister or Piper Chapman, and that would be okay if the plot made up for it. But, while impressively complex, it often feels a bit random, lurching and haphazard - I don’t doubt that it was carefully thought about, but it plays out as though the writers have written themselves into a corner. William being the Man in Black was kind of disappointing, reducing the character to a ruthless board member and the dialogue too often descends into pseudo-philosophy.
The themes underpinning the show are incredibly interesting and relevant, and yet most of the time consciousness is simply used as a plot device instead of getting the really thoughtful exploration it deserves and many viewers crave.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s enough event and intrigue to have me coming back for the second season, especially given the prospect of a Samuraiworld, which let's face it does sound pretty badass, but it’s not with too heavy a heart that I start my life not watching Dolores’ tear-soaked face gasping “Who am I?! When am I?!” every week.
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