Summary: Westworld is an amusement park created by Robert Ford which consists of several lifelike robots, or hosts, that make it feel like a real life world. Guests are allowed to go in and can even kill the hosts, which are then fixed up by the staff at night. There is a mysterious man in the park who has been coming for 30 years with a secret agenda. An update was created by Ford but it's causing many of the hosts to malfunction and they are getting dangerous.
The Good: Westworld chose to open its season with massive amounts of mystery and intrigue which leaves our heads absolutely spinning trying to piece things together. It's such an ambitious choice and I think it's one that really works because it instantly makes this engaging television which leaves you desperate for more. The hook of this episode is the desire for answers, which I think it creates seamlessly in the first five minutes and it manages to explore it fantastically for the rest of the hour, even going as far as to top the mystery and intrigue that other great shows like Lost created. Of course this mystery-grounded introduction does leave room for some flaws (see: The Bad), but as long as those flaws can be corrected in future episodes while answers are slowly revealed, this can be another great TV show.
The show had an absolutely enthralling first scene which set up the setting, characters and premise of the show in a wonderful way. The early plot twist that Teddy was actually a host was a good surprise which provides a great hook to keep the viewer watching for the rest of the hour, with a lot of speculation going on in their head (see: The Unknown).
I also like the choice to show the same sort of scene over and over again to establish that the story will take place over many days, and more importantly to establish the repetitive nature of the lives of the hosts in order to help us sympathize a little more with them. It's a great choice from a cinematic perspective and it also pays dividends in the story which makes it a very smart inclusion.
I like the issues with the update being shown over and over. It adds a large sense of tension, letting us know that these robots are very unstable and we can't be sure what they may do next. The escalation of the malfunctions is excellent as we climax when Dolores actually kills a fly, despite the creators of the hosts saying "they can't even harm a fly". It's a great scene that lets us understand the impending danger ahead which will surely keep us on the edge of our seats.
Speaking of keeping us on the edge of our seats, I thought the shootout scene was really well done. By no means will we care about the people involved, and the show knew that so it kept us hooked in a different way: the show kept us interested to see what Lee's programmed speech was, which I thought was very smart. It didn't add tension to the scene, but rather it built anticipation in a splendidly organic way to ensure that we wouldn't get bored by the constant violence which was on display.
The scope of this show is really impressive. It has aimed really big and I absolutely hope it can succeed with its huge storyline. Additionally, I think the shooting of the show is excellent at conveying the grand scope of the show as many glorious shots display the vast mystery of Westworld.
The Bad: The nature of putting so much mystery in this show makes it really tough to review it. So much is put in The Unknown, and not enough in The Good. I enjoy the mystery, but it can't really be considered a good story. TV shows need a good story for us to really be emotionally invested as we can almost always relate in some way to a character's personal story arc. This show doesn't give us any story, and rather it hammers in a lot of plot. Sure it's intriguing to find out where the plot is headed since so much is unclear, but without a memorable story to keep us hooked in, it becomes a real chore to spend an entire season just watching a mystery slowly unfold. Of course this major flaw can e fixed if we can get real characters on the show who we can relate to and grow attached to. The human we have so far are totally generic and two-dimensional, whereas the hosts are robots and as such can't exactly be considered characters since they aren't even real.
And as a side note, Lee's character is totally obnoxious and clichéd. I really don't need to see any more of him unless he receives some proper development so I can have a reason to care for him.
The Unknown: So much to put in here.
What is the time period exactly? How far into the future is the story taking place? We know that Westworld has been open at least 30 years due to mentions of an outbreak from 30 years ago. What was that outbreak? What caused it? What happened? How was it resolved?
Who is the man in black from the intro scene? He says he has been going to the park for 30 years, meaning he was around for the outbreak. Was he a part of it? Did he cause the outbreak? Could he have saved the park from the outbreak? Is he plotting for another outbreak? What are his motives exactly? What did he do with Dolores? He said he had a history with her, so what is that history? Why did he specifically target Dolores and Kissy? What was that on Kissy's scalp? Is it a symbol? A map? What does it mean? And why does the man want it? How does he plan to use it?
Ford is another mysterious character. I was tempted to put him in The Good, but we know too little about him. What are his motives? Why did he create the hosts? What does he want to do with them? How is he able to control them like that? Did he program them to be controlled by him somehow? Or is he a host too? We have seen the host twist in the intro scene, so I'm betting that one of the human characters is a host. My money is on Ford programming himself to be a host at this point. What did he mean by his "we are as good as we are going to get" speech. It hints at his motives, but doesn't come anywhere close to revealing them.
What is the problem with the update? Is it the reveries which are causing things to go downhill? What is happening to the hosts exactly? Why are they getting so confused and receiving non-programmed lines? Why did the fly affect the sheriff? Why did the picture affect Peter? Why was Dolores able to kill the fly? What is significant about Dolores? She is the oldest host, so does that mean anything? Could she have been modelled after a significant person in Ford's life, seeing as she is the first host?
What was with Walter going on a killing spree? Clearly the reverie of milk caused him to murder with the milk, but why didn't he die when he was shot? What caused him to keep going?
Why did Elsie kiss Clementine? What was the point of that scene? It felt extremely awkward and out of place, so I was tempted to place it in The Bad, but I get the feeling there is some significance to it.
Where were Walter and Peter sent away to? How many other hosts are there? Where is Westworld exactly? Is it in a desert? Space? Underwater? Seeing the leaking water in that one room makes me suspect it may be underwater with a fake sky, but I'm not completely sure about that.
Best Moment: I really enjoyed Ford's speech. Anthony Hopkins is a brilliant actor and the scene had loads of interesting mystery.
Character of the Episode: Ford.
Conclusion: This was a very unique pilot episode. It completely lacked in character and story development, but the mystery is so gripping and exciting to follow that it makes this pilot one of the most engaging and genuinely thought-provoking I have seen. I think it should be considered a great pilot because of what it accomplishes. It's just up to the rest of the series to correct the errors that this episode did make.
Just a university student who loves to watch TV. And criticize it like hell.