To be honest, when I first heard about Westworld, it sounded ridiculous. I’d seen the original movie a couple of times, and it was great fun, but how could you turn it into a series? Suffice to say I was wrong. So wrong.
I had multiple existential crises during Season One. It was the stuff of endless nightmares for anyone susceptible to irrational thoughts and anxiety. Was I real? Was I the only person that was real? It was science-fiction, action, horror, weird fiction and a large dose of the most frightening concept of them all: solipsism.
Despite what I am about to write, I still wholeheartedly encourage anyone who hasn’t seen it to give it a shot. If you think mythology is the essential ingredient of sci-fi, you will love it. It’s mind-blowing, and the magnitude of your brain’s explosion is determined by your ability to think beyond the script. Imagine my joy when I found out at least five seasons had already been penciled in.
Having seen Season 2 of Westworld, I have mixed feelings about watching another 30 episodes. I would rather have root canal surgery than watch the show if it’s anything like the second season, but I suspect we may look back at those ten episodes as some kind of necessary evil. That’s certainly my hope, but the producers should know that they are playing a dangerous game. There’s a legion of fans who have reached the drop-off stage.
So what went wrong? According to Thomas Smith at NME, the second season wasn’t fun to watch, was too difficult to follow, the characters were inhuman, and the plot didn’t explore the other parks enough. Two of his points are on the money. The others I totally disagree with, but regardless of that, they’re the main talking points, so let’s address them.
Explosions, bullets, gore…yawn
I didn’t fall in love with Westworld because it was fun. In fact, I was deeply troubled by it. The more you empathised with the permanent residents of the park, the more profoundly dark and sad it became. This created a form of philosophical horror far more disturbing than the gore. It built a number of interesting subplots based on Michael Crichton’s film. If the second season had handled its backstories and intrigues as elegantly, I’d still be obsessed. Season 2 had one gloriously nightmarish backstory, but it was treated it like an interlude.
At its best, the series is compelling, and that makes it fun. The producers should remember what happened when the film industry started relying on bullets, gore and costume changes. We all started watching TV instead. Even the ratings king, Game of Thrones, relies on its characters and plot twists more than its occasional big-budget war scenes.
A road to nowhere
Season 2’s twists are simply not executed very well, and the revelations are boring. Rather than jaw-dropping moments, they’re ‘meh’ or ‘whatever’ moments. What little intrigue and mystery Westworld contains now is pushed down your throat repeatedly. It’s as though the writers are saying, ‘see what I did there?’.
The exception is the finale, which is a screenwriting train wreck. I expect it was intended to cool the tempers of viewers like myself, but instead of being sophisticated in its horror, it was clumsy. This is the only episode that was hard to follow, and that was due to terrible writing. A good mystery gives the audience a few breadcrumbs to follow. It doesn’t leave them stranded in the world of ‘what the…?”
Jam-packed full of dickheads
I’ve created awful characters, and by awful I mean so unlikable and lacking redeeming qualities that you simply don’t give a shit whether they live or die. Thankfully an excellent editor was able to explain this issue to me, otherwise my first novel, Nowhere, would have been a complete failure.
Westworld is jam-packed full of dickheads I no longer give a shit about. Somehow while shaking up realities, the writers have managed to make every character more pathetic and meaningless. It’s almost as if the characters were coins the writers tossed simultaneously, and by chance, they all ended up tails. When I say tails, I mean arseholes. If you’re a fan of the show, and you’re still reading this, I challenge you to name a character who isn’t pathetic or a dickhead. It’ll be tough.
Get out of the other parks! Run for your careers!
I’ll admit I was intrigued by the promise of other ‘worlds’. That ended as a bunch of characters entered feudal Japan. I like a blood fest as much as the next sci-fi horror fan. Chop, slice, dice and fry it up. But that was a couple of hours of my life I’ll never get back, and I resent it. Boring, contrived, little or no character development, and ultimately token in the scheme of things. This was especially disappointing considering I’m a huge fan of Japanese cinema.
Once we returned to Westworld, we got the best episode: Kiksuya. But it was more like a spin-off than an integral part of the story. The only other world worth exploring now is the one you’re in as you read this article. The problem with that is the fact I’m so bored, I’d probably welcome a robot invasion right now. They should just put me out of my misery.
Is there any hope for Westworld?
Unfortunately Season 2 was all about road trips, and if so you’d have to say the journey has taken it from brilliance to banjo-pickin’ idiocy. There’s great potential for Season 3 of Westworld, because half the plot can focus on a constricted setting while we tie up loose ends in the park.
While the finale didn’t deliver great viewing, it promised a better season was on the horizon. But the slow evaporation of the show’s ratings will be nothing compared to the plummeting figures Westworld will face if it doesn’t deliver champagne television next year.