After a dynamic, unexpectedly momentous season, Westworld’s first season has come to a close. What began with a simple attraction for paying customers evolved into a battleground of sin and self-discovery. And although artificial intelligence has been explored in a range of films and movies, Westworld has gained a momentum that is closely catching up to HBO’s other hit series, Game of Thrones.
But what makes Westworld so captivating? Is it the bloody violence, the action, or the slowly building storyline? No, what really causes Westworld to stand out so boldly from other television is its provocation of thought. It’s a certain style of writing and production that ensures viewers return each week, providing them with just enough information to return the next week with the hopes of getting answers.
Overall, the series has translated and developed beautifully from the original film. Though HBO’s rendition is full of new characters, ideas, and plots that were not even mentioned in the original, it retains the same level of excitement and amazement, Westworld continues to ask what we would do if we had the money to visit a fantasy world where anything is possible. And while we might tell ourselves we would never harm anyone or do anything unsafe, what if we were paying forty grand a day to have the chance to? If we could get away with doing crazy things save the consequences, most of us would. It shows us that as humans we do not fear the atrocity of our actions, but rather the horrible repercussions. We then have to wonder how mentally and socially advanced our society really is. It’s no wonder that we began to feel a sense of guilt for the terrible acts of violence and murder that the guests force upon the hosts.
This is characteristic of any creative work inspired by the ideas of Michael Crichton. As a science fiction writer, Crichton developed ideas that were both eerily similar to our own desires and yet distantly removed by the marginal scientific possibility. Of course, what kid didn’t want to visit Jurassic Park when they first saw the movie and heard the words “Welcome to Jurassic Park”? It seemed simple enough - using fossilized DNA and creating stem cells to recreate dinosaurs that went extinct millions of years ago. Now we have Westworld - a place with advanced coding, robots, and artificial intelligence that is able to learn and store experiences and feelings in memory.
So why doesn’t this seem unrealistic?
In general, artificial intelligence is a very legitimate thing. Shows like Westworld as well as films like Ex Machina exhibit a process that is just a bit more extreme than is already already occurring. It is expected that by 2018, more than eighty percent of customer service will be handled by artificially intelligent machines. It is predicted that by the year 2029, artificial beings will be able to learn and retain more knowledge than a human mind. Even Uber, which lost 1.2 billion dollars in the first half of 2016, allows its losses to occur on the expectation that they will having self-driving, artificially intelligent cars within the next decade. This basis in truth is a large factor in why we connect with these stories on a deeper level despite their apparent fictionality.
The next season of Westworld is expected to premiere in 2018, over a year from the current date. While most seasons air annually or semi-annually, Westworld writers and producers claim that a show of this caliber needs a sufficient investment of time to ensure it retains a high quality. The only issue with this lies in Westworld’s complexity. Westworlddefinitely benefits from a regular viewing schedule, and is the easiest to follow and comprehend when watched straight through. It was already challenging enough to recall the details of a previous week’s episode; with over a year without new material, Westworldmay lose momentum and audiences could have trouble remembering the previous season’s small hints that it relied so heavily upon.
Regardless of the second season’s production schedule, episode ten was satisfying, more so than other season finales. While some aspects of the plot remain unclear, the direction of the second season is clearly defined. Although Westworld is a young series, superb writing, acting, and cinematography (not to mention the elaborate soundtrack that mixes science-fiction mood with classic frontier melodies and instrumentation) have set it up for success rivaling that of Game of Thrones.
Though it will be a long wait, it’s almost certainly worth it. And who knows? Maybe the dawn of artificial intelligence isn’t as far-fetched as we like to think it is. The saying, “Welcome to Westworld” might not be too different from what we should expect to hear over the next few years as our society grows and changes - for better or worse.