Westworld, HBO’s latest attempt to replicate the success of Game of Thrones will be wrapping up its first season next Sunday. For those who have been following the twists and turns of the show so far, it will be a chance to tally up their predictions, to see which of their favorite fan theories come true or can be thrown in the trash.
If you aren’t among these viewers, I’ll bring you up to speed quickly. Westworld, to put it simply, is an elaborate theme park that aims to recreate the wild west. The park is staffed not by actors, but with synthetic, robot “hosts” who are so lifelike they are almost indistinguishable from real humans. In the fiction, people pay big bucks to saddle up in a pair of chaps and slap iron with robotic cowboys (among other less savory activities).
But, like Lost and Battlestar Galactica before it, the real appeal of Westworld for the viewers at home isn’t the shooting or horseback riding, but the slow unraveling of the park’s densely layered mysteries. Past the kitschy saloons and dancehall girl, there are hints at a deeper, more sinister game lurking beneath the surface. Obscure clues and vaguely menacing riddles hint at something mysteriously referred to as “the Maze”
What the Maze is or does is subject to interpretation. Some of the synthetic hosts (and their human handlers) seem to believe it’s the key to unlocking full sentience for the hosts and achieving some kind of freedom. Others, like the villainous Man in Black, an obsessive return visitor to the park, believe it will unlock a more meaningful level of the game, one with real stakes for the player and a more fulfilling purpose than murder-tourism. He’s been visiting the park for more than 30 years, piecing together the puzzle one clue at a time.
The Man in Black is a murdery/rapey jackass who I have no interest in rooting for. But, despite all the wanton murder and depravity, something about his journey in Westworld has struck me as strangely nostalgic. I recognized every beat -- the subtle hints, the cryptic NPCs, the obsessive collection of theories and suspicious. I’ve already been to a Westworld of my own -- it was called Dark Souls.... read more