It's hard not to watch something that costs $10 million an episode. So when HBO's blockbuster sci-fi western thriller wrapped up earlier this week, you'd better believe we had some thoughts.
Like we did with Gilmore Girls, Westworld spawned some heated debate in our offices. Most people were pretty happy about how the series panned out, although there were a few who simply couldn't buy into the concept.
As always, this is going to be ladened with spoilers. So if you haven't seen the series yet, turn away now!
Spandas Lui, Lifehacker Journalist
I love Westworld more than I love Game Of Thrones. There, I said it.
I’m not a big fan of the Wild West setting but the sci-fi aspects and the underlying eeriness of the show sucked me right in. Machines becoming more human than humans? Fuck yeah! I, for one, welcome our robot overlords (especially at the rate 2016 has been going).
That final episode was bonkers; I thoroughly enjoyed watching Armistice and Hector’s rampage through the Westworld facility. I’m sad to see Anthony Hopkins’ character get killed off; I’ll miss Dr Ford’s dramatic pauses.
I was also waiting for sassy behavioural tech Elsie to return but that never happened. Goddammit, I want her back!
The acting was superb and kudos to Rachel Evan Woods (Dolores) for nailing the ‘stone cold killer face’ in the final scene when she shot Dr Ford. That face gave me cold shivers.
I have a few gripes with the show, namely around potholes and over-indulgent monologues, but they’re really just minor annoyances and they don’t ruin the show for me.
On a side note, I feel bad for James ‘Cyclops’ Marden, who seems to have been relegated as a forgettable support character once again. His character Teddy didn’t really stand out much in the show but let’s hope he gets more screen in season two.
Campbell Simpson, Gizmodo Editor
I went in to Westworld not knowing a thing about it. I watched half of the first episode, got supremely bored, then switched it off. A couple of weeks later, someone convinced me to give it another go, and I did — I watched that first episode, then the one after it, then three more. Then the day after I binged another four. Then I watched the finale the day after. I don't usually binge shows but this was an exception because I was intrigued.
Westworld takes some time to get into and it takes some attention to pay off — it's not mindless popcorn-munching TV. It's a hard show to like, too. The complicated timeline makes things difficult, and none of the characters are especially likeable. But that's exactly why I liked it, because there's a pay-off at the end, and that's exactly why I'll keep watching more. The idea behind the hosts being almost-human-but-not-but-also-better has a lot of potential.
Next season, I want to see the concept behind Westworld expand more, though. I feel like those existing characters' stories have already played out for the most part, although the reset mechanic makes it easy to give them more depth. But I want to find out about those crazy robot samurai. Are there more worlds? Is it all one world with borderlands, or are they separate attractions? Is there a low-budget Westworld with whalers on the moon?
Nathaniel Sussman, Allure Account Manager
Best new show of the year for me. The concept was unique, both the writing and acting excellent.
Moving forward, I want answers! The biggest question I was left with is what happened to Logan? And how the hell did William still take over the company after physically and emotionally ditching his fiance for a robot… Oh and also super keen on those robot samurais.
Maeve is [a] boss for sure. But I can’t help but feel Dr. Ford’s 35 years of playing the bad guy, all to flip it on its head at the end, might be worth a call out as challenger.
Chris Jager, Lifehacker Editor
I would have enjoyed Westworld more if the guests were required to wear special badges in the park. No, really.
As it stood, they had no way of identifying guests from hosts which, from a safety standpoint, is completely implausible. We know all guns in the park are harmless to humans, but what happens when a guest decides to randomly stab a host or coward punch them from behind? For all they know, they could be accidentally murdering another human.
Badges, man. This small addition would have solved everything.
Otherwise it was pretty good. If you haven't already, go check out the Yul Brynner original. It holds up surprisingly well.
Alex Walker, Kotaku Editor
I came into Westworld a little late, and my initial impressions were soured by complaints from my erstwhile managing editor, Mr. Serrels.
He's not a fan. And based off his complaints, it made sense. It was difficult to connect with the story. And particularly the people.
And while you can't criticise anything after one episode, I understood what he meant. When your story operates in an environment where all of the humans are effectively automatons, it's difficult to find anyone to relate to, anyone to connect to.
But you have to give the story a chance. It begins to open up. Dolores and Maeve discover and begin to explore their inner voice, their own consciousness. The political machinations behind Westworld become interesting; it expanded from a discussion of "maybe these bots are breaking down" to "someone is deliberately invading this world".
In a lot of ways, Westworld doesn't kick into gear until the first half of the season. And that's not just because the story needs time to establish characters and the setup - most of that is done by the second episode, after William and Logan enter the picture, after we've gotten a proper introduction to Maeve, and after the set pieces are established.
I have my doubts about how well everything will hold up once we start dealing with multiple worlds - as indicated by Maeve's little journey outside. But I'm on board the Westworld train. There's enough humanity in the performances, enough charisma and enough intrigue that I've bought in for a second season.
They'll have to do exceptionally well to fill Ed Harris's role though. I felt like it was his malevolence, and the theories tying him to William, that kept a large part of the action within Westworld going until the final episode. Anthony Hopkins was superb, but from the opening Harris bound the park to the real world.
How they fill that role is going to be crucial - it'll probably be the most important arc of the second season, even more so than what happens with Maeve and her daughter. After all, you can't just let the park's majority shareholder die without a few consequences.
Mark Serrels, Kotaku/Gizmodo/Lifehacker Managing Editor
Honestly, and this will probably surprise no-one, I thought Westworld was a bit of a mess. For a number of reasons.
Note: I gave up on the show after episode 5.
First and foremost, I had a hard time suspending my disbelief. Westworld's high concept is an interesting one but unlike — say Jurassic Park — it doesn't feel like a place that could actually exist.
I didn't believe in Westworld. I didn't believe someone would build a place like this, didn't believe it could function. Didn't believe people would spend exorbitant amounts of money to sit in a saloon and play cards and have sex with robot prostitutes. Didn't believe it would be cost effective or even humanly possible. Didn't believe they could clean the place out, fix up the hosts, etc in a single night or whatever.
Westworld never earnedthat legitimacy. Never earned my belief as a place that could actually exist.
We don't really know how the park works, how it functions. That's a problem. Are these characters on daily routines? How long do people stay for? Westworld is one of those weird shows that's loaded with terrible expository dialogue that constantly states the obvious, but never really answers the questions we actually need answers to in order to suspend our disbelief.
Also: it is full of terribly drawn characters. The narrative designer who shouts a lot and is angry all the time for no good reason — he doesn't feel like a real person. At all. Westworld is just loaded with characters like this, particularly in those behind the scenes moments. It's filled with characters I literally don't care about, because the show does such a terrible job of making you care about them.
The pacing of the show is a problem. It takes real liberties with its audience. It repeats itself, it's banal, flat out boring in sections. The writing has its moments (the Shakespeare line "these violent delights have violent ends" fits perfectly with the show's themes) but for the most part the dialogue is not memorable at all. The writing is almost completely dependent on these 'OMG' twists, which is a problem with almost all of the 'golden age' TV shows, but especially an issue with Westworld.
And it takes itself so goddamn seriously.
I am not a fan of this TV show! Watch The Expanse instead!
So that's how we felt about the first season of Westworld. What did you think of the new HBO blockbuster? Have you watched it yet, and if so, will you be returning for a second season?