‘Westworld’ provides an escape from reality
Christopher Parker | Tuesday, March 24, 2020
Like every drama created by HBO, “Westworld” is an epic. It’s not the kind of show that plays in the background while you plug Calculus II questions into WolframAlpha. It requires undivided attention, time for contemplation and the kind of imagination we can only achieve when … well, when we’re locked in a house for two weeks straight.
The HBO show has two 60-minute, 10-episode seasons out already, which isn’t so much that you get overwhelmed and don’t bother watching. As a bonus, new episodes are coming out each Sunday to help you retain some semblance of time and give you something to talk about other than coronavirus. If you’ve ever considered starting this melting pot of “Ex Machina,” “Jurassic Park” and your dad’s collection of John Wayne movies, here are a few reasons why now is the time.
“Westworld” provides the escape you need during a quarantine. It follows a not-so-futuristic Western theme park for adults populated by robots known as “hosts.” For the wealthy, “Westworld” provides an escape from the real world where they can discover their true selves, good or evil. Guests have no rules and no fear — the hosts that they abuse can’t hurt them. But for hosts, life is a nightmare that gets reset every day.
Across the park, hosts begin to break the rules as their artificial intelligence evolves in surprising ways. You may think this is a show about cowboys, but trust me — I’m a New Yorker who studies classics — I promise that you don’t need to care a bit about the Old West to fall in love with this show. “Westworld” explores free will, moral agency and what it means to be human. The future it depicts is just believable enough to open a door beyond the four walls of your bedroom.
On screen and off, this world is brought to life by an incomparable cast. The show was created by the husband-wife team of Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy. If that first name sounds familiar, maybe it’s because Nolan and his brother brought you the ”Dark Knight“ trilogy and ”Interstellar“ (along with the criminally underappreciated “Memento” and “The Prestige”). “Westworld” is the perfect intersection of Nolan’s work: mind-bending and downright disrespectful of our sense of time, but gory and packed with heroes and anti-heroes.
On screen, Evan Rachel Wood and James Marsden star in roles that are a far cry from Disney’s “Frozen II” and “Enchanted.” The events of the show are engineered by the slightly terrifying puppet master Sir Anthony Hopkins, who you know as either Hannibal Lector or the Pope. To top it off, the mysterious villain known only as the Man in Black is played by Ed Harris of “Apollo 13” and “Mother!” Together, this cast creates relationships so real that you will truly believe their story.
Everybody knows an HBO drama is only as good as its soundtrack. The ear behind “Westworld” is Ramin Djawani, better known for his work on “Game of Thrones” — one listen to “Main Title Theme” from “Westworld” will make that clear. I actually began “Westworld” before Thrones, so I maintain the slightly hot take that the former‘s theme song is better. On top of killer original compositions like “Sweetwater,” Djawani helps the show meld the past and future by covering modern songs in Western-style. Highlights include a pianola rendition of “Black Hole Sun,” Rolling Stone’s “Paint it, Black” on Spanish guitar and “Heart-Shaped Box” by Nirvana as a somber piano ballad. Even if you don’t watch the show, do yourself a favor and listen to its music while you troubleshoot Zoom and sip wine from a Hyrdoflask.
I hope I’ve convinced you. Starting this show will take you for a wild ride, hopefully providing you with some much-needed excitement while we all buckle down. If you do, hit me up on Twitter @c_parks7 and we can discuss conspiracy theories.
Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, Sir Anthony Hopkins
Directed by: Michael Crichton, Lisa Joy
Where to Watch: HBO, YouTube TV
If You Like: Altered Carbon, Black Mirror, Watchmen