This review may be a little late, but seeing as Season Two has come to an end, I thought why not review each season? I’ll let you in on a little secret though. Since the first season aired on HBO, I’ve rewatched it about five times. That’s how much I love Westworld!
‘Westworld: Season One’, starring Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, James Marsden, Jeffrey Wright, Jimmi Simpson, Ben Barnes, Sidse Barbett Knudsen, Simon Quarterman, Clifton Collins Jr., Luke Hemsworth, Shannon Woodward, Tessa Thompson, Talulah Riley, Angela Sarafyan, Rodrigo Santoro, Ed Harris, and Anthony Hopkins, is a Science Fiction/Western television series created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy.
Based on the 1973 film of the same name, ‘Westworld’ is set in a technologically advanced, wild-west themed amusement park in the near future. The park is populated by human-like androids known as hosts, who are created with an artificial conscience. Westworld caters to high paying guests, who can indulge their wildest fantasies (no matter how dark or depraved they may be) without consequences and the sole knowledge that the hosts are prevented, by their code, from harming them.
I remember being hyped for ‘Westworld: Season One’ ever since I first heard about it being developed as an HBO series back in 2015. I was a fan of the 1973 movie and I was excited to see how it could be adapted into a television series. Then October 2016 came and I never prepared for the brilliant and clever ride the first season would take me on over a period of 10 weeks.
‘Westworld’ is unlike any other series that has been/currently on air. It requires your undivided attention due to the number of different plots and characters there are (and the many plot twists that happen throughout), as well as most of your brain, as you try and piece together every bit of the puzzle. ‘Westworld’ is also unique as it is a sci-fi show set in a wild-west themed amusement park, which can confuse people who are unaware that it isn’t actually set in the 1800s (this has happened to people I know, who stumbled upon it halfway during an episode).
Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy have created one of the smartest pieces of television I’ve ever seen! As I said before, ‘Westworld’ is unlike a majority of other television series’ as it requires the viewer to pay attention. You can’t just play it in the background as you play Clash of Clans, as you will miss out on important details. The way they thread every character and plot together is simply brilliant. I know a few people who don’t like ‘Westworld’ as it’s “too confusing” for them. I almost feel sorry for them, but at the same time, I don’t. That’s just the way the show is, and it gets better and better with every viewing.
Before I go onto more of the behind the scenes work, I have to talk about the performances, which are all amazing! Every actor and actress here could easily fill out the acting categories at award ceremonies. That’s how amazing everyone is. Everyone is in their top form and the result is mind-blowing.
One of the biggest highlights of the season is arguably Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores. Wood is incredible in the role as one of the hosts that starts to suspect that her world isn’t what it seems. With her role as a host, she has to do a lot of sudden changes in emotion, which is simply incredible every time. In a single scene, she may start out crying and exhaling fast and loud, but then a human character snaps her out of it and she has no emotion on her face and speaks in a monotone style. She isn’t the only one who has to do it, but she mastered in from the very first scene and she deserves the praise. Her character also has one of the more interesting arcs of the season, so she is a very exciting character to watch.
Speaking of hosts, Thandie Newton is also incredible as Maeve, the madam of the brothel in the main saloon. Newton’s presence on-screen in amazing and she steals almost every scene she is in. Her character’s arc is also one of the best parts of the season and she is a character you will definitely get attached to.
James Marsden is also great as Teddy, the lover of Dolores and the best cowboy to ever grace our screens. Angela Sarafyan is also fantastic as is everyone else who play hosts (including Rodrigo Santoro as one of the best outlaws you’ll want to see more of).
Moving onto the human side of Westworld, I have to talk about the best actors of the season, Jeffrey Wright and Anthony Hopkins. Jeffrey Wright is incredible as Bernard, one of Dr Ford’s (Anthony Hopkins) most trusted colleagues. Just like Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton, he has one of the more interesting and compelling character arcs of the season. His character goes to some rather interesting place and Wright’s performance helps make Bernard one of the most likeable characters on the show.
Anthony Hopkins is phenomenal as Dr Ford, one of the creators of the park. Coming into Season One back in 2016, I was a little worried as Hopkins had been in some really bad movies in the years leading up to it and you could tell he wasn’t acting up to his usual standard (cough *Transformers: The Last Knight* cough). But as soon as he came on-screen as Dr Ford, I knew he was going to be incredible. This may even be his best performance to date (yes, even better than his performance as Hannibal Lecter in ‘The Silence of the Lambs’) and he has proved why he is one of the greatest actors of all time. He was born to play Dr Ford in ‘Westworld’ and I loved every second he was on-screen.
Tessa Thompson was also fantastic, as was Shannon Woodward, Luke Hemsworth (yes, the oldest brother in THAT family), Sidse Barbett Knudsen, and Simon Quarterman as the alcoholic writer at Westworld, who is personally one of my favourite characters in the show.
The third side of actors I’ll talk about is the guests, which includes some terrific performances as well. Firstly, there is Ed Harris as the Man in Black, who is another fantastic character in the show. Harris does a fantastic job at playing a character who has some really dark, personal demons within him, which he releases within the park. Definitely one of the more compelling characters on the season. Then there is Jimmi Simpson and Ben Barnes who are also incredible as two of the guests we follow throughout the season. Their storyline is fantastic and I definitely can’t say much about it as it would lead to massive spoilers.
Basically, every actor and actress is incredible in ‘Westworld’ and I could go on even longer about how fantastic everyone is. But I won’t as I must move on.
As I mentioned earlier, ‘Westworld’ is unlike any other television series out there. This is thanks to the wonderful writing by Jonathan Nolan, Lisa Joy, and Halley Wegryn Gross. Their effort here has resulted in some of the smartest and most complex television of all time. The dialogue that comes from these writers is amazingly smart and very witty at times. There is also a lot of philosophical writing within the season and that makes for some very interesting viewing. Seriously though, the writing is amazing!
The cinematography is also outstanding. This may well be not just the best looking first season of a television series, but the best looking series I’ve ever seen (yes, even better than Game of Thrones). You can tell that a lot of the scenery isn’t CGI (only when you see some of the towns in the park from distance) and it is extremely gorgeous. There are several scenes that made my jaw drop, just from how beautiful it was.
Finally, I must talk about the incredible score composed by Ramin Djawadi. The opening theme itself is fantastic and the other pieces of original music are also beautiful for the ears. But the biggest standout by far is the use of modern pop/rock music. Djawadi has taken music from bands and artists such as Radiohead, Amy Winehouse and The Rolling Stones, to compose some of the best covers I’ve ever heard. Djawadi’s versions of ‘Paint It Black’ and ‘Exit Music (For a Film)’ always give me chills. If you somehow have no desire to watch ‘Westworld: Season One,’ then you should just listen to the soundtrack and it will definitely give you that desire.
Overall, ‘Westworld: Season One’ is one of the best pieces of television sci-fi I’ve ever seen! Although some may get confused by the non-traditional structure, you will be consumed by the phenomenal performances, incredible music, and clever writing that will pull you into one of the best television worlds ever created. ‘Westworld: Season One’ is a phenomenal achievement and it may well go down as the greatest first season of a television series!