The wild, wild ‘Westworld’

The+wild%2C+wild+%E2%80%98Westworld%E2%80%99

Charlotte Gardner

As society stretches toward the future and the distant age of flying cars and colonies on Mars seems in sight, media has taken a liking to the fantastical worlds that lay ahead of us.

[media-credit name=”Screenshot Courtesy of Youtube” align=”alignright” width=”300″]screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-3-51-26-pm[/media-credit]

Dystopian societies as seen in “The Hunger Games” and “Divergent,” robots and artificial intelligence beings created in films like “Ex- Machina” and “Transcendence” and even aliens such as the Demogorgon in Netflix’s smash hit “Stranger Things” have dominated the big and small screens.

It’s no wonder that HBO has created a futuristic new show to add to their collection of beautiful and dangerous series. The new show “Westworld,” which premiered on Oct. 2, contains elements of everything a Millennial could dream of: robots, sex and nationalism.

This show centers on a theme park called Westworld. The park’s theme is the Wild West, as prostitutes and bandits run rampant and shootouts constantly shower the old buildings with bullets. Completely convincing humanoid robots are created and placed throughout the park, posed as characters from the many narrative plots designed for the park guests.

These robots serve to please the guests in whatever way they can, from seduction to murder. They are routinely updated and run through diagnostics according to the new storylines added to the map of the park. A team of expert scientists are working day and night behind the scenes to build and watch over the robots. If there are any glitches, the team takes in the robots for an analysis of their technology and to assess their mechanics.

The show focuses on one robot, Dolores Abernathy, played by Evan Rachel Wood, who seems to be questioning the environment around her. Park creator Robert Ford, played by Anthony Hopkins, shares that she is the oldest robot in the park and that her narrative has changed many times over the years due to the character she’s portrayed throughout her time in Westworld. However, these narratives aren’t actually erased once she becomes a different character, but are stored away in the memory of the robot. As the show progresses, we can tell that this overlap of narratives is becoming a huge problem once a few robots reenact their former storylines which render them as defective.

Although HBO is familiar with the strange and supernatural, I think it’s a very different concept from the former original series that have been broadcasted. Besides the totally engaging plot and the inclusion of the third Hemsworth brother, what lies underneath the fantasy and mystery is something much darker.

This show, even as it begins to unfold, reflects deep taboos of human behavior. As the guests become more immersed into the world of the park, they engage in horrifying acts of murder and rape because, well, they’re allowed to. Ordinary people transform into felons and predators all because it isn’t punishable within the experience. And what’s even worse is that the guests seem to like it. These “Purge”-like actions display the subliminal savageness that all humans seem to have.

But what about what isn’t human? Westworld also considers the age-old dilemma about the conscious development of machines. These robots not only have passed the Turing Test, a test designed by Alan Turing to see if humans could tell which subject was a machine or human, but are so humanoid that they have generated empathy from the audience. I’m starting to wonder if these robots are developing their own consciousness apart from the narratives programmed into their systems, and with Dolores’ most recent actions, I believe my thinking could be right.

Some of the hints and secrets of the season shine dimly throughout the dialogue, but they are so subtle it’s hard to figure out what is really playing out. That’s both good and bad; I love a good mystery, but with so many twists and turns in the park itself, I begin to feel a little overwhelmed because the puzzle pieces have barely even formed and are nowhere close to being put together. But that makes it all the more interesting to watch.