Delivering American University's news and views since 1925. | Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Westworld Season 1 Finale: What Happened and What It Means

Ed Harris in Westworld. Photo from HBO. 

HBO’s big-budget sci-fi show Westworld has finally come to the end of its first season, ultimately leaving even the most astute viewers positively puzzled, either at what the episode decided to show, or what the implications were behind it all. Long-standing questions about what the maze is, whether or not there are different timelines and what exactly Ford’s (Anthony Hopkins) endgame is, were all answered in the finale. There’s no question Westworld is intellectual and thought provoking, but tonight the show may have been too cerebral for its own good.

The typical 60-minutes that are allotted for the show can be difficult to get through because of the complex and downright confusing nature of much of the show, but extending it an extra 30 minutes for the finale seems like an oversight on the showrunner’s part. Sure, there were a lot of loose-ends to tie up, but by making the finale the most frustrating episode of the season feels cruel and unusual.

Given the philosophical and layered nature of the show, it was never very likely that the maze would be much more than a metaphor, and to have that confirmed tonight was a nice, if heavily foreshadowed, reveal. The idea that the human, and host, mind is like a maze, something to be worked through to achieve total consciousness and self realization, is an interesting topic to have Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) wrestle with, quite literally. However, there were too many moments throughout the episode that did not feel essential, or even enjoyable, to include. This bogs down the most important philosophical questions that were poised to the characters and viewers. 

One of those questions, regarding maintaining the purity of one’s original intent and desired legacy by whatever means, is one that critics and fans alike will be discussing until the next season rolls around. Ford’s control of the hosts and desire to maintain the integrity of the purpose of the hosts, leads to a bloody climax, one that may have been better served if the episode hadn’t been so exceedingly violent. While it’s unclear if Ford will return, possibly due to the price tag on Anthony Hopkin’s contract, it was nice to see one of the most interesting characters the show has to offer have some truly stunning moments in the finale.

Though Ford’s story may have come full circle, no one’s arc has been more roundabout than Maeve’s plotline (played by Thandie Newton). It is not entirely clear how much of a role Arnold played in her escape plan, but the notion that he is working through her to see through his vision of the park is one of the most intriguing ones going into next season. The show teased us by having her be nearly the first character to show us the outside world, allowing the speculation to build for the foreseeable future. While it will be intriguing to see how she deals with the aftermath of the, for lack of a better word, coup that ensues in the park, it’s hard to fully get behind a character who isn’t fully human.

That issue remained my chief gripe for the entirety of the season, and now that some of the humans on the show are potentially gone for good, it will be interesting to see what, if anything, the show can do to keep viewers engaged with ostensibly robots. The brief glimpse at one of the other worlds that the show may bring in from the original Westworld movie, is reason enough to return to the park come season two. Underneath all the exposition, poorly written dialogue, lack of heart and narrative complexity, the core potential of the show remains. Now that much of the history and backstory of the park and its characters are explained, seeing what the show does with its varied themes and subplots will determine how many viewers stick around for another ride.

Grade: C-

Westworld is on HBO, HBO GO and HBO NOW.

growell@theeagleonline.com


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