This Is Heaven
by DICK CHENEY
creator J.J. Abrams, Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joy
Evan Rachel Wood wakes up at the beginning of every episode of Westworld having slept in her clothes. At some time later, the android she portrays will be questioned extensively by a human being, usually in a droning voiceover. Every conversation with Wood is a Turing test of sorts, and soon it becomes obvious that all the robotic hosts in the theme park of Westworld are coming fully alive. That this happens already in the first episode of the show makes for a long and boring slog to revolution.
Where they pissed away hundreds of millions on this show, I have no idea. If androids could be created that had this kind of flexibility and intelligence, the fact that they could be used in a lifelike recreation of the Old West would be similar to using a cure for cancer on dogs. All of the so-called newcomers who arrive at Westworld are very eager to ejaculate inside of the women and sometimes men, who are both called hosts. There is not a lot of concern as to whether they have been cleaned or anything.
The coming rise of androids seems more of a private matter. Think of all the things Donald Trump could use an android for – it wouldn’t have to be just locker room talk. Androids are actually quite useful in a number of professions besides sex toys. They make wonderful teachers, perfect security guards (they’re a bit expensive for soldiers) and excellent organ donors.
Ed Harris plays a rich patron of Westworld who wants to get involved in the park on a “deeper level.” He scalps one android and finds a weird maze-like map on his scalp that intrigues him greatly. Harris keeps shooting every robot he comes across, alarming some of the park’s staff, who suggests to their director of safety that “He just took out a posse!” I am completely unclear on what significance this could have for anyone.
It all seemed a bit fake and disingenous when prominent Republicans began pretending to be offended by the things Trumper said to Billy Bush. There was a story weeks ago about how the man asked for all the overweight women working at his resorts to be fired. Isn’t employment discrimination a bit more serious than whatever bullshit the man comes up with on a tour bus? Like, really, did you hear any of the things Trump said about Megyn Kelly months ago?
So every time Hillary Clinton doesn’t want to answer a question, is her plan to state that Michelle Obama is her good friend? She sounds nowhere near as authentic as the madam portrayed by Thandie Newton on Westworld, whose number one line to her newcomers is, “In this New World, you can be whoever the fuck you want.” I don’t know who is more likely to be an android — probably Anderson Cooper.
Anthony Hopkins plays the creator of this mess, channeling John Hammond. In tandem with Jeffrey Wright (pretty sure none of these characters have names but I’ll check IMDB later), he is responsible for the programming of the androids. As they usually do, the writers give Hopkins these weird extended monologues of supposed profundity. Listening to him and a Westworld storyboarder argue over the meaning of what the park is actually made me feel like I was losing brain cells.
The androids aren’t controlled by anything as foolproof as an off-switch. They are made to respond to verbal shut-down commands. It is unclear of the what the point of adding all these auditory cues is – isn’t it simply more convenient to have a kill-switch? Engineers and programmers are taught that things are bound to go wrong. Samsung recently replaced a smartphone which regularly caught on fire with another smartphone which regularly caught on fire, and they tried to cover it up.
That’s a phone battery, though. Once an android starts telling you he’s about to make your life a living hell, as one informs Anthony Hopkins, I suspect you would begin to reassess your entire project. In the original Westworld, which was also quite terrible while costing significantly less money, humans had lost total control of the means of production. Androids in some cases were constructed entirely by other androids and human beings simply did not know how they operated.
If we ever actually feared something from living machines, an electromagnetic pulse would probably do wonders. A key moment in Westworld occurs when Evan Rachel Wood murders a fly that has settled on her neck. It seems far more likely she is simply imitating human behavior she has seen. This is how most living things learn how to act.
The casting of Evan Rachel Wood is the one great masterstroke practiced by J.J. Abrams, whose forays into television have not been as financially profitable as his films. Wood’s slightly uncanny looks are made all the more attractive in this context. It is hard to understand why she is not the biggest star in the entire world; she is even a substantially minor part of Westworld, involved as she is in a relationship with another android (James Marsden).
I would watch Evan Rachel Wood do anything. I wish that there still existed extensive tapes of her relationship with Marilyn Manson. What did they talk about? Probably her, a lot.
The only interesting direction Westworld could take is outright war between humans and androids. I am deeply skeptical of this, considering how much the show has already spent on Western sets and costumes. Abandoning that in order to bring the production into a futuristic society is just not on the menu. It is far more likely all the creators of this theme park will be locked inside where they can talk to each other for hours on end, and reveal that, sigh, some of them are actually robots, too.
At that point, Abrams will demand the writers institute his favorite narrative device — the flashback. What will it take to make Abrams retire from film and television, please? I guess I shouldn’t be mad since having him spend most of his time slightly remaking the Star Wars movies with the exact same plots as the originals is like having a sociopathic murderer wandering around a deserted island in the middle of the ocean. How much harm can he really do? I miss Vinyl.
Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.