What’s Older Than Ed Harris?
by DICK CHENEY
creators Lisa Joy & Jonathan Nolan
There’s a moment near the end of the first season of Westworld when Ed Harris is shot in the arm from a very long distance. Blood spills out of the artery, and he is just overwhelmed with delight. He has never been so surprised in his entire life. The truth is he probably has been that shocked before, but he simply cannot remember it. The novelty of that bloody, unexpected injury is only a reminder of how he was hurt before.
Would you possibly be interested in hours and hours of this kind of dialogue? Androids talk to each other the same way the humans do on Westworld: in a boring, quasi-philosophical monotone. Having all the androids and most of the humans wear the same clothes/costumes for ten consecutive episodes was a great way of saving HBO money, but I grew to hate Jeffrey Wright’s black suit and the suburban mom pants constantly worn by Evan Rachel Wood. She looks like a corpse flattened by a truck.
Westworld creators, the husband and wife team of Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan, spent the entire season sketching out the “mystery” of this garrulous place: it was primarily that one storyline was a flashback to the younger days of the park’s owner, William (Ed Harris). (You will note this was also the basic premise of Lost.) All the viewers of Westworld figured this out rather quickly, so there is some question as to why this had to be veiled at all.
There was one other key mystery of the place, which is that a lot of people were androids who maybe didn’t seem like it at first due to the various deceptions of the park’s creator Ford (Anthony Hopkins). This led to a chilling scene in a basement and a few more ones in retrospect if you have the time to go back and watch the early episodes. (I’m retired, so I have that kind of freedom.) More and more people turned out to be androids as time went on. It was difficult to trust the death of anyone given that they could simply have created an android version of themselves to take the bullet, as probably occurred in this season’s final scene.
We all knew where this completely dull show was going: eventually the androids would rebel and murder a lot of the humans. In last night’s season finale, they did it, laughing and smiling the whole time. It was unclear why their murder spree was so joyful until we realized that it too was simply another storyline created by Ford. As Evan Rachel Wood opened fire on the executive board of Westworld, it was just another fake storyline — albeit one with real casualties.
The best part of Westworld‘s story, we found out last night, was also fake: the awakening of Maeve (Thandie Newton), who discovered she was an android and decided to leave the park. The story of one human being on a mission to destroy the world entire is always a strong plot, and she was supported in her mission by the completely charming Felix (Leonardo Nam). The fact that one murderous android was distinctly more sympathetic than another murderous android gave me a lot of pause.
No one ever made it very far past the basic concept of Westworld before. It is easy enough for machines to take over a space designed for them, with few modern weapons, that they have inhabited for 35 years. Keeping a rebellion going depends on substantial ingenuity, and the element of surprise would not really hurt. Neither detail really plays much of a role here.
Along those lines, it is difficult for Westworld to come back for a second season with much of the same cast. The finale featured the hasty establishment of some new characters to replace the old — perhaps more significant members cast have actually been killed, and it seems important that they are not part of the park’s future. Unlike most shows, we never became terribly attached to any of these people/non-people to begin with.
It is a function of old age that people are always asking for advice. No one has ever seen a man like Donald Trump become president before; how could we possibly know what to expect no matter how long we have been alive? When my wife Lynne asks me if I should watch Westworld, I say no. Then she often asks why. I ask her if she has ever thought about whether the roomba that vacuums our living room ever wanted kids or engages in vigorous wishful thinking. After she says no, I tell her to watch The Crown.
Dick Cheney is the senior contributor to This Recording.