TV Review: ‘Westworld’

TV Review: 'Westworld' Examines Artificial Life
Courtesy HBO

A beautifully restored old train deposits visitors in Sweetwater, a manufactured Old West town and the central settlement within “Westworld,” the role-playing resort in which paying customers can bring their most elaborate fantasies to life, setting out on frontier adventures or staying in the saloons to whoop it up.

But like a train, this drama runs on predictable tracks, and no matter how luxurious the trappings of the journey, the destination is obvious from miles away. “Westworld” looks terrific; its directors have shot its Western locations to stunning effect. But its warmly saturated outdoor scenes and its surface slickness aren’t enough to mask the indecision, condescension, and hollowness at its core.

Sometimes a drama contains opposing ideas that give it an enticing tension, but the contradictory impulses of “Westworld” fight each other in ways that detract from the show’s fitful momentum and thematic ambitions. It has a few nebulous ideas about the nature of memory and the contours of freedom and how those two notions are linked, but it rarely finds effective ways of bringing them to life. As is the case with the robots it depicts, there are unsettling and possibly unfixable flaws built into the base code of this drama, which, through its first four episodes, remains deeply confused about what it wants to be and what it wants to say. The vistas of “Westworld” are vast, but its imagination is constricted.

Through the haze of Western sunsets and inconsistent storytelling, it’s possible to discern a few things about this long-gestating drama. Ultimately, “Westworld” tries to teach basic and obvious lessons about free will and consciousness that borrow from common sci-fi allegories. It ploddingly remixes concepts about artificial intelligence from an array of sources like “The Matrix,” “Blade Runner,” and “Battlestar Galactica,” all of which boasted more clarity and drive than this project. But the most consistent stumbling block here is the way the story reinforces and perpetuates the very problems the show purports to identify and explore.

The Westworld resort has an enormous group of techs, writers, and executives who come up with and modify storylines that the guests can participate in; the place is an eternal work in progress. This aspect of the show could have been catnip for students of television and film, given that the characters debate the limitations of different kinds of narratives and battle each other over which approaches best capture the complexities of life — and the fancy of paying customers. The intersections of commerce, myth, projection, and self-deception could have been fertile arenas for the show to play in, if those working at the resort were not so sour, crabby and, in some cases, strident or self-aggrandizing. It’s also hard to take the staff’s debates seriously, given how middling their handiwork often is: The park’s robotic “hosts” tend to recite clichéd dialogue, and the two main female hosts offer a representation of the madonna-whore dichotomy that is not particularly fresh.

Even so, thanks to excellent performances from the actors playing the hosts, many of them seem incredibly lifelike and sometimes even psychologically complex, and “Westworld” frequently uses their plight to ruminate on the idea that the exploitative and desensitizing elements of fictional narratives can produce negative effects in reality. But the show seeks to raise such questions by serving up no end of distressing moments in which characters are terrorized, assaulted or murdered.

A screaming woman is dragged off to be violated within the show’s first 15 minutes. There are multiple mass murders (one scene features actual buckets of blood), and the Man in Black (Ed Harris) is a guest who operates like a standard-issue serial killer within the park. His quest, which is lifted right out of any number of video games or genre novels — and has echoes of the 1973 movie on which the show is based — only grows in importance through the first four episodes, even though his smug brutality quickly becomes tiresome.

The Man in Black claims to be searching for the game’s deeper level, but it never becomes clear if the park — or the show — has one. What it does have are repetitive scenes of bloodshed that don’t always add to the drama and more frequently detract from it. The designers have mandated that various scenarios reset and repeat frequently, so certain kinds of scenes play out many, many times. There is a place for violence within challenging narratives, but there is already a lot of brutal imagery all over TV, and very little about what plays out in “Westworld” is subversive or compelling. After a while, it’s simply overkill.

By now, it’s obvious that television drama, especially in the loftier prestige-driven realms, continues to have problem with the casual and reflexive overuse of violence against women. While it’s true that a number of men die in “Westworld,” using that argument to diminish the treatment of women here is to ignore the larger context in which this show operates, and the real world in which women live. Even now, when the expanding television industry offers greater opportunities to modify or reconsider clichéd modes of storytelling, drama writers continually resort to the rape, assault, and murder of women to provide inciting incidents, or to make a show seem “edgy” and to “raise the stakes.”

“Westworld” feeds into these tropes while signaling its concern about them, but that concern rings hollow the more its bloody and repetitive scenarios play out. And the drama undercuts itself through its frequent attempts to invest the architects of the show’s fictional realm with an air of tragic nobility — which often reads as defensive self-pity.

It is not new or revolutionary that “Westworld” depicts an environment in which human bodies — especially female bodies — exist for the pleasure and convenience of those who would use them and discard them at will. Like “Jessica Jones” or “Outlander,” two worthy and bold genre pieces, the HBO series could have explored the repercussions of oppression and sexual violence by emphasizing the perspectives of the people whose bodies were violated. Ranch-dweller Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and a prostitute, Maeve (Thandie Newton) do get some screen time, but their stories are often overwhelmed by the amount of time spent on the Man in Black, the park’s messianic creator, Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), and one of its “head writers,” Bernard (Jeffrey Wright).

At one point, Ford warns a female executive, Theresa (Sidse Babett Knudsen), not to get in his way; moments earlier, Bernard had shut down a junior female employee who raised concerns about anomalies in the park. In this narrative, women exist around the edges, scrambling for agency and autonomy, while the majority of the show’s arcs dwell on the men who monitor the hosts and design their stories, police the park, or take full advantage of its sexual and visceral thrills. Even Dolores’ storyline begins to shift its focus to a male guest who rescues and assists her.

Sustaining this kind of story over entire seasons of TV comes with a high degree of difficulty, as Joss Whedon’s similar, and short-lived, “Dollhouse” demonstrated. But even if “Westworld” can work out its core problems, which revolve around a lack of focus, skewed perspectives, and a generally dour tone, there’s not much suspense contained in the show’s central question: Will the robots rebel? It’s not a spoiler to observe that, in hundreds of almost identical tales, they have.

It’s those twin tracks — the deadening effect of watching a great deal of bloodshed meant to indict mindless violence, and the predictable nature of the central story — that make “Westworld” feel like a missed opportunity. In a number of ways, the program is reminiscent of “Vinyl,” another ambitious but muddled drama that reinforced a lot of worn-out Prestige TV tropes even as it attempted to tell the tale of a rebellion that threatened a company’s bottom line.

Part of the problem with “Westworld,” oddly enough, is that the actors playing the hosts are often quite magnetic. The work of Wood as Dolores is particularly nuanced and wonderful. But because characters like her are poignant and emotionally engaging from the beginning, the discussion about whether the hosts have attained consciousness seem somewhat pointless: To the audience, they obviously have. When another host catches glimpses of bodies scattered on lab floors like broken toys, it’s difficult not to think of the story’s architects as uncaring monsters. It’s the squabbling technicians who all too often seem cold, not the confused and questioning hosts who are casually recycled, diagnosed, and terminated.

Like the resort at its heart, “Westworld” doesn’t want to alienate any potential customers, so it draws on a grab bag of ideas and clashing tones without making its point of view clear. The more indistinct a concept, the fewer people can take issue with it, which is an approach that might work well for a vacation spot, but poses a serious problem for an ambitious television drama. Still, it’s likely that a subset of viewers who just want to see naked prostitutes and witness cool shoot-outs will be satisfied by what they find on the screen. Like most visitors to the resort, some will gladly partake in what’s being offered without thinking much about the cost.

TV Review: 'Westworld'

Drama: 10 episodes (4 reviewed): HBO; Sun. Oct. 2, 9 p.m. 60 mins.

Crew

Executive producers, Jonathan Nolan, Lisa Joy, J.J. Abrams, Jerry Weintraub, Bryan Burk.

Cast

Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, James Marsden, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, Tessa Thompson, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Jimmi Simpson, Rodrigo Santoro, Shannon Woodward, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Ben Barnes, Simon Quarterman, Angela Sarafyan, Luke Hemsworth, Clifton Collins Jr.

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  1. Thanks for the article, well written. I’ve to say I like Westworld but sometimes I don’t appreciate some dialogues and the storyline.
    At any rate very good cast and photography.

  2. hentai says:

    Too violence in my opinion. Like author I don’t like the show, I think the author has an impartial point of view when wrote and she doesn’t missed the point of the show in its entirety.
    I hope my 7 years old child does not watch the show.

  3. Jeff S. says:

    This article was so “right on” in my opinion. Exactly what I felt watching the show and so well expressed.
    The show alternates between horrible violence ( I especially hated the knife in the female’s abdomen while she’s being intimate with a guest.) Not a great influence on kids watching, or anyone else. Then in turn we get a rest from the torturous violence listening to usually boring dialogue. There are some great underlying ideas but they are not worth suffering through the show for.

  4. S K says:

    This article has got the show totally wrong. The author seems to want to dislike the show without understanding it, just to make some random point based on some personal agenda about sexism (I’m female too, btw). #EpicFail

    • Yep. She’s watching her own show with polarized lenses and missing a lot of the real story.

      Obligatory social justice pandering and an obvious lack of respect for science fiction drown out her valid points.

      To answer her back with an equal criticism, “I find your review playing to a limited audience and muddled, predictable and derivative.”.

  5. William Craig Cohen says:

    The reviewer has quite clearly missed the point of the show in its entirety. She seems to have glazed over every theme and doesn’t understand the point of the violence.

  6. Big ol’ misfire on this review. I could tell that by the first episode there would be a huge power shift to the women.

  7. Gunner McDagget says:

    It is interesting to look back on this review put in after 4 episodes. The reviewer’s suggestions that the show was hollow and directionless really just show a lack of attention or understanding by the author and a good reason why you shouldn’t judge anything early.

  8. astrosio says:

    I agree. furthermore, some words need to been spend about the reiteration of the theme, of the in-the-intentions deep meaning of the story. that eventually sounds instead trite and obsolete. (sorry for my english :) )

  9. FranticSymmetry says:

    If great show comes out, that dares to build its story up for more than 2 episodes without throwing everything it has on the table, be assured that someone like this author will utterly demolish it. Best story in tv shows for the last few years, concluded to be a porn-bait. Professionalism…yeah…

  10. TWM says:

    I’m sure Variety was under pressure to put out a review on Westworld, but this should be a lesson on why one doesn’t draw sweeping, general conclusions about a show after 4 episodes… because after watching the whole season this review looks sooo off-mark. And now, when I’m googling for discussion about the final narrative, this comes up… awkward, Variety.

  11. George Mego says:

    Your heavily personal agenda laden and partly (as in 4/10th) formed review is bland at best. Jessica Jones was a great show, but was petty compared to this in every aspect. The show actually gives into your agenda if you pay attention to it, humanizing the female characters and showing the simple minded cruel tendencies of many of the men, but you were so keen on condemning it from your high horse that you missed giving it that chance, and now forever are associated with your simple minded review championing a show about an invincible women who beats up men and condemning this one for not mirroring your values on a surface level. Get a new job because you don’t have the mind for this.

  12. Chris says:

    Agree with this review. Pilot felt like a grab bag of cliches. Every scene and moment I can imagine the discussion “oh! This scene should be like that beat in (insert sci fi or western movie here). Couldn’t believe it had such positive reviews online – this is the only review that really nailed it.

  13. Chris C says:

    I actually like this review except the gender issues. The cast features a pretty diverse lineup, and the female characters get a lot of screen time. That aside, this show is getting extremely boring. The humans are stupid, the robots are clearly smart, and there are a million plot holes. They have people monitoring everything and noticing every small detail, but a robot drawing things it clearly shouldn’t over and over is somehow missed about 10 times?? The plots are clichéd, the story is unbelievably slow, and the characters are some of the most uninteresting ones I’ve seen on such an ambitious project. I do think this review is a bit too harsh and probably just for clicks (and can do without the SJW agenda), but I totally agree that the scenes are unbelievably predictable. MiB on screen? Yup someone dies. Human looks like it might be killed by a robot? Plot armor or screen cut. People making ridiculous mistakes to give the story opportunities? Check. It’s like if on Ep 7 of The Walking Dead they were still talking about how to kill a zombie. I have no clue how much longer they can drag out this plot. I was interested in seeing a show about people doing things without consequences in a Western theme. Instead I got a show about robot consciousness that I’ve seen done 1000 times, but even more clichéd than ever. If HBO is hoping this takes GoT’s spot after it ends, they might be in for a big awakening. I know they’re different shows and everything, but the comparison must be made when talking about HBO itself. And Westworld can barely even come close to GoT if you ask me. One show has me on the edge of my seat, with even the smallest characters drawing my interest. I’ve fallen asleep about 10 times going through Westworld and the main characters have nearly no emotional connection to me. Seriously any could die right now and I wouldn’t even blink. I was more interested in Sam from GoT in one episode than I’ve been in any of WW’s characters after 7 episodes.

  14. Gerald Bowman says:

    I very much agree with this review. I had similar thoughts after watching the first 4 episodes. An added bonus is that the original (1973) movie was a childhood of mine that I saw in re-runs more times than I can count.

    Part of the magic of the movie was first seeing the splendor of Westword (and the other two parks- Medieval World and Future World). Then slowly things start to unravel. Sadly, this unraveling seemed to take longer in the 2 hour movie than it does in this TV series (which is supposed to run several seasons).

    In this show we never got to appreciate the magic of Westworld. Why should I care one way or the other? We were immediately thrown into the problems. But, we are also left wondering why these park managers cannot see the obvious. This would be like Jurassic Park having the dinosaurs break out in the first 10 minutes of the movie upon our first glimpse of the park. We have never even been sold on the reality of the place, nor had a chance to form an opinion of it, before we are supposed to be invested in its survival or undoing?

    Obvious plot twists coming so predictable they make the show boring:
    #1 Ford is plotting this evolution of his androids.
    #2 “The Man In Black” is Ford’s (supposedly) dead partner, Arnold.
    #3 Arnold/MIB created Dolores as a passion project and she has special abilities.
    #4 The do-gooder guest (who is obnoxious and corny) will be a main star of the show and hero.
    #5 A love triangle will occur between Dolores, the obnoxious guest guy, and the MIB.

    I have been watching this brain-dead show purely for the quality performances (of horrible material) and the amazing production values. And perhaps a bit of nostalgia for my childhood love of the film. But, this is not a very good show, so far.

  15. Aldebaran says:

    “Even Dolores’ storyline begins to shift its focus to a male guest who rescues and assists her.”

    But William doesn’t rescue her. She rescues herself and just passes out at his camp.

  16. B park says:

    Lol, the author of this review lacks total originality and creativity…not wasting another sentence on this “review”.

  17. I fully agree with this review; there is no end-game or goal in sight, but it’s a fascinating, bloody ride.

  18. Scott says:

    I can’t track characters and get no sense for wtf is going on in this series so far

  19. Ryan says:

    So, Maureen Ryan is doing the bad job that she’s accusing westworld’s architects of doing. She glosses over the fact that the series has yet to unfurl its narrative and tragically drops info from unaired episodes. Overall, this review is a salacious attempt at relevance with an incoherent disregard for contents. And leaning on gender politics? ‘Cheap’ is the word that comes to mind. And if you’re a commenter whose real life conditions are so luxurious as to obscure the ‘value in seeing everything,’ then by all means, change the channel; I’m sure CBS is offering new episodes of ‘Kevin Can Wait.’

  20. Colin says:

    After reading many of the comments on this post I was really shocked at the way some people are responding. I find such personal criticisms to a TV series review really odd somehow. It surprises me that all these ‘highly intelligent and sophisticated’ Westworld fans can’t accept a different opinion and seem to take the criticism so personally. As an Game of Thrones book fan, who stopped watching once the rape, murder and obscenities became too unrealistic I don’t understand this current obsession with seeing everything. Yes, we saw a man’s face get blown off but did we need to and did that add anything to the story? Westworld is a great concept with outstanding scenery and very good acting but, like so many other series’ the main goal is to fit f**k as many times into one episode as possible (way more that any normal people speak) and to push the boundaries of what is acceptable. For me personally, although I really liked the mystery, complexity and core questions in ‘Westworld’, not to mention Anthony Hopkins’ presence; it was far too over top. After starting and stopping to watch so many series’ in the last year, I am beginning to wonder if I am so different to the rest of the western world in my idea of what entertainment is…

  21. D F COLLINSON says:

    Westworld is gratuitously violent and male-dominated, but it also has some flaws! The principal host characters played by Wood and Newton are clearly going to be the focus of the show, as they slowly understand that their world is an artificial construct. Less clear is the role of Harris as The Man in Black. As the most experienced guest, he is aware of a hidden level to the game, known as The Maze, which he is determined to reach and then never leave Westworld. It may well be that this level is connected to the mysterious board, interviews with whom drives Knudsen’s character to tobacco. She makes it clear to Quarterman’s character that there is some purpose to the park that is beyond his understanding. Let’s hope it doesn’t turn out that they were all on board an airplane that crashed.

    • Gerald Bowman says:

      Come on. It is obvious that “The Man in Black” will turn out to be Arnold, the co-creator of the park. And he is in love with Dolores because he created her- his first host- based on some lost love. Yes, the show is that cliche…

  22. steamoury says:

    I’ve not seen WestWorld yet and wanted to read a few reviews.
    I like starting with the low ratings as they are the most entertaining… Usually.
    This review has no flow which makes it read like a school text book.

  23. So this is the click bait review of the week?
    The whining here is about that the show doesn’t go the way she likes, doesn’t what she want to know and that she can’t read between the lines because violence… is like to wanting to know the ending in the first episode.

  24. loco73 says:

    “It is a stylish but ultimately empty spectacle. Right up the alley of someone like Jar Jar Abrams. Not sure if I’ll stick around this show for the long run…if it ever gets one…”

    My brainfart from last week….and quoting myself…as if that adds more gravitas…but anyways…I am glad I actually did stick around, reading some of the other comments here and elsewhere, and the advice of others to be patient and give the show a chance…and of course to overcome my dislike of JJ Abrams.

    First I have to give credit to the cast for keeping me around, Evan Rachel Wood (me likkeeee!!!!) a big, big plus for this show, and of course it goes without saying, Anthony Hopkins, and no less important Jeffrey Wright, Ed Harris, Thandie Newton et al. By the way, I knew Evan Rachel Wood belonged on HBO since I saw her memorable turn in “True Blood” as Queen Sophie (never mind that she also starred in the HBO miniseries “Mildred Pierce”)! Glad to see her in a role she deserves! “Thirteen”, “The Upside Of Anger” and “The Wrestler” are only a few of the roles that brought her to my attention and the knowledge that she is talented.

    But as stupid as it may sound, what also contributed to my rather quick turnaround in regards to this show were two things. First the line “These violent delights have violent ends”…as said by Evan Rachel Wood….and hearing “Black Whole Sun” by Soundgarden, coursing through the show’s musical veins. Of course not forgotten is Ramin Djawadi’s score!

    I am still not completely sold on Westworld” and obviously I have to see the rest of the season and how the show pans out. However, now I am definitely interested.

    It still remains to be seen how this show will unfold and develop….

  25. Charlie says:

    Totally agree with this review. Ryan has articulated, and much more eloquently, a lot of what I’ve felt so far while watching “Westworld”.

    • Mark Hatfield says:

      I agree with many that the review indicts the show too early on many plot points, but she does nail it on the confused themes and dour tone. Like others I find the acting and production to be impeccable, but as usual the writing on the show just blows. The ‘maze’ concept is trite, and while there are some clever references to philosophy and classical literature, the show is a sad facsimile of real art. Westword has a strong odor of ‘Lost’ about it. As with Lost, it’s making a bunch of grandiose and mysterious promises, and I’ll eat my six-shooter if it comes even halfway close to keeping them. Maybe it’s true that the maze is a mean metaphor for the show writers’ contempt for its cheese-eating viewers.

      The very notion of having a trillion dollar theme park where billionaires can fight and fuck to their heart’s content is just so juvenile as to almost turn my stomach. The fact that there is more than a passing resemblance of Ford and Bernard to Mr. Roarke and Tattoo from Fantasy Island is noteworthy to say the least. That pulpy, campy series from the late 70’s is in large part recreated here, but with reduced vistas of possibility on a much larger budget.

      Just the mental image of techs having to hose out the various orifices of the hosts’ bodies each day like so many love-dolls is as amusing as it is disgusting. It’s also irritating that the economics of this imaginary park would be utterly unfeasible: each host apparently would cost millions to produce and maintain, the park infrastructure, depreciation and maintenance costs would be insane, and the market demand for said fantasy seems restricted to an unbelievably small target demographic. Unless the mysterious defense project is revealed soon, I cannot suspend my disbelief much longer, and the robotic super-soldier plot would be far more interesting than this bullshit if that’s what the park’s ultimate purpose really is (and how would Ford not know this?)

      Sometimes I wonder whether network executives ever stop at the beginning of a pitch and just say: “Wait, this show has such a low opinion of both our viewers and of humanity, I’m not sure I can look myself in the mirror anymore if I greenlight this.”

  26. John says:

    2016 liberals. Dumber and more prudish than a Westboro Baptist Church member.

  27. Kleg99 says:

    I’ve seen two episodes as of this writing. I happen to think that, thus far, the show has been great.

    I remember thinking after 3 episodes of Deadwood, after 2 episodes of Rome, heck, after 3 episodes of Game of Thrones, that those shows were all lacking that “it” factor. But I was intrigued enough to pursue those shows further, and I was rewarded.

    Remember my first two sentences of this comment. I said that I thought this show was great after two episodes. I didn’t say that about the 3 shows I mentioned afterwards.

    This show isn’t clear enough for some people, I get that, especially after two episodes. I refuse to read up on what the book by Michael Crichton is all about, because I like surprise. But I guarantee this show is going to become not only a ratings hit (which it already seems to be), but also a Critical hit, because it actually isn’t about what the author of this piece thinks it is. It isn’t about morality. It’s about entertainment.

    Crichton did focus on questions of morality. And I’m sure that his book was the same way. But, like HBO has a knack for doing, they will take his story and make it so much more. It’s a mystery, and a western, and a fantasy, and a moral drama.

    Although, I should add, without even reading the book, I’m pretty sure that the people controlling Westworld are in their own theme park fantasy. So if that’s the twist, I’m pretty proud of myself, but if not, I’ll be happy to be wrong.

    • loco73 says:

      Thanks for saying what you just said. Last week when I saw the pilot, twice might I add, the show kind of left me cold and empty. The visuals, the sets, the production values were certainly top notch, as they should be given the high budget this show is likely drawing from HBO and co. One of the things I appreciated, and still do so, was Ramin Djawadi’s score. For a guy who is scoring “Game Of Thrones”, “The Strain” and now “Westworld”… he remains quite creative and unique with each show. But I’m glad I stuck around for the second episode. While the show still has to do some gound work before completely pulling me in…I am definitely more interested now!

  28. loco73 says:

    It is a stylish but ultimately empty spectacle. Right up the alley of someone like Jar Jar Abrams. Not sure if I’ll stick around this show for the long run…if it ever gets one…

  29. Kyle says:

    “Like the resort at its heart, “Westworld” doesn’t want to alienate any potential customers, so it draws on a grab bag of ideas and clashing tones without making its point of view clear. The more indistinct a concept, the fewer people can take issue with it, which is an approach that might work well for a vacation spot, but poses a serious problem for an ambitious television drama.”

    You’re upset because the show doesn’t take a hard stance and force a point of view? What POV would you like it to force, “violence is bad”?

    Many of the greatest and most ambitious TV dramas similarly gave no clear “point of view” and left the morality up to the viewer. The same criticism you offer could be said about The Sopranos or Mad Men.

  30. Steve Normal says:

    I remember when Variety reviews consisted of thoughtful bi-partisan analysis observing production detail and potential audience returns. If the reader can determine a “reviewers” personal politics, I would consider that akin to sophomoric.

    No worries, Ms. Ryan; I am nearly certain none of the below comments are from your colleagues. Well, back to my job slinging hash at high school cafeterias!

  31. Albert says:

    This review is a perfect example of what happens when you let your boring, ironically puritanical politics overshadow EVERY aspect of your analysis. What you get is a shallow, joyless screed lamenting the amount of blood and violence and oppression.

    Will somebody please think of the children!? (who happen to be adults but need to be shielded from the horrors of robot life)

  32. Robert says:

    Don’t worry critics give 73 pts but users 9.2 on metacritic, first time I see so huge gap. 9/10 from me.

  33. Todd says:

    You’ve seen one episode…

    • Io says:

      Read more carefully.

      From the review:
      “…through its first four episodes, remains deeply confused about what it wants to be and what it wants to say.”

  34. David says:

    I think the reviewer, while airing perfectly understandable concerns, has completely missed the originality of this show (while also overlooking some sloppy execution especially within the park controllers who are in many ways far cruder than the robots). I am not aware that any other cyber shows have explored the idea of the continuing performance of dozens of narrative lines around which humans can move and intervene. This is a highly original idea, far removed from Bladertunner land . In fact its true antecedents would seem to lie way back in ‘Morel’s Invention’ (novel and film) and also possibly ‘Last Year in Marienbad’ with a bit of ‘The Truman Show’ and ‘Hostel’ thrown in. I am a bit doubtful it can be massively commercial but we can hope and, given it is an amazingly ambitious theme for a TV show, the makers should be applauded for their boldness and ambition. The comparison with ‘Vinyl’ , which merely rechurned stereotypes is in this respect quite ridiculous.

  35. loco73 says:

    Well that is what happens when style and special effects come at the expense of character development and story telling. But then again, that is typical of a Jar Jar Abrams production. No wonder this show took soo long to complete an bring to the screen. The show seems not to be able to define itself due in large part because of the apparent indecision and confusion of both the producers and writers themselves.

    If it survives the first season…this show shouldn’t go beyond 3 seasons. “Westworld” would have worked better as a miniseries.

  36. Georgina says:

    Here’s the one critic on Metacritic who gave it a bad review.. I actually feel sad for this woman. Just imagine being so rotten inside, so singularly focused on only one negative and quickly diminishing social narrative that you are incapable of perceiving anything outside of it. Like the women in Westworld that she laments, she is trapped in a fabricated world of injustice and violence, incapable of seeing the complexity and splendor beyond it.

  37. Dinjale D'goto says:

    Over the years, I’ve come to expect some pretty extreme sexism from Variety. I pop back every once in a while to see if Variety has grown up. In short, no it hasn’t.

    Downplaying violence by women and rape of men is extremely low, but appears to be modern thinking “violence on one gender is worse than another?” That’s some amazingly shallow thinking, not to mention lacking in empathy and basic decency.

    The show, while sticking within social limits, did a pretty good job. For those that missed it, ERW is almost certainly going to come out with a vengeance (“yeah, but she didn’t in the first episode – that’s sexist that she didn’t”). Actually, the episode delineates bad behaviour (male), mostly good behaviour (female). It ticks all of the boxes that set the stage for Dolores’ aggressive behaviour to be justified.

    Some people just can’t see past their own gender. They are the worst offenders of sexism (and they criticise fiction and purport their prejudice as fact). This author needs to take a good long look at herself.

    I’m interested to see how the series pans out. Whether or not they question thinks like “all of the people in the office condone this behaviour as they are willing to work there”.

    What I find quite fascinating is the modern heroine of the cinema today is Black Widow. Hyper aggressive and without empathy. Call me odd, but that strikes me as an awful hero to worship. The days of the empathetic female lead are dead (as empathy is supposedly weak) and the aggressive sexism rules. Just ask the author of this article.
    Very sad. Very sad indeed that empathy (from anyone) is shunned.

  38. pizzmoe says:

    Excellent review. This show is just more of the same set in a different location. Excellent technical achievement with no real point.

  39. Charlie says:

    great review!

  40. Jan says:

    Wow, Maureen sure got her money’s worth from her writing classes in college. But I think she went a bit overboard here trying to impress her teacher. This is a ridiculously overwritten review! Maureen honey, you weren’t supposed to be writing a dissertation for your PhD. The writing is quite impenetrable and heavy- handed.

    She’s upset with the violence towards women? Well stick around sweetie, this is only episode one. I’m sure the tide will be turning. She doesn’t seem to get that this is just the very beginning of the story. Things will be changing, I almost guarantee it.

    • izattyou says:

      sweety? honey? how about you go to hell

    • ryan says:

      Hello genius. I guess the writing was so impenetrable that you missed the part where she mentions she’s seen the first four episodes? You don’t seem to get she’s almost halfway through the season, so I’ll take her actual informed opinion over your almost guarantee any day, thank ya.

  41. Gfy says:

    It’s the first episode of a series. No surprise that it was not perfect. However, the foundation for the series is excellent. I imagine it’s point of view will become clear over the course of the series, and thank god, not in the first episode. What a stilted review….

  42. mts222 says:

    The ultra violence saved the show in my opinion. Kind of a slow start. Like a Frankenstein meets The Truman Show meets Groundhog Day.. Part VI…

  43. Lesion of Doom says:

    “Still, it’s likely that a subset of viewers who just want to see naked prostitutes and witness cool shoot-outs will be satisfied by what they find on the screen.”

    I do see the validity of some of Ms. Ryan’s criticisms, but it’s a bit incongruous to criticize the show for being condescending and then including the above remark within the review.

    My primary issue with the more feminist critiques here is that, as usual, no alternative is offered. All television features tropes, and a western frontier-style show inevitably will include the brand of savage violence — including against women — that you’d expect. Thus, these really are genre criticisms masquerading as Westworld-specific criticisms.

    The show’s characters may take a casual approach to violence, but the show itself doesn’t portray the hosts that way at all. It underscores the horror that they experience on a daily basis, in turn fueling a viewer’s desire to have them turn on the guests. Ms. Ryan clearly disapproves of the show, but mostly that’s because she disapproves of the people who like this kind of show.

    If you regard your readers with such contempt, then it’s difficult to speak to them persuasively. This review is mostly just a rant.

  44. Watching right now, agree with the review
    Sci-fi and gore are a poor mix.
    Westerns and gore are a poor mix.
    Westworld is neither sci-fi nor western, it’s a horror flick.

  45. Look at all of the knuckle-dragging men whining about the this journalist mentioning the obvious with Westworld. Rape and violence against women is a stale, unsettling Hollywood trope that needs to stop.It not only needs to stop there but in real life. There is no reason for women to constantly be portrayed as only existing for a man’s pleasure. It’s 2016 and men either need to get their minds right or find yourselves relegated to irrelevance. Rape and violence against women should never be accepted nor should it be glorified and if you think there’s nothing wrong with it, then you are a major part of the problem.

  46. links says:

    I HAEN`T SEEN THE PILOT YET, BUT, YOURR REVIEW COMES ACROSS LIKE A PRO- FEMINIST RIGHTS ACTIVIST. OF COURSE THIS A TV-MA SEXPLOITATION THEMED SERIES. WHAT WOULD YOU EXPECT OF THE SERIES PREMISE

  47. wu tang says:

    Wondered how long it would take for a shitty feminist review to pop up for this one. Triggered, huh?

  48. Wuzkangz says:

    “women get hut so i don’t like it”
    “the show made me feel the way they wanted me to feel but i don’t like that feeling so it’s bad”

  49. Alex says:

    Go home Variety. You’re drunk.

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