Written by Hannah Dunleavy

Arts

Cowboy Builders

Gunfights, glitches and a shameful waste of milk: Hannah Dunleavy talks episode one of Westworld. CONTAINS SPOILERS.

"Barnstorming": Rodrigo Santoro as wanted man Hector Escaton. Photos: HBO.

“Barnstorming”: Rodrigo Santoro as wanted man Hector Escaton. Photos: HBO.

Thrice upon a time in the West

There’s a reason westerns are the best genre in the known universe (FACT!) and it’s pretty simple. The sad and bloodstained history of the American West is the perfect place in which to ask one of life’s most interesting moral questions: how do people behave when the old rules don’t apply any more? It’s the same question that informed HBO’s Deadwood and made it the best TV series ever. (ALSO FACT!)

Still with me? OK. The 1970s film Westworld (which, to be clear, I love) isn’t a western, it’s sci-fi. So it focuses on the pressing issue of what would happen if robots rose up and started killing us rather than asking its audience, “If a robot is undistinguishable from a human being, what does it say about us if we have sex with one? Or kill one?”

After the rather excellent fake-out at the start where we’re led to believe that James Marsden is the “newcomer”, it seemed pretty clear that this Westworld is going the other way and it’s this that makes it feel like a real western. Although to be fair, that fecking glorious backdrop certainly helps.

It poses a moral question that carries over into the ‘sci-fi’ portion of the show, translated as one of the truisms of science: just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should.

“I’m generally not a fan of anachronistic music, but there was something pretty joyful about hearing Black Hole Sun being played in a Wild West bar.”

And, in addition to all this philosophising about the real monster being man, there clearly is a robot rising of some sort brewing, making it genuinely the perfect set-up for the squandering. One episode in, I’m pretty confident that’s not going to happen. *crosses all the fingers*

An acting gold rush

There really is an embarrassment of riches on show here, but it’d be wrong not to start with Evan Rachel Wood, who imbues Dolores Abernathy with an ethereal air that’s really kind of spooky. Well done that woman. Elsewhere it was good to see so much time go to two of the best cards in Westworld‘s hand, Jeffrey Wright and Sidse Babett Knudsen.

There’ll be time enough to talk Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris in later weeks, so as I’m unsure if we’ll see him again (and if you do know, please don’t tell me) instead I’m going take the opportunity to applaud Louis Herthum, who was absolutely on it as the malfunctioning Peter Abernathy.

I am hoping we see Rodrigo Santoro and Ingrid Bolsø Berdal again, as that assault on the town was barnstorming. Even if it was brought to a premature end by a bloody human, in the one flash of levity in the whole episode. (Seriously Westworld, you’re going to need some light if you’re going to be that dark.)

Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) and the Man in Black (Ed Harris).

Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) and the Man in Black (Ed Harris).

That other thing

So, when I said I was going to write this blog, several people shared their concerns about Westworld and violence against women on TV. Which is fair enough, because it’s exactly the sort of thing I, and the women at Strong Female Leads, talk about.

That said, I’m going to put a pin in this conversation until I’ve seen more of the series, because that’s only fair. And, in all honesty, from what I’ve seen so far, the issue’s treatment has every potential to be part of a wider theme, as well as not making the cardinal mistake of thinking sexual violence has anything to do with sex.

Other things

I’m generally not a fan of anachronistic music, but there was something pretty joyful about hearing Black Hole Sun being played in a Wild West bar.

That dentist who shot the lion would so go to Westworld, right?

That company uses space really inefficiently.

What did Wright’s Lowe whisper at the end?

You wouldn’t have sex with a robot, would you? Would you?

@thatdunleavy

Enjoyed this? Help Standard Issue keep going by joining our gang. Click here to find out how.

2953 Views
Share:
  • googleplus
  • linkedin
  • rss
  • pinterest

Written by Hannah Dunleavy

Hannah Dunleavy is the deputy editor of Standard Issue. She likes whisky and not having to run anywhere.