sat 25/05/2024

Westworld, Series 1 Finale, Sky Atlantic | reviews, news & interviews

Westworld, Series 1 Finale, Sky Atlantic

Westworld, Series 1 Finale, Sky Atlantic

Cowboy movie morphs into philosophical disquisition

Maeve (Thandie Newton) gets her point across to Sylvester (Ptolemy Slocum)

Anyone who expected a simple robots-versus-humans confrontation, like in Michael Crichton's original Westworld movie from 1973, had another think, or bunch of thinks, coming. The final episode of the Jonathan Nolan/JJ Abrams Westworld was more like a sci-fi manifesto for a post-human world.

It was further proof of how the new wave of long-form, big-budget television is developing vast horizons way beyond what even filmmakers can now envisage. While they get about two hours to get their message across, here auteur Nolan (along with his wife and co-writer Lisa Joy) has already had 10 and a half, with further series in the pipeline. What started out 10 episodes ago as a futuristic cowboy movie has morphed into a frequently baffling inquisition into moral philosophy, the nature of time and memory, the meaning of "consciousness", and corporate greed.

But was it any good? Gongs must be in the offing for the strange and powerful musical score by Ramin Djawadi, while ingenious reworkings of songs by the Rolling Stones, Amy Winehouse and Radiohead (with the latter's "Exit Music" prominently featured in the finale) lent a mordant, ironic tone. The Utah scenery was extraordinary too, though possibly not eligible for Academy Awards. Meanwhile, you couldn't help feeling that Nolan was making a point of ensuring his reach exceeded his grasp, since every time you thought you were getting a grip on where the various narrative strands were heading, suddenly the road forked in another five directions and logic and proportion went out of the window. But what would you expect from the guy who wrote Memento and Interstellar?

The finale did at least answer a number of questions, even if the answers were barely credible. We were finally apprised of the true identity of Ed Harris's threatening Man in Black, who turned out to be the older version of William (Jimmi Simpson), the visitor to Westworld who ended up falling in love (or did he?) with the existentially-challenged android, Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood, pictured above). He also proved to be the scheming capitalist raider of the piece, suddenly so enamoured of Westworld that he bought most of the company.

This all helped to hammer home the nature of passing time, which had hitherto been left a little hazy. While the droids were trapped in their miserable ever-repeating loops of being shot, raped and beaten up, they nonetheless never aged, while years were spinning past in the outside world (which, incidentally, we haven't caught a glimpse of yet). When some droids started experiencing memory flashbacks, every historic layer appeared to them as vividly as the present, with disorientating effect.

Meanwhile, we already knew Bernard (Jeffrey Wright, above left) was a synthetic genetic encore of the enigmatic Arnold, but we got to learn more about how Arnold had created certain androids (or "hosts", in Westworld terminology) with the intention that they would climb an evolutionary ladder towards full consciousness. Then that model changed into the mysterious maze which has been popping up throughout the series – if they could reach the centre of the maze, the synthetic humans would blossom into their conscious selves, as Dolores finally managed to do.

However, a slug from a .45 can still cut through all the metaphysical bullshit, as in the carefully stage-managed public suicide of Dr Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) as the final reel rolled. Ford's revenge looks likely to be a real-world droid invasion in series two, presumably featuring Thandie Newton's cool and deadly Maeve (who surely must have spent more time naked in Westworld than any other character in TV history). But I'm not going to try to out-guess this Nolan guy.

You couldn't help feeling that Jonathan Nolan was making a point of ensuring his reach exceeded his grasp


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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