I’m not generally one to do weekly blogging of television series and I don’t intend to start now. But I’ve been following the HBO series Westworld for two seasons now and having watched the season two finale, I just have to ask a couple of questions of the rest of the fans. Take this as an early forewarning that there will be some serious spoilers in here, so if you haven’t seen it and are even considering watching it at some point, bail out now if spoilers bother you.
I was a bit dubious about this show to begin with, but season one actually turned out to be quite good. I’d stop short of saying “great” but it was enjoyable. Started off a little slow, but once it picked up steam I seriously became invested in the plot. In a similar fashion to The Sopranos or Game of Thrones, this was a beautifully constructed world with no real heroes to root for. Everyone was flawed, but you probably found a way to start rooting for some of the anti-heroes in the story. The plot was complex and it could take you a while to catch up with the twists, but once you did it became intriguing. And the big twist near the end of season one really gave it an almost unique edge.
LAST WARNING: If you didn’t watch season one but think you might ever do so, stop reading now.
The time shift element they introduced, where the Man in Black wound up being William was kind of crazy. But once you wrapped your mind around it the story took on a new depth. It’s sort of like figuring out that Pulp Fiction wasn’t taking place sequentially, only better. I liked it.
And then there was season two. I dutifully followed along for all ten episodes, even though the finale of season one had left me wondering where they could possibly go from there. It felt like the story was over. But the writers decided to cram a huge amount of story, plus backstory for nearly every character, into ten long episodes. That can work sometimes, with the viewer learning more about what made some of the characters tick in the previous season and build on those new revelations. And Westworld delivered on that theme in a number of cases, while other characters seemed to be crafted into overly developed players who wound up having very little impact on the overall storyline.
Other aspects of the park appeared and set fans abuzz. This was particularly true of the parallel parks where there were Samurai and Indian big game hunting expeditions. Crazy, right? But then they completely disappeared. And the time-shifting element of the story went from an interesting twist to a madcap, random collision of different timelines which, at least in my mind, never really sorted themselves out even at the very end. I’m not saying that the writers didn’t have a story in mind and got stuck (as happened in Lost) but they didn’t present it in a way that you could follow along with. (At least for me.) There may have been an incredibly nuanced story in there flashing backward and forward in the timeline which would have been perfectly engaging in a book roughly the size of the Lord of the Rings. But at least for me, it was just a frustrating experience of watching the timeline shift through disjointed pieces as the writers tried to smash it all into some mysterious backstory which we were mostly not privy to.
In short, this was a mess as far as I’m concerned. The big finale was supposed to tie it all together and apparently set the stage for an entirely new chapter in season three. But for me, season two was never really worked through in a coherent fashion. Maybe I’m just not a refined enough viewer, but they lost me early on and didn’t tie things up in a way which made sense when it was over. Your mileage may vary.