The Immense Appeal of HBO’s Mysterious Westworld

Looking for a cool, new-world vacation? Love living a fantasy without any consequences? Need to get away from the same-old, same-old resort vacation? The old Wild West beckons you. Come to the western-themed series resort on HBO known as Westworld. It just might be your virtual reality dream come true.

But be careful, though. Don’t mistake it with any of the fantastic parks created by Walt Disney. There is no happily-ever-after here. Disney World it isn’t, that’s for sure. Creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, whose series is one of 5 television dramas nominated for a 2017 Writers Guild Award, have seen to that.

It is a theme park where guests interact with incredibly life-like robots. These interactions, or scenarios, are carefully created and screened by human designers, ably assisted by a strong security section “just in case.” Sounds interesting.

Are crimes committed? Absolutely! But the guests don’t pay for any horrible misdeeds. Even murder gets a free pass because you’re “killing” robots. Hey, it’s your fantasy, as sick as it may be.

Westworld, as you may have surmised, is not your typical resort fantasy park—far from it. For one thing, you have to be rich to spend a vacation there, filthy rich. But, you get what you pay for; your every whim in this futuristic Wild West park is catered to by robotic “hosts,” and your fantasies are easily and quickly fulfilled. Murder, torture—they are not only available for the guests, they’re easily attainable. 

The real mystery lies with the mysterious Robert Ford, a co-creator of the original Westworld, played with an eerily frightening calmness by Anthony Hopkins. He is the true purveyor of crime and evil. Mr. Ford is the mastermind of the park, and his mantra is, “Violent delights have violent ends.”

The multi-layered individual stories on Westworld are thought provoking and surely social commentary on humanity’s need for control. That that control includes violence and cruelty is a lesson in just how primitive we all may be beneath the veneer of being civilized people.

The series features an all-star cast that includes Golden Globe-winner Ed Harris as well as the aforementioned, incomparable Oscar-winner, Anthony Hopkins. Jeffrey Wright—so brilliant as the sinister Valentin Narcisse in Boardwalk Empire—plays the role of Bernard Lowe with a commanding mix of passion, inquiring intelligence, and compassion. His is a role that is award-worthy. 

The female roles show power and intelligence, albeit the characters are not “human.” Thandie Newton plays one of the most female-empowering characters on the show, and she is a joy to watch as she attempts to outwit Ford and take control of her life. And Evan Rachel Wood—who at first seems to be a robot who is stuck in a repetitive save-me-damsel-in-distress storyline—surprises the viewer with her changeover at the end of Season 1 to a “person” with strength and survivor skills.

As far as mystery and crime goes, if you love both, you’ll thoroughly enjoy this series.

Read David Cranmer's episode reviews of Season 1 of Westworld!


Kristen Houghton’s new novel, Unrepentant: Pray for Us Sinners, book 3 in her best-selling series A Cate Harlow Private Investigation, is available at all book venues.

She is the author of nine top-selling novels and is hard at work on a new series that features a paranormal investigator with distinct powers of her own. Houghton is also the author of two non-fiction books and numerous short stories which appear in popular horror anthologies.

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