Television’s best show about murderous sex robots, HBO’s Westworld, wrapped up its debut season last night in the way most prestige TV shows do. Characters died, twists were revealed, and the season ended on a somewhat ambiguous note.
If you have not watched the finale and don’t want to know what the robots did quite yet, I dunno, maybe go check out this week’s Jaguars Junction.
The episode ended with the commencement of the robot uprising that’s been hinted at since the end of the very first episode. Maeve finally completed the arc that Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) wrote for her and got a bunch of once-decommissioned robots to show up to the big board meeting and shoot people. Dolores ceremoniously murked Ford on stage before opening up on (presumably) the rest of the gala’s attendees.
Assuming that all the humans in attendance at the party were, in fact, killed by the swarm of murderous robots programmed with the express purpose of doing so, this leaves the show with precious few human characters alive. Maybe Logan survived his nude horsey odyssey, but the finale highlighted his disposability above all else. You could make the case for the Man In Black (who is really just Old William) and Charlotte from Delos surviving Dolores’s rampage, or argue that the Ford who got shot by Dolores was actually a host (which is unlikely because Hopkins signed on for only one season), but even through a generous reading, there are few non-robots left to give a shit about.
Dolores and Bernard emerged from Season 1 as the show’s most interesting characters, which is a problem because they are still robots. The only mystery left in Westworld is what’s going on outside of the park. There’s some sort of samurai world, and there are probably a few more open world sims for guests to fuck their way through, but the best-case scenario for the stories contained within those worlds is an iterative version of what happened in Westworld.
A story about robots discovering themselves is only interesting as long as it is told alongside and in contrast to a human story, and there aren’t many humans left to serve as backdrops. As showrunner Lisa Joy told Entertainment Weekly today, the show will focus on robot feelings and identity next season.
I think part of it is we’ve looked at the hosts trying to become aware of the reality of their situation and who they are. To hear their own voices. That’s where we’ve gotten to at the end of this season. Now the thing we get to explore is once they’ve heard their own voices and once they’ve embraced who they are, what choices will they make? It speaks to a thing of how identity constantly evolves. They were steeped and raised in violence. These violent delights did indeed have violent ends at the end of the season. And I think we’re going to see how that pendulum swings going forward.
Perhaps the central plot of Season 2 will resemble that from Season 1, but with the balance of power now reversed to favor the robots. That would work if there were still human beings alive in Westworld but, even assuming the robot army is fallible, that’s an action movie, not a Game of Thrones replacement. The show built a genuinely fascinating world and populated it with characters who are by their nature unfascinating. One hopes that the showrunners and producers can give viewers more to care about than robots next season.