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Understanding Westworld: An idiot’s guide

If you’re struggling to follow HBO’s new TV series Westworld, it’s probably because you’re an idiot. On the other hand, a show based around a Wild West themed amusement park, where the residents are extremely lifelike robots that are indistinguishable from the human guests, could be considered a complex concept. Factor in writer Jonathon Nolan, a man who likes to structure his stories like puzzles, and I suppose I can forgive you for the odd moment of befuddlement. But before you turn to the person sitting next to you and ask: ‘who’s that?’ or ‘what happened there?’, as if you’ve suddenly developed Alzheimer’s, understand that if you don’t know what’s going on, it’s probably because you’re not meant to yet.

One thing you can do to help your understanding of the series is watch the original 1973 film. Yes, like most of the music you listen to in nightclubs while cheating on your partner, this is something else we’ve stolen from the past. Starring the then Western movie whore, Yul Brynner, it’s communicated far simpler than the TV show, like a teacher explaining something extra slow to a particularly thick student. It establishes the guests, the theme park and robots as if it’s giving you a guided tour. And then for some unquantifiable reason, the robots go mental and the film suddenly turns into a shit version of The Terminator. Anyway, it’ll get you acquainted with the basic concept and laws of the park, such as the ‘hosts’ not being able to harm the guests – unless there’s a team of incompetent scientists behind the scenes.

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There’s no need to worry about spoilers, either. The show’s already going in a different direction with Ed Harris’s character The Man in Black. Yul Brynner’s version was a literal killing machine, whereas Harris’s is a harmless, human psychopath. In fact, pretty much every single character apart from William (Jimmi Simpson) and Logan (Ben Barnes) are new creations, including the mechanic whorehouse workers, who presumably have semen collection trays stored in their twats.

Most of the confusion probably stems from the first episode, which, ironically, I think is the best one so far. It was a self-contained story, very much like a prologue, that didn’t establish the main characters and was structured like the intricate memory of a reset computer that still remembers the time a user tried to ram a floppy disc in its USB drive. The second episode is far more in line with the original film, although this plot with Dolores is becoming needlessly convoluted. But I’ll stress it again: if you don’t know what’s going on, it’s probably because you’re not meant to yet. There’s no doubt some Nolan-esque twist waiting for us around the corner that’ll make everything make sense and then you can start lauding Westworld as the pinnacle of human ingenuity. Or would you rather Anthony Hopkins regularly broke the fourth wall to explain each scene to you like the passive chimp you are? Yeah, you’d like that, wouldn’t you?

Watched on Now TV.

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