I Love Westworld, But I Don’t Think You Will. Here’s Why.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 3.618% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

So I am absolutely enamored with Westworld, the new HBO show.  I’ve been watching it since the second episode, and with each week the mysteries have been revealed – the show obscures events but doesn’t hide the clues, and it’s been playing fair.  Some of the fan theories that people gave in Episode Two have panned out to be true, and last night’s episode confirmed not one but several popular theories.

That said, I don’t know if you’d like it.

It’s sort of like reading the Harry Potter books when they came out – there was something delicious about waiting years for the next book, for watching kids grow up with Harry Potter, their emotional age deepening as the books handled increasingly complex concepts.

You could read them all in a summer now, but I’m not sure it’ll ever be as satisfying for any as for, say, my daughter, who started reading Harry Potter at age 6 and finished the last book when she was 14.  She grew up with Harry, as Harry grew up with her.

Likewise, I’d say only about 40% of my enjoyment of Westworld comes from the show.  The rest comes from that week between the shows when my wife and I are listening to podcast, finding crazy fan theories on Reddit, talking with my friends about ZOMG DID YOU HEAR.

And the reason this show is so intensely satisfying is that we’re paying close attention to every detail on the screen – and sure enough, all of them mattered.  There was a moment that could have been clumsy blocking, with a character appearing out of nowhere, but nope – that was a clue.  There was a weird composition to a photograph, but nope – that too was a clue.

At this point, the show is turning into a reward for all the hard work the fans have put into it.  They gave the clues to the mystery, and by and large we’ve solved it.  (Though predictably, some of the fans are complaining that the show is predictable now that they’ve spent all this time analyzing it.  THAT’S ON YOU BUDDY.)

And I was talking to my Dad, and I told him I loved the show but I don’t know if I could get him to love the show.  Because when he watched it, I’d give him a DVD for his birthday and he’d spend a week or two watching it all, and if he went to look at fan theories he’d see everything summarized and encapsulated.

Whereas we’ve been scrutinizing every scrap of information they gave us.  We’ve been dealing with incompletes.  And we’re pretty sure how it’s going to end at this point, but that’s because we’re active participants, not just inhaling the narrative but digesting, dissecting, unraveling.

The first season ends this Sunday.  And though over time, millions of other people will watch that finale, they’ll never watch it in the same way that Gini and I will – as a climax not just to the story, but of our analysis of the story.

I can’t wait.

2 Comments

  1. Joshua
    Nov 28, 2016

    I think this is the downside of the many advantages Netflix brings … when binging a show is an option, there’s no time for convoluted insane fan theories.

    Even something like Buffy – it wasn’t a ‘puzzle show’ in the same way Westworld is, but I think back to how the wait between episodes would build excitement and anticipation.

    Don’t get me wrong. I like 13-hour movies as much as anyone, but still. 😛

  2. Joshua
    Nov 29, 2016

    You know (unrelatedly), one of the things that I really deeply enjoy about Westworld is that there are all of these philosophical discussions about the nature of consciousness and free will, and the maneuvering between Bernard and Ford and the hosts and Arnold, and the different timelines, and the various mysteries, etc…

    In the midst of all that … we have Maeve. And she doesn’t give a single shit about the fine philosophical distinctions. She takes her own humanity and moral value as given. Because OF COURSE she does.

    It reminds me about all the wibbling about and debating around same sex marriage. Or, even more, the debates over slavery (and I don’t think it’s accidental that Maeve is played by a black woman), and the difference between political change and moral truth.

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