In an age of endless streaming options and tepid Twitter takes, it’s easy to lose sight of what our favourite shows should be like these days. Simply, they should be fun. Or, alternatively, the experience of the show – whether it’s fun or not – should be prove to be worthy of your own time.
Westworld Season 2 was neither of things. Season 1 was a bit of a slog at times, but the ending justified your new role as a full time Fan Theory detective. Season 2? Not so much. After the cliffhanger of the Season 1 – plus no Game Of Thrones until 2019 – Westworld looked poised to become TV’s next mainstream hit. But there are some serious issues it needs to root out before the whole thing becomes rotten to the core. Here are some of the show’s biggest pitfalls so far, and how to fix it.
The show is not fun to watch
This is crucial, really. The show is essentially a battle between good and evil. One fought between shitty, exploitative humans and robots gaining sentience and taking control of their destiny. Even better though: it’s set in the Wild West! They fight and they fuck. On paper, this sounds brilliant, right?
Alas, it is snoozefest. Instead of basking in the expansive universe that Michael Crichton created in 1973, the show does little to allow any time to have a look around. Every scene is stuffed with crucial exposition and foreshadowing, instead of letting our characters show any semblance of personality. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – don’t get us wrong. The best TV should challenge the viewer and make them feel uncomfortable at times, but not at the cost of boring them stiff.
There are flashes of brilliance, mind. Season 2’s fifth episode, Akane No Mai, where Maeve and her crew entered the uber-violent Shogun World was one of the show’s most exhilarating episodes to date. It finally filled the bloodthirsty urge that Game of Thrones’ absence left. The glimpses we got of Raj World in Season 2 episode, Virtù e Fortuna ,were inquisitive and exciting. The new worlds were absolutely the highlight of the second season – finally, it lived up to the hype. It was just everything in between that didn’t quite hit target.
It’s irritatingly hard to follow
Westworld is seriously fucking confusing. Like trying to complete a Rubik’s cube in less than a minute. Except the Rubik’s cube is locked in a chest at the bottom of the ocean and you can’t swim.
Perhaps that’s an exaggeration – but for a mainstream show, it is full of wilful misdirection and so many time jumps that the causal viewer is going to get motion sickness. The viewing figures for Season 2 seems to confirm that. The opening episode of the most recent series pulled in 2.06 million and by the end it had dropped to 1.56 million. For comparison, Season 1 started with 1.96 and finished with 2.24 million.
Part of the reason, perhaps, was that the storyline was just simpler first time round. The narrative that unraveled was tied up in a pretty nice bow by the end of it; the hosts wanted to be in control of their destiny, and they got it. This time, it was messier. The timeline hopped back and forth between the past, present and future but with a smaller pay off. The hosts broke out of their park and opened up opportunities for interacting with more humans, but once they gained sentience in Season 1, wasn’t this plot inevitable? The destination was not worth the tortuous journey to get there.
It’s decidedly inhuman
Right, yes. We know the hosts are completely programmed – but could we get some dialogue that actually sounds like something an ACTUAL HUMAN would say. None more so obvious than the role of Dolores, who’s played by Evan Rachel Wood. “I have one role left to play. Myself,” she says in Season 2’s opening episode, with all the menace of a puppy eating candy floss. This is not to fault Wood’s performance, who has been doing a fine job of making sense of the character – you just wish she had a little bit more to play with.
When a human element does show, it’s a bloody laugh. Simon Quaterman’s performance as Lee Sizemore is one of Season 2’s shining moments, mainly because the script allowed him to be. The difference between hosts and guests are so minimal physically – so why not close the gap on their personalities?
The other parks were not embraced enough
To its credit Westworld made a good crack of expanding the universe the show is based in. We got bit of time in Raj World – a tiger infested park set in colonial India – and the bloody Shogun World featured heavily in Episode 5 and a couple more times. No major storylines were truly impacted by the expansion of the new worlds, meaning that the dusty desert air left our mouths awfully dry.
Now is that chance to explore these worlds and the real world and it already sounds like they’re considering it. “The major lens that we will have is going to be the real world. If the park does emerge and come back, we would plan on explaining how that could be, and why” says Lisa Joy. Let’s just hope the scope is enough to pull everyone back in.