Does Anybody Remember What's Happening On Westworld?
Every few years, for about 3 months, an inexplicably large number of human beings decide that they are really invested in an HBO series called Westworld. It’s an endearing practice, and a clear attempt to recreate the giddy Sunday-night camaraderie that made Game of Thrones a watch party staple years ago. Unfortunately, while GoT managed to build an audience over the course of several quality seasons before they ran out of books and started phoning (ravening) it in, Westworld was expected to capture that same audience without a beloved book series or a backlog of rich, carefully-constructed Nerd Lore.
The result: while the Thrones crew is off shooting in 30 different countries and generating CGI dragons in 30 different Monster Energy-infested cubicles, aimless HBO subscribers come together, collectively shrug their shoulders, and ask themselves “alright, which of these cowboy robots is gonna be my new Khaleesi?” Because so much of Westworld’s success hinges on this placebo-like effect in which people convince themselves that they might one day treat these characters with the same reverence as a Jon Snow or a Tyrion Lannister or a Hodor (“Hodor”), I’m curious how much of the actual story can be recollected when it’s not on the air.
To get to the bottom of this wildly unimportant conundrum, I will now do my best to Describe What Has Happened On Westworld From Memory. Come join me on this artificially intelligent Western journey (that also might include time travel?)
Author’s Note: No Westworld episodes were revisited or researched in any capacity prior to the writing of this recap.
We open in the frosty tundras of Siberia. No, that’s not right. A desert in Utah? That sounds closer. I think I remember things kicking off with Ed Harris scalping a guy, which weirdly enough is also the cold open to a recurring dream that has haunted me since childhood. He finds a maze under the guy’s scalp, and then I believe he starts murdering a robot named Dolores. I think he was upset that the scalp did not include a word search.
Dolores’ Dad, whose name I don’t remember because we all have our brains erased like the robots in the show at the end of each season, finds a picture that causes him to malfunction. The humans get him naked and put him in a big room with other naked robots, but I remember him coming back later on. I just have no idea when.
Meanwhile, in a time that ends up being the past, Young Ed Harris and his Horny Friend (William and….Chauncey? I got nothing) show us all the “cool” things about the early Westworld iOS: real booze, robot brothels, those swingy Western saloon doors that don’t really serve a purpose, and best of all, side quests. There’s some damsel-in-distress stuff that Young William gets into, because he’s a huge nerd, and some damsels-in-an-orgy stuff that the Horny Friend does, because he’s horny. All of this concludes with a puzzling multi-generational polyamorous relationship between Old William, Young William, and roughly 900 versions of Dolores.
Anthony Hopkins is also there as a guy who probably isn’t named Dr. Westworld but sure as hell is now. And Zoe Saldana, “MAEVE” (nailed it), starts to have some kind of robo-DMT trip that makes her think she might not be in control of her own destiny, much like everyone committed to watching this show.
The season ends when Dr. Westworld gives a speech to the park’s investors. They sit at fancy tables and watch him kill himself like a bunch of seat-fillers at the Golden Globes, which ignites a robot apocalypse because it’s the finale and they need time to write how that will play out.
Then, we all joined Dolores’ Dad in the Nude Robot Warehouse to power down our brains and wait for season 2.
After 400 years of nobody talking about Westworld, HBO threw the show back on the air, everyone passionately exclaimed “oh yeah, the robot cowboy thing, lol” and Westworld Fever (cholera, I guess) became an epidemic once again. If you thought my season 1 recap was spotty, you’ll be relieved to know that season 2 provides all the inter-techno-philosophical robot slaughter-drama you’ve come to know and not follow, now expanded to TWO NEW SEXY MURDER PARKS!
The introduction of Shogun Land and India While It Was Under Colonial British Rule For Some Reason World confirmed that, in the same way Netflix fulfills its users’ desires through data analysis, the Android Theme Park Institute has determined that its wealthy client base values sexual satisfaction, spontaneous acts of violence, and a range of famously racist and/or misogynistic eras in which to experience both of those things. Unfortunately, Sentient Zoe Saldana has other plans, all involving Extremely Cool Promo Shots:
I will admit that the first Shogun Land episode, in which Maeve (and other characters whose names and human/robot statuses escape me) actually starts kicking ass, was very coherent and good. As the frequently-abused robots begin to discover their true identities, the audience begins to discover that there’s probably a whiteboard in HBO’s office with the words “ZOE S. = FAN FAVORITE?” scribbled on it. But she isn’t the only one — the guy who writes the choose-your-own-adventure quests that park guests ignore in favor of getting drunk at brothels is fun too, and I enjoyed his presence.
Then that guy died.
I could try to string together a lackluster and scattershot summary of everything else that happens in season 2, but I’ve found that the more Westworld details I harvest from my memory, the more I begin to glitch like Dolores’ Dad staring at a polaroid. Was the bengal tiger the only A.I. animal? Were there a bunch of buffaloes at some point? Did any dinosaurs show up? Dolores led some kind of revolution, then became a bad guy? Are they doing, like, a Walter White thing with her? Could robots make meth with even more purity than that of the famous Heisenberg? Dolores? Cows? Dolores….cows…..Dolores…..picture…..sick cows……cows are sick…….cows…….
Anyway, the season concludes with a huge flood/cliff set piece and several legendary twists, such as “Arnold is Bernard is Arnold?” and “wait, she’s a bad guy?” and the always-classic “ahh, that didn’t happen then, it happened then, and this is now, okay I think I kind of get it. When does the dragon show come back?” It all culminates in a showdown between Dolores and Ed Harris William over whether or not robots should be uploaded to a Windows XP Desktop Background that is also the cloud that is also heaven, once again presenting the perfect metaphor for what we do with our collective fandom during Westworld’s offseason.
I wish I could tell you I knew whether the events I described in my Season 2 recap took place over the course of one season or two, but I lost too much functionality on my last reboot.
That wraps up my in-zero-depth, completely research-free recap of HBO’s flagship sidecar series, Westworld. I’m already excited to enjoy and promptly forget about Season 3. Or 4.
In the beloved words of that one Westworld character we all appreciate, “I am a robot, and this blog post is now finished.”