Westworld Bestworld: a recap of HBO’s new show

At first glance, the premise of Westworld seems purely dystopian. The HBO show centers around a Western-themed park populated by “hosts”: robots that are indistinguishable from humans in both physical and social characteristics. Guests of the park can interact with the hosts as they choose without fear of retribution. At least, in theory.

For all its futuristic attributes, the show grapples with ethical issues that are current in our society. The physical similarities between hosts and humans call into question the ethics of the park itself. Visitors kill and rape hosts with regularity and with seemingly little hesitation. Glorified butchers hose off the hosts each day and repair them with surgery. Female hosts populate the park largely for the purpose of being sex objects, many times forcibly and without consent.

These violent acts are made all the more concerning by the fact that, as time goes on, some hosts develop a semblance of consciousness. Memories from past deaths and tragic experiences (all synthetically created for the benefit of the park visitors) begin to pervade some host’s storylines and cause them to act erratically. Some hosts even begin to cryptically address the deceased co-creator of the park, Arnold, who helped to create the hosts and eventually killed himself in the park before its initial opening.

The primary allure of the show is the slow reveal of its complex and interwoven storylines. Viewers are typically left with more questions than answers: Is Arnold still alive? Are the hosts actually sentient? How does each character relate to each other? Who is a host and who isn’t? For each question Westworld answers, it reveals another obscurity that it hesitates to immediately address. The show is thought provoking, suspenseful, and deeply troubling—in other words, a typical HBO drama.

New episodes of Westworld air each Sunday at 9 p.m. EST and past episodes are available on HBOGo.