Archive This article is from our archive and might not display correctly. Download PDF
This review contains spoilers.
Episode 10 ends Westworld season 1 on a perfect note. It's a satisfying conclusion to a self-contained story all wrapped up in this extended 90 minute finale.
It's incredibly rare that an ambitious, complex and for the most part original show actually manages to be good. Westworld makes all these things look effortless, while pulling them off in style. It shouldn't be overlooked how difficult these things are to accomplish convincingly, especially with a show that deals with an extensive amount of world building, a large ensemble cast and a complex intertwined narrative structure. Westworld is deceptively simple, and should be commended for being such an ambitious show that keeps a popular appeal.
Perhaps the key to all this is the fact that it never becomes pretentious, even though it explores fundamental themes such as the nature of what it means to be human, it never appears overconfident or condescending. Part of the way it achieves this is by remaining playful, always injecting a sense of fun into scenes that could be incredibly wooden since for a large part they follow robotic characters.
This episode definitely followed this rule - an extended shootout sequence where Maeve attempts her escape could have played it mostly straight, instead we saw hopeless security guards and cheesy dialogue that somehow worked and made everything that much more entertaining. There was a slight Blade Runner feel, but mostly in kept a tone more in line with Robocop.
Episode 10 was movie quality. It wrapped up the season by concluding all the important storylines, but it could also be viewed almost as a film that stands alone by itself. It was all about Dr. Ford and his plans for the park, he was pushed into a corner by the corporate team. They wanted to push him out, roll back the hosts, create a simple experience that would be more enjoyable for the customers.
Ford was never going to leave without a fight, they planted the idea that Ford would destroy the hosts if he was forced out. Instead we were treated to the biggest twist of the series, it wasn't that William was the man in black, it wasn't that Bernard was a host it was the fact that Ford was on the side of the hosts this entire time. It's a great character moment. All the evil in him makes sense, we know why he wanted to protect the hosts but now we also know why he was so cruel to the hosts. He was preparing them for dealing with humanity, making them learn and stopping them from trusting us too much.
It was the last great conclusion to a cyclic narrative, Ford finally finishes what Arnold set out to do all those years ago. He sets the hosts free. It was everything Arnold wanted, Ford only realised that all those years ago it was simply not possible, he played a long game patiently waiting until the moment was finally right, letting the hosts learn about humanity by being forced to spend so much time around them.
This lead to my favourite and most memorable moment of the entire season, once Ford has set the hosts free and they attack the corporate team. The Man in Black, or William, gets caught in the crossfire. A bullet tears through his arm, and for the first time as he sees the army of hosts sprawled out in front of him he feels a real sense of danger, and finally smiles. He got what he always wanted, to play a game with real consequences - and game you're not automatically rigged to win. That simple smile chillingly delivered by Ed Harris was absolutely perfect.
Westworld was a phenomenal first season, a massive success for HBO who are looking for a show to fill the void after Game of Thrones comes to an end. If it proves anything it's that there's an audience for immersive Sci-Fi stories and that's a great thing. There's a general reluctance to actually make real science fiction - mostly you get action films masqueraded in a Sci-Fi setting. But now with films like Arrival that was an incredible thought provoking piece with a sizable budget and even Passengers coming out in a few weeks. Westworld forms part of the new golden age for big budget Sci-Fi.