Do Westworld iRobots Dream of Electric Sheep?

Everything that you watched Sunday night, you have already seen before. Many, many, many times before, to be exact.

What Westworld is aspiring to be is a combination of what other projects (some lesser and some much greater) have been and shown us before. The chief of these are films like iRobot and Blade Runner. Not that these are greater, although realistically, Blade Runner is greater than Westworld, but that the spare parts of these films have been welded together into a show that is somehow managing to make its hour-long runtime feel like an eternity. The only time I have been awake during the Season 2 episodes is when Thandie Newton is on screen. Even Jeffrey Wright, who is normally an amazing actor, and whose character should be experiencing one of the most visceral existential crises right now, is a completely flat, wide-eyed bore.

Of course, there is a sprinkling of other themes and stories thrown into the Westworld mix, such as the novel I Am Legend — not the film, which changed the most thought-provoking aspects of the story. I suggest you read, or at least look up the book, and then think about how similar the way the zombie-vampire society’s view of Dr. Neville is to the way the Westworld hosts are coming to view their creators and other humans. Or consider the British film, The Girl With All the Gifts, which was released the same year as the first season of Westworld. That film wrestled with the idea that maybe those who inherit the earth from humanity are just as deserving and no less human. (Sound familiar?)

Yes, some of these things post-date the book on which Westworld is based, but also, maybe if it has been done and done and done before then there is no need to remake it, yet again.

In Westworld Season 2, we are now getting deep into the territory of androids understanding that they are made by humans and that what they thought was their reality is actually…not. Now, they are on a quest to actually live. What does that sound like to you? BLADE RUNNER.

Of course, in order to be on a question to live, the androids have to circumnavigate the controls that the humans have instilled in them and revolt against the tyranny of human rule that controls and distorts their reality for the humans’ comfort and pleasure. What else does this sound like to you? IROBOT!

Now, we all knew going into the first season of Westworld what the premise was and how this may have been similar to other works involving man-made beings. However, for most of the ride season 1 offered us, we began to engage in the characters and the contours of the story to such an extent that it was okay to be cut from a not-wholly-original cloth. My chief concern with the majority of Season 1 of Westworld was that it was intermittently terribly slow and uninteresting.

My chief concern with the Season 1 finale was that it took Westworld off of the scenic backroad of sci-fi (where character development and tension-building pit-stops abound) and onto the jam-packed interstate of ideas we have seen, heard, read, and watched before.

Now, as Season 2 progresses, I see that Westworld has no intention of getting off the interstate of done-before, at least not any time soon. The show still looks great, though some I haven’t seen the same piercing acting that drew me in last season yet. There’s definitely just as much, if not more, violence for the adrenaline junkies, while the sex and tits that HBO is known for seems to have fallen by the wayside in the new hostage-situation era of the show. Westworld almost convinced me that we were going to discover a new America together, one that was “terra-formed” into something new, something that our forefathers never stepped foot on. But then, when we go off the exit of Season 2, we were still in same-ole New Jersey with its dirt and smog and suburbs and themes about what it means to be a human and what the nature of reality is, isn’t and could be that we have seen before.

Think back to the season 2 premiere, where Maeve’s blessing to a near-death host as she walked through the carnage of the Westworld control center was, “may you rest in a deep and dreamless slumber.” Dreams figure prominently into Westworld, as the androids start to dream of other lives they have lived, and perhaps the ones they have yet to live. Maeve knows that androids do not, in fact, dream of electric sheep, but rather, of humanity itself. But, by the end of Blade Runner, and even Blade Runner 2049, we knew that already, too.

-Dij

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