Sunday, October 16, 2016

Let's talk Westworld for a moment


The show is yet another example of what cable television can do when they want to put some resources into a production. The sets, set design, casting and acting are all absolutely top notch. And the storyline proceeds along a deliberately slow pace that would have broadcast networks clawing their eyes out since there's not a stunning reveal in each and every episode to drive (in their minds anyway) viewers to watch each week.

Since the show is a tech/nerds dream, there are endless reviews and some wonderful deconstructions and analysis already online. But I want to point something else out.

In the second episode, there was a much reprinted monologue by Dr. Ford (played by the wonderful Anthony Hopkins) where he points out to the park's shallow showrunner guy that visitors to the park don't come back repeatedly for the obvious attractions and opportunities there, but rather because they think they have found something no one else has seen. Something only they know about and can enjoy.

That's sort of where I'm going here because I could be miles off on this, but I haven't seen anyone else talking out it online.

In the first episode, we hear of a livestock problem that may necessitate an armed response team. It turns out that the park refers to decommissioned robots, or hosts, as livestock and store them in a sub-basement area of the facility. In this case, the 83rd sub-basement floor. And there was a quick look at the elevator display that showed what I thought was a sub-basement C as well. 83 floors would be nearly an 1/8 of a mile down. That's way beyond what we can accomplish now with current construction techniques. I know the show is set in the future, but how far in the future? I got the impression it was one of those in the near future scenarios.

Anyway, we exit the elevator and see a large concourse area, some escalators in the background and a large globe sculpture with the company name Delos on it.

That's not how you architecturalize a warehouse. That place used to be the ground floor at one time, possibly the entrance. And now it's nearly a 1000 feet underground. What's up with that? We see in later images, the facility sitting on top of a stone pillar in a geographic area of canyons and such.

We know that everything, down to the smallest detail is constructed in Westworld. The clothing, the firearms, the animals down to the tiniest of creatures like the snake Dr. Ford commands with hand gestures in episode 2 are all manufactured. Probably even the scorpion in episode 1 is a machine. The flys? Why not? Perhaps that's part of how the virus is being transmitted to the hosts. Perhaps it's not all in simply a phrase that is whispered from one host to another.

But back to the big picture. If all that is manufactured for the park . . . what if everything is manufactured? Down to the soil that Ford stares at so intently. What if it is all a creation?

The park is huge, looking to be perhaps hundreds of miles across. Big enough to hold something refered to as The Maze in its interior in a place that no one seems to be able to find by simply wandering around. And yet there is ubiquitous surveillance on every square inch of the park 24/7. How could it be possible to have cameras everywhere unless they were part of the construction of the park itself?

And where would the park be? The trains that take the guests to Westworld look to be of the magnetic suspension type that ride frictionless, lifted off the tracks by magnetic repulsion technology. Those trains are reported to be able to travel at nearly 700mph. That's less than 4 hours coast-to-coast for the U.S. The trip is long enough for someone to nap their way through it, or become bored on what appears to be a rolling hotel, so are they traveling for half a day or more? 34 hours to circumnavigate the globe at that speed, assuming you could have tracks either over or under the oceans, so less than four hours to a day's travel? As the climate seems to match the U.S. southwest, Westworld isn't at either pole unless this show is going to turn into some ridiculous climate change scold. And appearing on HBO, that wouldn't shock me in the final analysis.

So I'm wondering . . . is this taking place in some post-apocalyptic time? Perhaps with entire areas of the planet scrubbed clean or destroyed by some terrible event? Does the Westworld complex exist both so deep into the earth and yet on top of a rock cropping because they had to rebuild it over and over for at least 30 years? That time frame is dropped repeatedly in conversation during the two episodes. The original movie is from 1973, so if they're doing the television show as a continuation of the movie, we're looking at 43 years since the first malfunction of the hosts.

What if Westworld is not even on this planet? What if the time frame is far enough into the future to allow for interplanetary travel. Imagine a colony on another planet, where humans live and work in a sterilized environment and crave the escape of raw debauchery and peril-less adventure? We know the guests have to pay lots of money to go there. We know they are not enlightened beings from some magical gentle future -- they run the gamut from timid to full out sadists. So perhaps they're those who were willing to risk some new off-planet enterprise, to live and work and escape a dying poisoned Earth and Westworld was part of the perks offered by this Delos corporation to lure folks into signing up?

That last bit sort of conflicts with my earlier wondering about the underground aspect of the facility. I get that. But something is there. I'm just not sure what. I'd like to think I've stumbled across something that all those folks who get paid to be smarter and more informed than me missed. But it just might be I'm overthinking this all a bit. It might just be the writers put in some obvious imagery without thinking about the contradictions with the larger picture. But I find that hard to believe in a show where they seem to have put so much effort into the tiniest of details.

We'll see what happens as the show progresses. I'm certainly hooked on Westworld for now.

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