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Posted on December 8, 2016 by Double Toasted
In what I can only describe as type of pensive irony, 'West World' actually feels as though it was written by a computer. The series doesn't characterize the aspirations of conflict and morality the way it thinks it does. As well made as it is, it almost feels as though it lacks the soul to drive in it's points and ultimately falls flat due to it's own deluge of either mundane or overly complicated plot points. It's narrative is so oblique, it becomes unclear what the point is (until you reach the final episode). Occasionally, this is fine, but the journey to that point mirrors the inner maze the show keeps shoving down our throats. The problem with that, is that a 12 hour maze usually make you want to rip your hair out. And much like, Ford (Anthony Hopkins) keeps telling us, we too soon learn: "the maze is not for you."
A lot of these problem stem from direct lack of motivation. Initially, I don't know why the Hosts are behaving the way they are, and after 5 hours of little to no resolve, I start to lose interest and stop caring. They are "corrupted", but that loses value as a motivation earlier than it should. The truth is later revealed, but it's lack of direct explanation upfront is what hinders not only the characters, but the show overall. It commits the cardinal sin of telling and not showing. As interesting as a one-on-one existential theorization about consciousness and the inner flame that ignites man's lust for knowing thyself can be, the dialogue often meanders and leads nowhere story wise; ultimately slowing the pacing to a crawl. If these conversations were happening while the characters were completing some type of independent physical action, set to propel the plot, they could have been great tidbits of dialogue, but instead we get stodgy scientists in a blue room with fogged glass having variations of the same conversations over and over. Conversations that feel like late night pillow talk with your first girlfriend freshman year. Why are we here? Do memories dictate our future? Is freewill really free? A bunch of fairly obvious introverted queries that attempt to answer the riddle of the human condition. It wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't so unremarkably pedestrian. I suppose if you're 22, and were just assigned Satre, it's interesting..
The Nolans and J.J. Abrams have an exceptional skill at making audiences feel smarter than they really are. Connecting dots and slowly seeing plot points come together, allows viewers to become one with the story and experience it on a personal level. 'Memento' does this. 'Lost' tries to do this. But, this is best illustrated in the season finale when we realize that William and the Man in Black are the same person. The problem is, is that specific story element could be implemented anywhere, for any show. As clever as it was, it didn't change the narrative or the outcome. It's an editing/storytelling trick and has little to do with robots building robots. In fact it has literally nothing to do with 'West World' at all. Twist endings like the one in 'The 6th Sense', or 'The Usual Suspects' are integral to the plot, because they are the plot. They aren't add-ons.
But maybe it's real issue is that the formula is getting old overall. Structurally speaking, it's redundant. Every time we leave a character, we come back (mostly) where we left off within their arc. This is especially true of other Abrams shows; specifically 'Lost'. 'The Walking Dead', and 'Heroes' did/does this too. Essentially, (for the most part), scenes are rarely independent unto themselves. They are constructs of a prolonged narrative, built to delay the plot until the writer wants to move ahead with it. Stan Lee called this: "The Illusion of Change." It means: nothing actually happens, but the audience thinks it does. I can't think of one episode that is specific and unique unto itself, outside of the first and last of the season, (and the midseason reveal). The entire show is a collection of scenes that rarely stand out or serve any real purpose outside of moving you to the next episode. It creates inciting incidents by proxy. Do you remember the specific episode where Maeve lead Hector to the safe? I sure as hell don't. This is because it's structure is not that of a typical episodic show or even a movie, but rather of daytime TV. West World is a soap opera.
Recently scientists at the University of Toronto fed Christmas imagery into a computer and asked it to write a Christmas song. The results were, well... horrifying. The A.I. involved was able to complete the task, but missed the point or relevance of what a Christmas song is. Maybe it's a masterpiece of science and ingenuity, but to human sensibilities, it's nightmare fuel.https://vimeo.com/192711856
Is 'West World' the smartest show on TV? Possibly, but only if you're a robot and only slightly understand the intricacies and subtleties of nuanced storytelling that evoke human behavior. Ed Harris notably came out and said he had no idea what the maze in the show was even meant to represent. I've seen the entire season, and I don't really know either. Is it simply: life is a journey? God, I hope it's not that obvious. This show, which at times has it's moments, is a shell. It's hallow. It's an attempt to act like something you've seen and known, but doesn't actually demonstrate anything truly new. And maybe much like the ending of the last episode, we may need to take this thing out to the back of the barn, and shoot it in the back of the head.-Will Valle
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