With many critics claiming that we’re living in the golden age of television, it’s easy to forget that Westerns – formerly a reliable staple of big and small-screen storytelling for decades – were for many years just as dead and face-down in the dirt as any number of no-good varmints left behind by grizzled sharpshooters.
Enter Westworld at the very end of 2016, with the complex character- and narrative-driven TV series based on the classic 1973 film (ignoring the misfiring 1980 dud of a very short-lived TV series) wowing critics and audiences alike.
With an incredible cast (including Tony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Thandie Newton, Sidse Babett Knudsen, James Marsden, Jeffrey Wright and Evan Rachel Wood, to name but a few), critics and fans went wild for the show, digging into myriad theories about what it was all really about.
Obstensibly a show about rich humans going on holiday to a truly vast Wild West-themed park whose citizens (Hosts) don’t know they’re robots, thus making them mere toys to chat to, play cards with – or even gruesomly murder if the humans (Guests) wished – Westworld explored some pretty dark topics.
While Game of Thrones has a much more visible public presence – even your granny knows who Jon Snow is – Westworld quietly became the other show that many people not just talked about, but obsessed over, as fans and critics alike tried to solve its riddles, disjointed narratives, non-sequential hints and clues, and work out just what the hell was happening in the show.
That’s quite a lot of baggage to have to run with, but the just launched second series of the show last Sunday night (on Sky) looks set to ramp up the human (and inhuman) tension and drama to new levels.
Set in the immediate aftermath of the series one finale, which basically saw many of the Hosts gain sentience, realise they’re robots, and then violently turn en masse on the Guests in their midst (as well as at the park’s management centre), the S2: 01 episode has upped the ante for potential spectacle and character drama alike.
Whether you’re interested in exploring the nature of consciousness and self-identity, or like complex narratives and superb cinematography, or simply like cheering on murderous robots hunting humans, it looks like Westworld has even more violent delights in store for this second season.
However, I think I’ll skip visiting any robot parks and just stick to the zoo, for now…