By Loryn Stone
The one Sunday during the Super Bowl, the official Westworld Season Two trailer premiered. And it showed…well…a whole lot of nothing.
Nothing specific, at least.
From my experience as a TV watcher and Story Payer-Attentioner, we can take this in two ways. First, we can be grateful that HBO chose not to spoil any major plot points by exposing them in the trailer. Or second, we can take the more pessimistic route and wonder if the story will move in a confident, controlled direction. After all, by now the filming is done. Westworld Season 2 is likely in the editing stage. Or perhaps HBO really just likes cryptic trailers.
But I somehow can’t shake the feeling that the world building has been stunted.
This article today is not a trailer reaction, in the traditional sense, nor is it a trailer review. But more like a knee-jerk understanding of where my brain went upon seeing it. I really enjoyed the first season, and I hope that Westworld doesn’t tumble down the same “We have no idea what we’re doing” clumsy writing that happened to (one of my favorite shows) Battlestar Galactica. In the end, we won’t know until the second season airs.
Westworld has been added to my list of “I’m starved for content, so I’ll greedily consume whatever I get” shows, alongside Game of Thrones. Which basically means it can do no wrong in my eyes. At its peak, Battlestar Galactica was on that list too. But that all ended when they gave us that lazy-spewed out ending and the embarrassing/quite unwatchable spin off, Caprica.
The whole internet agreed, really. Everyone and their mother had something to say about the holy-bummer that was this show’s trash-fueled writing. Battlestar has also been compared to Lost in terms of “Mystery Box” style writing that shows to give the audience little clues of things we probably don’t care about in order to seem really complex, deep, smart, or philosophical. But really, that’s when shows start to lose themselves.
I’m going to take a little bit of a different approach here today. We’re going to stick within the Robot Canon and really examine Westworld for what they’ve given us up to this point, and what they haven’t given us in the new Season Two trailer and see where it ties in with my hopes that we’re not getting another Battlestar Galactica non-computing error. Before I start, let me just express one thought.
It’s not “All About the “Characters” (aka, The Popular Kids)
It’s not. No show is that cut and dry. You need world-building. When you make it all about the characters and don’t focus on the rest of the world happening around them, that’s cheap writing.
Especially if your setting is Science Fiction/Fantasy. Contemporary gets a little bit of a pass.
When we last left Westworld in Season One, we were introduced to the starring cast of a new story, the kick-ass looking Hosts of a segment called “Samurai World”. Those robots looked way cool. I was ready for some teaser trailer action where we got to see those kick-ass Samurai characters reenacting the blind-sword battle from Ninja Scroll. I was ready for some beheading. I was ready for that moment where the honor-filled Robo-Samurai cut off his ponytail because it meant shit was about to get serious.
…I’m not even sure those dudes even showed up in the season two trailer…
Was I mistaken? Or was I incorrect when I assumed the new storyline was going to be a big deal in the world that these people were building? Instead, we see Dolores handling herself like a pro, Maeve about to fuck shit up, and Bernard, er, Arnold, gah, Bernarnold…looking confused.
Fuck, but really? No new scenery shown in the trailer? Nothing to help us broaden the world? No hints or inclinations as to what the plotline will be? Ladies and gentlemen, we might just have another Cool Kids Club™. The Special Snowflake Club. Whatever the hell you want to call it.
This is where I started getting worried. Because this is exactly where Battlestar Galactica started fucking up.
The biggest problem on BSG was that every main character on the crew was part of the Popular Kid Lunch Table. All of them. You don’t even have to think about it hard. It only takes a second to realize how damn special everyone here is. Here, I’m going to show you and this is just my stupid head remembering garbage from ten years ago. There’s been zero rewatch or Wiki searches.
Adama was the Captain and lover of the “Chosen One” President dying of cancer who to see visions of the future, whose best friend Tigh was a “Final Five” Cylon, whose son Apollo was one of the lead pilots, whose best friend/ex sister in law Cara was a fallen Matrix Angel, whose co-pilot Boomer was a Cylon, who had a clone-version of herself who managed to inexplicably get pregnant with a human/Cylon hybrid who was the earliest of humankind showing that we’re all human/robo hybrids, whose father Helo had sperm so mighty it could impregnate robots, who didn’t trust Baltar, the scientist doctor who hallucinated a sexy Cylon everywhere and also was declared a prophet. (Should I keep going? Because I can). Gaeda and other characters were tossed out that airlock for like, rolling their eyes in the wrong direction. But everyone else who was even remotely special to the nexus of the universe that was Captain Adama was in this magical safety net of airlock/death/murder immunity.
And just because I need to kvetch about this: Why in the ever-loving shit were those stupid freaking “Final Five” so flopping important, just to have Tyrol murder Tory and have it mean nothing.
Fucking tell me!
I have to go back to Game of Thrones for just a minute, and that’s because it’s a show that successfully follows a set group of characters (albeit a ton of them) without the need to make all of them into a Cool Kids Club. Granted, there’s plenty of them there. Daenerys has dragon hatching fire-proof magic where people just listen to her bad ideas every time she shows up. Bran Stark is the Three-Eyed-Raven just because, for the most part. Connection to the Old Gods be damned, I guarantee you if I fell out a window no bird would give any fucks about me.
But for the most part, the only reason we follow the characters we do is because they were the unlucky Noble Fools in power when the show started. It was kind of that simple. They’re Cool Kids because of their titles and rank. But at their core, they are no more special or un-special than anyone else. Arya became special, but we watched that entire journey unfold so organically that her faceless odyssey made sense.
Part of me wishes Westworld used the “clone the machine” approach to their robots as BSG did. But by having only one of each model, perhaps it justifies my suspicions about the Cool Kid Club. For example, we know that Delores is an older model. Like a CDR-W full of party songs that were hot in 2002 but you desperately try to burn over in 2008, only to have the data corrupted and that damn Korn song still on your Road Trip Mix Album. She also, or so I imagine, has code upon code upon code in her head. If the writers and showrunners decide to explore this premise, it would be a fascinating story direction.
Not because Delores is some sort of chosen-one-robot. But because the actual technology would be amazing. Hell, have you ever seen the original Super Mario World maps and artwork? Someone pulled them right out of the code for the game. There’s hidden shit like that in games all the time. That’s the kind of stuff we should see out of “Delores: The Oldest Living Host”. Not some sort of secret destiny for her that involves flashbacks and guns. (Even though it’s pretty good that she over-rode her programming to injure someone, which hosts apparently aren’t supposed to be able to do.)
My hope for Westworld Season Two is that it goes full “Rise of the Machines”. Just balls to the walls insane. The only character giving me hope of this direction is Clementine, especially when she’s stabbing people or pointing guns in people’s faces. But what I like about her isn’t that she’s so sentient that she’s turning against her creators, but that she’s still a machine, and her programming is telling her to slaughter some fools open.
Westworld and Battlestar have a few correlations, sure. Hosts versus Cylons. Beautiful creations, better looking than us all, created by man for a singular purpose. These objects have become self-aware and are fighting their own battle for their freedom. But while the Cylons started BSG by blowing up some colonies and chasing the titular ship around the entire galaxy (again, another occurrence that equated to nothing because the humans and Cylons made nice-nice at the end. Like guys, you’re in the FUCKING SKY because of these robots and sure, let’s all just shake hands and make good planet together), the Westworld hosts are just figuring out their newly conscious, self-propelled limitations. They’re understanding themselves with new eyes. Seeing what their bodies and minds are capable of (which isn’t much considering these Hosts are stuck on a fucking board game, more or less). Realizing “The Maze” was a crock of irrelevant shit that just sounded good on paper.
And having lots of booze-fueled-robo-ramming to keep us nice and distracted.
At least until Westworld Season Two airs, that is.
You can follow Loryn in the maze known as Twitter. She also has an author page and personal blog. Her debut novel My Starlight, a young adult tale about sexuality, nerd fandom, and first loves will be released August 3rd, 2018 by Affinity Rainbow Publications.
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