Westworld Recap Series Premiere HBO

Westworld: Did HBO's New Robot Drama Give You (Artificial) Life?

To paraphrase Shakespeare: Oh brave new-but-kinda-old world, that has such creatures in it!

The premiere of HBO’s Westworld introduces us to a slightly futuristic world where people can slap down serious cash in order to frolic in a vast amusement park full of androids. The setting is the American Old West, which means that well-heeled patrons can have their fill of saloon girls, town-square shootouts and the like. Oh, and the androids don’t know they’re androids, or that they’re controlled by a team of scientists located in a futuristic hub near the park. They merely believe that they’re settlers on the edge of civilization, and they’re unaware that they basically experience the same day, every day. (If the concept sounds familiar, it’s because the J.J. Abrams/Bryan Burk/Jonathan Nolan-produced series is loosely based on Michael Crichton’s 1973 film of the same name.)

The first “host” — the series’ nomenclature for the androids — we meet is Dolores (Once and Again‘s Evan Rachel Wood), a sunny, bright-eyed young woman who lives with her parents and spends her days painting the surrounding vistas (which truly are stunning) and going into town to run an errand or two. As the hour progresses, we learn that the hosts have a vague idea that the “newcomers” (aka visitors to the park) aren’t like them, but the hosts are programmed not to think about it much more than that.

Dolores is sweet on another host, Teddy (30 Rock‘s James Marsden) who returns to town each morning on the train, poised to begin a budding relationship with her. It’s during one of these loving moments that we meet The Man in Black (The Rock‘s Ed Harris), who’s been “comin’ here for 30 years, but you still don’t remember me,” he says gruffly to Dolores, moments before bodily dragging her away to do icky things to her moments after her parents are shot and killed by robbers (whom The Man in Black then kills, shortly before he offs Dolores’ handsome honey). Dolores may be fake, but her terror is real.

Westworld Recap Series Premiere HBOWhat stops the hosts from exacting revenge on the newcomers? Programming. Scenes inside the park’s control center — overseen by the technology’s aloof creator, Dr. Robert Ford (Silence of the Lambs‘ Anthony Hopkins), and his team — give us insight into how all of the park’s living creatures (yep, even horses) are created and controlled. Basically, all of the hosts have set storylines that they play out, with minor alterations here and there, every day. Bernard Lowe (Boardwalk Empire‘s Jeffrey Wright) is the park’s programming chief, a reserved man who’s got his own secrets (who’s that kid in the photo he looks at longingly?) and whose philosophy seems much more in line with Ford’s than with Westworld’s operations team.

The premiere takes us through several days in the park; in each one, Dolores wakes up to a beautiful sunrise and several other hosts wind up dying. But a glitch in a recent update has some of the hosts acting a bit wonky; Dolores’ father, for instance, finds a photograph (presumably dropped by a newcomer?) of a woman in modern-day garb, standing in what looks like a big city, and it seems to short-circuit him. When he — along with hundreds of other hosts — are hauled back to the command center for a diagnostic, he is ultimately decommissioned… but not before spouting some seriously creepy dialogue gleaned from bits of Shakespearean plays, Gertrude Stein, etc. (No worries, Ford says. He put it all in there himself. Seems like far too easy an answer to me…)

While Dolores’ dad is being sent down to cold storage — which brings him to tears, which is odd for an android, right? — we learn that despite her youthful glow, Dolores is the oldest host in the park and her core code seems to be functioning just fine; when we see her the next morning, back in her normal habitat, she doesn’t even flinch when a new host replaces the one that used to play her father.

But far more nefarious plots are afoot. After The Man in Black kidnaps and bleeds a dealer from the casino, he scalps him. “There’s a deeper level to this game. You’re gonna show me how to get there,” TMIB tells him, and later finds a maze-looking drawing printed on the inside of the host’s skull/scalp. (I didn’t look that closely, because, ew.)

Now it’s your turn. Grade the premiere, titled “The Original,” via the poll below, then hit the comments to elaborate on your choice!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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72 Comments
  1. Kevin K says:

    I give Westworld an A. This is one of my favorite new show of the year and it’s destined to become a breakout hit for HBO.

  2. Steve T says:

    I doubt I will watch again

    • dumomt says:

      And we don’t care again…

      • Dave says:

        What a dumb thing to say. This is a discussion board, based on tv. This show premiered and all thoughts are welcome- good and bad. Let’s not start the crazy “only the positive feedback is accepted” line of thinking. For the record, I’m out too. Didn’t like at all.

        • dumomt says:

          I’m out too – now that’s a dumb thing to say. So weary of TV viewers like you who make snap judgements on the basis of one episode. Don’t you have any curiosity about where the show is heading or is something like NCIS: New Orleans more your speed?

          • Dave says:

            There’s too much on tv that I enjoy that if a pilot fails to even remotely get me, then yes, I’m out.

          • Normandy says:

            Going by a lot of the comments on this site, quite a few people here are more CBS episodic procedural speed when it comes to their TV shows — hating when shows evolve, plots aren’t immediately resolved and cast members change. Not to mention threatening to quit watching every single damn time a main character is killed off.

            Someone here actually complained when Person of Interest started having storylines that would develop throughout the course of an entire season, and then proclaimed that shows like NCIS and CSI are more fresh and original because it’s a different storyline every week.

          • I’m a big NCIS fan and I liked the new Westworld. You can’t compare the two shows, especially if you don’t watch the NCIS shows. Many who didn’t like Westworld probably don’t watch the NCIS shows either.

    • AB says:

      OK. Would you care to elaborate on what you didn’t enjoy? I haven’t seen it yet, but I’m curious to read opinions, as I watch about 20 TV shows and I’m trying to be more selective.

      The trailers seemed promising.

      • Delon says:

        As a sci-fi fan i’ve seen this premise of robots becoming sentient done better with less fuss. Seems redundantly convoluted and i suspect the pay off won’t warrant the time i have to invest. I feel like a whole bunch of more convoluted mythology is on the way and i honestly don’t wanna do that one more time with yet another show. If it turns out to be something truly worthy i’ll catch up when the whole series is out on streaming.

    • Temperance says:

      Wow… I’m not sure why anyone wouldn’t buy into that.

    • abc says:

      agree, this is an unoriginal boring mishmash mess of a show

    • Lisa Hoffman Polen says:

      How could you not? It is tremendously brilliant; the best that I have watched on television in years! Many people I know think the same. And you pay for HBO?? Well, they also offer up Sesame Street, so; I suppose I could ask you how to get to SESAME STREET? There are more than one person here that after one viewing felt the need to post a negative comment, must mess with your reality or something, not open to imaginative theories or simply cannot follow along, I would say it takes a fairly high level of IQ to identify with this series. My opinion and I do carry that high level of IQ in the arts. I guess no one out here will be lost when looking for sesame street. ha

  3. Writerpatrick says:

    This show will definitely be a hit. I’ve always been a fan of the original film. This took a different approach but still had much the same feel.

    The trick at the start was good. Usually I hate “time loops” but in this case it worked well. It was generally assumed that Marsden’s “Teddy” was a guest because he was on the train, but we find out after he’s “killed” that he’s really a robot. Likewise, the man in black played by Ed Harris appeared to be the Gunfighter that Yule Brenner played in the movie, but turned out to be guest.

    I was surprised to hear a western version of “Paint it Black” during the big shootout. The first few notes gave it away. I became familiar with it as the Tour of Duty theme song.

  4. ninergrl6 says:

    Instantly hooked! Ford and Bernard are significant names in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, which itself quotes extensively from Shakespeare (and which Ms. Roots referenced in the opening sentence of this recap *high five*). That has to be more than a coincidence, right?
    If I remember correctly, TMIB didn’t shoot the guys that killed Delores’ parents. That was her BF. (Why is his name a super secret? Viewers learn who he is fairly early in the ep)

  5. Lynn says:

    I was looking forward to this. I remember watching the movie as a kid. They used to play it on the afternoon movie when they still had that sort of thing. I must say I was disappointed though. I was Bored. I’ll probably watch the second episode to see if it gets better and no, sorry, whoever said to the person who also didn’t like it I’m not an NCIS fan. Wow, snobby much? I hate procedurals, I find them repetitive and boring but I certainly don’t think less of people who do and it doesn’t mean I liked this show. Whoever said the guy playing Yul Brenners role is a guest are you sure? How do you know? I might have missed something, as I said I was bored and was reading email and other things and wasn’t always paying close attention. I know we never saw them fixing him but could that be because they didn’t see him acting unusual? He was dressed in black so I’m thinking he’s programmed to be a villain.

    Paint it Black wasn’t the only rock song, when they were in the saloon at one point I recognized at least one other song redone. I think it was a Soundgarden song.

    • Writerpatrick says:

      He was shown to be a guest because he couldn’t be shot. It’s a twist on the movie. They did a similar thing with Marden’s character which fans of the film would assume would be a guest like Richard Benjamin’s character was in the movie.

    • mrmcgee says:

      “Black Hole Sun”

  6. AngelWasHere says:

    Not sure if I liked it or not. I kept getting confused by who was a guest and who wasn’t. Then it was slow. I may watch again to give it a fair shot since its on HBO, but I can’t see this being on my list of favs.

    • They deliberately tried to make it confusing as to who was a guest and who wasn’t. It helps if you’re familiar with the movie because so many of the roles are reversed. It becomes more obvious when you see the same people doing the same thing each time.

      Obviously, all the scientists are human. Harris’ the Man in Black/Gunfighter is human. Marsden’s Teddy and Delores are robots.

      The pacing may seemed slow but they’re trying to make a movie into a TV series. You do have to pay attention while watching it.

      • AngelWasHere says:

        I never saw the movie unfortunately. I was hoping HBO would air it before the show came on. Going try watching it this weekend as it does come on Syfy Saturday I believe. I also was paying attention as much as I could despite rowdy family members complaining. Probably be watching by myself watching for episode 2. :P

      • Temperance says:

        I’m not sure you can say that ‘all the scientists’ are human, or that the Gunslinger is human either. They’ve deliberately made a big point of making sure you do not know who is one or the other.

  7. Et al. says:

    Amazing. Simply amazing.

  8. GregK says:

    Comments? Not many there are. Why? Recall how many there used to be for Doc Jensen’s 12 page recaps of Lost. Where is he when we need him to divulge the relevance to the show of every possible literary work? O wait, was he the EW recapper, ew… Btw, show good (I am not a robot!). Love Jona Nolan and of course anything involving JJ.

    • A says:

      It’s funny, I never seen a single episode of Lost, but read every recap by Doc. He is the best. I don’t even think he does recaps anymore at EW.

      • GregK says:

        After I wrote my comment, I found that Doc posted an article at EW on September 30 reviewing the show (including some comments about the next three episodes; some spoilers) and gave it an A-. As usual it was very lengthy, one commenter said “Damn, that was a long winded article. ..sigh”

  9. Csb says:

    It was intriguing. Great actors and a solid premise. I absolutely loved the music. Paint it Black, Black Hole Sun, Stand By Me, etc.

    • ninergrl6 says:

      Yes! Fantastic use of familiar songs in a new way. I want to rewatch the ep just for the “name that tune” aspect.

    • Lynn says:

      I don’t think Ed Harris’ character is human. He said to the girl something along the line that she had seen him hundreds of times over many years and still doesn’t remember him. I doubt a guest would have seen her hundreds of times and over many years. Yes the bullets didn’t affect him but maybe that’s because he’s self aware and knows the are fake. The others are programmed to react as if they are shot wshen they are hit but he is obviously overriding his programming so maybe he doesn’t.

      • Joey says:

        As far as I can see, the Man in Black is a human, and has been visiting Westworld for 30 years now. I would guess that he’s become so engrossed in the world that he’s trying to search for some deeper meaning, or maybe he thinks that Dr. Ford hid something deep inside the park for some unknown reason.

        • Lynn says:

          He would have to be a billionaire to come that often. One of the other guests mentioned it’s very expensive. For a billionaire he must also not work much to be able to go hundreds of times. I still think the “surprise” will be he’s also a robot.

          • Joey says:

            We aren’t really privy to the actual world outside of Westworld, however. How far into the future is this? How expensive is it really to come to Westworld? I’m sure if he’s got Warren Buffet-level money, he can go as much as he darn well pleases.

    • Ty says:

      That was one of the best versions of Paint it Black I’ve ever heard, I want them to release it for streaming services so I can add it to my collection.

  10. Will says:

    Tough crowd…just the pilot and they’re out! Based on what I’ve seen in the preview for the next episode, I’m definitely in.

  11. Joey says:

    I thought it was fantastic. The scene where Peter is short-circuiting in front of Dr. Ford was fantastic. Please make sure to consider Louis Herthum for Performer of the Week.

  12. James D says:

    Jeez that was fantastic. But to be honest I found it difficult to watch. The fact that this kind of thing is a real possibility for our future terrifies me a little bit. still it was outstanding. Looks like HBO struck gold yet again.

  13. Debbie says:

    It was a promising start to what I hope will be a terrific series. I’m not a fan of westerns, but I remember the original movie from when I was a child. I’m glad to see that they’ve added more modern scenes to this, so it’s not all western all the time. Knowing where it will eventually lead isn’t spoiling the road to that destination, as they’ve changed things up enough to make this a far more interesting show. I’ve watched the first episode twice already, just to savor the nuances and can’t wait for the next episode.

  14. Davidj says:

    To be honest I wasn’t blown away, but I can definitely see the potential of the show and I love the underlying premise so I’ll be sticking with it. And it did take a few episodes for Thrones to really hook me as well.

  15. ninergrl6 says:

    I forgot to mention before how surprising it was to see Rodrigo Santoro as the town’s villain. He’ll always be sweet Karl from Love Actually to me (blocking out that whole Lost thing).

  16. ndixit says:

    Pretty damn awesome! I am curious to see where this all leads. The scene with Ford and Dolores’ Father was quite chilling and brilliantly performed. That scene was when I knew I was hooked. ERW was terrific. I am curious to see what is going on with Harris’ character.

  17. Temperance says:

    Spectacular! My favorite new show. Could the cast be any more stellar?

  18. Elli says:

    It was absolutely BORING. I’m not watching it again.

  19. phelton says:

    “Bernard Lowe (Boardwalk Empire‘s Jeffrey Wright) is the” was that sentence supposed to finish that way???

  20. Hurley says:

    AMAZING!

  21. GregK says:

    The Man in Black (TMIB) is a nice parallel, at least in name, to TMIB in Lost. Remember the good old days when TV series like Lost were not so complex?

  22. kayw4 says:

    So potential kill-joy warning here but seriously:
    I find it amazing that in shows like Game of Thrones and this one, Westworld – both set in fantastical, not-real settings, for all their differences of genre – it’s still somehow deemed necessary to focus entirely on fairly tired misogynist fantasies of raping young women. Don’t get me wrong, I like GoT a lot and appreciate it’s a well-made show, but to defend the constant presence of sexual violence as “that’s just what reality is like” seems completely farcical considering these two settings (so, yes that is absolutely what “reality” is like, but why do you need worlds where dragons and AIs exist to feature sexual violence as an anchor to our reality?). In terms of Westworld – if you have all the money and resources in the world, THIS is the world you come up with? White men strutting around trying to feel more masculine by killing and raping women and people of colour, in a world where women are either brutalized innocents or brothel workers? I just don’t get why the focus has to be so incredibly narrowly misogynist, it shuts down so many narrative possibilities.

    • GregK says:

      If you think the rape focus here was bad, try watching the gut wrenchingly realistic scenes (plural) in “Outlander” involving brutal homosexual male rape of the hero by the villain. Nearly impossible to watch.

  23. Jonathon says:

    Wow, just wow. Not every day that a premiere for a new show glues my eyes to the screen keeping me wanting more even when it’s already over an hour long. The imagery, the action, the questions, the visual effects of the robots all of it was amazing. I’ll admit when I heard this show was coming out and who was involved in it I put a check next to it and then waited patiently for literally years for HBO to announce their premiere date. For me, it was so worth the wait. I even got to a moment where I felt like anyone could be a robot. I mean even those behind the scenes. Very plausible at this point of the story anyhow and the twist from the movie with the Man in Black was priceless. A+ and I’m expecting this grade A quality all season long and seasons going forward. Thank you HBO for the next winner. Game of Thrones is awesome but this will be a perfect successor!

  24. Benjamin says:

    You forgot that Delores, though she doesn’t flinch about the father, does kill a fly – which is against her edict that she would never harm a living thing.

    • Joey says:

      I’ve come across a theory that when the Gunslinger dragged Dolores back into the barn, he didn’t rape her, but he reprogrammed her. Whether the Gunslinger is a sentient android or a rogue human (visitor? former employee?) or something else entirely, he could have reprogrammed Dolores in his search for…whatever he’s looking for. Or the killing of the fly could be indicative of Dr. Ford reprogramming the androids as a new stage of evolution.

  25. TVg says:

    too slow!!!!

  26. Delon says:

    Last summer, BBC’s Humans asked the same questions about humanity and technology in a similar “robots-becoming-sentient-thanks-to-their-creators’-adding-in-extra-programming” premise on a much smaller budget and more effectively, i must say. Compared to how lean that series was, this feels tiresomely convoluted. And then there was of course Joss Whedon’s Dollhouse…So, not giddy for this one after the pilot and not impressed by its critique of modern day audiences’ obsession with sex and violence while using it as a device for the series.

  27. Delon says:

    A mash-up of other sci-fi series such as Dollhouse, Humans, Wayward Pines which used very similar themes, premises or settings. I’m underwhelmed by the pilot.

  28. LAwoman says:

    I loved it. The cast is great and especially happy to see Jeffrey Wright and Ed Harris. It’s probably not for everyone, but it is definitely working for me.

  29. Temperance says:

    Oh, and i have to also mention that the title sequence was amazing!

  30. KingDave says:

    It was so-so. I felt like I’d seen it all before, with elements from Truman Show, Jurassic Park, Ex Machina, Total Recall, and on and on. I was looking forward to this show, but was ultimately underwhelmed by the story. The acting and special effects were top notch, but the story has to hook me. I’ll give it another few episodes.

  31. Sarah says:

    It was fantastic! It’s definitely going to be one of my new must watch shows.

  32. Robert Wilson says:

    It’s spelled “Dolores”

  33. Novoi says:

    Same thing on every site. It’s DOLORES, not Delores.

  34. john says:

    Excellent new series! Actors are sensational! Ed Harris, Anthony Hopkins, and Evan Rachel are riveting! I find the storyline so very mentally stimulating and on par with quality of GOT series. Absolutely one of HBO’s best shows to date!

  35. Lisa Hoffman Polen says:

    This series is a brilliant theme with intertwined plots keeping you glued and necessitating, me at the very least two playthroughs, I can even miss something big in connotation; as that is how rich this script it in significant dialogue towards the plots within the plots (within…). I am glued to this too, trying to pay attention to every minute instance of an event or dialogue. I didn’t know I had blinked but obviously I must have as upon a replay there was always something of great importance leading into the next showing. I would have never even guessed the 180 degree this series has pulled off in the direction and bottom line come the end of season one. This my friends, is a piece of master artwork with highly credentialed artist, displaying a performance of a lifetime. Thank you, all of you who were involved in this production. Very much, indeed.