HBO’s new TV show, "Westworld," just wrapped up for the first season. The show received incredibly positive reviews ever since it first aired. It has an IMDB rating of 9.2 and a rotten tomatoes rating of 89 percent. Great storytelling, all-star cast, fascinating theme, all adding up to another hit show on HBO. I was late to the party and caught up with the show in the last three days but, as I expected, it rapidly grew on me. But the most appealing part of the show to me is its attempt to express something deep, rather than brainlessly entertaining the audience. In my opinion, Westworld is more of a classic literature piece than a TV show.
In a world full of fast-food entertainment, Westworld is a daring approach to a renaissance of the time when literature can be profound and meaningful. Lets do a simple test: search the phrase “great writer” in Google, and see the list generated by the search engine. Among the 50 world-known writers listed, only eight of them are currently alive, and less than 15 of them were active after 1950 (the list also includes Donald Trump, for whatever reason I don’t understand). It is clear that the golden age of written words has passed and now, multimedia has taken over people’s spare time. However, Westworld, being a representative of multimedia, was rooted deep in the classic literature which made the show peculiar as well as innovative. The approach is shown in two perspectives: the lines of the show constantly quote classic literature pieces and the structure of the storytelling.
Quoting classics is normal, but very few shows and movies can possess this large an amount of quotes. Shakespeare, Gertrude Stein, John Donne and many other classical writers and poets are all heavily quoted throughout the entire season. Especially that one quote, “violent delights have violent ends,” has been quoted many times from the first episode to the last. And what really makes this quote stand out is that the whole season is basically a journey to reveal the meaning behind it. Plus using classical music like Chopin and setting the tone as dark as possible, a show about high-tech androids delivers a medieval feeling.
The storytelling structure of this show is also very delicately organized, in a way that will confuse most of the audience. Back in my sophomore year, I took a class which requires me reading the poems of T.S. Elliot, who was very well-known for his ambiguous writing style. Watching Westworld is like reading T.S. Elliot’s poems — I am often lost in the plot and not knowing what the show is about. The fact is that the show has two plot lines which exist in different timelines. And along the way, there are several little hints here and there for people to put together all the puzzle pieces behind the story. This level of intellectual challenge not only makes the show more entertaining, it also gives people a chance to explore and think critically while watch which, as I mentioned, is very much like reading a literary classics.
If you haven’t watched the show, please do so, not only as a leisure activity, but also as a tool to reconnect with the real literary world that has parted way with our life a long time ago.