We’re two more episodes into Season 2 of Westworld, and my concerns have not been assuaged, y’all.
- We don’t have a clear idea of anyone’s motivations for anything, with the possible exception of Maeve.
- We don’t have a clear idea of what the hell Delos, Inc. and Westworld are actually up to.
- Thanks to the first two problems, we barely have a plot. So far, we just have a series of events.
One way you get your audience invested in your story is by having characters they can engage with. Part of making your characters engaging is giving them motivations the audience can understand and relate to.
A big problem with this season is that half the characters are either hiding their motivations from the audience, or are showing a motivation, but we can’t trust it because we can’t establish who’s acting of their own free will. Which means that the audience is left going, “What? Why? When?”
And that’s interesting… for awhile. It doesn’t take very long for that to get tedious, particularly in this post-Lost world. We’ve been hurt before, TV People. We can’t trust like that again.
Delos, Inc and the Theme Parks
What’s the point of the theme parks and what on Earth is Delos meant to be up to?
We know for a fact that the theme parks were operating at a loss. They said as much in Season 1. So, people are paying some ridiculous amount of money, like $30,000 a day or something equally insane, to go play at Westworld or one of the other parks, and the parks aren’t making money.
You have to imagine that part of the problem is that there can’t be all that many players. We have nearly no idea what the world outside the park is like, but I have a hard time believing that many people can afford $30,000/day to go play cowboy (or ninja or tiger hunter or whatever) for several days.
That means you have a severely limited player base for a series of parks that are running in a wildly inefficient and unoptimized way (hosts running through storylines when no PCs are around to participate or watch is just one example), using what has to be gawdawful costly technology that gets broken constantly.
That’s a completely ridiculous way to run either a theme park or a video game, so clearly the park/game isn’t the point.
Delos appears to be harvesting DNA and blackmail material, but they’re also trying to get immortality up and running, but the only reason you’d do either of those things in a theme park setting is if the park was either making you money to fund the research or the park was serving some other, more useful purpose.
It’s not difficult to get someone’s DNA. People leave that stuff everywhere.
Blackmail might be a little trickier to come up with, but honestly, the only useful blackmail you’re getting from the park is maybe the sexcapades. The murdering isn’t going to get you anywhere because, as your PR people will tell the evening news, “It’s just a game.”
You might possibly be in more trouble for sexbotting around if you’re married, or having gay sex if everyone thinks you’re straight (or vice versa, I guess). The raping probably won’t sit well with anyone, but then again, no one’s losing their job over being a dick to the prostitutes in Grand Theft Auto, so I don’t even know if that’ll get you in trouble.
I don’t know. People do horrible stuff all the time and get to keep their jobs and lives. Look at some of these #MeToo asshats who are already contemplating comebacks.
Possibly the park somehow serves as the ultimate personality test, to help create convincing Host doubles of people, so Delos can replace people in the real world. That seems to be the prevailing theory. But that theory only tracks if you accept the idea that playing in the park actually does reveal the “real you” on some fundamental level, an idea I’d argue with strenuously.
Then you’ve got the immortality angle, something the park has been secretly working on for, what, almost forty years now, and they still can’t get it working? What’s the ROI on that, compared to the cost of the park and all the other BS hassle you’re dealing with, that isn’t paying off yet?
The argument the show is advancing is that Delos had to keep the parks running so they could keep Ford working on making the Hosts better, I guess? But that doesn’t make sense, either. Ford could just have an “accident,” and then Delos owns everything, and they can do whatever the hell they want. Part of Season 1’s plot revolved around the board of directors trying to force Ford out anyway, so clearly they didn’t need him to actually advance the Hosts anymore.
Whether immortality is the point, or blackmail and clone doubles, or both, Delos, Inc., is going after it in the least possible efficient and cost effective way. The return on investment in either or both of these programs is completely abysmal, and there’s no way any functioning business would continue on at it.
Delos has to be getting something out of this deal. Medical technology from Host parts. Advancements in AI gadgets thanks to Host programming innovations. Something. But the writers haven’t told us about anything like that, so, functionally, that doesn’t exist in the story.
Which means that none of what Delos is doing makes any damn sense at all, a thing that makes watching this story pretty frustrating.
And that’s not even getting into whatever Arnold and Ford thought they were accomplishing, which appears to be exactly diddly and squat, as far as I can tell.
Plot, or the Lack Thereof
The characters have opaque motivations. The corporations appear to have motivations, but they don’t make sense. The story is non-linear, meaning we can’t tell (yet) what order things are happening in – or if they’re even actually happening at all. We lack basic world information against which to judge the story. So what we have is a possibly-related series of events and no idea how to stitch them together in our minds in a cohesive way.
And again, that can be engaging… for awhile. But eventually you have to start paying the mysteries off. Eventually the story has to start making sense. It can’t just be arbitrary mystery after arbitrary mystery.
Otherwise you end up with, well, Lost. And we’ve played that game before. It sucked.