Judas Steer, A Look At Westworld Episode One

The exposition of the Judas steer is the perfect allegory for this episode, and maybe even the series as a whole. How do you manage to control a herd of cattle? If you control the Judas steer, the leader, you control the herd. What happens if this steer has a mind of its own and can think for itself. You would be in some deep manure.

The 2016 television series Westworld, is based on the 1970s films and television series written and directed by the great mind of Michael Criton. The new, modern iteration was brought to the small screen by Jonathan Nolan (The Dark Knight) and Lisa Joy for the HBO network.

Somehow I was able to avoid spoilers, and go into this show unsullied months after it originally debuted on HBO. The fact that I was able to achieve such a feat was a small miracle unto itself, largely due to the fact that I made a concerted effort to do so. This show has been everywhere online. It debuted as a very popular, top-tier HBO property, being lauded by credits and fans alike.

From the first few minutes into the first episode, I knew that I would be hooked. The first shot we get is of what appears to be a deactivated android. Having just finished the British television show Humans, I smiled a bit and felt right at home. The opening dialog leads me to believe this girl, whom we find is named Dolores Albernathy (Evan Rachel Wood, True Blood), may not fully realize that she is in fact an android, and is also living in the world that resembles something of the old west, hence Westworld.

We quickly see that Westworld seems to be some type of retreat, as a character mentions he spent two weeks there on his last trip, and it was the best two weeks of his life. Then we see a character named Teddy Flood (James Marsden, X-Men), who has just arrived and appears to be a newcomer, quickly find Dolores, whom he met before on a previous visit there.

Sufficient to say, something is afoot in Westworld. After something bad happens to Dolores’ family, Teddy comes to the rescue, only to find there is a bad actor at play. The character who we later find is known as simply “The Man in Black” (Ed Harris, Gravity), has been coming to Westworld for over thirty years, and is seemingly there to cause trouble for Dolores, Teddy and maybe even the world’s very existence.

A voice, whom we’ve heard sporadically since the opening scenes says, “You can’t hurt the newcomers, but they can do anything they want to you.”

Kudos to the writers on initial shock value of making us believe Teddy was a newcomer.

Then the rub. We see the vainer peeled back. The loop continues. The days repeat themselves. This, Westworld, is a well oiled machine. The days are reset, then continue. Things are the same, but can be different, depending on the newcomers. This is what Westworld really is. A theme park of sorts, a vacation for the wealthy. Not too surprising that the mind that created Jurassic Park is the creator of this as well.

The show does a wonderful job on showing us the struggles of what is happening in Westworld, verses that of what is unfolding in the real world, which presents us with a narrative that will seemingly lead to an explosive collision on both fronts.

We find the boss and original programmer, Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins, Silence of the Lambs), has been upgrading his creations every since he first created them in the early days, over thirty years ago, making them more and more human. But things seems to be going off course with the latest updates. Seemingly the pursuit to make the androids more human, begin to cause major problems. What happens when a creation becomes sentient? The age old science-fiction problem with creating robots creeps up again, and needless to say, things go awry.

The first episode, as I’m sure the series as a whole will be, is a nose dive into the possibility of sentience, and the struggle that ensues when it is obtained. What happens when something strays from its original programming and is able to think and act independently. This, is the age old struggle. Think Asimov’s three laws, and what they could mean here, in this world. Although this show does in fact take that premise a bit further, and includes “all living things”. The last shot of this episode challenges this pretense and sets up what I have been told is an exciting ride. I can’t wait to see more.

Alas I say, “Never mind me, just trying to look chivalrous.”

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