Westworld Grand Finale, Season 2

DATELINE:  Who knows?

 ben barnes.JPG

 Back in the Saddle Again!

If you expect us to save your sorry series Westworld, you are barking up the wrong portal.

The Mighty Jonathan Nolan has struck out, and there is no joy in Westworld 2.

Anyone who can explain what happened is a false prophet.

The season finale ran about ninety minutes, an epic of sorts in which Westworld turned into John Wayne’s Alamo. Yes, we might conclude that everyone died at the end. However, HBO has signed up for Season 3,  which may be ready in a couple of years, and by then we expect that loose ends will mean that more than a few cast members will cut loose.

Those who have long-term contracts may be back. Alas, your favorite’s fate may rest on the volume of fan mail that demands a return.

We thought for a moment we were returning to prequel-land where Ben Barnes as Logan, now an android, runs Westworld. However, there were more endings on this series finale than you might find in a Steven Spielberg movie.

No writer or producer wanted to end this thing.

William, aka Billy, turns out to be Billy Pilgrim. Yes, we expect that madman Ed Harris’s character will make a full recovery, and we expect that technicians will selectively pick from among the hosts all your favorite characters for re-programming.

We think too that in the chaotic confusion that a few other characters revealed themselves to be hosts, not human guests.

Of course, you can never be sure on this loony-tune series that what you saw is what actually happened.

Beware of those who tell you what really happened. Only Jonathan Nolan knows, and he isn’t telling.

 

Westworld 2.9 Penultimate Bullet-in

DATELINE: Heads Rolling

simpson Jimmi Simpson, Android?

We are rapidly coming to a climax, or anti-climax, or post-climax of  season 2. Since HBO has ordered a Westworld third season (coming not soon to your cable stream), we know that cliffhanging will be fashionable next week as we try to discern which of our favorite hosts and guests will be around.

As we move to the all-cast shoot-out beyond the pale riders, this next to end-it-all episode features Ford on the Brain.

Yes, everyone from host to guest has Anthony Hopkins telling them what to do. Forget that he’s dead since last season. Is it any wonder that half the cast puts a bullet into their skulls to stop that computer chip from functioning?

You can’t tell who’s mad and who’s a robot as we come crashing toward the end of the season. Actually all the robots are loony. Then, again, so are the crypto-Nazi humans.

You can rest on the fact that no one is ever ever really dead in a Jonathan Nolan flashback series.

We did enjoy seeing Jimmi Simpson and Ben Barnes together briefly again. We did not enjoy watching Ed Harris, or some immortal coil of him, unable to tell whether people are real or robotic, including himself.

When did he shuffle off that mortal coil?

If we wanted to spoil everything for next week’s extravaganza, we’d find ourselves unable to do so: it looked like everyone in the cast was back and in fine fettle. Of course, that could be a flashback, flashforward, or prequel to the old movies.

Perhaps the most telling moment in the current 2,9 show was to find Ed Harris (Sweet William) and his program card stashed in a copy of Slaughterhouse Five, the old space/time continuum novel by Kurt Vonnegut.

When we have time during the week, we may peruse it to learn how the season will end next week. So it goes.

 

 

 

Westworld 2.8 Ghostly Nation

 DATELINE: Thrilling Days of Yesteryear

IMG_3076-1

If you’re not in Oz, and not in Delos’s Westworld 2, you must be in Ford’s Ghost Nation where you live in some kind of digital memory bank.

We’re heading down the homestretch of conundrum, east of chaos and southwest of confusion. Our GPS coordinates on the series are sending us down one-way streets that are closed to thru-traffic.

Those Indians in black and white war-paint may seem like a throwback to old TV westerns. In fact, we are in one old Western in particular. Welcome to the Lone Ranger.

Hiyo, Silver horse, running through the dreams of the Noble Savage, Tonto, or in this case, Ake.

Yes, we re-live Tonto saving the Lone Ranger at least three times in this episode. He saves Ben Barnes, left for dead in the desert last season. He saves Ed Harris, left for dead like the last ranger, this season. And he may even save Thandie Newton.

Two of the scenes are right out of the original production of the Lone Ranger-Tonto playbook. Our last surviving member of his tribe comes across a massacre and makes a ghost who walks for revenge.

It seems the Noble Savage is another bad robot, spreading his discontent, looking for a door to escape being an automaton. A touchstone with one key backstory motivates them to a better world.

And, now it seems that Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) has been all for it. We are moving toward truth, as all the characters seem to be realizing. We stand in awe of Jonathan Nolan pulling this three-ring circus together in the final episodes of the season.

 

 

Westworld 2.7, Ford Your Stream of Consciousness

 DATELINE: Impossible to Spoil

back again  Return to Oz 

Once upon a time in Westworld, you needed a scorecard to know what’s then and what’s now, and who’s really dead and when are we headed to the Last Roundup.

Sergio Leone is spinning in his spaghetti western. Nolan gives us a lasagna western. Too many layers of cheese and sauce.

If you are hypnotized by the cobra, you are no mongoose.

We are still not sure who’s dead and who’s not. We are happy to see Anthony Hopkins alive and well, as long as he stays in his own little world, or is he merely the best part of Arnold. As he tells us, outside he would turn to dust. At least that’s what happened to those who lived in Shangri-La, but that’s another story.

Arnold, apparently, is created out of Ford and Dolores’s memories. Oh, wait, that’s Bernard.

We must give Jonathan Nolan credit. It’s not every TV producer who can go back to the drawing board in the middle of his show’s episode and start all over.

If you don’t like a plot-line, just go back to the delete button. As Ford tells us, we are humans who are the last vestige of analog in a digital world.

You have to love it when you can’t tell a good guy from a bad robot production. If we were to tell you everyone who seems dead after episode seven, we’d not spoil a thing. We are sure you will meet them again, just don’t know where and just don’t know when.

The last roundup, or the gunfight at the OK Corral of Westworld is yonder, in yesteryear. Everyone is headed to the Valley Beyond, which lies just over the hill of episodes eight and nine. It’s sort of a Lost Horizon.

In the final show of Westworld 2, we predict that Nolan will pull a Fellini and have everyone join hands and dance around the center ring of the circus tent.

Bang, the audience is dead.

Westworld 2.6 Goes to Hell

DATELINE:  Westworld 2.6

  who's Arnold? Who’s real?

You have now entered Robot Hell in Westworld’s Season 2.

The dirty little coward Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) has shot the Jesse James Western story into a moldering grave. You can’t tell the guests from the hosts without a scorecard, and staff may be just as confused as the audience.

We may be wondering after 2.6 just who the true villains are. Those who were rotten for the entire series show too much heart as we come to a climax. And, those Dopplegangers from Shogun World are gone, thank heavens. However, we are seeing William (Ed Harris), head honcho of the Westworld operation having a change of heart.

Since no one ever really dies in a Jonathan Nolan series, we know everyone will return in some shape or form. You can probably expect that there are host versions of everyone, and you can’t tell them apart without one of those fancy tablets Elsie (Shannon Woodward) plays like a Chopin nocturne.

If there is a theme here, it is that pursuing a dream is the stuff tragedy is made of. Bernard, or is that Arnold, dreams of returning to the past, or is it the present?

The more the storylines change, the more they remain the same. We know that guests and hosts are converging on the Pearly Gates of the grande finale of season 2.  What we don’t know is how hell-bent they are to have a Last Supper.

In this episode we see one robot “crucified” with spikes by uncaring humans in an effort to learn what is truth. Good centurion Luke Helmsworth stands by in growing horror, as Nolan unravels his gospel according to a Person of Interest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westworld 2.5: Crichton Bites Nolan

Michigan J. Frog That’s Show Biz!

Michael Crichton’s Futureworld’s troubles come back to Nolan’s Westworld 2.5.

Has Westworld begun to self-destruct? Season 2.5 is beginning to look like it’s a parody of itself, at worst. We half expect James Brolin and Peter Fonda, from the original two movies, to show up.

Creative genius Jonathan Nolan and his partner Lisa Joy seem to be giving the fans exactly what they want, but not exactly the way they want it. We have been treated to two worlds that were never in the Michael Critchon original:  Raj World and now Shogun World. It seems much ado about nothing much.

The series has become a satire on TV writers, as the one character who allegedly has written all the programmed dialogue of the robots complains that it was too much work trying to keep with up 300 story-lines.

So, he cheated. The characters of Westworld are now in Japan, and the idea of meeting your double who speaks exactly the same words, but this time in Japanese, has an unsettling effect on the robots.

You’d think a multi-billion dollar operation like Westworld would have hired more writers. Heaven knows we find the Internet is filled with them, all giving Jonathan Nolan more exegesis of his plots than at a symposium on Moby Dick.

The latest episode seems almost as if Toshiro Mifune is giving Yul Brynner pointers on the Magnificent Samurai Seven.

We feel as if there is far less going on this season, and we are already half-way to the end. What kind of cliff-hanger is in the offing?

We know that some humans are trying to restore the park(s) and save Delos Corporation some money by saving any “hosts” worthy of the name.

If there was a revelation here, we suppose it was the sex lives of robots are not much different than real people as Evan Rachel Wood and James Marsden, perpetually virginal in their robot roles, doff the union suits.

Yes, Mr. Nolan, 300 story-lines are too much for one writer.

 

Westworld 2.4: Resurrection Postponed

DATELINE:  Lost in Delos-world

Jimmi Jimmay Jimmi as William aka Black Death!

We couldn’t spoil this episode if we gave you a plot synopsis.

With most of the cast absent without leave, we faced the prospect of William’s dubious mission. Yes, Ed Harris and his younger doppleganger, Jimmi Simpson, carry the action in the fourth episode of the second season.

Now if you want to know what it all means, you may find there is no such thing as a spoiler when you are lost in a maze. For the life of us, we realize that there is some issue around immortality being examined.

We learn that the palsy that afflicts Bernard and a bunch of other hosts is some kind of cognitive deterioration because they lack brain stem fluids, or are driven mad by being a human in a robot body.

Yes, the automaton robots have a problem with immortality, or a weak script .

They learn the truth and cannot handle it.

We are more convinced that, in this Delos World, there is no such thing as Death. You can always return in a past incarnation, or in a reboot. Actors love this kind of role.

You can only speculate about what’s really going on because creator Jonathan Nolan, like the Grand Creator of the Universe, is flying by the seat of his pants.

Bernard (as limned by Jeffrey Wright) could be something more like a brain transplant into a robot body. The head man of Delos is apparently a grand experiment. It leaves us wondering why they didn’t bring back Ford (Anthony Hopkins) in the same fashion.

Indeed, we might speculate that his resurrection could be the stuff of the series climax in season two. Don’t hold us to any firm prediction while we wait for the regular cast members to return from their hiatus week.

 

 

Westworld 2.3: Lost in a Tortured Storyline

DATELINE:  Where Have All the Plots Gone?What's My Line?

Playing What’s My Line, on Westworld 2.3.

If you tuned in a little late to the latest episode of Westworld, you might have to double-check your channel listings. It seemed as if you had stumbled into one of those old BBC TV series about India and the Raj.

Such is the nature of the tortured storyline presented by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy. You may not recognize the characters, surroundings, or goings-on. We supposed that was meant to be part of the show’s confusing allure.

New, old, past, present, familiar, unfamiliar, are all fair game for the Worlds Beyond Westworld. We go from the Raj to the world of Kurosawa over the course of the hour. Welcome to the ever-new, ever-dangerous Samuraiworld.

We are reunited with cast members thought lost, dead, or reprogrammed along the way of the latest series entry. There is some relief to discover the actors still have jobs a few weeks into the second season.

Indeed, the Brit writer in the series, not of the series, played by Simon Quartermain, can even mimic the words the android hosts will utter before they utter them. Well, that’s the power of the writer, which is not saying much or saying too much.

In the case of Nolan and Joy, creative forces behind the tortured storylines, they had a lot of ‘splaining to do on this night and threw the Bengal tiger storyline out of the jungle and into the Raj for a viewer hunting for an irrational story.

We also learned the fate of the woman with the Snake Tattoo, now back with Thandie Newton’s tech workers as her prisoners.

At this rate the new season of episodes will end before we have established where last season’s minor characters have gone.

Perhaps, unwittingly, we and HBO have just signed on for the long haul of five or six seasons. Dolores Delos (Evan Rachel Wood) finds her old robot father and that his memories are not really erased after all, but have gone into some wild Westworld cloud, to be recovered by a tech wizard (android Bernard, Arnold, or whoever, Jeffrey Wright).

Yes, we are still here, but are finding the high altitude of Internet clouds are too convenient for lost souls of Westworld 2.3.

Westworld 2.2, Better Off Dead?

DATELINE:  Reunion, or Bring Yourself Back Online

Barnes & Simpson

Ben Barnes and Jimmi Simpson

The second episode should have been first. Westworld 2 was better the second time around.

If jumping across timeframes becomes easier with practice, we should have seen this coming first. Flashbacks highlight the episode to before the start of “Westworld” as a land of fantasy for rich players in which the prototype robots party in Contemporary World, our time.

We even see Ben Barnes again, killed by evil William at the end of the first season.

Everyone dead from last season is alive again through the miracle of backstory. We even see the young Anthony Hopkins flash by and hear his voice, warning the real Bernard/Arnold about his creations.

Ed Harris and his young self, Jimmi Simpson, seem far more explanatory this season and especially in this episode. We are even given the multiple level chess game of seeing flashbacks within flashbacks. It’s as if Joe Mankiewicz at his greatest Hollywood style had been reincarnated in android version Jonathan Nolan.

Yes, Westworld returned to the thrilling days of tantalizing its core viewers, as the ultimate tease mystery.

To see Dolores in modern times, given insights by her creators, lends understanding to the revolution of robots in Westworld.

A few stories even briefly cross before future episodes will give fans more insights: Thandie Newton and her beau automaton Rodrigo Sandoro meet the strong-willed Evan Rachel Wood and James Marsden.

Will they meet again? Don’t know where, don’t know when.

Jeffrey Wright’s real person (not his later robotic self) figures only in the opening. His future scenes of the previous episode remain inexplicable at this point.

Story arc of the first episode, less interesting, was completely missing this week—and the meat of the sadistic monster hosts dominated the proceedings. We may not fully understand where this is heading, or who will return again, but Nolan and his partner Lisa Joy have produced an intriguing series, season two

Brave New Westworld 2

DATELINE: Westworld Returns to TV

brave, new westworld? Re-programming Required on all Models!

Now for something completely borrowed.  It appears, as the second season of Westworld dawns, producer and creator Jonathan Nolan is returning to the roots of Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the Westworld.

The robot revolt has resulted in more guest deaths than we could have suspected if they had assembled the entire cast from season one. Dead bodies, mostly rotting, are clearly human.  The recovery team traipsing around the park finds Robert Ford, shot by the show’s cowgirl, Dolores Delos (Evan Rachel Wood), with a gaping hole in his head. That likely ends the theory that dirty coward Ford (Anthony Hopkins) was a robot.

Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), a closet robot, now must hide his identity lest the humans simply shoot him in a fashion reminiscent of concentration camp purges by the human controllers. He needs an oil job before he terminates.

Maeve (Thandie Newton) has saved Westworld’s script writer who is a human most unpleasant as she seeks a fictional child to whom she has some maternal robot feelings (told these are not genuine has no effect). She also locates her hot, lanky boyfriend (Rodrigo Santoro).

The Man in Black, a major stockholder in Westworld, and last season’s young man (Jimmi Simpson) in a parallel storyline, returns as mean as ever. Ed Harris even removes the Robert Ford boyhood model to show his true spirit.

No one comes across here as remotely controlled for sympathy.

Between the bloodbath scenes of innocent humans being shot by sociopath monster robots, we are somehow meant to feel human compassion for a slave revolt.

Shades of Spartacus.

We have met the human Roman Nazis—and according to Jonathan Nolan’s cryptic script, they are us. Whereas Nolan’s Person of Interest production people populate the cast and crew, we are left without that show’s sense of dry wit.

Last season’s smartest show on TV has become dumb-witted.

Confusion and horror are not the best honey to attract the busy bees of cable sci-fi fans who have come to expect intrigue and humor. It’s a disappointing start to the second season.

 

 

Westworld’s First Season Ends on Edge of Apocalypse

DATELINE: Where Have All the Robots Gone?

 westworld

At the end of season one of Jonathan Nolan’s HBO series, Westworld, the computers cash in their chips.

We dare not predict who will be left standing for next season**, but there is a likely chance that few of the regulars from this season will return. Nolan himself in his closing teaser promises that next season will bring chaos.

The robots have discovered even their revolt is the masterwork of a programmer.  The enslaved robots dream of violent pasts, and we learn that their life spans end in malfunction that we might call “insanity”.

The series has certainly enjoyed many moments of delight—from the motif of Debussy’s Reverie playing on everything from a player piano in a saloon, to a crank cylinder—to the image of Yul Brynner’s Gunslinger from the original movie shut away in the shadows of a backroom.

The series ended with considerable mumbo-jumbo, the sort of stuff that passes as philosophical insights in pop sci-fi, but that merely makes the experience more maddening.

Because the reveries of the damaged robots seem to flicker in and out of their consciousness, the last episode of the season either ended characters—or nothing ends. This was the hallmark of Jonathan Nolan’s other fascinating series, Person of Interest. Flashbacks meant dead characters returned to fulfill their past lives.

All this leaves us anticipating what may happen next year without having one of those cliff-hanging, manufactured endings.

Week after ten weeks, we have seen brazen, but throwaway, nudity among the robots as they are prepared—and abused by their caretakers. The violence and orgies no longer need to be suggested on cable television; there is no subtlety in the brave new world of Westworld. And, the brave new world of acting demands you better have a good-looking body because the script won’t allow for shy actors to overcome their modesty.

We had to wait a year for a few episodes of Downton Abbey—and now we will wait for the five-year** run of Westworld, one season at a time.

** Jonathan Nolan revealed that the second season will likely not air until 2018 at earliest.  Yikes. We are not ageless, like robots.

 

Revamped and Rejuvenated Westworld Hits HBO

DATELINE: Move Over, Yul

ed-harris

If you liked Jonathan Nolan’s computer savvy approach to Person of Interest, you will thoroughly enjoy his latest foray into the technology of the future.

Nolan has sunk his teeth into the old Yul Brynner sci-fi classic by Michael Crichton, Westworld.  As producer, director, and writer, he is bringing his unique talents to a new fascinating project. It is hypnotic, chilling, and fascinating.

Bringing in Anthony Hopkins as the dubious owner and creator of Westworld and Jeffrey Wright as his technical expert left-hand, you have the behind-the-scenes string-pullers for android marionettes and martinets.

In the realm of the theme park itself, playing a version of Yul is Ed Harris as the Man in Black. This time he is not an android, but worse—a genuinely disturbing real person with an ugly penchant for violence.

 

Programmed not to hurt humans, the androids seem to be breaking down—or have been given a virus to send them into danger mode.

The opening episode on HBO sets up the premise of a handsome production with gripping ideas and smart cast (James Marsden is a robot, folks).

 

As in his highly successful Person of Interest, Nolan manages to make his anti-heroic theme park both a paradigm of evil and an homage to fantasy.

 

Though this may send you running to see the old 1973 flick with Richard Benjamin as the bumbling victim of Brynner’s obsessive robot, this new version is far subtler and has the luxury of weeks of exposition to make its point.

 

This has cable series mega-hit written all over it, and Nolan has managed to avoid the anti-intellectual CBS moguls whose appreciation for brainless entertainment has condemned them to pabulum TV and canceling Person of Interest.

Hitchcock Cameos on/as Person of Interest

kindle HitchcoverInteresting Persons

DATELINE: MOVIE/TV MASHUP

 

It appears that Alfred Hitchcock is hanging around the perimeter of the hit TV series Person of Interest. Not since we saw Hitchcock’s image subliminally etched into a wall in Last Year at Marienbad have we been so overwhelmed with Hitchcock sightings.

From Mr. Kingfisher to Mr. Swan and Mr. Wren, Harold Finch seems to be obsessed with The Birds, making all his pseudonyms and aliases based on the notorious Hitchcock movie.

If not mistaken, we have seen Harold adopt the names of more than a half-dozen aviary friends, including his stand-by of Mr. Finch, preferred by his poorly socialized guarddog Reese and pet Belgian Malinois named Bear.

Clearly the producers of Person of Interest, including creator Jonathan Nolan, love to pay homage to Hitchcock. The endless and continuing references have more than caught our interest.

Since our book on Hitchcock is entitled Alfred Hitchcock Freshly Showered, we have more than a passing interest in those keeping the Master of Suspense alive in art.

Person of Interest has a large cache of cameos for Hitch, which would no doubt please the Master.

Even the recent episode of the third season, “4C” was saturated with HItchcockian touches. While Mr. Reese is on a trans-Atlantic flight, he discovers that first-class and coach sections are filled with agents from various nations, all on orders to murder another passenger.

Fortunately, while mayhem is proceeding onboard, no passengers are distracted because they are all enrapt while watching North by Northwest, including scenes of a drone chasing Cary Grant through cornfields.

In another episode, the mysterious figure Reese and Finch track is named Thornhill, but does he exist? Or is his name a mere alias? Of course, this is a throwback again to North by Northwest where Grant’s Roger O. Thornhill is pursued by international espionage agents.

Another episode was devoted totally to the homage: in this case, Reese is in a wheelchair from a gunshot wound and takes up residence in a large apartment complex. Here, Finch must do the legwork while Reese watches his neighbors on computer screens as well as his rear window. Just to make it interesting, he finds a suspect burying something in the flowerbed between the buildings.

Rear Window is put on its head when Finch is the Grace Kelly figure.

When one character notes that his philosophy is based on “Que Sera Sera,” agent Shaw notes that he must be a fan of Doris Day. She made the hit song famous in Hitchcock’s The Man Who Knew Too Much.

Once again, foreshadowing came early on a show in which Reese described himself as a Hitchcock aficionado. That meant, as follows logically, that the climax of the episode took place on a revolving carousel with a shoot-out! Shades of Strangers on a Train.

There are many recurring characters on Person of Interest, and you can add Alfred Hitchcock to the cast.