Written by Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan, this first episode directed by the latter, and executive produced by J.J. Abrams, the first season to the science fiction western by HBO starts off with picturesque scenery and meta humor. As we walk off the train with the other newcomers we hear a couple on vacation saying how this all better be worth it after the price of admission. HBO likely hopes the same.
So far so good. The pacing of the first episode tended more toward expository than anything resembling a coherent story, while also dropping minuscule yet frequent breadcrumbs to keep us interested, but if the character work continues on as it ramps up through the season the only worry could be that the hype really doesn’t live up to the reality. The varying loop that each host (the names that the artificially intelligent humanoids embody) experiences with programming written to change and improvise upon changes offset by the newcomers has plenty of potential for a plethora of storytelling opportunities. In particular the Sheriff who greets characters in town is reminiscent of NPCs used as way points for beginning quests found in MMO video game titles. Episode 1 is titled “The Original” referring to Evan Rachel Wood’s character host having been reprogrammed so often that she’s “practically brand new.” How about that swatting of the fly? What a cliffhanger. So juicy.
I’ve heard speculation throughout the year about this show, even with aspirations that HBO intends this to become a Game of Thrones replacement as that show finishes up in the time to come. I watched this with my girlfriend and I know that she couldn’t lose that train of thought, constantly comparing it to the previous adaptation, even affectionately referring to it as “Westeroesworld.” These are lofty expectations for any programming, let alone one with such a discussed production cycle.
The show itself, the story and cinematography, is still finding its footing as it escalates to disturbing levels of depravity. The Man in Black (played despicably by Ed Harris) leading the charge, representing the unstoppable force and treatment that humanity is to other life forms, let alone themselves. The infancy of this commentary is too early to be judged, but I’m sure we’ll have plenty of think pieces and reviews speculating even further than this viewer has the ability to get into.
The costume design is immaculate, let alone the makeup. Certain hosts look particularly waxy and adbsent of life.
I’ll certainly try in the coming weeks! Expect a review of each episode as the season unfolds.