Westworld: All the Questions We Have After the Premiere

Westworld All the Questions We Have After the Premiere
Right off the bat I should tell you that the questions I have about the Westworld premiere might not be the same as the ones you have. HBO's latest big-budget series is a philosopher's dream, exploring free will, human nature, artificial intelligence and much, much more.

Because it does that, some of the more traditional details are glossed over. We're not told where things take place or even when it takes place. It could be the future, it could be an alternate history. We have no idea. What's important are the higher-thinking questions that bleed into life instead of the story-specific details. But that doesn't lessen the effect of the excellent premiere. In fact, it enhances it.

Westworld will be HBO's next big hit... for some

Below I've listed eight questions -- some show specific and some beyond -- that I've been asking myself since watching the first episode.

[Spoilers for the premiere of Westworld follow. Read at your own risk.]

1. Can robots fall in love?

The story of Teddy (James Marsden) and Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) makes up most of the beginning of the pilot and throws the episode deep into classic Western stereotypes. A handsome stranger from out of town comes to see the beautiful rancher's daughter, and they ride on horseback through picturesque landscapes (Utah, nature's perpetual Kodak moment), exchanging witty banter and some saliva. It's practically hokey and certainly generic, but hits those classic points from old-time movies that filled seats in the old days and still resonates today because of its romanticism.

But they're robots. And the hokey-ness -- on a second viewing -- is intentional and the result of a script written by a programmer. Dolores and Teddy are literally following someone else's idea of love in the Old West, one no doubt taken from old Howard Hawks movies, and are unable to take themselves off that track without outside interference. They repeat this script in every instance because they have no other choice.

Westworld creators defend the series' use of rape and violence against women

How does their story, uninterrupted, play out? Will they get married and have a robo-brood? What happens if one of them develops sentience and understands their situation? Will they still fall in love, as it's ingrained in them? Can they understand they are mere action figures in some rich person's vacation, or will their love supersede their new found consciousness? "There's a path for everyone, and my path is bound with yours," Dolores tells a "dying" Teddy. But will it really be once she knows what's going on? How deeply imprinted is that "love" in her? If she does understand the reality of it all and still loves Teddy, I'll be over here collecting the fragments of my exploded skull.

Many shows tackle the idea of free will versus fate without a definitive answer because it's an unanswerable question for human beings. Sorry to break it to you, but we'll never know if we're all on a predetermined path or if we can forge our own directions -- that's one of life's greatest mysteries. But from Dolores and Teddy's perspective, there is absolute fate in play here because they are literally NPCs in this sandbox game, and as the robots glitch out and develop a sense of free will, we'll get creator Jonathan Nolan's perspective on the dilemma.

2. Will we see these stories within Westworld play out?

Personally, I want to know what happens between Dolores and Teddy if an Outsider never saw them. And those milk-obsessed bandits. And the charming rogue Hector Escaton and his bad-ass partner with the eagle-eye and trigger finger. Clearly there are predefined stories that they're involved in. What is Westworld's narrative director Lee Sizemore's (Simon Quarterman) artistic vision of these Westworld hosts without human interference? Westworld could almost function as a series on its own without the science-fiction aspects ... but what would that look like? I want to know!

We'll probably never find out, but instead examine the various paths all these characters could take with minor nudges to their natural (well, pre-programmed) orbits. We could even apply these Sliding Doors moments to our own lives. Perhaps when all is said and done, we'll see what Lee had in mind for an undisturbed Westworld. Maybe we'll even finally hear Hector's speech.

3. How would we act if we knew there were no consequences?

Westworld is definitely about robots and their uprising, but it's also equally about human nature. The humans who visit Westworld are there to live out their fantasies with no repercussions, and part of being human is harboring an evil streak. We're naturally selfish as a mechanism for survival. Many philosophers will tell you that the only reason we aren't absolutely barbaric is because of rules and social stigma, but if that was all removed, would we behave like we do today? Probably not.

One of the earlier visitors says that on one of his visits he "went straight-up evil, had the best two weeks of my life." And while some first-time Outsiders play things mostly cautiously, veterans aren't afraid to go deep into role playing. I'd like to think that role-playing involves being a good person, but no one in Westworld went there to be the white-hat sheriff. Most "wanted to shoot or f*** something," as Theresa (Sidse Babett Knudsen) notes. What would you do in their place?

4. What is beyond the "game"?

Speaking of acting without consequences, Ed Harris' Man in Black has been to Westworld so many times that he knows there is something beyond the everyday simulations. His horrific torture of a local is just the beginning of his quest to find out what's really going on. The local's scalp had a map on it -- or was it a symbol? Where does it lead? And what is he really up to?

Because Westworld doesn't give us any details of what's going on, where things take place or when they take place, there's a huge curtain ready to be lifted by the Man in Black. Could he actually be a good guy looking to uncover the truth behind Westworld?

5. Is Dolores pre-programmed to be blocked from the truth?

Dolores' voiceover is one of the first episode's most stirring features, with her positive outlook blocking out all the ugliness in the world. And when her father Peter (Louis Herthum) discovers a photo from an Outsider showing the real world, Dolores can't say anything but "Doesn't look like anything to me," as though it's a preprogrammed response, twice, with the same inflection and cadence. Then she goes about her business as if nothing happened. That can't be coincidence. Why was it so important for Dolores -- the park's oldest "host" -- to not understand what she was seeing, while her father was deeply affected by seeing the same photograph? Obviously she's special, but how?

6. What is up with the lower-level holding room for robots who don't work properly?

That sub-basement level of broken robots is nothing but bad, bad news for the humans above. Yikes. This ain't like my drawer full of old iPods and iPhones.

7. How lifelike is too lifelike when it comes to androids?

There's a debate in robotics about how "real" robots should be made to appear, and it's something Lee's character brings up. He notes that visitors don't want to shoot or have sex with something that's "too real" because deep down, we can't bring ourselves to commit questionable acts against something that seems like an equal. But something that is just fake enough allows us to play out our deepest fantasies.

On the other side, Anthony Hopkins' Dr. Robert Ford wants to push realism as far as he can to make his androids indistinguishable from flesh-and-blood humans. His update adds the idea of permanent memories that allows the hosts to develop new behaviors based on their past experiences, even if it isn't accessible by their single-instance consciousness. That adds an insane amount of realism to them, and is responsible for the problems in the premiere.

There's a difference in our thinking when we know we're dealing with something artificial. When that line gets blurred and things seem too real, we cease to act naturally. And in the case of Westworld, when things get too real, things go wrong. Where should the line between artificial and real be drawn, and has Westworld already gone too far?

8. Why does the player piano and some of the music redo classic and familiar music?

Yes, that was Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun" on the player piano. Yes, that was The Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black" during Hector's big shootout. Why? Because it's awesome, that's why.

Westworld airs Sunday nights at 9/8c on HBO.

This article originally appears on TV Guide.com.

Comments (113)
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Nov 02, 2016
I think that Dolores somehow knows what is happening but chooses to ignore and knows what are the consequences of showing more than you know... So she keeps quiet in her world because she knows that they are being watched and controlled. That info was transmitted from Arnold but have no idea why she was the choosen one and in someway that makes her special, like it was noticed.
i think that all the hosts have the same information within and the update somehow liberated that info/feeling.
Regarding the "judas steer" I believe that there will be someone to guide the hosts as soon as the truth is revealed, and I believe it is Dolores.
But let's wait and see what happens as the show progresses.

It raises lots of questions and some fear in humanity to what we reached in order to add some thrill to our routine/boring life...almost everything is known so we have to make up (and destroy) things to keep entertained.
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Oct 31, 2016
Seems not a lot of interest in this show....... I like it, though it needs to not repeat quite so much
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Oct 24, 2016
Interesting questions. I'm guessing the 'maze' is an early creative decision to make sure there is enough material for a series.

Will there be episode reviews? Hope so. Miss following a great series with a review by Tim to complete the experience.
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Oct 11, 2016
The answer to "Will we see these stories within Westworld play out?" is given at the end of episode 2 by the Hopkins character: "No".

That's when they make fun of the gta-like "Odessey on Red River" storyline and how the guests don't return for the obvious things. I'm glad they're making it clear right away that this isn't playstation's "Red Dead Redemption" with live actors and a bigger budget.

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Oct 06, 2016
I definitely loved this premiere! It did present us with alot of questions and I think the journey to those answers could be beautiful and exciting. I hope that's what's in store for us. I'm so intrigued by Dolores and the main programmer guy. The whole thing with the fly throughout the premiere and the Dolores swatting at it at the end was perfect. "Violent delights, meet violent ends" gave me goosebumps. I think they may have something really special here, and I look forward to seeing it play out.
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Oct 05, 2016
Not sure what I think of Westworld at this point and I never saw the original either. The trailers left me with an uneasy feeling and I was quite happy to give it a miss but decided to tune in because of the hype. I think I'll do the 4 episode test and see what transpires.

The western setting and the repetitive scenes (Dolores and Teddy) grate somehow for me. The only thread that seems interesting is the potential for the hosts to become conscious. Dolores's father malfunctioning was a good take on the human breakdown when faced with changes that are hard to process. A secondary thread would be Dolores and her possible duplicity.

The real word thread with Anthony Hopkins and the staff hierarchy tensions.are less appealing.

If I had the opportunity to play in a simulation like that though, I would absolutely want to explore evil and fuck things!
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Oct 04, 2016
Regarding Dolores, i personally got interested early on in her conversation with Teddy, when he asked her how the cows keep going in the same direction.

She responded by pointing out the Judas deer as she called it.

After finishing the episode i started wondering about this conversation, as it seems to stand out from the rest of what happened.

And to me it either seems to suggest there is a judas deer amongst the robots or more plausible, that it was a reflection on Dolores who was aware how the park works, but chooses to play along.

If thats true, then her insistance that there is nothing special with the photo, and her perfect answers to the programmer, would take on a whole new meaning.
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Oct 09, 2016
Hey, while i dont agree with the rest of your observations i do really like the bit about the Judas deer. Didnt really take any notice of that before but yeah there is definitely a judas robot in there...which one dont know yet.
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Oct 04, 2016
I don't think Dolores' response was because she was special in some way, I think she is the norm and her father was the one with something different. We don't know for sure, but I'd bet that the rest of the town that hadn't been updated would react like she did to the photo.
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Oct 04, 2016
I found really but really anoying that when I click on "Westworld" (the ling in bold) in the article it send me on TVguide.com instead of the home page here on TV.com.
As for the other article which do that.
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Oct 11, 2016
Don't get us started on that again - the staff assures users that problems after the amalgamation with tvguide are just some temporary and minor, and everything will be fine, just fine if everybody stays around. Sounds like Westworld - even if you have a big bloody hole in your stomach, do notice that no android is able to hurt you :-)
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Oct 05, 2016
Believe or not, jumptheshark.com was a great site before TV guide bought them, then it sort of... well, you know..

Tons of insightful user generated content went *poof*
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Oct 05, 2016
yep - we all do - it sucks.. this site won't last much longer unless they fix it and make it a good review site again - but i don't think they will.. stupid CBS...
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Oct 04, 2016
The man in black said that he's known her for 30 years. The last time the park had a fatal error was 30 years ago. That's twice 30 years has come up, I'll be listening for more.
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Oct 04, 2016
Question 3. - Answer

I play a lot of open world RPG's that have had a moral element to the gameplay (mainly the Fable series and Fallout 3/New Vegas - for some reason Falout 4 got rid of karma) and while i have done play throughs as an "evil" character I will admit I've felt uncomfortable about some of my actions so I usually take the "hero" route.

I would imagine I would be the same as an Outsider in Westworld.

What that says about me who knows........
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Oct 04, 2016
I agree. I once designed a theoretical Psychology experiment for a university course using online RPGs and, chat rooms and other online anonymous situations to gather data a predict personality types and behaviour.

Theorizing that when there are zero consequences online, you can get a true picture of a personality.

Are they a sacrificing hero? Will they always do the evil thing for more personal benefit or entertainment? A little of both? And how would that translate to a person's actions in the real world.


An alternative theory of mine was predicting behaviour and personality types based on hero identification.

Who was your favorite X-Man? Favorite Avenger? Favorite Ninja Turtle?

This came to my mind because a number of my friends who loved Wolverine and Ironman and Michelangelo went on to exhibit rebellious self gratifying personality traits.

While I loved Cyclops, Leonardo and Captain America. To this day I always end up in leadership positions, at work, on my sports teams, in online games, though I never seek them out, I just hate terrible leadership and fill the void that is often left.

I never got to actually conduct either of these experiments to see if any of these theories were statistically relevant though.
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Oct 05, 2016
So odds are I'm not a loony tune. That's reasuring.

Your Hero Identification theory could be a little skewed though, not saying it's wrong as I'm no Psycologist just something to be factored in.

You need to consider proxy fullfillment. Identifying with a character that is diametrically oposed to their own personality type.

For every narcasisst that indentifies with Tony Startk you've got the wimpy kid that wants to be the Hulk.

Plus some characters are just so cool that who wouldn't identify with them - Wolverine, Batman, Rapahel et al.
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Oct 04, 2016
there are rape-free cultures in existence right now. all you need is a basic level kind of respect between women and men. blows my mind that today's science fiction writers are still unable to imagine a future with gender equality. also means, that they didn't HAVE to adress sexual violence against women, they WANTED to.

I'm so sick of it. how refreshing would it be to have a dark themed show without rape on tv and how sad is that? shouldn't that be normal?
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Oct 05, 2016
whatever - it happens - deal with it.. if that sounds harsh - tough - this is a tv show, not a documentary or instruction manual.. go watch some jim jeffries rape jokes and cheer up.. least Bill Cosby's not in it... :P
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Oct 04, 2016
There are? Which ones?
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Oct 05, 2016
have you even tried to google it? and if so, what went wrong?
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Oct 04, 2016
Unfortunately, these rape-free cultures still have people that commit these heinous acts. Not the mention the rampant, porno-rape-culture that exists on the internet today. At least the show depicts these things in an negative fashion, rather than something to kink. Also, It's not that they are choosing specifically to flaunt rape/sexual violence as an act against gender equality. This is not a gender issue. Science fiction or not, present/future, gender equality/inequality, this is less so rape-specific and more about the depravity that exists in humanity. It's the popular comparison of a human's life vs an artificial one, where the artificial one act's more humane than humans themselves. What is it to actually be human? Given anyone's open opinion on what humanity is, and a hypothetical world where gender equality is universal, would you so swiftly sweep such issues away as if they still wouldn't occur or at the very least sit the gutter of our minds when tackling such a question? I don't think it's right to accuse or criticize "today's science fiction writers" when you whittle down their work to a gender issue, when there's more to it than just that.
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Oct 05, 2016
I'm sorry, I don't even know where to start with you.
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Oct 05, 2016
That's okay, I'm sure most people wouldn't know where to start with you either, or as in my case, even care enough to bother.
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Oct 05, 2016
you're probably right about that. otherwise we would live in a very different world."

You give yourself waaay too much credit, the world already has a bunch of self-righteous, condescending hypocrites. You're presence (or lack thereof) makes no difference in anything.
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Oct 05, 2016
robhatch986 - FTW!
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Oct 05, 2016
you're probably right about that. otherwise we would live in a very different world.
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Oct 04, 2016
Not watched this yet, I think we're getting it a week behind on Sky Atlantic, but i have one though.

Now that POI is done and Jonah has moved on to another show about AI and self-determination vs fate and what constitutes a viable lifeform in our increasing technicalogical age, who wouldn't be up for Jim Caviezel being in an episode, either as robot or a clinet.

Hollywood nepotisim sometimes a force for evil, sometimes a force for good.

Oh go back to my second paragraph, who else thinks that Jonah Nolan would have been perfect to have been involved in one or both of the two big live action anime projects on the burner at the moment - Ghost in the Shell and Battle Angel Alita.

Both explore the themes that Jonah has a thing for at the moment - wasted opportunity.
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Oct 04, 2016
If JJ Abrams and Jonathan Nolan had a baby, it would be your dead grandmother from the future. I'm excited for what is to come.
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Oct 04, 2016
Yay - Tim doing the Westworld reviews will actually keep me coming to this site a bit longer. I loved the premiere - and I loved the 1973 movie as well. What a great pilot - gave us just enough info for us to get a vague idea of what's going on - without giving away too much. (***SPOILERS FOR THIS EP ONLY FOLLOW***) How many of you thought that Teddy was a real person and had stopped those killers at Peter's house - I know I did - til Ed Harris killed him! Great fake out. I love the use of modern music like Paint it Black and Black Hole sun in player piano form - very cool. Not enough is known about Anthony Hopkins character for me to form any real opinion of him - but seems he has a fondness for the old days - and the older robots. I also love that Jonathan Nolan (Person of Interest) wrote and directed this ep - he's so good. With a pilot this good, count me in for the rest of the season! Also my friend Shannon Woodward being in it is a nice plus for me - known her since she was 14 years old - super nice person. Best pilot I've seen since The Tick. For this ep, it's a 9.5/10 easy. Looks like HBO has its next great show - can't wait for episode two!
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Oct 04, 2016
Map? I thought it was just (comically large) circuitry on the underside of the scalp. Why would there be a map there?
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Oct 04, 2016
Because.. there are multiple levels to what people think of as Westworld - and the man in black - he's going to the next level - or trying to at least - and that map will help him. As far as it being under that particular guy's scalp - not sure.. yet...
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Oct 04, 2016
NOPE!
PASS!
When's season 7 of GoT start?
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Oct 04, 2016
Who cares - least we won't have to deal with your comments anymore for this show - unless you're some kind of troll or something. Episode was excellent - your loss...
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Oct 05, 2016
Agreed @slayme3 Enjoy ur safe space where everyone likes the show!
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Oct 05, 2016
cool, thnx, i will
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Oct 04, 2016
The Apocalypse approves of this article and this new show. The Apocalypse very much looks forward to the day the robots destroy their creators.
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Oct 04, 2016
We humans!!... halfway through the story, i started thinking, when the robot uprising starts I will be on the robots' side. That said, i will tune in for the next episode.
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Oct 03, 2016
The map on the scalp leads to a hatch, and inside there is a scotsman who just says repeatedly 'See you in another life brother!'
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Oct 04, 2016
rofl! just like JJ to tie all his shows back to LOST! heheh...
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Oct 04, 2016
Lol, and there's the button to be pressed every hour so robots don't die.

The map also looks a bit like that Guard tattoo from Haven (a maze with a person inside)...
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Oct 03, 2016
OMG this show is a$$boring. Wanted to chew off my leg.
Please cancel it ,like now.
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Oct 04, 2016
Or you and the other haters could, you know, just change the channel or not watch it. Also - please chew your leg off and post it to youtube - it will be infinitely more enjoyable than your idiotic comment.
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Oct 04, 2016
Slayme can't handle that others doesn't have his taste, let this small man be...
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Oct 04, 2016
Of course we can And I'll do just that from next episode.
However, one have to watch first episode to see if it is any good.
It is not, It is c rap.
If you want you could bite me and we'll post it to youtube. It will be infinitely more enjoyable than your brilliant comment.
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Oct 04, 2016
IKR?
Was watching it in the backround whilst ign/Utub'n and barely paid any attention 2 this. Definitely GoT the Leftovers/Caprica vibe from this, and that's not a good thing at all! The only good Cyborg becoming sentient story 2ME is the Matrix/Terminator franchises imho. Also the only thing HBO is good 4 nowadays is GoT/Ballerz/Vice Principals respectively:/
Sorry Home Box Office, but I'm soooo NOT n2 an artificial persons existential crisis on a weekly basis....HARD PASS!
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Oct 03, 2016
OMG some people are a$$shallow, and will never get a show that appeals to their minds instead of their adrenaline glands. For such people all TVs have something called a channel selector and an off switch. No need to cancel every show you don't personally like, especially if others do.
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Oct 04, 2016
Kinda ironic that you are shallow enough to disrespect the opinion of others.
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Oct 07, 2016
The proper word is "disagree", and when someone puts forward what I consider a shallow opinion, I'll most definitely disagree with it. "Disrespect" has nothing to do with it. It's an overused word, intended to shut down legitimate criticism without offering any real counter arguments.
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Oct 03, 2016
Was thoroughly engrossed, for me, this was real "lean in" tv. The only flaw I found was the actor playing Sizemore, his delivery was jarring, and I found him so irritating I hope he gets killed off fairly soon. In answer to question 5, Dolores feels like someone for whom blocking past memories is essential to her "sanity", as the oldest host, she has experienced countless terrible things, not least being repeatedly violated by The Man In Black. I actually wonder if the reason she's been kept and updated instead of replaced is at his insistence as a regular valued customer. So while the amnesia may have been programmed before, now it's more an act of survival, a refusal to confront horror.

Something I like very much is the way it makes us, the audience, almost complicit in the violence and degradation, the way the Newcomers are. This is the latest in a long line of hyper-violent, sexually explicit and vicious tv shows like GoT where we can thrill in fictional nastiness in the safety of our living rooms, in much the same way as they can live out their darkest fantasies with no consequence to anyone who matters.
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Oct 06, 2016
I didn't even think about it like that damn that's crazy.
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Oct 03, 2016
Before it used to be lots of people commenting on Tim's reviews. Not just a few.
I would have like to know how does it feel for Tim and other previous reviewers to have almost nobody reading their articles, and neither commenting?
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Oct 11, 2016
They're most likely very aware of the situation for longer than we are, and won't it take personally.

With fewer people commenting and rating episodes, that's that for a site like tv.com as the other facts can be found in Wikipedia. Fewer people reading and commenting on Tim's reviews are just the collateral damage of the amalgamation. It's kind of bye-bye to good ol' tv.com, pity I didn't discover it earlier and only experienced a short time of the golden good ol' days.
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Oct 03, 2016
Its because this site is obviously finished...nothing to see here for months. looks like its closing down.
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Oct 06, 2016
Right it's like if I wanted to visit tvguide.com I would do that don't turn other websites into goddamn tvguide.
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Oct 03, 2016
I know this site is dead but nevertheless here's my theory about one aspect of this show-
-Man in black is not real, he's a bug in the program and robots see him as real. He's able to kill them but they aren't able to kill him because he has no physical form. That's the only explanation as to why Teddy was able to shoot some of the attackers (robots) but not him. I mean, even if he's human and robots aren't allowed to hurt humans he still shot at him with the same gun he shot at those other robots. Also, if he's a robot then there's still no explanation to why he was not hurt by bullets Teddy fired at him and others were.

What do you think about this?
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Oct 03, 2016
Hmm, think they trying too hard to make a Mr Robot with cowboy hats. Sorry, but dun think it will be HuuuuGE in mainland Gina too ! :P
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Oct 03, 2016
Mr. Robot is completely different than this. I don't understand your logic/rationale. Just b/c film/television has any semblance of artistic nature doesn't mean it's trying to be like any other.
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Oct 03, 2016
The premise is good but the execution is poor. I don't like the casting. Stiff scenes from some of the actors, and the characters are just not that interesting. Not impressed.
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Oct 03, 2016
After watching it twice and I am not interested in it.
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Oct 03, 2016
OK, I'll say it. The milk obsession is obviously a reference to the android creation process - some kind of buried birth memory coming to the surface. I'm thinking it's a sign of deep psychological problems in some of them, and the robot shrinks running the park should all be fired for not picking up on it.

I also agree about the room full of bad robots. I know J.J. Abrams has a thing for them, but anyone with a brain would be feeding them into an industrial wood chipper instead of leaving them all unattended in a dark basement room.

And while I'm not sure what "deep game" Ed Harris is searching for, I'm pretty sure that Dolores is already playing one. She apparently rejects clues about the real nature of her world, and gives the shrinks all the answers they're looking for, but... there's something in her eyes, something she's keeping to herself, and the final scene with the fly was pretty chilling.
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Oct 04, 2016
This! The milk thing can't be part of the a regular storyline... the paying customers would be gagging from the smell of sour milk the entire visit :)

Also, Dolores will rain down hell on all, and she looks like she's already planning how to do it. Great performance by Evan Rachel Wood - and the makeup artists, her eyes look like glass, a nice twist on the quicksilver eyes in the original!
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Oct 03, 2016
I have a feeling that Ed Harris' character is really a host, with one hell of a glitch.
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Oct 03, 2016
I liked it.

I became familiar with Paint It Black as the theme song for Tour of Duty. I didn't pick up on the player piano music though. Maybe we could see a new wave of Modern Western music where pop songs are redone in a western style. But ZZTop did do it first with Double Back.

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Oct 03, 2016
There was also a piano rendition of Soundgarden's 'Black Hole Sun' earlier in the episode.
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