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Westworld Premiere Recap: The Original

Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality?

That’s the first question Dolores Abernathy, the oldest host in the sadistic adult amusement park known as Westworld, is asked by Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright). As Lowe goes through a series of questions, we are introduced to the scenery of this fantasy world that is the setting for the new HBO drama that premiered last night.

As we learn later in the episode, that is a standard question all “hosts” (another name for the robots in this world) are asked when their behavior moves outside the programmed scripts. And I imagine many a hosts will be asked that question before the end of the debut season considering that the clear theme of the series premiere was all the various ways these hosts can possibly end up outside the script. But they aren’t able to kill “newcomers” (another name for humans), so everyone should be perfectly safe the rest of the season (wink wink).

So let’s try and sift through all the new characters and information thrown at us in the first ever hour of Westworld.

Take 1

While Dolores is being questioned by Lowe, we see her wake up, walk down the stairs, and greet her father in the morning. A man named Teddy is also on a train at the start of this day as guests talk about the various adventures they are looking to experience in the park. Teddy sees the local sheriff asking for help in apprehending Hector Escaton, a wanted criminal. He visits the local saloon and gets propositioned by a prostitute before eyeing Dolores, whose just rode into town.

Dolores and Teddy are hosts programmed to be together. Well, not exactly be together, but to always chase each other (kind of heartbreaking ain’t it). They throw every movie western and romantic movie cliche they can before approaching Dolores’s house, when thinks get dark and twisted.

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Teddy (James Marsden) and Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), the star crossed loves of Westworld.

First, Dolores parents are killed by a man whom then dumps milk on their dead bodies (more on him later). Teddy rides up and takes out the man and his partner. Then, a man in black (Ed Harris) approaches Dolores. None of this made sense until the Man in Black explained to us what’s going on: he’s a guest. And he’s a frequent guest, recognizing Dolores and later Teddy when the male host tries to kill him. Here, we learn that hosts cannot kill guests. Their shots will fail every time. And the guests have free reign over the hosts, as the man in black shows by killing Teddy and dragging Dolores to a barn to rape her.

But as the sun rises, Dolores wakes up in her bed in the same position as the day before, and Teddy is on that same train riding into town.

Take 2

As it turns out, everyday for these hosts starts the same way. They’ve been programmed with a series of scripted story lines and can only respond to those story lines. The robots are constructed and the park is monitored in a single lab where Lowe builds the hosts, Lee Sizemore writes their stories, and Teresa Cullen steps in when there are issues with the hosts. And I suspect Cullen will be staying busy throughout the first season.

Though next day in the park starts the same way as the previous, it takes a different direction as Teddy is cutoff by a group of guys before he can reach Dolores. And she’s greeted by the Man in Black, who informs her he won’t be spending anytime with him this evening.

In fact, neither story for Teddy or Dolores is particularly exciting this day. But a”newcomer” does take the offer of the sheriff to go find Hector. Unfortunately for the guests, the robot sheriff malfunctions when a fly lands on his cheek.

As it turns out, a recent update of the hosts is causing a glitch. And Mrs. Cullen is very concerned. But repairing the problem requires pulling about 200 hosts from the park, threatening to lessen the experience for guests (and we wouldn’t want those sin seeking freaks to be disappointed, now would we?). Cullen and Sizemore later discuss their issues with Lowe and Dr. Robert Ford (the guy who owns the place, played by Anthony Hopkins). I won’t recall their entire conversation here. But bottom line, be watching for a power struggle to develop between these four throughout the season.

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Lee Sizemore (narrative control) and Theresa Cullen (Quality Assurance), discuss their issues with the power structure at Westworld.

The Photo

The end of the second day is when the fears of all the staff at Westworld begin to show signs of happening. First, Dolores’s father finds a photo of a girl in modern day New York City. He is so thrown off by it that the next morning, he starts fidgeting, unable to continue with the usual scene he has with Dolores every morning. Then, the man in black kidnaps a card dealer in the saloon. He tells the robot that he hopes to reach “a deeper level in the game” as he cuts off the robots scalp, finding a circular maze underneath.

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The man in black (Ed Harris) right before he chopped off the scalp of a host, to seek a “deeper level.”

And lastly, the milk man comes back and starts shooting people randomly in town that are not a part of his script (so he wasn’t supposed to be at the Abernathy’s house the previous night). Security and quality control are forced to step in and follow through with the plan mentioned by Cullen earlier: to pull all updated hosts out of Westworld for inspection.

Take Three

All the pulled hosts means that Sizemore must do a slight rewrite. He moves Hector Escanton’s arrival in town a week earlier. And the criminal doesn’t ride alone. His entire gang helps him steal the safe in the saloon. And a female sharpshooter named Armistice (I only know that because I looked that up) takes out every host trying to stop Hector in an amazing display of marksmanship.

But just as Hector is about to give the town the big speech Sizemore had written, the guest who went to find Hector earlier shows up and shoots him in the neck.

Dolores, who was in town seeking medical help for her father, got caught in the crossfire with Teddy, who was shot and “killed.” But as Dolores is mourning the loss, the crew of Westworld shut things down and take the remaining updated hosts back to headquarters, where we finally get to see an important scene from the actor with the highest pedigree in the show.

Dr. Robert Ford

The biggest surprise for me about the premiere was how little Anthony Hopkins (Dr. Robert Ford, the creator of Westworld) was featured. Before this last scene, Dr. Ford had two short conversations with Bernard Lowe, revealing little about the man. Most of what we know came from the dialogue of the other higher ups at Westworld. But the issues with Peter Abernathy (Dolores’s father) were enough to get him personally involved.

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Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) preparing to speak with host Peter Abernathy.

Ford handles the questioning of the only updated host having any major issues. What Ford discovers is that Dolores’s dad is trying to help his daughter, and he’s angry with all the violence she endures because of Ford and Lowe. Bernie (as Lowe is called by several of the staff at Westworld) informs us that “none of this is programmed”  as Peter Abernathy vows revenge (You mean you didn’t program the hosts with a desire to vow revenge against you for all the pain they must endure in Westworld? Thank you Captain Obvious).

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Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) pondering the various issues hosts are having dealing with the most recent update.

Dolores’s father and the milk killer are taken out of commission, which means putting them in a room with a large number of hosts who’ve needed to be pulled from Westworld previously. Now, I’m sure that potential army of robots is nothing any human should be concerned about.

Dolores, on the other hand, answers every question she’s given as she’s supposed to and doesn’t seem to suspect a thing about her creation or her creators. Stubbs (the security guy played by the third Hemsworth brother) tells one of the scientists that Dolores is the oldest host in the park and that she’s always stays faithful to her story. She does reveal that her father whispered “These violent delights have violent builds.” Nobody, including myself, knows what that means yet. So we’ll just leave it at that for the future.

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Dolores, while Stubbs gives her the usual questions.

Take 4

A new morning dawns and Teddy is alive, riding the same train he rides every morning. And Dolores wakes up in the same bed, walks down the same stairs, wears the same dress, and greets her father with the same greeting she says to him every day. Except, this time, it’s a different host playing the role. Dolores doesn’t notice as she looks off into the distance, killing a fly on her neck as the scene fades.

Of Note

-The show established in the premiere a very steady pattern for day to day operations. So at least in the early going, we’re going to know when something is wrong based on the changes in that routine.

-So hosts can be programmed to play different characters? This provided a really easy alibi for Ford and Lowe to dismiss Peter Abernathy’s ramblings despite all the alarm bells that should have been going off in their heads.

-I hope a reason is given for why insubordinate robots are not just destroyed. It may be the creator not wanting to destroy his creation, but it really seems like a BAD idea to have all these rebellious robots in one room.

-This week’s saloon playlist included “Black Hole Sun” and “Paint in Black.” I hope modern music played in the saloon style is a regular feature every week.

Questions

-Will Dolores stay in her ignorant slumber about her true existence?

-What is this “deeper level” the Man in Black is aiming for?

-Will Teddy and Dolores ever just get to be happy (Well that’s rhetorical. Of course they won’t)?

-Will frustration continue to grow amongst the creative team at Westworld with Dr. Ford? And are we going to learn any more about the park’s creation and its creator in the coming episodes?

-Can each show just include five minutes of Armistice shooting and hitting everything in sight?

I was really impressed with the premiere of Westworld and I’m really looking forward to following the rest of the season. Also, expect these recaps to evolve over the coming weeks as I am still working to establish a format for them. See you next week.

Westworld Recaps Coming to 4LN

HBO’s next big drama (at least, it will be if the reviews are right) premieres this Sunday night. Westworld, the new science fiction drama about a futuristic theme park where people go to live out their fantasies is looking to step in as HBO’s new signature drama after “Game of Thrones” finishes its run in two years.

And Westworld has the pedigree to fill that large void. There’s top notch people behind the camera (Jonathan Nolan, JJ Abrams, Bryan Burk), a “how the hell did you get all these people in one show” cast (Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, Jeffrey Wright, James Marsden), and a unique concept that gives it a chance to really standout.

Now, HBO’s not the only one on the lookout for new hit shows with GoT nearing its end. And I plan on providing weekly recaps of “Westworld” every Monday analyzing the key moments of each episode and what questions there are to ponder for the week that follows.

Here’s a trailer for the premiere season. And be on the lookout for my recaps every Monday afternoon/early evening.

Game of Thrones Season 6 Photos Released!!!

As we anxiously await  the return of Game of Thrones for its sixth season, HBO gave us more morsels to chew on Thursday, releasing photos for the upcoming season. Some serve as simple reminders of where the main characters finished last season, while others pose interesting questions of where certain characters are headed this season.

Here’s a look at some of the more intriguing photos released yesterday:

Blind Arya

Maisie Williams as Arya Stark – photo Macall B. Polay/HBO

Arya is playing the part of the blind beggar after losing her sight at the end of Season 5. Will the fiery Stark bend to the will of the Faceless Men this season?

Septa Unella and Margaery

Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Hannah Waddingham as Septa Unella – photo Helen Sloan/HBO

Though you can’t tell, HBO has confirmed that it is Queen Margaery with her back to us, on her knees in front of Septa Unella in the Holy Sept. What, if any, punishment will she face this season for her knowledge of her brother’s “transgressions?”

Jamie Returning From Dorne (Thankfully)

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister – photo Helen Sloan/HBO

I am thankful Jamie is out of that albatross of a storyline he had in Dorne last season. But he looks far less enthused about that in this picture than I am. That looks like a body (Myrcella’s obviously) behind him as he prepares to deliver the bad news to Cersei.

Jamie and Cersei

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister – photo Helen Sloan/HBO

Have two incestuous twins ever had more to talk about than these two? How will the “shamed” Cersei respond to Jamie returning with her daughter’s dead body?

Jamie and Tommen in the Holy Sept

Dean-Charles Chapman as Tommen Baratheon and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau as Jaime Lannister – photo Helen Sloan/HBOAny chance of a resurrected Myrcella this season are likely put to rest by this photo of her corpse laying in the Holy Sept while the King and Jamie look on.

Balon Greyjoy

Patrick Malahide as Balon Greyjoy – photo Helen Sloan/HBO

Remember this guy? We haven’t seen the Lord of the Iron Islands since the end of the third season. And it appears Balon has yet to move from that rock he’s lived on since we first met him back in Season 2. So what events could be happening that would bring him back into the narrative?

Yara Greyjoy

Gemma Whelan as Yara Greyjoy – photo Helen Sloan/HBO

Nothing groundbreaking with this one other than to show that Yara Greyjoy is returning after sitting season 5 out after the failed “Save my eunuch brother” campaign in Season 4. Will she stay floating around in the North or return to the Iron Islands to answer to her father?

Sam and Gilly

John Bradley-West as Samwell Tarly and Hannah Murray as Gilly – photo Helen Sloan/HBO

When we last left Westeros’s most committed couple, Sam was on his way to Oldtown to train to be a Maester. So at what point of their journey do they end up on this boat?

Theon and Sansa

Alfie Allen as Theon Greyjoy and Sophie Turner as Sansa Stark – photo Helen Sloan/HBO

It looks like Theon and Sansa survived their escape from Winterfell. Now where will the show’s most prominent victims go as they flee their Bolton torturer?

Daenarys and the Dothraki

So these guys didn’t have a friendly reunion reminiscing about the good ole days of Season One? “Hey, remember when you out a cow heart and your husband dumped liquid gold all over your brother’s head? Those were the days Khaleesi!!!!” Nope. The rope around her wrist indicate that Dany will start the season a Dothraki prisoner. Though considering how the Dothraki treat most of the women they find, this appears somewhat humane.

Bran and the Three-Eyed Raven

Isaac Hempstead-Wright as Bran Stark and Max von Sydow as the Three-Eyed Raven – photo Helen Sloan/HBO

I saved the most interesting picture for last. Bran is back folks, and he’s seen here talking with the three-eyed raven (played by Max Van Sydow). But so many questions pop up from this photo. First, why is Bran standing? It’s likely a vision or dream of some sort, so how is his mentor able to speak to him in that vision? And what is their location? What are they looking at? The present? The past? The future?

Also of note are two things we did not see:

1. Photos of new characters

Other than the three-eyed raven (who technically appeared for the first time at the end of season 4), none of the rumored new castings featured. Never has HBO been more hush hush about the new actors they’re bringing in for the upcoming season.

2. No Jon Snow

No surprise here. It’s one thing to put his face on a poster or teaser trailer. But to show his picture here would end all suspense of the Lord Commander’s possible return. We also didn’t see him on a funeral pyre either, so just chew on that thought for the next two months.

Click here to see the entire set of photos. Game of Thrones returns April 24th.

Analysis: New Game of Thrones Season Six Promo Videos are Out!!!!

On Friday, 93 days until the premiere of Game of Thrones new season, HBO decided to throw all of us GOT fans another bone with three 25 second videos promoting the new season. Let’s take a look at each one of them individually, breaking down what they could mean for Season Six (Spoiler alert: if your not caught up through Season 5, stop reading now):

1. The North

The voice in this one belongs to Iwan Rheon (you know him as Ramsay Bolton). The Bolton’s further cemented their claim to the North by defeating Stannis at the end of Season 5. But that boat carrying the Banner of Stark looks ready to challenge the Bolton claim.

But who is left from the Stark house to pose any threat to the Roose and his crazy bastard son? Last we saw her, Sansa was fleeing Winterfell (assuming she survived the fall). Arya is blind in Braavos. And Bran is somewhere far North learning from the GOT version of Yoda. And Rickon (remember that guy???) hasn’t been seen since Season 3. Could the threat to Bolton rule in the North be the “deader than dead” Jon Snow returning to life?

Who is left to challenge (from left to right) Roose and Ramsay Bolton in the North?

2. King’s Landing

The voices here are the High Sparrow (played by Jonathan Price) and Septa Unella (Shame, shame, shame!!!). And that banner is obviously the Lion of Lannister. Could their be a showdown of peasants lead by the High Sparrow vs. the Lannisters and their place on the Iron Throne?

3. The Tattered Targaryen Banner

Who out there also missed hearing Dothraki spoken on Game of Thrones? I’m not sure who this is, but it’s clearly a Dothraki mocking Daenarys (“Queen of Nothing, Millionth of her Name”) while a tattered Targaryen flag flies with smoke billowing in the background. Dany was in a very rough spot when we last left her, dragonless and surrounded by a Dothraki horde. Will Dany be made to pay for the death of Khal Drogo from Season 1? And who (or what) is responsible for all those flames that created that smoke in the background?

Conclusion

The clear theme is conflict:

Bolton vs. Stark(???)

Lannister vs. The High Sparrow

Dany vs. The Dothraki

But still missing from these promo pieces: actual footage!!! Never has HBO kept a tighter lid on scenes (or any actual information, for that matter) for an upcoming season of Game of Thrones than they have for Season 6. Let’s all hope that changes soon.

 

 

Game of Thrones Quarterly Report: Winter Edition

Three months!!!! That’s all!!! Three months until the premiere of Season 5 of Game of Thrones!!! It doesn’t feel like much time as passed since season four reached its bloody conclusion. But now, here we are getting ready for a new season that promises to be quite the reboot for our characters in Westeros and beyond the Narrow Sea. I plan on writing several entries in the near future reviewing the previous season and providing some important background information for the events that are to occur this upcoming season. But first, let’s catch-up on some of the news that has come out over the last couple of months regarding our favorite HBO fantasy drama.

 

Premiere date announced for Season 5!!!

Contrary to many reports that Season 5’s premiere would be delayed because of editing issues, Game of Thrones’ new season will begin on its usual early April start date, April 12th.

Special IMAX showing of last season’s final two episodes January 23rd-29th

At first reading, this sounds very exciting. Seeing the battle at the wall in episode 9 get the IMAX treatment would be amazing (imagine watching that giant scythe slicing through wildlings on the large IMAX screen). And also included with (I assume sometime after) this showing is a special preview of Season 5. Sounds great, except that this time last year, HBO released a trailer that was shown on their network and then released online for free the next day previewing season 4. Does this mean we only get the trailer for season 5 if we fork out the money to see two episodes we’ve already seen? I hope not. But I will be keeping an eye out for this preview around the time of its release hoping that it pops up somewhere online for my analysis. And speaking of previews…

HBO releases ten second preview of new season

Don’t get too excited. Here’s the “preview” in its entirety.

That’s it. Arya wakes up and a door opens. Mind Blown!!! It would have been better for HBO to release nothing than this lame teaser. Better (though just as brief) teasers appeared in HBO’s end of 2014/preview of 2015 montage presented here (the GoT scenes begin at 1:38).

Most important of these preview scenes are Tyrion with a full grown beard and hooded face. He appears to be fully undercover after the events that ended last season. Also, Arya appears to have just stepped off a boat on the other end of the sea she was floating across at the end of last season. The other two scenes say little about the upcoming plot. Cersei walking determinedly is nothing new. But I was glad to see John and Olly (who appears to have grown about three feet since he was last seen killing Ygritte with his bow and arrow) together at the Wall.

Bran will not appear in the fifth season

Because his story is now caught up with the source material, Bran and his not so merry band will not be appearing in the fifth season. Though I did find it odd that HBO is using the three-eyed raven (the shriveled up old guy in the tree that Bran reached last season) as part of the marketing for the

upcoming season despite Bran not being a part of things. Not sure what that’s about, but this also means no Hodor for season five as well .

HBO schedules “A Day in the Life” special for GoT February 8th

Little information is available as to what the show entails, but scroll your cable/satellite tv guide page to this part of the schedule and this 28 minute special appears. I suspect this will also be used to provide more buzz for the upcoming season and (hopefully) a more revealing trailer.

And in closing…

Game of Thrones again denied the Golden Globe for Best Drama.

Something called “The Affair” took the prize this year. The only thing I know about the show is Jimmy McNulty from the Wire (strongly recommend this show if you haven’t watched it) stars and somebody cheats on somebody else (I used my very strong inferring skills from the title to figure this out). I don’t want to judge the show without having seen it, but how can a drama about a modern day affair compare to a giant scythe chopping up Wildlings?

 

(Editor’s note: This article was written by 4LN’s resident GoT expert, Jeff Merrick.)

Game of Thrones: Comic-Con Report

Since shows and movies have been using Comic Con as a means for promotion, they have two directions in which they can take their presentation. One is to preview the upcoming production with clips and cast member reveals. The other is to celebrate the season that was. And with the season having just ended six weeks ago, the GoT panel leaned heavily towards the latter, featuring many actors whose characters came to an end during Season 4, but with just a small taste of what is to come next spring to keep fans interested. Here are five key developments from the Game of Thrones Comic Con session.

 

1. A final goodbye to characters lost

Rose Leslie (Ygritte), Pedro Pascal (Oberyn) and Rory McCann (The Hound) all had a seat on the panel with a chance to share their final thoughts on being on the show (though can we say that with certainty about the Hound)?

 

2. More Stannis

Stannis was an afterthought for much of season 4 as the Lannister’s played out their drama in King’s Landing. But with Stannis now at the Wall, expect to see him a lot more of him in Season 5, according to the producers. (Yay???)

 

3. NEW CAST MEMBERS!!!!

Not only do we have the names of new characters, but a name and face of the actor who will play them. The theme with the new castings appears to be Dorne, the home of the late Oberyn Martell. All but two of the new characters revealed currently reside in Dorne. Here’s a brief listing and description of the new characters. The video below introduces the actors who will play the characters.

Doran Martell- Prince of Dorne and the Red Viper’s brother.

Trystane Martell- Doran’s son who is pledged to Myrcella Baratheon.

Myrcella Baratheon- Not a new character, it’s just been awhile since Tyrion shipped her off to Dorne, and a new, older actress will play the part.

Areo Hotah- The Captain of Doran Martell’s guards in Dorne.

Yezzan- A wealthy slave trader in Dany’s territory (and I am sure the two of them will get along splendidly).

Nymeria (Nym) Sand-Oberyn’s second daughter

Tyene Sand- Oberyn’s third daughter

Obara Sand- Oberyn oldest daughter

High Sparrow- The highest religious officer in King’s Landing (religion should be a key factor to events in Season 5)

 

4. That’s all the cast members???

While it is exciting to see the faces that will play some of the new key roles in the world of Westeros, this list comes up painfully short. There are so many new story lines not covered with this list. Tyrion and Arya are crossing the Narrow Sea and only one of these characters is even over there. Someone will have to greet them. And much more in the book that happens in Westeros requires the introduction of new blood into the story. But it is only July. And many of the characters that still need to be introduced may have not been cast, may be minor cast members that are being held back for now, or may not have their storylines introduced until season 6. But if you know any book readers out there, don’t be surprised if one of them complains about at least one character or more who was not mentioned in the video.

5. “The show is the show and the book is the book.”

This was a direct quote from George R.R. Martin when asked whether people should stop watching the show if they ever pass the books. I may be reading too much into this, but does this mean that the direction of the show will be going farther away from the source material from this point forward? And if so, how much farther? Will it be like two different stories? With all the different directions Martin takes his story in book’s 4 and 5, the show might not have a choice. Martin also said he will not be writing a script for this season (he usually writes one or two per season) so he can focus on finishing Winds of Winter, the next book in the Song of Ice and Fire Series (which we book readers have all be so patiently waiting for).

 

(Editor’s Note: This article was written by Jeff Merrick.)