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When I watch a show, I care the most about character development. It’s one of the joys of television to me, and the one major element that separates the medium of television from that of film or theatre. With television, we, as an audience, get the chance to spend a significant period of time with various characters, watching them grow and change as the world around them does the same. It’s why television is the writer’s medium- the writer has the ability to craft and mold characters week in and week out. And it’s what makes television so interesting to me.
So, when a show has proven writers behind it and a cast as talented as the one headlining Westworld, I expected it to be a treasure trove of character development. Instead, what we have gotten is a show more concerned with how characters fit into their respective mysteries and writers who care more about the many twists and turns of the story rather than the story itself.
Now, that isn’t to say there weren’t some good performances in “The Well-Tempered Clavier.” Jeffrey Wright continues to do strong work, despite being saddled with a character whose mystery was one solved weeks earlier by the Reddit Hive Mind (for a show that cares so much about disguising its mysteries for as long as possible – even though fans have, it appears, solved most of the major ones long before their reveals, I was glad that Bernard’s ordered suicide was something no one saw coming). And Thandie Newton’s arc, while being the most clear and straightforward of the bunch, has allowed her to give one hell of a performance, even if watching Maeve and Hector have sex while the world burned around them was pretty on the nose imagery.
The major problem I have with the show is that, on the whole, I don’t particularly care about these characters. For awhile I cared about Evan Rachel Wood’s Dolores, but after this week and the mindfuck of timeline confusion at the episode’s close, I just don’t have the energy to care about who she is now, then, and at the beginning (I assume those were the three timelines?). The show seems more invested in the mystery of when Dolores is than in exploring who she has become each time sentience takes hold of the character. Bernard’s “identity” as Arnold could make him a more interesting character, but he’s “dead” and presumably off the game board for the foreseeable future. I find that the only character I really have any interest in seeing succeed or fail is Maeve, and I can’t see her revolution happening in the span of a single episode next week (if she wants to raise an army, just one guy on her team won’t work).
Westworld is a show that has gotten so bogged down in trying to build suspense and mystery that it is lost its characters (and, to a large extent, any semblance of plot not involving building those mysteries). And that’s a real shame. I had high hopes for this show, but it’s turned into something I have to slog through every week. I suppose it could surprise me next week in the season finale and have all the mysteries solved and the characters become complex, but I think that ship has sailed. We’ll see.
— Ford is really leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. I cannot see a scenario that has him making it out of this without losing control of the park in the end. The Man in Black and Charlotte expect foul play in Theresa’s death. Stubbs is likely toast/off the board now, but his team knows he’s in the park investigating something suspicious about Elsie. Bernard is just going to disappear from work with no explanation. The noose is tightening, and Ford could be in trouble.
— While Bernard may be off the board, I suspect we will continue to see Jeffrey Wright appear as Arnold throughout the finale and potentially into next season.
— Fun fact: As you can see from the image above, Arnold’s name was indeed Arnold Weber, an anagram for Bernard Lowe. Good job, people on the internet, for working that one out.