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Westworld: Season One: The Maze

Score: 95%
Rating: Not Rated
Publisher: Warner Brothers Home
                  Entertainment

Region: A
Media: 4K Blu-ray/6
Running Time: 619 Mins.
Genre: Western/Sci-Fi/TV Series
Audio: Dolby Atmos-TrueHD: English,
           Dolby Digital: French 5.1,
           Spanish 5.1

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish


Features:

  • Corporate Guidebook - Handbook for New Employees
  • Realizing the Dream: First Week on the Set of Westworld
  • Imagining the Main Title
  • The Key to the Chords
  • Gag Reel
  • Welcome to Westworld
  • Crafting the Narrative
  • An Invitation to the Set
  • About the Series
  • Reality of A.I.: Westworld
  • "The Big Moment" Featurettes

Westworld: Season One: The Maze kicks off the latest HBO series, and like many of the premier station's shows, Westworld's production value is matched only by its writing and acting. Of course, releasing the series in 4K doesn't hurt selling that top-quality feel, especially since the show is filled with broad vistas populated with plateaus that harken to the classic western genre.

Westworld is a massive theme park comprised of two types of people, A.I.-controlled robots called Hosts and the guests that the synthetic people know as Newcomers. These guests pay top dollar to go into the fully immersive world where they can act out whatever fantasies they want, no matter how noble or deranged those desires may be, and these guests will find themselves constantly questioning what kind of person they really are when nobody's watching and anything goes.

The robotic Hosts populating the attraction are numerous and they all work together to form a number of complex narratives where the visiting people can interact with them in many ways without causing too many waves in the overall story. The Hosts include the sweet farm girl Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood, True Blood, Across the Universe), her boyfriend, Teddy (James Marsden, X-Men, Superman Returns, Enchanted), and the madame of the local brothel, Maeve (Thandie Newton, The Pursuit of Happyness, Line of Duty: Series 4, Crash). There is also one of Maeve's girls, Clementine (Angela Sarafyan), as well as a local band of outlaws led by Hector (Rodrigo Santoro, 300). As these characters interact with the guests during the course of this season, they will be pushed to the limits of their programming and some even start to learn more about their surroundings than the park's management is comfortable with.

Among the guests are William (Jimmi Simpson, Breakout Kings, House of Cards), a first-time visitor to the park, and his future brother-in-law, Logan (Ben Barnes, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian), a regular who tends to take advantage of some of the more wild aspects of the story. Logan's family is a big investor in the attraction and they are looking to put more money in. As a pre-wedding gift, Logan has dragged William to the park, not only to let the younger man release some stress, but also to welcome him to the family business. In their journey, William will meet Dolores and possibly start to develop feelings for the Host. Much to Logan's chagrin, William seems intent on playing the nice guy, even though Logan insists that William would have more fun exploring other options, and the two characters' views on the park and its inhabitants end up becoming the source of many confrontations between them.

Elsewhere, a long-term participant in the game played by Ed Harris (The Truman Show, Apollo 13, The Rock) is in the park and it quickly becomes obvious that he has a specific goal in mind. With his 30+ years of experience, he knows enough about the stories of the world around him to get the details he needs in order to find a fabled, long-lost mystery created by one of the park's two creators. As he pokes and prods at the fringes of the narrative, he starts to learn clues about a maze hidden within the park, but his journey will take both him and the viewers in some unexpected directions in order to discover the last secrets of Westworld.

While the events inside the park are playing themselves out, there is a lot happening behind the scenes as well. One of the co-founders of Westworld, Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins, The Silence of the Lambs), is planning a new narrative that he promises will be the likes of which no one has ever seen. At the same time, the company's board of directors has sent an executive named Charlotte (Tessa Thompson, Thor: Ragnarok, Creed) onto the scene to learn as much as she can about the new story and, hopefully, learn a few more secrets along the way. At the same time, one of the heads of the Narrative Department, Lee (Simon Quarterman), sees Ford as old and needing to be put out to pasture, for the good of the company, of course, and is suggesting to anyone who will listen that it is time for a changing of the guard.

Couple these corporate politics with an odd series of malfunctions that are starting to crop up, and more threads to the overall story start to spin out. In order to investigate the issue, head of security, Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth, Neighbors, Hickok) and one of the top employees in the Behavior team, Elsie (Shannon Woodward, The Riches, Raising Hope), start to work out exactly what is going on. Helping in the investigation is the head of QA, Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen, Inferno) and Elsie's boss, Bernard (Jeffrey Wright, Casino Royale, Boardwalk Empire, The Hunger Games), but when the investigation starts to uncover corporate espionage, anyone is suspect.

The 4K version of this season not only comes with a version of the show that depicts the grand vistas of the wild west beautifully, but there is also a solid selection of special features to go along with it. In the packaging, there is a booklet for "new employees" describing a lot of the workings of the operational side of Westworld, complete with a narrative map for Dolores' typical day, the different departments in the company, and several of the background tidbits only hinted at in the show itself.

As for the on-disc special features, there are several featurettes that interview the show's creators, husband and wife team Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy. During these interviews, they will discuss everything from the first days of production, to the creation of the opening title, and even a nice segment concerning the purpose of the player piano and the modern music converted to play on it. Other interviews add cast members to the mix as they talk about A.I. and the nature of the show as a whole, as well as discussions about many of the key scenes from the show where big reveals or confrontations occur. Nolan and Joy also take part in a just-the-meat kind of commentary on the season's final episode where the pair discuss many of the big scenes. So instead of a full-length commentary following every little detail, this bonus feature is about a half hour long and only really touches on the big stuff. Given how all the pieces fall in the season finale though, that is still a lot to cover.

Westworld: Season One: The Maze's plot is a twisty one full of unexpected revelations that is a joy to watch unfold from start to finish. Every main character experiences a major arc and they all find themselves in very different places by the time the final credits roll, and the path that they take to get there is artfully executed. Between some characters learning about their true past, others finding what they seek but not realizing what they were actually looking for, and still others opening themselves up to a new future, it is hard to tell where Season Two will take the characters of Westworld, well, those that make it out of this season in one piece, that is. If you are looking for a new high-quality TV series, then look no further than Westworld, and this 4K release is the best way to watch it. However, while there are kid-friendly areas of the park, this show most definitely earns its HBO placement and is chock-full of nudity and violence, so keep it for the adults only.

Warner Brothers provided me with a copy of this 4K for review. The opinions I share are my own.



-J.R. Nip, GameVortex Communications
AKA Chris Meyer

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