Is Westworld's structure necessary

chriskchrisk Indianapolis
Posting this from a Twitter thread between Mark Harris and Alan Sepinwall. I found the discussion interesting, as I've had the same thoughts.

Harris
I would be willing to pay a small monthly premium to HBO to have my episodes of Westworld recut in chronological order.
Honestly I think it'd be a great S3 creative self-challenge for the Westworld team to adhere to strict chronological order.

To make the show's interest reside entirely in what happens, not in strategically parceling out what happens. But I know plenty of people love it as is.

Obviously I don't believe structural gamesmanship or calculated withholding is gimmickry or "cheating." My question is more about at what point the work of trying to figure out what happened stops being a pleasurable means to an end, and threatens to become the entire/only point.

Sepinwall
But how much if interest is left once you do that? The Maeve Show, and...?

Harris
Well, that's a good question. I like the show a lot, but it's beginning to feel like its primary subject is its own structure.

Sepinwall
Yup. And where that has great emotional weight for something like Memento, there's not enough in this case. The show's best when it's most straightforward, which at this point is just Maeve's corner of it.

They have JEFFREY WRIGHT, and they're just using him in service of timeline shenanigans.

I'm not sure I'm with Sepinwall here, but I do feel like it's not serving much of a purpose. Maeve's story is the most engaging to me partly because of Thandie Newton's performance and that the character has a sense of humor, but also because I can take it all in as it comes without having to remember too much. 

And if you play the Jeffrey Wright parts in order, I don't see how it would suffer. It's really started to feel like the puzzle is distracting from the story. 
majjam0770JaimieT

Comments

  • MrXMrX CO
    edited May 2018
    An aside to the debate about the merits of the structure of Westworld (which I have mixed feelings about):

    If anyone wants Jonathan Nolan's musing the rise of AI and the impact on our society, told in a more traditional narrative structure, I highly recommend Person of Interest. It actually was largely a procedural crime show for much of the first 2 seasons (and later seasons to some degree - which makes it a little harder to get into in this age of serialized prestige tv - but once it gets rolling it's quite good, one of my favorite sci-fi shows of the last 10 years.
    Flukes
  • I am starting to get drained with the timeline stuff. It seems more conducive to fuckery and red herrings this season. Last season, I think benefitted from staying largely chronological within the two or three "time frames" that it was weaving together. This season is all over the place.

    It's looking more and more like we're going to end the season where we started with the flood, which is a storytelling technique that I rarely see done successfully (I hated this in the Walking Dead). I'm sure we have some more twists coming our way, but I can't help but think that it will be frustrating if we end the season with the storylines coalescing around were we picked up in episode one. Especially given the lengthy breaks the show takes between seasons.
    Flukeschrisk
  • Funny they mention this.  I have been really feeling the timeline / puzzle box fatigue these last couple episodes.  I honestly don't want to spend my time straining to engage with a show that is interested mostly in keeping me confused when I could be enjoying much more straightforward dramas equally, if not more.  It sorta feels like the only payoff in watching Westworld is getting to the end of the season when the mysteries drop away and the grander plan is revealed.

    We discussed it a bit in the opening of this week's Westworld podcast and it's good to see that I'm not alone in this feeling.
    AussieGregbizmarkiefaderJaimieTrkcrawfvoodoorat
  • bizmarkiefaderbizmarkiefader San Francisco
    Spending every scene trying to figure out where it fits in the story and if there's some big reveal I'm missing or not understanding gets really tiring.
    JaimieThisdudeness915Flukes
  • The structure isn't "necessary" but it is a creative choice that seems important to the show creators. I feel they are leaning on it too much.  I enjoy a show that makes you think, but I also like to lose myself in a compelling narrative, and then think about the deeper meanings afterwards. Having to constantly try to piece together and keep in mind the many possibilities that could be happening in the show is often frustrating, and let's face it, people are going to watch tv they enjoy, not tv that makes their brain hurt and doesn't have a lot of payoff.  I have heard the viewing/ratings  are down for this season of West World and I think the structure is a major contributor to that.  

     I am far from giving up the show though.  The structure does create the same kind of disorientation some of the characters must be going through so there is some value in that.  And then you get things like that image of James Delos being created again and again and how just horrible all of the implications of that was and it is hard to imagine a show that would be able to portray that any better, and the structure contributes to that.  But I think they could tone the timeline jumps and who-is-a-robot guess-work down and the show might be better for it.   
    MoonMan13budesigns
  • JaimieTJaimieT Atlanta, GA
    I agree with all of this.
  • Completely agree. My wife, who engages in none of the podcast/analysis/puzzle box stuff told me last week, "I just can't connect with this show anymore." And I get it. This week she fully tapped out. It should be no surprise that many viewers dig the Maeve stuff, because it's far and away the most accessible (and linear) story within the universe. I'm mostly curious about the Man in Black, but if I have to continually assess - "who is a host and who is not"; as well as "what timeline am I seeing?" and "what reality is the host experiencing?" - then that's far too much work for the payoff.
  • lengmolengmo RTP, NC
    I'm finding it a bit annoying, but I think we'll see more of it from TV shows: it lets shows pack more into each episode.  If we saw the current season's footage in chronological order we'd all have more questions until the middle of the season because the "past" scenes are tight little bits given context by the "present" scenes.  The "past" scenes would have to be fleshed out with other "past" scenes to feel normal if watched in order.
  • I really hope the DDs didn’t watch WestWorld a year and a half ago and be all “I guess non-linear timelines is popular.. let’s cold open Season 8 with Tyrion siting on the Iron Throne in a smoldering Throne Room”.

    actually.. that sounds dope AF
    budesigns
  • Frakkin TFrakkin T Currently Offline
    Somebody (may have been Quentin Tarantino) said something like this in an interview a while back: There's a feeling you might have when watching a movie or tv show and you're confused about what's going on. It can be very frustrating, but if you feel like you're in good hands it can be enjoyable at the same time it's confusing, because you trust the author to reveal things in good time. I see where everyone is coming from but I still enjoy the hell out of the show and definitely feel like I'm in good hands. 
    gguenot
  • MoonMan13MoonMan13 Northern Kentucky
    This isn't coming from a particular position on the puzzle-solving v. straight forward storytelling as much as it is from the simple challenge of sneaking this show in while being a dad of two young children. But as a fan of the theorizing and also (obviously) of a legible narrative, I've been kind of watching and trusting that the storytellers will give me enough of the bits I need and when I'm confused I just sort of lean into it and let it fuel the mystery. The performances of Maeve, MiB, and Bernard paired with a sci-fi tint are enough to satisfy this former theorizing nut turned passive TV dad. Cognitive dissonance I guess.
    hisdudeness915
  • hisdudeness915hisdudeness915 Atlanta, Ga
    I’m in the same boat as @MoonMan13 . I’m ok with it I guess but I’m going to just let the writers take me wherever they want to take me, when they want to take me there. Analyzing this show while watching is too much of a chore which unfortunately has me mostly background listening to the pod now as well. 
    MoonMan13
  • To your points about just letting the mystery wash over you and trusting you're in good hands...  part of my problem is that I legitimately can't do that.  At least some portion of our podcast audience (and I think that portion is large as I stated this week) is looking to us to guide them through the mystery or at least talk about the theories that are emerging.  That means I need to understand those theories and their implications.  It kinda sucks because I would love to just sit back and trust in Joy / Nolan.  That would probably make the experience much more enjoyable, though still probably a little frustrating.
    MoonMan13hisdudeness915Frakkin TgguenotDoubleA_RonKingKobra
  • JaimieTJaimieT Atlanta, GA
    gguenot said:
    I really hope the DDs didn’t watch WestWorld a year and a half ago and be all “I guess non-linear timelines is popular.. let’s cold open Season 8 with Tyrion siting on the Iron Throne in a smoldering Throne Room”.

    actually.. that sounds dope AF

    A better GOT equivalent is Bran seeing the person sitting on the throne, but suddenly it's 3 thrones, and before he can see who the 3rd person is, someone kills Bran and all of the throne-sitters and he wakes up.

    Or some such bullshit with the appearance of substance. 
    gguenot
  • If it was happening with the entire story then I’m sure I would be furious, but Bernard is our Dolores this season, and we’re experiencing his part of the story the way he’s experiencing it, which is disoriented and through the lens of his total recall memory, and now the fact that he may be dealing with a completely fabricated memory. It’s not unlike following David’s story from Legion.

    Everything else going on is fairly straight forward. I’m just not sure how I feel about the introduction of this cradle thing though. Throwing The Matrix concept into an already conceptually convoluted show seems like a bit much.
  • JaimieT said:
    gguenot said:
    I really hope the DDs didn’t watch WestWorld a year and a half ago and be all “I guess non-linear timelines is popular.. let’s cold open Season 8 with Tyrion siting on the Iron Throne in a smoldering Throne Room”.

    actually.. that sounds dope AF

    A better GOT equivalent is Bran seeing the person sitting on the throne, but suddenly it's 3 thrones, and before he can see who the 3rd person is, someone kills Bran and all of the throne-sitters and he wakes up.

    Or some such bullshit with the appearance of substance. 
    Isn't that the exact ending of BSG?
    JaimieT
  • Jim said:
    JaimieT said:
    gguenot said:
    I really hope the DDs didn’t watch WestWorld a year and a half ago and be all “I guess non-linear timelines is popular.. let’s cold open Season 8 with Tyrion siting on the Iron Throne in a smoldering Throne Room”.

    actually.. that sounds dope AF

    A better GOT equivalent is Bran seeing the person sitting on the throne, but suddenly it's 3 thrones, and before he can see who the 3rd person is, someone kills Bran and all of the throne-sitters and he wakes up.

    Or some such bullshit with the appearance of substance. 
    Isn't that the exact ending of BSG?
    Uh. spoilers? Thanks a lot, Jim, you white sock wearin robist 
    hisdudeness915budesigns
  • JaimieTJaimieT Atlanta, GA
    Jim said:
    JaimieT said:
    gguenot said:
    I really hope the DDs didn’t watch WestWorld a year and a half ago and be all “I guess non-linear timelines is popular.. let’s cold open Season 8 with Tyrion siting on the Iron Throne in a smoldering Throne Room”.

    actually.. that sounds dope AF

    A better GOT equivalent is Bran seeing the person sitting on the throne, but suddenly it's 3 thrones, and before he can see who the 3rd person is, someone kills Bran and all of the throne-sitters and he wakes up.

    Or some such bullshit with the appearance of substance. 
    Isn't that the exact ending of BSG?

    No that's when you get that father/son arc payoff of them living on opposite ends of an empty planet.
  • MattyWeavesMattyWeaves Mid-State New York
    As a writer, I always have the same opinion in these situations. Wait until the season (or book or story or whatever) is over.

    Especially for a show like this that has pretty much told us multiple times we shouldn't believe everything we see.

    I'm not saying we have to wait X amount of years until the show is over to criticize it, but until the curtain falls on season two, I'm willing to assume we're being told or shown things in a specific way.
    gguenotrkcrawfKingKobraDoubleA_Ron
  • chriskchrisk Indianapolis
    edited May 2018
    I don’t need to understand everything, but with Bernard and Dolores I don’t feel like I understand enough to enjoy it. 

    I think Maeve is not just the most straightforward story, but also far and away the best character. I could tolerate the haziness in the plot if any of the affected characters were livelier and more relatable. Maeve was going through a lot of this timeline jerkiness last season and it didn’t bother me at all. It could be the show was giving us our bearings to a greater extent, but I’m saying that in hindsight.

    Not only is Maeve more fun, but she also has a much better supporting cast of characters. Hector, Lee, Armistice, the techs, and now the Shogun peeps. It’s an embarrassment of riches. Dolores meanwhile has Teddy. Clementine has a certain ghostly charm about her. I kind of like the other blonde host, but she mostly sneers and shoots things. Dolores could desperately use a Lee. 

    Sad thing is I love Jeffrey Wright and I do agree with Sepinwall he’s wasted in this perpetually confused state. (At least he’s got Elsie who’s one of the funnier, more relatable characters.) This could all pay off in a plot sense, but I’m not sure it makes up for several episodes of me scrunching my nose trying to understand what I’m watching. 
    lengmo
  • I was a huge defender of the time trickery in the first season because 1) I thought it was fun to parse out and 2) I thought it really did help put is in Dolores's shoes to help us understand how confusing and strenuous her path to sentience was. That being said, this season I am really starting to sympathize with the people who say that that multiple timelines detracts from meaningful character moments. Take William for example. Here we have a hubristic young man who attempts to cheat death by creating an ever-lasting facsimile of his father-in-law. But when his wife finds out what her husband is doing with the memory of her father she kills herself, causing guilt-ridden William to go on one last suicidal trip to the park while his daughter tries to bring him back from the brink. That could be a genuinely emotional character arc, and with actors like Ed Harris & Katja Herbers it would probably be spectacular!   But by chopping this story up into little unordered chunks, we can never really emotionally invest in these characters. The most we can hope for is to intellectually appreciate their tragedy. I could make the same argument for almost every single character on the show and so what is most frustrating is that we can see the elements of a truly fantastic tv show on the screen but it is constantly undercut by unforced errors by the show runners.
  • edited June 2018
    Jim said:
    To your points about just letting the mystery wash over you and trusting you're in good hands...  part of my problem is that I legitimately can't do that.  At least some portion of our podcast audience (and I think that portion is large as I stated this week) is looking to us to guide them through the mystery or at least talk about the theories that are emerging.
    Ok, I'm a newbie to Bald Move. I binged the entire first season of your WW podcasts just after season 2 started to refresh me about season 1. And I've listened to everything you've put out this season. I think you two mentioned something profound  few episodes ago - we don't stop every 15 minutes of a movie and break it down/dissect it to death. Pretty much every episode this season I have thought "wow that was pretty entertaining" or "what a huge surprise" only to listen to your podcast hear how poor the writing was or tons of other criticism. To Your credit you have often mentioned that future binge-watchers may better enjoy season 2 despite the weekly list of flaws.

    I think I just may not be the target podcast listener. Thank goodness I haven't gone down the reddit rabbit hole (I'm in my 50's - my teenagers are all over it). I have initially enjoyed your (and a couple other) podcasts to help me verify my thoughts or fill in gaps I may have missed. I guess I'm glad I don't have your job because I am still really enjoying WW. 

    BTW, I am not hating on you - I really do think you guys are incredibly smart, witty, and thoughtful. I just think this new form of deep diving may be too much for me - I'm glad I wasn't aware of it during Breaking Bad or Lost.

    I know that this is your job so keep up the good work, but I think your world wasn't meant for me. 

    Jim H
    KingKobragguenotmajjam0770
  • I agree that they should ditch the time shenanigans. The first season it worked because of the story they were telling. This season it seems like they are just doing it because that's their gimmick.

    For those lost there is this timeline:

    http://www.thisisinsider.com/westworld-timeline-spoilers-2018-4
  • New poster here but this was the first episode where I've rolled my eyes. It's starting to get that Game of Thrones feel where you say out of the dozens of ways you could have written that scene you picked the one that makes no sense and is out of character for each character involved.

    I enjoy the show but for a normal television watcher this show has to be unwatchable with all the different timelines.
    majjam0770
  • chriskchrisk Indianapolis
    Was thinking about this some more and wondering why you'd present it like this and thought of a couple reasons

    All the Strand stuff would fit into one episode so far. Maybe they just felt it wouldn't flow very well since they're really just 3-5 minute segments. Seems like they could figure that out though.

    Or there's some reveal coming in the Strand timeline that would have been ruined by seeing something that came before it (but that we still haven't seen).

    Even if the second is true I still don't like it because I've felt lost and/or uninterested in those pieces that aren't put together yet. It's like saying you need to hear all a bands albums or see them live before you appreciate them. At some point I need to find a hook and become engaged in the journey, and outside of Maeve that hasn't been there this season. 
    majjam0770
  • In spite of all the difficulties in watching this show, I have maintained faith that the show is taking us somewhere awesome and had the potential to end up to be a really intelligent sort of masterwork.  This episode was the straw that broke the camel's back for me.  I don't know why.  Maybe it was watching MIB and Maeve take countless bullets and still walk around.  Maybe it was the stupid soldier hitting on Angela.  Or why did Angela have to be in the room, couldn't she throw a grenade and run?  That is what they are made for.  Or the continued ineptitude of the Delos Security/QA Team.  Maybe it was a culmination of all things throughout season 2.  

    Don't get me wrong, I am still a fan, I am going to watch it as long as I find it enjoyable.  And this episode, though I asked myself WTF a lot, had many strong moments as threads came together.  But I am just along for the ride now.  No more intense theorizing or trying to solve the puzzle box.  I will see what happens at the end and keep expectations reasonable.  

    One final tin foil prediction - this has all been a fantasy a la Total Recall in Ashley Stubbs' mind.  He will end up saving the world, and getting the girl (Elsie) and all that stuff.  Then wake up from his visit to the cradle.   
  • edited June 2018
    I'm still laughing at that merc shooting a couple of hosts and then screaming down the fall something like IS THAT ALL YOU GOT!!!!!

    1. You know he's going to die at that point.
    2. Why would any elite trained military professional who before then was moving swiftly and quietly down the hall just start screaming giving away his exact position. Why are they all bunched up and when they see bodies everyone just stops and stands around like teenagers who just found a dead body in the woods.
  • I’m sorry but if “you” don’t enjoy non linear story telling then you ain’t gonna like it. Simple as that. I enjoy its complexities. Everyone’s trying so hard to figure it out first when it ruins their enjoyment of the show. Just sit back and relax, try to enjoy it for what it is. 
    Just my.02
    gguenot
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