Enjoying the Beauty of Westworld

Westworld Telegraph

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Dear Roger, Dick and Gene, with special direction towards Dick Ebert, who said in the Instant Take:

“But in the end that’s not what I want to focus on or what I want to enjoy. And as I found that all these secrets were being revealed¦ I was sad. I didn’t want that to be the conversation. So toward the end when the performances became more subtle¦ Hopefully we won’t have to just talk aboutMan in Black is William¦ We’ll talk about the other things and beauty of the show as a whole. – Big D

I too was caught up in the mysteries of WestWorld, but now I feel guilty. The show is such a beautiful creation such attention to detail. I want to spend more time appreciating the great performances.

With that in mind I have made a first draft of the best written, acted, and/or directed moments in the show. I’m sure the list needs to be tweaked, and I left off several great performances, buts its a point of departure.

In reverse order my nominees are:

10. Theresa’s death in in Episode 7, Trompe L’Oeil. Performance by Sidse Babett Knudsen TA number of the characters in Wesworld are somewhat one-dimensional. It takes good direction and a brilliant performance to get us to see the hidden depths of the character. The character of Theresa is more complex than she first appears, and Sidse Babett Knudsen brings that character to life as the season progresses. In her final scene Sidse uses her impressive acting talents to show what Theresa is made of. It would be easy to get lost beneath Anthony Hopkins shadow in this scene, but Sidse holds her own.

9. Paint It Black massacre in Episode 1, The Original. Directed by Jonathan Nolan; Performances by Rodrigo Santoro and Thandie Newton When I saw this scene I knew I’d be a fan of the show. The scene itself is not particularly important in the big scheme of things, though it does foreshadow future events. Rather, it’s just a fantastic moment of entertainment made even more fun with the anachronistic yet perfect classical restyling of the Rolling Stones’s Paint it Black. Kudos to the writer/director Jonathan Nolan, as well as good performances by Rodrigo Santoro, Thandie Newton, and others.

8. Dolores escapes from Logan in Episode 9, The Well-Tempered Clavier. Performance by Jimmi Simpson, and Ben Barnes I feared when Logan and William were introduced that the show might become a Fantasy Island reboot, but we have been pleasantly rewarded by the great storylines in WestWorld, as well as good performances by nearly all the actors. I want to give Jimmi Simpson and Ben Barnes kudos for their performance in this episode. Their characters were plain when introduced, but in this scene they really get a chance to let loose. Buoyed in part by a great performance by Evan Rachel Wood, Simson and Barnes give commanding performances that bring their characters new dimensions.

7. The Greyhound in Episode 5, Contrapasso. Performance by Anthony Hopkins Is there any doubt that this really happened to Ford as a young man? Just a moment, Ford is a character on a TV show and the greyhound story is just dialogue. Hopkins makes you forget all that and instead fall under Ford’s spell.

6. Dolores escapes from Logan in Episode 9, The Well-Tempered Clavier. Performance by Evan Rachel Wood Early on Dolores is a very simple character enjoying her little loop. Over time she becomes more complicated, but its not her lines that develop the character as much as it is the great performance by Evan Rachel Wood. While she gives good performances week in and week out, I picked this scene as her best because of the range of emotion expressed. In this scene she is finally alive. Now we just have to decide what alive means.

5. Bernard holds Ford hostage in Episode 9, The Well-Tempered Clavier. Performance by Anthony Hopkins Honestly, almost any scene by Anthony Hopkins could be nominated for the same reason: the man is an incredible performer. What would the show be like without him? He puts his entire mind and body into each performance. I selected this scene because he does a tremendous job of portraying a man in complete control pretending to be coerced at gunpoint. Watch carefully. Ford is not afraid at all, but completely sells the fact that he might be vulnerable. Was there ever any doubt that he was in charge. Watch his eyes and expression.

4. Peter Abernathy interrogation in Episode 1, The Original. Performance by Louis Herthum Did anything sell us on the show more than Louis Herthum’s performance in Episode 1 as the crazed Abernathy? I thought for sure he’d be back in a larger role, but it was not to be (yet?).

3. Ford misdirects Bernard’s questions about Arnold in Episode 3, the Stray. Performance by Anthony Hopkins Hopkins in this scene is incredible. We loved it when it was aired, but now that we know the rest of the story its even more impressive. Ford completely misdirects Bernard without ever uttering a lie. Watch Hopkins very carefully as he tells the complete story of Arnold and Westworld with his delivery, while simultaneously throwing Bernard off the scent with his words. Consider that Hopkins was given dialogue, but in the end, the dialogue is unimportant. Hopkins body language, facial expressions, eye movements, and delivery makes the entire scene work and make sense when all is said and done. This is arguably Hopkins’s best scene in the show, and in rewatching it I’m already regretting not placing it higher.

2. Man in Black drinks whiskey with Ford in Episode 5, Contrapasso. Performance by Ed Harris Seeing Harris and Hopkins together was one of the hi lights of the season. For the most part I think Ed Harris’s performance has been underrated in Westworld. Like many of the ancillary characters he was not asked to do too much early on. But here he’s in true mid-season form. In this scene he really begins to flex his acting muscle, and his character becomes even more interesting. Watch the range of emotion he portrays. Like Hopkins, Harris has that ability to project a window into the character’s mind through body language. We suddenly get the sense that he is a lot more complicated than we were led to believe.

1. Ford kills Theresa, in Episode 7, Trompe L’Oeil. Performances by Anthony Hopkins I end with the same scene I began with. Anthony Hopkins gives what is possibly his best performance of the season in this stunning scene. As always, Hopkins uses every muscle to bring his character to life. His performance is aided by the fantastic reparté with Sidse Babett Knudsen. Hopkins turns ordinary scripted dialogue into a stained glass window.

I would have put in Thandie Newton for any scene where she convinces us she could probably take over Delos despite being naked in a hallway or operating room, but I couldn’t settle on a scene, but possibly the one from Episode 5, Contrapasso, but her scenes are often discontiguous. Funny that I initially thought Contrapasso was something of a dud, but in looking back at the actors performances it was actually quite good.

I hope you can improve on my list, and that I help direct the conversation towards the beauty of the show as a whole. – Olaf

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