Grant Mitchell

I don’t know if you’ve heard of or seen it, but the HBO series "Westworld" did some amazing and beautiful things in season one.

I remember my first time watching "Westworld." I was days away from moving 20 minutes down the road from the home I grew up in, to Clement Hall on UTK’s campus. I was about to start my freshman year of college and boy was I feeling a mix of things. I was feeling a bit of nostalgia over departing from my childhood and transitioning to a different period of my life. I was barely 18, but I could see the milestone ahead.

Then, entered "Westworld," a show about artificially intelligent robot humanoids that are in a western-themed park for adults and families to live out their fantasies while these sentient beings are oblivious to the game they have entered into. For, as much as phrases like “artificial intelligence” and “humanoid” may make you think this show is as science fiction as you can get, you’re wrong.

Sure, there’s a sci-fi element to the show. However, very quickly you are drawn into the internal conversation happening in the show. That is, where is the line drawn for humanity, and what do we deem okay if we are unsure of a being’s consciousness? This makes the show more poetic and more a study of the human condition than just an ordinary science fiction tale of humanoids and indecent park-goers.

Although, that is also an interesting point of conversation in "Westworld." By this, I mean the inhumanity of the human guests relative to the emotion, curiosity and overall innocence of the “hosts” of the park — a name the humanoids are called.

It’s all a sticky situation because while the people visiting the park and the corporate running the show don’t see the hosts as anything more than just puppets and playthings, some see things differently.

Those differences in perspective about the host’s rights and the validity of their status as sentient beings worthy of rights and lives of their own lead to many internal and external conflicts as the show unfolds. Throw in the fact that the hosts are also beginning to wake up and realize the hell that they live in, and, goodness, you have a very interesting hypothetical to study on the screen.

At the point in life when I first watched season one of "Westworld," I was seeking meaning and direction in validating my choices that had led me to that point and were leading me into the start of my independent life. With the show’s debate over consciousness and deep dive into discovery and what it truly means to live life on your own terms, I was hooked. So hooked, in fact, that when I finished all 10 episodes of the show in the first day, I felt a pit in my stomach.

This wasn’t because I didn’t like the conclusion of season one, but because it had spoken so much to me in a profound way. For me, season one of "Westworld" says that we are all oblivious to various aspects of our lives as we are on our paths. Ultimately, we will come to realizations about the world that may reshape the entire way we perceive our journey, and that’s okay.

Season one of "Westworld" is an absolute masterpiece and one of the greatest shows ever made. Just please don’t ask me if I like the other two seasons.

Grant is a senior majoring in public relations. He can be reached at gmitch16@vols.utk.edu.

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