Westworld and the World of Illusion

Ask me what I did in my minimal free time in the fall? My quick response is this: became obsessed with Westworld!


Image Courtesy of Foxtel 2017

-Luke Clellan Dellorso

The show caught my attention from the first episode and I could immediately sense the hints of illusion and deception that were present, but knew that there was so much more beneath the surface that the writers were not prepared to reveal to me just yet. As the show progresses, more and more is revealed, both about the specific characters’ subplots and backstories, as well as about the overall narrative (that was a Westworld joke…) as well. The one aspect of this deception that I would like to focus on though, pertains to the illusion of time! I recommend that anyone who has not seen the show yet, STOP READING IMMEDIATELY! For your own sanity- spoilers will be given! I hope that I have intrigued you enough to binge the show and return to read my commentary!

Now, for my friends who have watched the show… for serious… if you have not watched the show, turn back now!

Time is something that, for the most part, cannot be broken within theatre. An actor cannot teleport from the kitchen to the car outside. Rather, if the actor is going to bridge that transition, we as the audience will witness it occurring. In sharp contrast, film and television have the ability to, for a lack of better words, “trick” our senses by flirting with the space-time continuum. Take a montage, for example- the actor is not actually moving from place to place instantaneously. Rather, we accept the fact that the film is showing us hers or his movement over a period of time.

Now, where this gets fun, is when a filmmaker plays with our acceptance, as viewers, of the disturbance of the space-time continuum. More specifically, I am referring to the way in which Westworld presents us with a seemingly linear storyline, but we could not be more wrong by making that statement. It isn’t until we view Dolores’ memories and visions more clearly that we realize what we have been seeing. It isn’t until we view Dolores’ memories and visions more clearly that we can understand the subtle nuances that are dropped as hints to a much larger picture. It isn’t until we view Dolores’ memories and visions more clearly that we realize that we have not been watching one linear storyline, but rather multiple, from vastly different time periods, stacked on top of each other. Little did we know that William, is the man in black. But boy-oh-boy does it make sense! Dolores does not age, and thus we would not have noticed a change in her, and the creators of Westworld were kind enough to never show us anything that would give away the illusion that we were experiencing two vastly different time periods, at the same time. If the storyline is still unclear, I recommend that you take a look at this analysis provided by Vulture.

So, what am I getting at here? Film and television have an exponential amount of power, and the creators of Westworld utilized it to trick me and seriously mess with my sense of time!

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6 Responses to Westworld and the World of Illusion

  1. mediaphiles says:

    I’ll admit I haven’t seen the show, and I did read the entire review … but I find your take on Westworld to be enlightening! It’s nice how you touched on the power of editing to twist plots, time, and space for a viewer. Westworld seems like an interesting show.

    -Meg Schmit

  2. mediaphiles says:

    I too am a huge Westworld fan and agree that watching this show is an experience quite like no other. Your post brought me back to thinking about Arnheim’s argument for film as art. I think its easy for people to say that film (at its core) offers a reproduction of reality and the human optical experience, but of course we know that this isn’t so. I think Westworld is a perfect example of how film allows for the overlap of time and narrative. The coolest thing about the show though is that it goes an extra step forward and blurs our understanding of the present and the past.

    – Lydia Geisel

  3. mediaphiles says:

    I have heard all of the hype about the show and still haven’t seen it. Hopefully now that the season is over and I can binge watch the season without commercials or waiting for new episodes week-to-week I can find the time to do that because it definitely sounds like WestWorld is a new type of show that could change the way future shows are made as well.

    -Max Lissette

  4. mediaphiles says:

    I fell in love with Westworld after the first episode. It’s the kind of show where after you watch an episode you immediately want to go talk about it. Your analysis of how the creators surprise the viewer with the different time lines is great, and I think of all the twists from the first season,William being the Man in Black was the best. I can’t wait for its next season.

    -Walker Rise

  5. mediaphiles says:

    Trusting your opinion on great television and film, I cannot wait to start watching! I love shows that catch my attention from the first episode due to there aspects of illusion and deception. Let the binge watching begin!

    Katherine Naylor

  6. mediaphiles says:

    I read more even though you said SPOILERS… now I really want to watch the show. I love the idea of using a storyline to trick the audience. but then revealing that the plot line has actually been fragmented all along. I can’t wait to see what that’s like.

    Russell Lawrence

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