A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Westworld is a grim sci-fi drama that revolves around a theme park staffed with realistically human robots. Most guests are primarily interested in killing or having sex with these robots, both of which are encouraged by the park. Violence is often present in gory scenes in which robots are stabbed, shot point-blank, have their faces shot off in a blast of blood, have their throats slit, and so on. Other disturbing scenes involve an implied offscreen rape that a female robot is dragged to by her hair, screaming, and a sex scene with a prostitute (no private parts are seen). Female and male robots are shown fully nude; backsides and breasts are shown at length. Cursing is infrequent but unbleeped and includes "f--k," "s--t," "hell," "ass," and "damn." A female robot is called a "little bitch." Characters drink liquor and smoke at a saloon.
What's the story?
Based on the 1973 sci-fi/western by Michael Chrichton, WESTWORLD is set in a futuristic Old West-themed park, where guests spend a week or two riding horses, robbing banks, playing cards at saloons -- and pushing around realistically humanoid robots, who can be killed, raped, or injured with impunity. The robots are called "Hosts," the guests "Newcomers," and the guests visit the park for as long as they can afford. However, some robots are glitching, stepping out of their roles, and even trying to hurt Newcomers, including longtime guest The Man in Black. The park's staff is trying desperately to keep all the problems undercover. But with the Hosts becoming more and more aware of just how they're trapped, that's getting more difficult all the time. Meanwhile, some guests are looking for a deeper meaning beneath the park's simple narrative.
Is it any good?
Thoughtful, twisty, and disturbing, this grim series digs into just what it means to be human and presents viewers with more questions than answers. The 1973 movie was creepy and effective but a lark -- this is darker and even more troubling. The villains aren't as easy to spot in this new version. Ed Harris' Man in Black is the most obvious one, a guest taking vile jollies in his freedom to mess with Hosts like Evan Rachel Wood's doe-eyed Southern belle Dolores and James Marsden's square-jawed gunslinger Teddy.
As we watch the sympathetic Hosts take physical and emotional abuse from both Newcomers and the scientists who created them, it becomes clear that no one's a hero here -- not the thoughtless humans, not the helpless robots, and most definitely not the cynical people who write the park's scripts and steer the Host/Newcomer interactions. Are the makers of Westworld actually asking us to sympathize with robots rising up against humans? They sure are -- and they're doing a bang-up job of it, too. This is the best kind of sci-fi: It entertains you and makes you think.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the fear of technology gone wrong in Westworld. Do you think robots will ever become this advanced? Would it be a good thing or a bad thing?
Westworld depicts humans who are allowed to hurt and even kill robots with no consequences. Is this less disturbing than killing a person? Why do you think the decision was made to have the robots bleed, experience wounds, and groan in pain? Why is it OK to see some types of violence but not others?
Have you seen the 1973 movie on which this series is based? How is this version different? Why would the creators choose to leave out certain aspects of the first movie while inserting new characters and action?