Short Ends: With Apologies to Ms. Simmons

Westworld is my favourite new series to debut in 2016. The show is overflowing with great writing, remarkable production value and excellent performances, especially from Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood and Jeffrey Wright. The secrets and fan theories exemplify the rewards of patience and analysis. There is so much to praise about the series, but no show, no matter how good, is without fault.

In episode 8, ‘Trace Decay’, the self-aware host, Maeve, discovers that her employee and friend Clementine, played by Angela Sarafyan, is being decommissioned and removed from the park. She witnesses a technician lobotomizing the defenseless host before returning to her position at the Mariposa saloon bar, where the new Clementine has already been installed. I recognized her immediately and let out a sigh.

“Oh, no, it’s Lili Simmons.”

For a moment in an otherwise fascinating and gripping show I was jolted out of my suspension of disbelief. The actress playing the new Clementine was to blame.

I’ve seen Lili Simmons in the Cinemax series Banshee as a rebellious Amish girl, in the first season of HBO’s True Detective as one of Woody Harrelson’s extra-marital lovers, and a kidnapped doctor and wife in the horror/western hybrid Bone Tomahawk. Unfortunately, I found her to be the weakest part in every one. She’s a beautiful woman with a acting career in both film and television, but sadly I don’t see her as a good actress.

I’ve seen enough of Lili Simmons to be apprehensive about her appearance. I don’t see a character on the screen — I can only see the actress. I hear lines of dialogue rather than naturalistic speech. I’ve seen her afraid, devastated and ecstatic, but I remain unmoved and unconvinced. Of the four times I’ve seen her on screen she has disrobed in three of them — I feel her body is of more importance than her acting ability.

But what does my opinion matter? If she’s getting regular work and others enjoy her acting and her appearance what I think is irrelevant.

Though I doubt anyone will think she was the best thing about watching Westworld.