All aboard the event TV train

OCTOBER 10TH, 2016 — POST 280

Spoilers for E01, E02 of Westworld S01.

I think I’m going to regret getting into Westworld. Any regret has absolutely nothing to do with the show. Between it and Stranger Things, I once again have a two shows to latch onto, two shows that I probably bank on persisting multiple seasons, and two shows that a lot of people are on board with too. And Westworld is good: entertainment, ideology, futurism — there’s a lot here for a lot of people. And it’s that “lot of people” that already have me pursing my lips at the fact that I’m into it. Despite the second episode of the first season only airing last night, fan speculation is already polluting the channels I frequent daily.

Today Chris Plante of The Verge headlined a piece with “You-know-who is actually a bot”. My you-know-who was actually different to the you-know-who Plante was building his theory around. So not only do I have his read on a character I had no suspicion of, but I also now have reinforced my own inkling that my you-know-who could be a bot simply by having it called to mind. And I’m powerless to stop either theory entering my mind when watching either character moving forward. Even if neither human character is ever suggested to be a robot host, I’ll still think “Well, they could be”. Not only that, through literally two minutes of reading, I’m now primed to start to make these kinds of theories myself: apparently all humans ought to have their human status questioned.

I know, I know. I shouldn’t have clicked on the story (though arguably the headline did half the damage). But you have to indulge my naïvety. I haven’t really done this before. I watched True Detective, The Sopranos, Boardwalk Empire all weeks, months, and years after they had originally aired. Shows like House of Cards or Stranger Things have been mine to get through in my own time. And I was never going to be into Game of Thrones — notorious for being consistently ruined by spoilers and speculation. With each line of this story, I realised my own capacity to approach Westworld with my own head (or a hybrid head from conversations about the show with my partner) on my shoulders was being stolen from me. I know I said Westworld would eventually wind up needing HBO to change up its release model. I just didn’t think I would need it, and especially not so soon.

Please don’t mistake me in thinking I’m complaining that something I like is being enjoyed by others. Far from it. I’m endlessly buoyed by the outpouring of genuine, staunch support for shows like Stranger Things — especially in the face of dumb cash-grab movies like Emojimovie — because it proves people still want good entertainment. And I have no problems at all with the countless fan theories for Stranger Things either — the thing is done. But the experience of participating in event TV in a post-GoT world is that we’ve just agreed to be okay with people talking in the middle of what we’re watching. But instead of a whisper in a movie theatre during the silence of an establishing shot to ask a friend “Do you think he did it?”, the silence is a week long, filled with literal hours of shouting across the internet.

This might all be part of the experience for some, but for me it’s maddening. My mind never fully closes out the internal speculation that happens when watching something when a series is left unfinished. I want to know the answers, but I don’t commit to any one speculative conclusion. “I’ll see next week” allows that speculation to take a back seat. Without resolution that a series-end would give this speculative voice, any drop of external speculation spools my inner speculation up, starts to force it to make connections I wouldn’t have reached by myself. In simply entertaining possibilities, my future enjoyment of the show has been dulled.

So please HBO — just give us a whole season at a time? Or until then, a Chrome Extension that automatically blocks all articles about the show (including this one)?

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Thanks, I really appreciate it.

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