“Game of Thrones” (GOT) will end after season eight. There are only 13 episodes left in HBO’s most successful television show ever. After hundreds of Emmy nominations and dozens of wins, “Game of Thrones” will go down as one of the best investments by HBO ever. Yeah, it costs millions of dollars more to produce than most shows out there, but when you’re pulling in record numbers and season six posted the most viewers for any GOT episode, the executives are understandably looking for a new show to replace the void. Where there’s a vacuum of this magnitude, what does HBO do now?
“Westworld” seems like the saving grace. It has the large set pieces and violence of “Game of Thrones” while providing the substance we’ve always seen from six seasons of HBO’s most prized possession. There is no doubt that “Westworld” has the potential to replace – actually, no show can replace “Game of Thrones” – let me say, honorably fill in for the leaving giant. “Game of Thrones” is a show that has a hardcore fan following, a massive social media presence, and a cast that keeps the media and our celebrity-obsessed society always asking for more. Peter Dinklage is the man, George R.R. Martin will never finish his books and there’s endless fan theories – enough to drive one crazy.
“Westworld,” on the other hand, is a more nuanced, slowly paced science fiction/western drama that so far hasn’t produced the same effects “Game of Thrones” season one did. Let’s keep in mind that the first seasons of most shows have more bumps and bruises and aren’t always welcomed right out of the gate. I won’t deny that and I have to keep that in mind. “Breaking Bad” didn’t become what it is remembered as until Netflix jumped on to the scene and everyone could binge watch what was turning into one of the best and most exhilarating shows of all time. “Westworld” can be that. No doubt. And here’s why.
The cast is a heavy weight mix of brilliant actors who have a long career of being mischievous and scheming villains. Anthony Hopkins, who runs the park has based his entire career off one performance back in the early ‘90s as Hannibal Lecter – always plotting and always a step ahead of his counterparts. If Hopkins can bring the same level of execution and the writers are focused and not over the top, then he could turn into a villain which “Game of Thrones” made its name with. Ed Harris is on this path as well, but I am still very suspicious of where his character is going. I know it’s still early on the show, but right now these characters are engaging but nothing yet on the level of GOT.
Another reason “Westworld” is up for the job: this is HBO. When “The Sopranos” came on to the scene back in 1999, there was nothing like it on TV. Sure, there had been some great TV shows in the past, but season after season it provided some of the best hours of television ever. HBO continued that quality with masterpieces such as “The Wire,” “Deadwood,” “Six Feet Under” and a plethora of comedies, dramas, documentaries, etc. In short, this is where high quality TV reigned supreme with challenges from AMC, Netflix and Amazon along the way. HBO might be fluttering right now, but “Westworld” has the potential to quell any discussion of a demise.
Last of all, this is an engaging storyline. It’s based in a theme park filled with robotic prostitutes, gun slingers, Native Americans and a long list of classic Western characters for visitors to have sex with, kill in cold blood or simply hang out with. What could go wrong? It turns out to no one’s surprise that the potential for chaos and havoc is immense. The idea that these robots could start thinking for themselves is extremely captivating. Its plot is still finding its way and the pacing is picking up and creating a immersive story where we are left with many questions and on the edge of our sofas. “Westworld” may not look like the hero who will fill the shoes of “Game of Thrones” just yet, but I am certainly keeping my hopes up.