Series premiere of “Westworld”

HBO’s new genre-meshing series offers cerebral storytelling

Michael Ambrosino, General Manager, Entertainment Editor

“Have you ever questioned the nature of your reality?”

HBO’s riveting new television series, “Westworld,” offers a fresh new venture into the western genre, built within a crazy-cool science-fiction vehicle that’s heaven-in-the-living-room for fans of both genres.

That’s not to say fans of other genres won’t enjoy what “Westworld” has to offer – there’s quite a bit to love, here.

Try to imagine a dangerous, unpredictable version of Disneyland. Replace the happy, kid-friendly Elsa and Olaf mascots with humanlike robots who are suspicious of their existence.

That is Westworld – a theme park of sorts, in which wealthy consumers pay a hefty amount of money to experience a day in the wild west.

The artificial intelligence that make up most of Westworld, known as “hosts,” are programmed to speak, behave and even bleed like the real human beings who visit the theme park, called “newcomers.”

Every word the hosts say and every action they carry out are prepared by Westworld’s management team of innovators and scientists. They may or may not have dark secrets of their own hidden within their sectors. Scene-by-scene, everything that unfolds is endlessly fascinating and undeniably haunting, and as complex as the first two-thirds of this introductory episode, titled “The Original,” is, it still manages to hold you in its grip. It’s those elements of mystery and complexity that make it so absorbing.

The opening scenes hook you instantaneously – it’s the last few moments, especially the final shot, that unnerve you and make you starving for more.

The show’s co-creators, Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, ingeniously put strong focus on the hosts, and by the end of the episode you’re given a glimpse of the drama that is soon to come involving this artificial intelligence.

The writers build suspense slowly but confidently, and the exceptional jobs of acting, writing and directing on display here effortlessly reels you into the story’s developing dramatic tension.

Being that Jonathan Nolan is one of the co-creators, my expectations were astronomically high. Jonathan Nolan’s most notable work includes co-writing “Interstellar,” “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” and creating CBS’s hit series “Person of Interest.”

I’m glad to say that, so far, my expectations are met, and something tells me “Westworld” is only going to get better and better.

Inspired by the 1973 film of the same name, “Westworld” is simply terrific – engrossing, haunting, visceral, visually stimulating and dramatically involving. This is a more-than-solid opener to a series that has the potential to be something truly special.

Episode two of “Westworld” airs Sunday, Oct. 9 at 9 p.m. on HBO.