Westworld and Radiohead

Westworld Season 1 blew my mind.

Westworld Picture

I really enjoyed it while I watched it. But after having finished the season, the more I think back on it the more I feel impressed with the way the show was paced and layered. There were apparently some hiccups during production, but it really doesn’t show in the finished product the execution is incredible.

You could write a whole series of blogposts on Westworld and the subtleties of what’s happening in the show (especially the moral questions the show raises), but one thing in particular that really struck me was the way they used music in the show. In particular, two Radiohead covers really caught my attention and left a mark on my mind.

The opening of one episode starts with a pianola playing a cover of Radiohead’s song “Fake Plastic Trees,” a fitting song given the fake nature of the world which these people vacation into, and within which these androids live and die in an eternal recurrence. The song already fits into the opening sequence just as a nice background melody, but the depth of meaning of the song choice just adds another layer to an already well layered and well thought out masterpiece of a show.  The song haunted me so much so that I had to look it up, and I was surprised to see that another song that haunted me within the episode was a Radiohead cover as well.

I’ll do my best not to give too many specifics for the risk of mid-season spoilers, but the soft, harmonizing cellos of this cover are incredible during one particular scene during which an android experiences the world behind its reality. And as the android realizes its world was a lie, and all the bodies of androids all around are fake, you can just feel the hurt of that reality descending upon this character. The opening lyrics of the song are “Red wine and sleeping pills,” a deadly combination, and the song closes with the lyrics “I will see you in the next life.” This mirrors the android’s needing to kill itself over and over to go back to the real world and learn about the truths of its reality, and its next life is oftentimes as soon as a few short hours past the point at which it died. The parallels with the song and the moment within the episode blew me away once I started digging into them, and there’s just something incredibly melancholy about the song that seems to reflect the hurt and angst of a suddenly sentient being coming to understand what’s happening behind the scenes of its life, and experiencing that raw disillusionment and becoming hungry for more understanding.

If you get nothing else out of this post I hope you at least give those songs a try, they’re worth a listen without any knowledge of anything beyond the instrumental music itself. And if you can stomach a good vicarious existential crisis or two, Westworld might be the show for you.