Last week HBO debuted its new show, Westworld, which has captivated audiences and critics alike with its first two episodes. The show is loosely based on the 1973 film by the same name, created by Michael Crichton.

Westworld is set in a technologically advanced future in which people have created a Western-style theme park inhabited by artificial humans, or hosts. Guests pay a hefty sum to experience the Wild West, free from any laws, consequences, or moral dilemmas that come from harming another real human being.

Because the hosts are created and designed for the park, they are programmed to never harm a living thing and to clear their memories at the end of each day. This allows the guests of the park to sleep with, rape, stab, torture, and murder the hosts with a relatively free conscience. Logan, one of the park’s veteran guests,remarks at one point, “This place is the answer to the question you’ve been asking yourself: who you really are.”

The big question: To what extent are the hosts actually human? They have progressed and been updated to a point at which they’re indistinguishable from human beings. At one point William, a reluctant first-timer, asks his guide whether or not she is real. The host smiles and replies, “If you can’t tell, does it matter?”

The differences between the humans and hosts become more and more blurred as the plot progresses. At times, the hosts begin to act against their itineraries, leading the viewer to wonder whether the hosts have some semblance of humanity, and whether they will seek to act against their creators. As one of the hosts notes during a malfunction, “These violent delights have violent ends.”

Westworld was created by Jonathon Nolan and Lisa Joy. The show is executive produced by Nolan, along with J.J. Abrams (The Force Awakens, Star Trek) and Bryan Burk (Lost, Person of Interest). The premiere landed HBO’s highest viewership ratings since the Emmy-winning True Detective. The hour-long science fiction/drama is nothing short of visually stunning. The rich storyline is filled with intrigue and subtlety and features complex characters, host and human alike. New episodes of Westworld air Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO.

Photo Credit: HBO