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AWARDS CHATTER: ‘Westworld’ Aims for an Upset

Over the weekend, HBO’s freshman drama Westworld picked up five well-deserved Creative Emmys, and it stands to win up to seven more during Sunday night’s live ceremony. Evan Rachel Wood, Anthony Hopkins, Thandie Newton, and Jeffrey Wright represent the sci-fi masterpiece in four major acting categories, and co-creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy are up for writing and directing awards. Westworld has also been nominated for Outstanding Drama Series, and—despite stiff competition from The Handmaid’s Tale and Stranger Things—would be a worthy successor to last year’s winner and fellow HBO megahit, Game of Thrones.

It might seem like ages ago, but last fall Westworld rebooted the schlocky sci-fi genre in the same way that Game of Thrones merged high fantasy with prestige drama. The result? A heady, science fiction + Western thriller that could grow to become premium cable’s biggest title once Thrones turns in its final season late next year. Without revealing too much from Westworld’s cliffhanger ending, it’s clear the show intends to explore beyond the boundaries of its gunslinger setting, and the possibilities could keep this show fresh for years to come.

If Westworld fails to take the top drama prize, at least Jeffrey Wright is poised to take home some hardware for his role as Bernard Lowe, Head of Westworld’s Programming division who discovers shocking secrets about himself and the park. All of Westworld’s acting nominees succeeded at creating fascinating and sympathetic characters, human and robot alike, but Wright is an exceptionally formidable contender in the supporting field. Evan Rachel Wood previously seemed like a lock for the Lead Actress statuette, at least until Elisabeth Moss began her awards campaign, and the possibility of another win for Westworld in this category shouldn’t be entirely dismissed.

At its core, Westworld is a show about the future of the entertainment business, about the extremes creative auteurs might someday go to in order to satisfy the wants of a paying audience. The plight of the much-abused robots mirrors the ways in which the industry disposes of actors, or re-purposes them into new storylines with no regard for how their roles have shaped them. The board clearly parallels a studio’s efforts to tightly control a production, and the Man in Black is essentially a reckless and entitled executive. So will enough Emmy voters rally behind this dark reflection of themselves? Probably not, given the immense political relevance of The Handmaid’s Tale, but if there’s an upset in the Outstanding Drama category that doesn’t come from the Upside Down, then it will almost certainly come from the West.

 

Miss the first season? Ready to see it all again? Watch Westworld on HBO on-demand.

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