Tis the season to celebrate television’s best shows and moments from 2018, and – lucky for us fans – Westworld has gotten plenty of accolades. We’ve perused quite a few “best of” lists and compiled the results for our favorite sci-fi western. Check them out below!
First up, USA Today has published a list of the top 20 shows viewed on demand by Comcast’s 20 million-plus subscribers in 2018. Perhaps unsurprisingly, fellow HBO show Game of Thrones topped the list with Westworld coming in seventh. Westworld also made the top five list in six cities: Denver, Minneapolis, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington DC. You can find the full list here.
Bringing a more subjective take on 2018’s top shows is Variety’s Daniel D’Addario, who ranks Westworld third behind Pose and The Americans. He writes, “Television’s clearest-eyed show about what it feels like to live through times of radical change has not yet arrived at explaining what it all means. But that’s rather the point: Rubble doesn’t settle until the seismic shifts slow down, something any news observer in our own world has come to understand.”
D’Addario calls particular attention to the performances of Westworld’s leading ladies, saying, “Best in a crowded cast include Evan Rachel Wood, righteous and drunk on her new capabilities, as a self-styled Liberty leading the androids, and Thandie Newton, proving that the hero’s journey is not only the one undertaken by the body on the front lines. It can happen, too, within the mind.”
Also from Variety we have 2018’s best episodes, including “Akane No Mai.” A standout display of Thandie Newton’s talents, “this episode pushed the show’s geography wildly further, finally showing us the Shogun World that exists beyond our familiar park boundaries…That [Maeve] goes on to discover within herself powers that transcend the script breaks the episode wide open and provides Newton a dazzling showcase to prove just what her character’s nimble mind, and her own, can do.” The episode was conducted mainly in Japanese, making it even more groundbreaking – much like later episode “Kiksuya” with its heavy use of the Lakota language.
The Atlantic has their own episode list, which names “The Riddle of the Sphinx” Westworld’s best (I tend to agree, with “Kiksuya” a close second). This episode was showrunner Lisa Joy’s directorial debut, and she knocked it out of the park. Variety calls it “an exciting, mind-bending piece of sci-fi, and hopefully a template for future, less-ponderous seasons.” Joy’s blend of irreverence, mystery, sci fi, and horror ramped up the tension and exposed the truly horrifying implications of the Delos experiment.
A few Westworld actors made the cut on best performances lists, including Zahn McClarnon and Thandie Newton for Paste Magazine. Of McClarnon – ranked 25th – Paste remarks, “when [Westworld’s] actors offer performances that run counter to the big, bold ideas pushed by their sci-fi housings, the series finds glimmers of magic. Zahn McClarnon’s performance as Akecheta…is one of tragedy, love, and warmth – all told through a language the actor doesn’t fully speak. To find so much emotion in pure phonetics is an incredible feat, but McClarnon’s piercing eyes and meltingly warm grin mark the actor as a rising star.”
Speaking about Newton – at number 16 on the list – “there’s nothing more human than the drive of a mother, and her evolution from programmed brothel madam to bad-ass mama bear provides for one of the most gripping threads in the show’s increasingly complex weave. Maeve’s charisma and authority is enough to seduce and terrify Delos technicians into helping her stage an android revolt, and Newton makes it all completely believable. We’d follow her anywhere, too.”
Not to be left out, Jeffrey Wright landed on IndieWire’s ranking of 2018’s best television actors. According to IndieWire, “Wright remains a bright spot of season two. As Bernard, the Emmy nominee is such a unifying force that it almost doesn’t matter which timeline the show’s in or where in the park he and his partners are. This season’s twists and turns ask Wright to be more physical than ever, but he’s even more effective in his hyper-controlled delivery than with a pair of trembling hands. The glasses go on and wherever Bernard might be, things make sense again.”
Finally Vulture brings us their ranking of best musical moments, and for once it’s not a Ramin Djawadi tune getting the attention. Their selection is “Do the Strand” by Roxy Music featured in “Riddle of the Sphinx” – during which James Delos (Peter Mullan) got to show off his fancy dance moves. Vulture remarks, “Blasted at full volume [“Do the Strand”] sounds as unexpected in the dour songscape of this series as Delos’s ‘dance like no one is watching’ behavior looks. Yet Bryan Ferry’s hedonistic lyrical promise of the next big thing – ‘There’s a new sensation, a fabulous creation’ – and Brian Eno’s retro-futuristic flourishes as the band’s in-house effects guy fit Westworld’s themes like they were engineered in a lab to do exactly that.”
Seriously – how could you not love this?