Friday, October 7, 2016

Dreams and Reality

This week I watched the first episodes of a couple of TV series that have had me thinking about WILD again - Falling Water and Westworld.

Burton (David Ajala) in Falling Water
Falling Water is a weird one. It has kinda crept out of nowhere, emerging from the shadows like a dream itself. The USANetwork behind it is hoping this is their next Mr Robot (which wouldn't be a bad thing) and with Gale Anne Hurd behind it, it has the credentials to be amazing. But as many people have pointed out, like Fight Club was the inspiration for Mr Robot, Inception is definitely the inspiration behind Falling Water.

The extra-length pilot is glacially slow. Moody, atmospheric and dreamlike, but still taking its time none the less. At its core, we're introduced to three characters with no apparent connection. Burton (above, played by David Ajala) is the head of in-house security at The Firm. He fixes problems, gets the rich brokers out of trouble, and is looking for his girlfriend (a very Matrix woman in a red dress). Tess (Lizzie Brocheré) is a trend spotter who doesn't like talking to people, but is having dreams of a son that she never had. And Taka (Will Yun Lee) is a cop whose mother has been in a catatonic state for the last seven years.

We follow their lives, never entirely sure of whether they are awake or not in some scenes, and gradually elements from each other's dreams start encroaching into both the dreams and the waking worlds of the others.

Tess (Lizzie Brocheré) in Falling Water

Lurking in the background and bound to unite them is Bill (Zak Orth) who is convinced that we can move from our isolated dreamworld and into each others. No technology seems to be needed - so no Inception-like PASIV devices here. But there's something else going on. A presence that wants out.

As I said, it's VERY slow. I get the feeling that if it doesn't up its pace in the next couple of episodes, it's going to get cancelled very quickly, which would be a shame. I don't want it to become the next Awake (a brilliant series with Jason Isaacs that only lasted one season and isn't available on DVD).

The most interesting thing about it is thinking about Burton's girlfriend - the nameless woman in red. He bumps into her, they go to their favourite restaurant, and in the night he dreams that she is abducted. When he wakes, she's not there and no one has any idea who he's talking about. Was she ever there? Was she purely in his dream, and was all the meeting and restaurant a dream? Or, was she really there, but abducted in the dream and now no longer exists in the real world, existing purely in the dreamrealms?

It's certainly going to be one I watch more of, I just hope it can gain the audience.

Falling Water's pilot episode is available to watch online, and premieres on Oct 13th in the States. Not sure which UK channel is going to pick it up (if any - it may end up on Amazon Prime like Mr. Robot).


Also, this week, I checked out the first episode of HBO's new drama Westworld. Based on the 70's movie written and directed by Michael Crichton, it has the basics of the same plot as its original - there's a themepark out in the middle of nowhere, where guests pay a small fortune to enter a cinematic version of the old west, complete with horses, whores and gunslingers. The guests are "entertained" by Hosts - incredibly lifelike robots programmed to act and feel like real people, but without all those pesky moral implications when you sleep with a dozen of them, or murder two dozen in a massive gunfight.

And that's possibly where the series shines. There's a lot below the surface here. Not just with the shady dealings in the real world with the company that is building the robots (there are unsubtle hints that there is a deeper purpose) but it makes us look at the moral implications of it all. These robots have memories that seem to survive the wipes, and those years of being abused, beaten, and murdered over and over again is going to have some repercussions. There's a reckoning coming. It also holds a mirror up to humanity. A humanity that gets its kicks out of sex and violence. Giving people a way to "safely" vent these desires, is that just encouraging them to give into them more often?

Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) in Westworld

It's gripping and mesmerising stuff that plays with your expectations and turns them on their heads in the first ten minutes. The hosts (the robots) show more humanity than any of the *human* characters in the series.

In the original movie the robots malfunction and turn on their guests (and their creators) in Crichton-esque theme-park-goes-wrong style. In this version, it's coming, but that may not be a bad thing. But it also raises additional questions. If the robots did take over, would they continue their repetitive Groundhog Day-style lives, or would they continue to live in an old west world? What if one escaped into our world? Are there robots already in our world?


Of course, both of these series have been swimming around my head all week, feeding the fuel for the WILD RPG with it. In Falling Water, Bill says that everyone's dreams are in their own little worlds that rub up against each other, and what if you could move from one dream into someone else's. That's the core of the WILD RPG, only the technology allows you to share one dream with a handful of people. It also implies that there's something sinister in the dream realms that is lurking. Is there a primordial force or is it a projection of our own subconscious fears? And then, with Westworld, it's getting into the Total Recall territory. Dreams as vacations, memories of events that never happened, sharing that dream vacation with the rest of the family or friends. Dreams pre-programmed and prepared by a dream broker - a travel agent of the mind.

There's more to dreaming than you think.

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