HBO has long stood as a bastion for some of the best shows television has to offer. Its lengthy history is occupied by a handful of truly great series, all culminating in the impressive run it's currently experiencing with Game of Thrones. The adaptation of George R.R. Martin's popular novels has become one of TV's most-watched weekly events every spring. Like all good things though, Game of Thrones eventually will come to an end, with just two shortened seasons left before it goes off the air for good (at least in its current form). This imminent departure leads us to one question: What's next for HBO?
With Game of Thrones set to exit stage left, the network is going to need an heir apparent. Lucky for them, they've been preparing one for years now with Westworld. The artificial intelligence-centric sci-fi epic will seek to ease the pain of leaving Westeros, and from the look of early trailers, we see no reason why it won't. Here's why.
1. Westworld already has a five year plan in place
The long-term success of any show is rooted in the ability of its writers to plan out its story on a large scale. Game of Thrones' own roadmap was already in place before its first episode ever aired, helped by George R.R. Martin's series of novels. In terms of the years-long production process,Westworld lead actor James Marsden provides us with some insight, courtesy of Entertainment Weekly.
It wasn't about getting the first 10 (episodes) done, it was about mapping out what the next five or six years are going to be. We wanted everything in line so that when the very last episode airs and we have our show finale, five or seven years down the line, we knew how it was going to end the first season.
Compare that to the decidedly more "fly by the seat of their pants" approach of sci-fi contemporaries like Lost and Battlestar Galactica, and we see a far more meticulously crafted narrative for Westworld. This only serves to strengthen the long-term potential of the fledgling series, helped by an already fully-formed story arc.
2. The A-list cast
Game of Thrones is famous for bringing in the most talented actors in the business, from Peter Dinklage's lengthy run as Tyrion Lannister, to Ian McShane's tragically short-lived appearance last season. Westworld will be pulling out all the stops for its own cast, bringing on Anthony Hopkins, Evan Rachel Wood, Ed Harris, James Marsden, and Jeffrey Wright.
This isn't just a TV-worthy collection of actors either; it's a cast that would be coveted for even the most high-profile of summer blockbusters. Whether or not the show up ends up being a thematic success remains to be seen, but even if it flopped story-wise, it wouldn't be for lack of talent attached to the project.
3. A strong original story from Michael Crichton
Michael Crichton is most known as the mastermind behind the original Jurassic Park novel. That said, his body of work expands far beyond just that, having written and directed the 1973 film HBO's own iteration of Westworld is based on.
4. The showrunners
A show is only as good as the people in charge of its creative direction. In the case of Westworld, the team of writers and producers is a veritable who's who of sci-fi luminaries. Jonathan Nolan (The Dark Knight) and Lisa Joy (Pushing Daisies) are attached as the showrunners, while J.J. Abrams and Bryan Burk (Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Fringe) will serve as executive producers. There are a whole lot of talented cooks in the kitchen, and combined, they make up an A-team worthy of Westworld's bold premise.
5. There's nothing like Westworld on TV today
Part of what's made Game of Thrones so impactful in the landscape of modern TV has been the way it's blazed brand new territory for fantasy epics. You'd be hard-pressed to find another show that's managed to accomplish what GoT has, despite the better efforts of pale imitations (looking at you, Marco Polo).
Westworld's own creative ambitions are similarly unique. If it ends up catching on, it has the potential to launch the artificial intelligence sci-fi concept into the television mainstream. Of course it could also fly too close to the sun and burn up in a blaze of glory, but at least for now, we remain cautiously optimistic based on the initial buzz.