Westworld: No, it doesn’t have a humor problem

Some critics think Westworld is selling itself short through a lack of humor. Here’s why that’s not the case.

The Westworld article from The Ringer makes the thought-provoking argument that Westworld tries to be a show about self-awareness, but without much humor shows very little awareness of itself. Throughout the show, both the hosts and humans explore the scope of human emotion, a significant piece of which is human suffering.

The article contends that a key facet of human suffering and emotion is missing without much laughter. After all, laughter is often the only way that people manage to cope with and process tragedy or incredible stress.

This is a legitimate point and certainly worthy of examination. The issue with this line of thinking is that the show already contains smaller doses of humor than the author gives it credit for. Bernard and Charlotte reprogramming Rebus from a scoundrel to a chivalrous cowboy isn’t the only time the show has managed to be humorous.

Also, if humor is injected into season 3 to the extent suggested, it would change the tone of the show too much.

Westworld already has its own brand humor

Not in an over-the-top way, Westworld already has its own kind of humor, doled out with a purpose at specific moments.

Felix and Sylvester are a great example of this. They share an amusing dynamic and are the Westworld equivalent of the odd couple. Felix is the empathetic, idealistic one while Sylvester is the callous, self-serving one.

They constantly clash, but they also look out for one another and stick together as well. They’re the in-universe manifestation of characters struggling to process what’s happening and feeling out of their depth as a result, which naturally leads to humorous banter.

Westworld Season 2, Episode 6

Photo Credit: Westworld/HBO Image Acquired from HBO Media Relations

This was played on in the season 2 finale with their exchange about the Door. It was funny, but it also served a greater purpose as it showed that humans couldn’t see the Door, only the hosts could. With Felix and Sylvester still alive and almost definitely going to revive Maeve–and other hosts as well–this dynamic should be played on even more in season 3. It’s a kind of humor that works for Westworld without being overt or changing the overall tone of the show.

Lee Sizemore is another character that brings humor to the show. His comedic highlights of season 1 can be remembered with his failed Odyssey on the Red River narrative pitch, and when he urinated into the control room only to realize he was doing it in front of powerful Delos figure Charlotte Hale, the same woman he tried to hit on at the Mesa pool bar earlier.

Westworld Season 1, Episode 8

Photo Credit: Westworld/HBO Image Acquired from HBO Media Relations

Season 2 still provided amusing moments for Lee, from his relief at finding alcohol still available at the Mesa pool bar to how out of place he looked in the Westworld attire Maeve made him wear.  He also had more of a complete arc and was fleshed out more, and a result became more intriguing and one of the most improved characters of season 2.

Comedy can certainly elevate a show, but with Lee, it’s clear that making him more a developed character who could still be funny at times was better than just having him be comedic relief all the time.

Beyond specific characters, Westworld has its own dark, sarcastic humor. Most of what comes out of the mouth of fan-favorite Logan drips with dark wit and sarcasm. When it works in a specific moment or with the character’s personality, others like Elsie and Lawrence deliver lines that channel such wit and sarcasm as well.

Ultimately, this is the kind of humor that works for Westworld. Drastically changing it will clash too much with the dramatic nature and tone of the show. Trying to take something dark and change it by injecting the characters with more levity tends to feel forced and doesn’t work.

The DCEU discovered this when they tried to make Ben Affleck’s Batman a wisecracking character in Justice League, completely contradicting his portrayal from Batman v. Superman. It’s not that the first portrayal was a gold standard they destroyed in Justice League, but it didn’t make sense with what was already established.

Westworld runs the risk of making that mistake by infusing forced humor. The Ringer article suggests the following moment as a way to change things up and run that risk regardless:

Don’t we deserve one scene when Clementine’s honesty is turned to 100 percent and she tells Anthony Hopkins, “I’m sorry, I have no idea what you’re talking about, but you sounded so smart when you said it”?

This moment would be more jarring and distracting than anything else as it’s not tonally in line with the show. Poking fun at your own story can be effective, but Westworld has not created a tone where that works.

It’s better to move forward with their small doses of humor in specific moments rather than contradict characteristics and tone that have already been established. Instead of creating more self-awareness, the show would demonstrate a lack of awareness if they force a type of humor that clashes with all the rich elements already in motion.

Do you think Westworld needs more humor? Let us know in the comments!