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Marshawn Lynch on ‘Westworld’: A Scouting Report

Beast Mode came to HBO on Sunday night with a mood shirt and a pair of dope sunglasses (but somehow no Skittles). Here’s a breakdown of how he performed in his prestige TV debut.

HBO/Ringer illustration

“I’m definitely not OK.” - G, Westworld

It’s been quite the intermission for fans of Westworld, the one and only show on television that has the guts to give the people what they want in lethal doses: incredibly wealthy humans suffering from futuristic ennui torturing period-piece robots. The twist is they are also sometimes robots themselves! This season, the gore and spectacle formerly confined to Robot Jurassic Park has spilled out into the dystopian hellscape of the show’s “real world,” and commensurate with the shift in locations comes a host (a pun, forgive me) of new characters.

The big new addition to the ensemble is a character played by Aaron Paul, a bedraggled and disenchanted veteran named either Caleb or Jesse Pinkman (I didn’t have the closed captions on). Caleb is a blue-collar guy who is haunted and has lunch with a robot that actually looks like a robot, not an attractive human. However, it’s Caleb’s near-silent compatriot in his side hustle (doing illegal stuff and getting Venmo’d for it) that steals the show.

This near-silent compatriot is G, portrayed with muffled ebullience by Super Bowl champion running back, fierce lover of all things Skittles, and Draymond Green’s very good friend, Marshawn Lynch. Lynch dominates his few scenes mostly by virtue of the fact that we are watching Marshawn Lynch in Westworld. He hasn’t gone Beast Mode yet. He is not dragging cowboys or samurai or whatever into hell with him as they dig their heels in helplessly and hold on for dear life. We’re not there yet. Narratives worth a damn are all about the slow burn. There’s time yet for that sort of bloodthirsty display.

So, it’s not that Marshawn literally steals the show. He’s featured in, charitably, about two and a half minutes, but his presence promises a momentary diversion from the dreary gloom the show has made its lodestar. We can’t wait to see Marshawn stretch his wings in this “outside-the-park” Blade Runner flirting with Eyes Wide Shut milieu.

So, what do we know about G based on one episode? Let us break it down for you:

Height

5-foot-11

Weight

215 pounds—hm—maybe 225 pounds

Nearest HBO tough-guy comparisons

The Hound (Game of Thrones), Dan Dority (Deadwood), Marty Funkhouser (Curb Your Enthusiasm)

Main selling points

Go-getter, glue guy, reasonably efficient, doesn’t talk too much

Why would Westworld draft him?

Westworld finds itself in the unenviable position of being a show that a lot of people like but a lot of people never think about at all. It is not a title contender, either via the dark horse zeitgeist that Succession began to tap into or the raw numbers of a powerhouse like Game of Thrones. It’s a messy, sometimes fun and sometimes very much not fun program occasionally capable of greatness (“The Riddle of the Sphinx”), but too byzantinely arranged and accompanied by unremitting robot gore that fails to make any impact. Often, the show is too reliant on productive but ultimately undersized tweeners like Maeve, or hotshot quarterbacks who talk a big game but have never won anything, like Dolores Abernathy. What might G offer a show like this? A show that has obvious strengths, but is struggling to get over the hump? We can only speculate that the ensemble, though not without merit, has become stale, and a locker room shake-up was imperative. Hard to imagine a better grenade thrown into any staid space than a ne’er-do-well as portrayed by, once again, Marshawn Lynch.

What He’s Already Shown Us

Admittedly, not a whole lot. What we don’t know about G is a chasm of intrigue and possibility. What we do know, however, is this:

  • He’s friends (or at least colleagues) with Ash (played by Lena Waithe)
  • He’s got a cool shirt (it changes with his mood)
  • He gets distracted during crimes
  • He can take a punch
  • He has a languid sitting style
  • He has a great smile
  • He’s slow to retreat in a tense situation

Obviously, some of this is good, some of this is bad. This is the paradox of the human condition. Or the robot pretending to be a human condition.

Westworld Comparisons

There’s no indication yet that G is a robot, or to use the parlance of prestige cyberpunk television, a host, but that shouldn’t stop you from assuming that beneath his extremely cool and form-fitting T-shirt that glows in the dark and also his dope shades there’s a robot. Because there’s still a 40 percent chance that—even in this world that is apparently completely divorced from the park itself—every human is a robot and every robot is just a slightly different kind of robot.

So, given that cybernetic caveat, what kind of player (as in Shakespeare’s players) comparisons can we make for G, given his limited screen time? It’s difficult to come to any conclusion with certainty. The data set remains very limited, but there are a few key indicators apparent already in Lynch’s quiet, workmanlike performance.

Floor

Old Bill, played with halting cowboy gravitas by Michael Wincott. Old Bill was an early Westworld host beloved by Robert Ford, who enjoyed shooting the shit with this sputtering robot bartender. Old Bill generally responded in non sequiturs and, apart from looking human, probably only got a C- on his Turing test.

Ceiling

Armistice, a bloody-minded bandit replete with pathos. Capable of destruction, resourceful, with a bit of a sense of humor, but more importantly, a legitimate member of a championship team, who had no compunction whatsoever about leaving it all out on the field.

Where G’s Arc Might Take Us

There are many roads G might traverse in the Westworld universe. The conservative might assume that G will continue on with his minimal presence as a person inclined to criminal gig-economy malfeasance. He might get a humdinger of a line here and there, but generally will be relegated to the background, a glorified and confusing cameo. This seems the safest route, but as a person who understands routes, the bolder choice would be to bet it all on a midseason reveal of FootballWorld. This is a world in which ordinary people, usually men, usually men who care about sports more than their children, get to pretend they are a game-manager-type quarterback, and when they are sacked, they are allowed to shoot the opposing players with Colt revolvers. It’s a bit of a niche world, sure, but no more niche than uh, Jungle Book World, or whatever that extremely fucked-up and racist park from Season 2 is called!

Predictions for the Season

  • G kills Teddy four times
  • G is not a robot
  • But also, maybe he is?
  • G and Tessa Thompson’s character discuss 19th century Russian literature
  • G gets annoyed by Aaron Paul’s very specific style of acting
  • G’s name is actually Gary
  • G complains about the Grapevine
  • G and The Man in Black become drinking buddies
  • G says something mean about the Buffalo Bills

We’ve yet to see the explosiveness we’d expect from a character of his frame, but already we can reasonably predict that G, when all is said and done, will be the complete package, a worthy complementary piece to a single plotline of this most universal and relatable tale of robot vengeance. Thanks for asking.

Alex Siquig lives in Baltimore, drinks MD 20/20, and writes about things like Game of Thrones, the Willennium, and the life of Doug Funnie.

Disclosure: HBO is an initial investor in The Ringer.