8:58am PT by Josh Wigler
'Westworld': Looking Ahead at Season 2's Expanding World
[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the season finale of HBO's Westworld.]
The season finale of Westworld packed its fair share of gut punches and left turns, including the true nature of Robert Ford's (Anthony Hopkins) plan, Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) embracing her delightfully violent destiny, the Man in Black (Ed Harris) revealing who he really is beneath the hat and more. Some of those outcomes were predictable, if only in the sense that the show provided clues for fans to reach these answers well in advance of the mainstream audience. But there was one finale twist that must have blindsided even the most astute Westworld observer: The arrival of samurai warriors into the mix.
In the episode, called "The Bicameral Mind," increasingly self-aware host Maeve (Thandie Newton) executes an escape plan that takes her into a facility marked with the letters "SW," fashioned in a way that resembles the Westworld logo design. Inside, she sees countless hosts clad in samurai garb, boasting swords and armor, practicing their techniques. Maeve can't make heads or tails of the scene as it plays out in front of her, and when she asks trusted technician Felix (Leonardo Nam) for more information, he offers an aggravating answer: "It's…it's complicated."
Indeed it is, if only for the hosts. For the viewer, it's clear: Westworld is clearly not the only park in play on this show. There's also "Samurai World," a popular but still unofficial moniker for the world Maeve glimpses. And there could be even more: Felix later tells Maeve that he's located her daughter, and she's somewhere in "Park 1." One of how many, exactly? And what kinds of parks are we talking about?
While it would have taken an incredibly prescient mind to score "Samurai World" on the Westworld finale bingo card, it was less difficult to imagine the existence of multiple parks on the show. The idea has its roots in Michael Crichton's 1973 movie on which the HBO series is based. In the original Westworld, there are three parks in play: the obvious one, of course, but also Medieval World and Roman World. Up until the finale, there was little indication that multiple parks existed. But for their part, showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy never ruled out the possibility. In an interview with THR before the series premiere, when asked about the idea of Medieval World and Roman World specifically making their way onto the show, Nolan replied: "Ah…you'll have to stay tuned!"
Now that they can speak more freely, Nolan reveals that the multiple park structure was always on his mind: "One of the aspects of the original film that we loved is the idea that this is a place you can go where you can engage in whatever fantasy you want. Along the lines of asking if Westworld would be a great experience for women. There are aspects of going to the park that would appeal to everyone I think, regardless of gender or background. But there are other places here. This park contains multitudes. We hope to explore that in the seasons going forward."
As for the specific parks the show will be visiting? That's yet to be revealed. If the series channels the movie, it certainly wouldn't be HBO's first trip to Rome. The network is accustomed to medieval settings as well, thanks to a tiny little thing called Game of Thrones. In fact, author George R.R. Martin even pitched Nolan and Joy on the idea of a "Westeros World," lending a strong endorsement to an easy meme. But for her part, the show's original theorizer, star Evan Rachel Wood, doesn't believe Westworld the series will completely emulate Westworld the movie in regard to the parks.
"I'm curious to see what the other worlds are, aside from the one we saw in the finale," she told THR in an interview Monday. "I don't think they will be the same as the film, obviously. There are endless possibilities there."
For now, we know two: the so-called Samurai World, and the home turf seen throughout season one. Although perhaps even Westworld contains shades of the other parks. Recall the extravagant orgy at Pariah in episode five, "Contrapasso," and how it boasted an otherworldly feel. In the week that episode aired, when asked about the confusing sense of place in the orgy scene, series producer Richard J. Lewis said, "Sometimes, to me, it has almost a medieval flavor. You can't categorize it, because it's so uniquely strange and beautiful in a way."
Whether or not the orgy offered a glimpse at what to expect from Westworld's other worlds, Lewis said something at the time of the interview that's especially resonant now, given the finale's reveals: "I think that Jonah and Lisa believe the world is quite large. I think the park is maybe 300 square miles, or maybe even more. There are different topographies and different geological and weather areas. You can be in various different [locations]. It's not just a Western place. We will discover many different topographies as we get deeper into the series. There are a lot of hidden treasures to come."
The show unburied some of those hidden treasures in the finale, and speaking with THR, Nolan doubled down. "I've worked in television for years and I love all of the different ways you can build a show. But for the most part, you get through the pilot, you build your sets, you hire your cast, and it's working, and you just want to hang out in that moment and enjoy that moment with that iteration of the story you're telling," he said. "For Lisa and myself, with this show, we never had any intention of staying in one place. We don't want to shoot on the same sets for 10 years. We want to blow the sets up and move onto another piece of the story. So we said when we started working on the series that we wanted to be ambitious. We wanted each season to increase in that ambition and in the scope of the show. It also follows the story of our hosts. Their lives begin in loops, and then expand and change and grow. It's an origin of a new species. We want to follow that story all the way to the bitter end."
What are you expecting to see as Westworld expands its universe? Sound off with your theories in the comments, and check back with THR.com/Westworld for more coverage of the finale.