Westworld is a series that thrives on fan theories and winding, uncertain twists, and now, one of its viewers’ biggest questions has been answered.
Showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy took questions about free will at a Paley Center event on Saturday, discussing whether or not Dolores' assassination of Robert Ford in the season finale was an example of a host discovering her ability to rebel. Joy deflected the question about programming versus free will by asking "Isn't it more fun to just guess?"
Nolan weighed in on the other major season ending twist, confirming that the host who made a genuine act of free will was actually Maeve, who rejects her Mainland Infiltration storyline and instead returns to the park to look for her "daughter". Nolan said he had been waiting for Reddit to figure it out.
“The way that we designed it and the way we shot it — really the first decision she’s ever made,” Nolan said. “For me, it’s a very emotional moment in the episode because you’re seeing the first free will.”
This arc ends the season with Maeve heading out to find Felix who she is told is currently in "Park 1," which may refer to the Samurai World we glimpsed during the shoot-out escape sequence. More specifically, her daughter is said to be in "Sector 15, Zone 3," which Reddit cross-referenced with the Bible. The equivalent Genesis verse reads: “And Abram said, ‘You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.” So, there's that delightful tidbit.
Nolan and Joy weren’t the only ones on stage. They were joined by Westworld stars, including Ed Harris, James Marsden, Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton and Jimmi Simpson, who took turns giving insight into their characters’ stories and where they think the show is heading. A frequent topic concerned the legions of fans who spent so much time online trying to connect Westworld’s dots.
For example, many fans are certain the answer to the question of free will is in the Debussy song “Reveries,” which is playing when the fatal shooting occurs. They believe it signals that Dolores might not be as independent as she would hope. For some viewers, this made the buildup of the entire season arc seem like a strange subversion of attention.
As the night waned on, Nolan, Joy and the rest of the cast moved away from conversations about free will and hosts to talk about other interesting aspects of the show.
Nolan and Joy discussed major themes of series, including their love of video games and how the original Westworld film was such a draw for expanding into a TV show. Nolan said he believed Michael Crichton tried to pack too many ideas into a 90-minute run-time. The showrunners also discussed how J.J. Abrams was the first to suggest the show be told from hosts' perspectives instead of park guests.
Nolan and Joy also mentioned how they brought over Ramin Djawadi from Game of Thrones for Westworld’s soundtrack. Ramin approached them with a pitch based on "being good at guitar,” and then they said,"Fix this for piano." The result is the rock 'n' roll player piano covers that fans have come to love.
The actors revealed that they rarely were given scripts before a shoot, and sometimes were even learning about major twists in scenes while they were shooting. They, too, would spin theories about what was going on amongst themselves, often around production people who knew more of the twists than the performers. Jimmi Simpson (who auditioned for all the major male roles in the show) and Ed Harris were unaware they were playing the same character until a stylist started plucking Jimmi's eyebrows in a different way to more closely appropriate Harris' look.
Finally, Thandie Newton mentioned her in-show rivalry with Evan Rachel Wood. They often shot on alternate days and would hear reports of how impressive the other actress had been in her scenes, pushing them to elevate their acting accordingly. Newton, who publicly campaigns to stop violence against women, was at first uncomfortable with portraying a naked whorehouse proprietor in an elaborate male fantasy, and took the most convincing of anyone in the cast. But she said she’s quite happy with her decision to go ahead.
Westworld returns in 2018, so there’s plenty of time to keep flooding Reddit with your theories.