This opinion piece contains some plot details and speculation for the HBO series Westworld. So be warned, there be spoilers ahead.
I’m new here, so you really don’t know me that well. But believe it or not, I’ve spent nearly 20 years covering entertainment online, a little more than half of that covering spoilers.
So yes, it was so rare that a television show or movie that I was interested in surprised me, that when it did happen, it became such a special personal gift that I would cherish for a long time. And even if there was something I didn’t know for sure — like how Battlestar Galactica was going to end, for instance — I couldn’t share that speculation, because readers would believe I was sharing inside knowledge, and just pretending that I didn’t know.
Well, I haven’t covered spoilers since 2009, and I go out of my way since to not be spoiled. I enjoy the fun twists and turns television and movie writing takes the audience, and it feels so amazing to be part of that once again.
Yet, it doesn’t mean I don’t like to speculate. And after watching the second episode of HBO’s Westworld, the rarely used lightbulb in my head not only lit up — it freaking exploded.
First, one last warning. I’m going to talk about what I think is going to be the big twist of Westworld‘s Season 1. I have no inside knowledge. I have not corroborated this with anyone. And in fact, I could be very, very wrong. So if you don’t want any spoilers, including ones that are simply conjecture, then please stop reading. In fact, we have a cool story about some of the truth around Stranger Things on Netflix, which you can click here right now and be taken away from all this.
Still here? OK, good.
Now, I do believe I have cracked one of the major twists of the first season. I don’t think it’s going to be the primary head explosion moment, but it’s still one that will have you talking all week once this twist is revealed. If it even is the twist.
Anyway, I felt the second episode, “Chestnut,” was so much better than the premiere. And I have to admit, I watched the premiere a second time, and I really found myself slowly not only liking it, but loving it.
“Chestnut” was an episode you knew the writers had to include early on. How to people find Westworld? How do they get there? What’s it like to be a customer?
We find out through William, played by House of Cards alum Jimmi Simpson. And yeah, it’s no accident that he’s chosen a white hat (considering our bad guy, played brilliantly by Ed Harris, has donned the traditional western black hat).
William arrives with a friend, a veteran of Westworld, and finds himself in immediate culture shock. To the point that he’s trying to consider from the beginning what’s real and what’s not. In fact, the moment he walks into the main lobby, William meets a beautiful woman acting as his guide through the whole “choose your character” prologue. It’s not long before William (and probably rightfully so) realizes that this woman is not actually a woman, but one of the “hosts” — you know, the robots that populate the theme park.
That took me aback. While we would expect to see hosts in the actual theme park, it surprised me for some reason that they would also be part of customer intake long before they get into the park. Then again, why would it surprise me? What’s the point of hiring staff, when you can simply build one?
It’s funny, because the moment of realization about William’s tour guide, we had a chance to enjoy a great scene between Jeffrey Wright’s Bernard Lowe and Sidse Babbett Knudsen’s Theresa Cullen in his apartment that got me wondering: Who else isn’t real.
Before the show even started, I really had myself convinced that the old genius himself, Dr. Ford (Anthony Hopkins) was actually just a host. But a couple episodes in now, I think that would be far too obvious and cliche.
What if … and this is a big “what if” … what if it’s not Ford who’s the fake one, but Ford who is the only real one. All the employees you see working with Ford, working with the hosts … they’re hosts, too. And they don’t even know it.
A couple things pushed the theory for me. And that goes back to the woman who was introducing William to Westworld. Although she never says she’s not real, it’s obvious by her mannerisms that she is indeed a host. To me, that’s the writers’ way of saying, “Yep, you don’t have to limit hosts to just the theme park itself.”
If it makes sense to save money with literal hosts, why not with scientists? Why not with management? What if everyone working for Ford is actually a creation by Ford?
I have to admit, I don’t have a lot of evidence to support such a theory yet. But why should I? There’s only been two episodes. But you can’t deny wondering the same thing, right?
The woman meeting William is a big clue in that direction. But also, did anyone else think it was odd that Bernard actually lives in the complex? Sure, the complex could be way off the beaten path, and for the level of work that people like Bernard and Theresa do, they probably need to be as close as possible at all times.
However, keeping all the hosts close to home makes perfect sense. And the fact that Bernard lives at the complex (and what appears to be plenty of room for everyone else) does far more to support that theory than go against it?
Then again, if I were writing this story, this would be the kind of misdirect I would include. And I would love making my audience think they had it all figured out, just to pull the rug out from under them. And if you can’t think of the last time you saw a great misdirect, think all the way back to 1999’s American Beauty, when we got that awkward gay kiss between Kevin Spacey’s Lester Burnham and Chris Cooper’s Col. Fitts.
We had the rain, the motive, everything that screamed that scene in the garage was going to be the end of Lester. But then it wasn’t. Fitts, humiliated, leaves. And when Lester is shot like 10 minutes later, we’re running everyone through our heads as possible suspects except for Fitts, because we already had a juicy conclusion for him.
While I would love to be right on this, I also would love to have that rug pulled out. Those are the best kinds of twists, when you’re convinced you’re right, but you’re anything but.
We still have plenty more Westworld to come. And as long as the buzz stays strong from the premiere episode, it could be at least a few seasons more.
And I don’t know about you, but I’m excited about what comes next.
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