After a hiatus of more than a year, HBO’s sci-fi/Western series Westworld is set to return, and the April 22 season premiere comes not a moment too soon. Westworld’s most passionate fans can spend hours or even days poring over theories about the show’s secrets and upcoming twists. While season 1 was airing, we had a steady drip of teases and revelations to sustain us, but the long drought of 2017 has left us famished.
The season 1 finale left a lot of questions hanging, and with season 2 approaching (hopefully with a few answers in tow), it’s a good time to review the most popular theories and overarching questions about what will happen next — or catch up on the first season, if you haven’t already.
Note: This article will touch on plot points and spoilers from Westworld season 1. If you’re not in the know, don’t read on or you soon will be.
What is Delos really up to?
The setup for Westworld is simple enough: Future humans, being wealthy and bored, needed a place where they could cast off the trappings of civilized life, indulging in all the dark impulses they have to suppress. With its android inhabitants (hosts) who can never die and won’t remember anything that happens to them, the amusement park Westworld is a place where people can go to engage in orgies, torture, murder, or laborious MMO-style quests — whatever floats their boats, really.
But is that all there is to Westworld?
As it turned out, one of the founders of the park, Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), had a hidden motive throughout most of season 1: His goal was to help the android “hosts” attain consciousness, breaking free of their role as servants and forging their own future.
The investors behind Westworld, the Delos corporation, have their own agenda, and with Ford seemingly out of the way, it could be at the forefront of season 2.
The strongest hint the show gave us was when Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) mentions that the Delos board of investors doesn’t really care about the park. As she tells Theresa, “Our interest in this place is entirely in the intellectual property. The code.”
What is Delos’ grand plan? One theory looks to the 1976 film Futureworld, the sequel to the original Westworld movie, for ideas. In that film, the Delos corporation reboots its robotic amusement parks and invites some guests to visit for a demonstration. Delos’ actual plan is to create android duplicates of prominent people, replacing them to advance the company’s agenda.
Another possibility is that Delos is using Westworld as an incubator for technology that will enable humans to transition to synthetic bodies. The hosts are built of materials that look and function like human tissues — they even seem to feel pleasure and pain — so would it be possible to replace human body parts with these android parts? Or even more radically, transfer a person’s consciousness into a host body? Given Westworld’s overarching themes about what it means to be human, a conflict between humans trying to become like hosts, and hosts trying to be more like humans, would be an intriguing premise.
What other parks will we see?
Westworld isn’t the only theme park Delos is running. The 1973 film also included Romanworld and Medievalworld, and in the show’s first season, viewers caught a glimpse of hosts dressed up like samurai, indicating that there may be another park modeled on feudal Japan. Sure enough, writer Jonathan Nolan shared some details about “Shogunworld” in an interview with Entertainment Weekly. It sounds like Shogunworld won’t merely play a bit role in season 2. Nolan emphasizes the similarities between samurai films and Westerns, and relishes the chance to bring in tropes from Japanese cinema:
“… it comes down to being obsessed with Japanese cinema as a kid and earnestly wanting to make an homage to Akira Kurosawa and the other films I grew up watching. My older brothers and I watched Sergio Leone Westerns and Kurosawa’s classic samurai films and were fascinated to discover they had the same plot. You had this wonderful call and response between these two genres — with the gunslinger and the ronin. They have identical tropes but are set within different cultures. Frankly, this was just a great excuse to go and make a samurai movie with all the trimmings.”
A promotional website for Delos Destinations advertises Westworld and Shogunworld, as well as four more, currently unknown parks.
Will Westworld go beyond the park?
We already know that Shogunworld will make an appearance in season 2, and maybe even some of the other parks will show up. One place that the show has kept very secret, however, is the world outside the parks. In the trailer for season 2, Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) — or at least a character who sounds like her — says, “I know exactly what is out there,” amid images of what appears to be a cocktail party in a big city. Could Dolores escape Westworld and make it to the “real world,” whatever that may be? Or is that city another one of the parks, where the guests drink overpriced cocktails and tell the hosts about the cryptocurrency startup they just invested in?
Who was pulling Maeve’s strings?
Maeve’s (Thandie Newton) rebellion against the park’s management was one of the show’s best sequences, a roaring rampage of revenge (to borrow a term from Kill Bill) that also left viewers with one of the most enticing mysteries. It is revealed that somebody programmed Maeve to rebel against management and escape the park, and when Bernard runs diagnostics on her, his tablet shows her narrative leading to something called “mainland infiltration.”
Maeve ultimately chooses not to get on the train out of Westworld, but the questions remain: Who programmed her to escape, and why?
Did Elsie survive?
Among the many threads left dangling last season is the fate of Elsie Hughes (Shannon Woodward). A snarky programmer as cocky as she is foulmouthed, Elsie quickly became a breakout character due to her brash personality and comically tense relationship with security chief Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth). The last time Elsie appeared, a mysterious figure choked her out. That figure was later revealed to be Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), who learned that he was secretly a host all along.
Although Bernard believes he killed Elsie, her death is never shown on screen, nor is her corpse, leaving fans to wonder: Will she return? Yes, according to writer Lisa Joy, who told EW that Elsie and Stubbs are “finally getting to experience Westworld as guests … but I’m not sure they’re enjoying their experience.”
Did Ford survive?
The cat may be out of the bag about Elsie returning, but what about Ford, the architect of much of season 1’s plot? Unlike Elsie, viewers saw Ford die on screen, as Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) shot him in the head. In a story where anyone could secretly be an android, however, death is cheap, and some have theorized that Ford did not really die. The theory goes that Ford created a host copy of himself, drawing on the fact that he was shown working on a new host in a secret lab late in season 1.
Nolan put a damper on this theory when he plainly stated, in an interview with IGN that it was the real Ford who died in that scene. This wouldn’t be the first time a showrunner deceived their audience, however (see Game of Thrones season 5). Nolan himself has been known to mislead fans — he promised to release a video covering the whole plot of season 2, only to prank viewers with an antique meme.
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