It’s been over a year since “Westworld” aired its Season 1 finale, and the time since has been largely quiet. Co-creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy are notoriously close-mouthed about plot details, so little is known about where Season 2 of HBO’s Emmy-winning blockbuster series is headed.
Well, shooting just wrapped, and with only a month to go before the show returns, it’s time to start teasing what’s next. The two creators joined their cast, including Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Jeffrey Wright, and James Marsden, at SXSW for a featured panel discussion, and they didn’t come empty-handed.
The group kicked things off by sharing footage from Season 2, including one scene and a brief, previously unreleased trailer. The panel ended with a surprise appearance by Elon Musk, but let’s get to the important stuff first:
Nolan, always hesitant to share story details (let alone footage), prefaced the new footage by requesting a favor. “Please don’t record it,” he said. “Please don’t share it. We put stuff in here we’re not ready to show. It’s just for you guys.” [Author’s Note: Apologies, Mr. Nolan, but this is my job.]
The first clip shown was a scene of Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and Teddy (James Marsden) holding three people prisoner. Two of the humans (it seems, anyway) stand on top of tombstones with nooses around their necks, while a middle-aged man is prepared for the same fate. Dolores address the latter figure, saying, “You’re in my dream,” before asking if any of them had ever questioned their reality; if they ever asked themselves “the price you’d have to pay if there’s a reckoning.”
As she put the noose around his neck, she says “That reckoning is here.”
Dolores then starts talking about her own identity; her own consciousness. “I have several minds about it,” she says. One is of the “rancher’s daughter” who wants to see the beauty in the people she’s about to kill. But then another part of her only sees the “ugliness and disarray.”
“But those are just the roles you forced me to play,” she says. “I have one last role to play: myself.”
The scene ended and a brief teaser began. Dead bodies populated so many spaces within the park and outside of it: Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) is seen waking up in the dirt where the party that ended Season 1 was held. More unmoving bodies were seen by a pool outside the park. Armed men in uniform (plus Tessa Thompson) were shown entering the park, guns drawn, and William (Jimmi Simpson) was seen in a clean black suit walking toward Dolores.
But the best was saved for last: a sneak peek at Shogun World. Led by new cast member Hiroyuki Sanada (“The Wolverine,” “The Last Samurai”), two samurai armies started fighting each other, and as the camera slid away from the battle, it showed Maeve walking into it — wearing a kimono and looking calm as ever.
So… What Does It All Mean?
Following the video, the cast had plenty to say about their characters, but the creators wouldn’t share one more word on Maeve, the samurai, or Shogun World — which was confirmed earlier as the new name of the park.
“Are we going to see any other Delos parks?” “Wired” moderator Jason Tanz said. Nolan purposefully sipped his water, avoiding the question, as Joy simply smiled and remained silent.
“They’ve erased our memories,” Marsden said, speaking for the cast.
Joy did shed a few vague tidbits for each character, though. She said with Dolores, she was asking herself “how to be a new type of heroine,” nodding to the scene shown where the renegade host asks herself very pointed questions about her identity.
As for Teddy, Joy said, “You see he’s not beholden to those archetypes of the unfeeling man who’s just shooting people; he’s got this deep feeling for the people in this world that he’s only beginning to acknowledge himself.”
Bernard, though, doesn’t know who he is, and thus his loyalties are divided. “He’s literally torn between two worlds,” Joy said.
Maeve, meanwhile, is up to no good. “I was really fucking cross with both of them,” Newton said about Nolan and Joy. “They forced [Maeve] to do shit [that I didn’t want to do]. I thought I owned this character, but by the end of the season, I was really humbled.”
A “Controversial Plan”
Nolan did manage to vaguely tease an idea, not a plot point. When asked about the onslaught of fan theories and how they can change the perception of the series, Nolan said he (and presumably HBO) has a “controversial plan” to engage with that section of the show’s audience.
“‘True Detective’ had a lot of theories that proved to be theories,” he said. “‘Westworld’ had a lot of fan theories that proved to be plot twists. […] We have a somewhat controversial plan we’re working on in terms of allowing people in.”
When asked if there was anything fans had missed, though, Nolan was quick to confirm.
“Oh yeah,” he said. “Tons and tons of stuff.”
Oh, Yeah — Elon Musk
Before the panel wrapped, Nolan said he had “a little special something” for the group in the room. Noting that “Westworld” isn’t a particularly “optimistic” show, he said he wanted to offer the SXSW crowd something positive “in the spirit of this place.”
With that, he invited the SpaceX founder onstage and shared a trailer he’d cut together of the company’s recent Falcon Heavy launch.
“There are a lot of negative things in the world. There are a lot of problems that need to get solved,” Musk said, introducing the trailer. “Life cannot just be about solving one miserable problem after another. There need to be things that inspire you and make you happy to wake up in the morning and be a part of humanity. That’s why we did this.”
Nolan, who was there for the launch of the rocket, said, “It’s not a trailer for a movie. It’s not a trailer for a TV show. We’re hoping this is a trailer for one part of the next chapter of the human story.”
— Westworld (@WestworldHBO) March 10, 2018
Go Back and Re-Watch the Pilot
After Nolan and Joy finished discussing the online fan theories, Wright interjected to say he went back and watched the pilot again after they finished shooting Season 2.
“There are things there,” Wright said, cryptically. “There are so many things there.”
“There are a lot of clues,” Wood said, noting how shocked she was to see how well the first episode foreshadows events to come in Season 2.
With six weeks to go until the premiere, it’s time to dig in again, folks.
“Westworld” Season 2 premieres April 22 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.