[SPOILERS for those not caught up on Westworld ahead.]
Both Westworld the 1973 movie and the HBO TV series bear enough surface-level similarities to Jurassic Park to make for a funny College Humor comparison video, in no small part because the late Michael Crichton wrote/directed the 1970s film and co-wrote Steven Spielberg’s dino adventure, based on his own novel. However, the Westworld TV series has been quick to put to bed any concerns that it will simply be a rehash of a familiar story about the attractions at an amusement park “malfunctioning” due to factors such as corporate malfeasance and greed.
The Westworld TV show has instead focused on the very nature of narrative; not only the narrative loops created for the hosts/robots in Westworld by the park’s co-founder Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), but also the narrative loops that those characters who reside outside of the park find themselves living in. That theme has been explored in-depth during Westworld‘s freshman season through the plot threads that revolve around two of the park’s hosts – Maeve (Thandie Newton) and Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) – as well as that revolving around the Head of the Westworld Programming Division, Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright).
We now know that Bernard is not only a host himself, but was in fact modeled after Ford’s late partner and Westworld co-creator, Arnold; something that a number of fans had guessed would prove to be the case, before Westworld season 1’s penultimate episode, ‘The Well-Tempered Clavier’, confirmed the theory. HBO has now released a featurette for the episode (one that you can watch above); where Wright, along with Westworld co-creators Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan, not only discuss what the reveals about Bernard say about him as a character, but at the same time the bigger (read: philosophical) questions that they raise in the process.
The subtext to Westworld and its portrayal of hosts, guests and those who run the Westworld park itself have had a meta quality throughout the show’s first season, with more than a few viewers (and critics/writers) at home having now noted the parallels between how the Wesworld park is run and how an actual TV series operates. As Wright, Joy and Nolan note in this video, the series’ multiple timelines and concepts such as “cornerstones” also encourage the show’s viewers to not only think about how characters on Westworld construct their realities, but how everyone watching does so in (unnervingly?) similar ways.
Westworld, in that respect, has so far succeeded at doing what the best kind of storytelling has always done: offering multiple layers of thematic meaning for those following along to analyze and/or contemplate, as they deem fit. Lest anyone immediately dive too deep down the rabbit-hole of questioning their own existence like Bernard does on the show though, for now it’s probably best to wait and see how Westworld resolves these plot/thematic throughlines with its season 1 finale – at the same time, setting up for what will hopefully be an equally fascinating puzzle box of a second season.
Westworld season 1 concludes with ‘The Bicameral Mind’ @9pm on HBO on Sunday, December 4th.