Westworld was undoubtedly one of fall television's biggest breakouts. It raked in both critical praise and knockout ratings throughout its freshman run, and by the time it wrapped in early December, it had earned place as HBO's most-watched first season ever — an impressive feat against a sister show as venerated as Game of Thrones.
The show's success can be attributed to a variety of factors — high-grade cast, stunning cinematography, compelling, twist-packed narrative — but among the show's most talked about draw-ins were the rabid fan theories that emerged in each episode's wake. To viewers' delight, many of them were proven true, and though the season finale helped wrap up most loose ends, it also introduced a fresh one.
Maeve, a rogue android host played by Thandie Newton, plotted a triumphant escape from Westworld only to discover she'd been programmed to do so all along. But just as she was about to make her grand exit on the train, she made a last-minute decision to run back into the theme park and find her long-lost daughter. Many fans postulated that the move meant Maeve had finally overwritten her code and made her first free-will decision, and now the Westworld team has addressed it.
During the show's recent PaleyFest panel moderated by EW, creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy confirmed the theory was correct:
“The way that we designed it and the way we shot it… that is 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 freewill.”
As for if Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) achieved consciousness when she shot park creator Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), however, Nolan remained tight-lipped. "Isn’t it more fun to just guess?" he asked.
But whether or not Dolores was operating on her own accord ultimately doesn't matter. The reveal proves achieving free-will is possible for the robots of Westworld, and Maeve is now headed back into the park free from control. If she realizes what that power brings — or more importantly, how she tapped into it — it could lead to a real android revolt.
It also demonstrates just how on-the-nose viewers have been all season. In a recent interview, Nolan even went as far as to say that they were re-writing a part of the forthcoming season 2 because Reddit's online community had already pieced together one of the twists. Not only does the Maeve confirmation give fans a good sense of where Westworld's next chapter could be headed, it means they're more in touch with the series' mysteries than that may think, which will make for a fascinating watch both on and off screen when Westworld returns.
An official premiere date for Westworld season 2 has not been announced, but HBO is currently aiming for a 2018 debut.