If you haven’t caught up on this week’s Westworld on HBO, you may want to read something else, as this will dive pretty deep into the spoiler-pool. Yes, really.
If you haven’t watched s2e4 “Riddle of the Sphinx”, you probably will want to do that before you read any of what series co-creator Lisa Joy had to say about the episode, which she directed.
Hookay, so there were some pretty damn big reveals this week on Westworld, including but not limited to the actual identity of The Man In Black (he’s William) and just how deep the Delos plans for other business avenues. Turns out that one of the big secret research projects at Delos was the active rebuilding of their founder, the elder Mr. Delos who was William’s father-in-law and owner of the parks.
In an interview with Enterainment Weekly published just after the episode aired on east coast time, Lisa Joy answered some questions about the how and the why:
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The story of James Delos (Peter Mullan) was such a horrifying and mesmerizing tale. Can you first talk from a writers’ room standpoint about coming up with that?
Lisa Joy: [Jonathan Nolan and Gina Atwater] wrote this beautiful script, and we hinted at the real goal of the park as far back as season 1, how it’s one thing for the guests and something else for the owners, and you realize what they are doing in this park is far beyond just indulging people’s appetites for entertainment. And the big founder, patriarch, and mogul, James Delos, it’s his bid for immortality. And he’s determined to make a copy for himself, and of course, it’s taken some trial and error. You’ve seen the hosts in their loops before, and the humans are always in control. And somebody like James Delos is used to calling all the shots. So we loved the idea of having an episode that unfolded where you can see the tables are turned and now James Delos is on a loop, one he doesn’t understand and he’s not in control, where he’s now the victim.
EW: And connecting the loop aspect, you have William’s question to Delos, “If you can’t tell does it matter?” which is what Angela asked him in season 1. That’s basically the central question of the whole show, right?
Lisa Joy: Yes, right. It absolutely is. And to have it mimicked back to them. We’re asking questions about who are we, what qualities define us, are duplicable — even with the greatest of technologies — or is there something essential to us that we cannot replicate? It’s something we’re grappling with, this question, along with the nature of good and evil. For me, this episode was really fun because it took characters who were villains throughout all of season 1, and you don’t forgive them necessarily, but you can still empathize with them.
EW: Well, humans are empathy machines — as you once told me before season 1 began, not that you can tell by looking at Twitter. At first, I was wondering why they would burn the room rather than just switch him off and dump the body. Then in the end, it seemed clear you were going for a metaphor of him being in hell. But if was wondering if you came up with a technical explanation for why they had to refurbish that room with the same stuff 150 times?
Lisa Joy: Part of it is it’s just visually cool. You’re starting with him lighting a cigarette and the Rolling Stones song “Play With Fire.” He talks about devils and angels. I wanted to ask: Can you have sympathy for the devil? You see two elemental forces in this episode. You also see rain in Westworld for the first time with the battle with the Man in Black, a baptism in that fight scene. And then you see fire. Both can represent the cleansing away of the past, and the question is whether the past can really ever be washed away, or does it always repeat one way or another.
Needless to say, Westworld very much as our attention again. We can’t wait to see what happens next week when it airs on HBO on Sunday night.