Westworld producers on Elsie's fate, Maeve's tour
Plus, the 'Interstellar' and 'Westworld' movie connections you might have missed
The sixth episode of Westworld, called “The Adversary,” featured Elsie making a huge discovery, an extraordinary sequence with Maeve, and the introduction of Dr. Ford’s creepy robo-family. Below showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy answer some of our burning questions.
Entertainment Weekly: We get another trip down into the deepest levels of Westworld. I’m assuming that was mock-up of Yul Brynner from the Westworld film Bernard saw in the background?
Jonathan Nolan: It was indeed. It was a little tip of the hat. We didn’t want to feature it too heavily, we don’t want you reading too much into that.
Right. Because you’ve previously said the film’s events did not literally happen in your story. Later on, I loved this replica of Ford’s family hanging out in this hidden house, it seems like very weird therapy for him.
Nolan: We liked the idea that if you had the power to make people that you might indulge that in whimsical and weird ways. The show is very much about that god-like power.
Lisa Joy: It also speaks to Ford’s character. He’s been here so long, he’s seen employees come and go, and friends come and go, and he doesn’t seem to have that much family life. Yet this family that was created for him is like a perfect time capsule — a strange, disturbing time capsule. In a weird way, his sense of company is his former self. And the weird things that must occur… if you could talk to a simulation of yourself as a child, what are the things you would say? Would it change you now? Would that change the child? It’s that fractal-like effect of looking at yourself through a different time.
Nolan: We had a scene in episode 4 that we weren’t able to include for reasons of length. But in the beginning of the scene when Ford sits down with Theresa, and introduces the facility they’re in — it’s where the agave comes from, it’s where they make the house tequila. And he explains a little more about his personal life. He had been married but his wife expected to have children. But he already had children — the park was the world he wanted to build, and it was incompatible with the intimacy of a marriage and his own relationship. So he’s built company for himself here.
I loved the scene of Maeve walking around upstairs to the orchestrated version of Radiohead’s “Motion Picture Soundtrack,” it’s sort of like a redux of our introduction to the upstairs level in the season premiere, only this time done through a host’s point of view. Between the music and Thandie Newton’s performance in that scene, I think it elevated that moment to another level.
Joy: It’s one of those moments where you realize as a writer that sometimes the best thing you can do is step back and let the actors and the director and mood and the music [take over]. On the page, it sounds like a cool scene. But then you see Thandie’s performance, and Jonah is a huge fan of Radiohead and has been very involved with making all these musical calls. So Jonah cut it together with our amazing editing team and when I saw the scene I started crying — I had no idea it would be this emotional. I didn’t know it would be the most important scene of this episode.
She’s seeing scenes of hosts fighting, hosts in love, hosts being born and dead, scenes of nature — it’s summarizing the human experience and then it culminates with Maeve watching a trailer for her own life where she’s both a captive and the star. I thought it was terrific.
Nolan: It’s a beautiful piece of music. Chris Kaller, our music editor, found that version of the piece. We put it all together and what could have been a gotcha moment — oh, she realizes what this place is — there’s an emotional impact and there’s also a weird dark beauty to it. The bison being moved around, the hosts learning their behaviors … a huge amount of decoration and design when into this. It’s one of our favorite scenes.
There’s a certain amount of wish fulfillment in the sequence with Maeve and the body shop guys. I would love to make some changes to my 20-point Attribute Matrix. I freeze-framed the playback and looked at all the attributes and how they were assigned —it was a cool visual device.
Nolan: One of the things I loved was the language tree of her dialogue, when her scripted dialogue plays out. Our visual department and graphics people developed this whole beautiful interface. It’s building a little bit on an idea I put in the Interstellar script where you had a robot in that film with various [attribute] levels like humor — it’s one of the aspects of AI that made Lisa and I want to do this show. They look like human beings, but they’re not. Our wet-wear as human beings is still impenetrable. We’re only now beginning to discover about the way the mind works. We were talking to a neurobiologist at MIT and [he said we only understand] 5 to 10 percent of the human mind. When it comes to the hosts, we have to understand them, because we would have created them. And all of those variables have been carefully refined over years. The bodies themselves are sort of economy costs, they can rapid prototype a host body in a matter of hours. But their minds have thousands and thousands of person hours of programming have gone into honing their personalities … and now [the hosts are] getting a chance to tinker with it. For me personally, this is one of the ideas I get excited about by the show.
Nitpicky question though: Couldn’t the body shop guys just jack down Maeve’s levels to knock her out, and make some lobotomizing so-called “mistake” to take out her memory? We’ve been shown over and over the humans have so much control, it’s hard to believe they couldn’t get the upper hand on a rogue host.
Nolan: I will point you toward episode 8.
Ah! Okay. I was a bit disappointed to find out sweet Teddy is a psychotic killer. But I thought about it and I’m like: But wait, is he? Or is that just an expression of what Dr. Ford recently added into his backstory? In other words: Guys, what’s Teddy’s soul like?
Joy: That is a really great question. Ford has given Teddy an update with a new backstory that he believes. It’s a new cornerstone for him. So the question becomes: Who is he really? In the multitude of people that Teddy has been — the lovestruck and doomed gunslinger, the avenging dark man — ultimately where’s the center of that? That’s something we’ll keep exploring as we’ll go along.
Nolan: The tragedy of the hosts when we find them in the first season is they don’t fit the definition of anything. They’re not psychotic, or bloodthirsty, they’re not really any of those things — right up until that point when they start to develop their own personalities. Nothing we’ve seen them do is anything they haven’t been programmed to do. If Teddy is psychotic in one version of himself, it’s only because that’s what Ford or someone else has programmed him to be. You get into this delicious nature vs. nurture question here, that reflects back on human beings.
Elsie breaks every horror movie rule and goes into the dark creepy abandoned theater alone. How worried should we be about her?
Joy: I love Elsie’s character and I’m also worried about her character. She’s been fearless and asking questions she shouldn’t ask that are the exact ones I would ask in that situation. I’m hopeful she’s okay but worried she’s not.
Is Elsie your Westworld avatar, Lisa?
Joy: I feel like she would definitely be my Westworld bestie. If were there for months I would fully play board games with her when we were off shift.
More Westworld coverage: Check out our-deep dive recap here.