If there's anything Westworld fans have come to expect, it's the unexpected.
So fans weren't entirely surprised to see the Aug. 14 finale of the hit HBO series end on a cliffhanger. In the jam-packed episode, Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) saw the error in her ways and attempted to right things by stopping William (Ed Harris) from entering the Sublime. But before Charlotte crushed William's pearl—and her own—she set one last game in motion: She gave Dolores/Christina (Evan Rachel Wood) the option to start a new world.
Dolores then returns to Westworld in her blue gown and says to the camera, "One last loop around the bend." At this moment, fans basically yelled at their TVs, "What does this mean!?!"
Well, executive producer Lisa Joy isn't giving away anything. But she understands the frustration with the show's hidden meanings and existential themes. "I want answers, too," she told E! News Aug. 15, "like just existentially speaking."
"I have my own beliefs on what makes life meaningful," she continued. "But I also think that questioning is part of life, right? I very much related to Dolores' and Maeve's struggle in the first season."
Lisa noted that when she and co-creator Jonathan Nolan first started working on Westworld, she had just finished writing on a show which had a predominantly male writers' room. This experience left her feeling demoralized, much like Maeve and Dolores, who were merely seen as damsels in distress by other characters in the first episodes. "Did I have the answer on how to not feel pain, to not feel marginalized, to feel totally in control of myself and really confident about everything that I was in?" Lisa said. "Absolutely not."
While this doesn't sound comforting in the slightest, Lisa said that in asking herself these big questions, she realized she wasn't alone. "There is a camaraderie in the asking of the same questions and the sharing of the same dilemma," she explained. "That in itself is a human condition that we all have, these certain recurring recursive struggles."
Again, it sounds pessimistic, the idea that we're stuck repeating past mistakes, but Lisa, ever an optimist, explained that there's always a silver lining.
She pointed out that Charlotte Hale and William were stuck in their own loops until Charlotte was willing to destroy the world she created. In doing so, she gave Dolores the option to make a better place.
This, to Lisa, is beautiful, because it means change is possible. "I do think destruction is the way of all things," she said. "So to fight that to create meaning and to try to build something that lasts beyond yourself, which is essentially what these hosts are doing—they're trying to set up regimes and trying to set up life forms that can last beyond themselves—I think there's a lot of nobility."
Whether Dolores will be able to do what Charlotte was incapable of remains a question, and it will stay that way until HBO renews Westworld for another season.
But if this is the end of the line for the dystopian series, Lisa said she's grateful for all that the cast has accomplished. "The actors they've become such valuable, intimate friends and collaborators, so it really does feel like we're all asking the same questions and working together to try to tell a story that we hope resonates with someone," she said. "I just feel very, very fortunate to have that collective experience. Honestly, it's been it's been really meaningful to me."
All four seasons of Westworld are streaming now on HBO Max.
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