So far, the trailers for HBO’s new series Westworld have left out one major detail: who’s a human, and who’s a robot?
It turns out, that was all on purpose. The show’s creators, Lisa Joy and Jonah Nolan, told the LA Times that they deliberately wanted to leave it up to the audience to figure out who exactly was a human guest or who was a robot (or, in the show’s parlance, a “host”) in the futuristic theme park meant to resemble the old west.
This is a direct separation between writer/director Michael Crichton’s original 1973 film which clearly delineated between the two.
The conflicted feelings of whoever turns out to be a human in the show are supposed to extend to the audience. To Joy, approaching the concept with that strategy had a precedent:
I think it goes back to the notion of romantic love, from the earliest myths, from Pygmalion and Galatea. You fall in love with this inanimate creature that you imbue with all your hopes and dreams. Oftentimes it’s narcissism, because you just want to see yourself in their eyes as something wonderful, and that’s what a lot of these guests are doing. They come to feel love, to feel special. I think that there is something enduring about that desire to be loved, unconditionally. It’s an unnatural thing. Another human can’t supply that because humans aren’t made to service each other’s fantasies. So they imagine a world in which a robot would do it. We take that a step further with their own personhood and things get a little complicated.
We know Dolores, the character played by Evan Rachel Wood, is an outed-host, and now we know that Thandie Newton’s character is, too. But actor James Marsden’s character Teddy Flood is only described as a “cowboy,” and Anthony Hopkins’s Westworld creator Dr. Robert Ford and Jeffrey Wright’s head of Westworld’s programming division Bernard Lowe remain a tantalizing mystery.
The most surprising revelation in the profile is that Ed Harris’s Man in Black might actually be a human guest. If so, that’s another huge change from the original movie, where Yul Brynner’s villain was a malfunctioning robot. If Harris turns out to be human in HBO’s Westworld it seems he’ll wreak havoc by trying to convince the hosts of their sentience to rise up against other humans.