During the climax of the first season finale of HBO’s Westworld, Maeve, seemingly sentient (Thandie Newton), makes her escape. With fellow bots Hector and Armistice, as well as bumbling but well-meaning engineer Felix in tow, she travels through a section of the park’s massive Mesa Facility that the audience had ever seen before. Instead of robot gunslingers testing their marksmanship or automaton cowpokes trying their mechanical hand at poker, the hosts on the scene are Samurai warriors swinging swords at one another. Maeve asks Felix what this all is, and he gives her a perfect but typically cryptic answer: “It’s complicated.”
The existence of Samurai World would mean that there are multiple parks within the world of Westworld. And if you’re skeptical about that, peep the note that Felix gives Maeve about her daughter that specifically indicates she’s in “Park 1”). Now, we are left to wonder whether the show will actually explore Samurai World — and other alternate history parks — in its second season. This possibility offers both pros and cons for an already complicated show, and here is a brief overview of the creative cost-benefit analysis.
It Expands the Scope of the Show
There has been so much fan chatter about how big the supposedly continent-sized park of Westworld truly is, so much so that there’s been some speculation it isn’t even located on Earth. While the big Season 1 finale didn’t spill the beans about Westworld’s exact galactic location, it did indicate that there’s somehow room for at least one more park.
The big potential Samurai World reveal is a tantalizing validation of that speculation. The moment where Maeve, Hector, Armistice, and Felix walk in between Westworld and Samurai World, and Armistice stops to look at the vast Delos facility somewhere means there could be endless possibilities for exploring alternate worlds in future seasons. This gives the creators a vast and intimidating canvas with which to tell their story, but the breadth of those kinds of options makes it easier to expand on the introductory themes explored in of Season 1.
The Delos board of directors wanted to steal Ford’s IP from him, and part of that is perhaps expanding their lucrative fantasy theme park, with places like Samurai World prime examples of the more feasible possibilities. Ford recognized the mistake of robot consciousness in one world and in the end didn’t want to be responsible for making the same mistake again and again in whatever world the Delos engineers cook up next.
Establishing new parks might be a tall order for a show that can only be told in ten, one-hour episodes, so it makes sense that all this artificial intelligence craziness could be better explored in even more hours in a completely different show.
Spin-offs don’t carry the same cheaply opportunistic stigma they once did, with examples like Rogue One proving you can pull if off with gusto on the big screen, and others like Fear the Walking Dead showing that they have a great place on TV. HBO has even hinted that they’re more than willing to expand upon their other huge series, Game of Thrones, once that show wraps up after eight seasons. But since they know they have a bona fide hit on their hands with Westworld, being proactive and mixing it up with another show is the best way to go. The original movie did it, so this can do it too.
It’s Too Lofty, Even For Westworld
No one could plausibly say Westworld isn’t an ambitious show. To expand out to two or three new worlds would take things to an absurd level and might risk losing the show’s central conceit. Viewers might get too lost in the game, just like the Man in Black, or too obsessed with decoding the little signals and signs dropped throughout the episodes. Imagine all the fan theories!
It’s easy to forget that this whole mess is basically about an amusement park where guests go on id-satisfying adventures. Reiterating that by relying on multiple settings would get redundant. Introducing Samurai World and beyond would reduce Westworld to mere novelty, which isn’t exactly a good thing in a show called Westworld.
The main narrative thrust all ties back to Delos and their big endgame. Passing mention of multiple parks, as was done in the finale, could be used to harp on the themes of their greed rather than actually spending time introducing new characters and new storylines in separate parks. Better to stay focused than to wander off into uncharted territory.
It Distracts From the Strengths of Season 1
It’s true that finding out there are multiple worlds behind closed doors in the Delos facility is kind of like robots finding out that their reality is a sham. Realizing what the SW logo meant when Maeve and her robo-squad marched into those doors and found samurai robots is shocking for sure, but are we to believe that the impact of Ford’s weighty decision at the end of Season 1 is meaningless, since it’s too late to keep host consciousness contained to one park?
There are way too many important story arcs left from Season 1 tied to the Old West, and wasting time on introducing new ones would just kind of belittle the puzzle of what was set up in the first season.
Photos via HBO