So fans weren’t completely surprised when the August 14 finale of the hit HBO series ended on a cliffhanger. In the overcrowded episode, Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) saw the error in her ways and tried to set things right by William (Ed Harris) of entering the Sublime. But before Charlotte crushed William’s pearl – and her own – she set in motion one last game: she gave Dolores/Christina (Evan Rachel Wood) the option to start a new world.
Dolores then returns to Westworld in her blue dress and says to the camera, “One last loop around the bend.” At this point, fans were basically yelling at their TVs, “What does this mean!?!”
Well, executive producer Lisa Joy gives nothing away. But she understands the frustration with the show’s hidden meanings and existential themes. “I want answers too,” she told E! News August 15, “as just existentially speaking.”
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“I have my own beliefs about what makes life meaningful,” she continued. “But I also think that asking is part of life, right? I had a lot to do with Dolores and Maeve’s battle in the first season.”
Lisa noted that when she and co-creator Jonathan nolan started working for the first time west world, she had just finished writing for a show with a predominantly male writer’s room. This experience left her feeling demoralized, as did Maeve and Dolores, who were seen by other characters in the early episodes as only damsels in distress. “Did I have the answer on how to feel no pain, not feel marginalized, be in complete control of myself, and be truly confident in everything I was in?” said Lisa. “Absolutely not.”
While this doesn’t sound reassuring at all, Lisa said that by asking herself these big questions, she realized she wasn’t alone. “There is camaraderie in asking the same questions and sharing 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 keep repeating past mistakes, but Lisa, always an optimist, explained that there is always a silver lining.
She pointed out that Charlotte Hale and William were trapped in their own loops until Charlotte was willing to destroy the world she had created. In doing so, she gave Dolores the opportunity to make a better place.
This is nice for Lisa, because it means that change is possible. “I think destruction is the way of all things,” she said. “So to fight that to create meaning and to try to build something beyond yourself, which is essentially what these hosts do – they try to set up regimes and try to set up life forms that can stay outside of 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 will remain so until HBO refreshes west world for another season.
But if this is the end of the line for the dystopian series, Lisa said she’s grateful for everything the cast has accomplished. “The actors have become such valuable, intimate friends and collaborators, so it really feels like we’re all asking the same questions and working together to tell a story that we hope will resonate with someone,” she said. “I just feel really, really happy with that collective experience. Honestly, it really meant a lot to me.”
All four seasons of west world streaming now on HBO Max.
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