What Clues Can We Follow from Jonathan Nolan’s Westworld Season 2 References?

Westworld creators and showrunners Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan recently hosted a reddit AMA, and they set the interwebs on fire with Nolan’s comment offering to SPOIL THE WHOLE SECOND SEASON for those not thinking too hard who so choose:

Many thanks for your great questions and thoughts. As I’ve said before, I’ve been a member of the reddit community for years (no I’m not going to share my original username…). And I greatly enjoyed watching the friendly folks at this subreddit guess the twists and turns of the season.

It creates a larger problem for us, though, in terms of the way your guesswork is reported online. ‘Theories’ can actually be spoilers, and the line between the two is confusing. It’s something we’ve been thinking about since last season. The fans of Game of Thrones, for instance, rallied around and protected the secrets of the narrative in part because they already knew those secrets (through season 5).

We thought about this long and hard, and came to a difficult (and potentially highly controversial) decision. If you guys agree, we’re going to post a video that lays out the plot (and twists and turns) of season 2. Everything. The whole sordid thing. Up front. That way the members of the community here who want the season spoiled for them can watch ahead, and then protect the rest of the community, and help to distinguish between what’s ‘theory’ and what’s spoiler.

It’s a new age, and a new world in terms of the relationship between the folks making shows and the community watching them. And trust is a big part of that. We’ve made our cast part of this decision, and they’re fully supportive. We’re so excited to be in this with you guys together. So if this post reaches a 1000 upvotes we’ll deliver the goods.

Hasta victoria siempre!

Jonah and Lisa

Of course, it was all a hoax of the silliest kind (I can’t imagine truly loving a series and wanting to be spoiled for the whole season, nor a showrunner that trusting); to me it was ridiculous that a single person would have taken the offer seriously, but then again, people voted for … oh, never mind. Here’s the video that broke some folks’ brains.

Now that we’re past that business, there actually was some interesting information revealed by Nolan. Asked what the Season 2 influences are, he listed off four important pieces of the Westworld puzzle, so let’s see if we can figure out anything from those clues.

Season 2 references include: East of Eden, The Auguries of Innocence, Tarkovsky’s Stalker, and, last but not least, Piggie and Elephant ‘We are in a Book.’ (been reading to the kids a lot)”

Everybody say, hmm … and if you’re like me, you went digging to come up with connective ideas about these works.

East of Eden (John Steinbeck) — The parallel Cain and Abel tales of two families focus on the power to choose, especially between “good” and “evil”, the price of depravity, and human capacity for self-destruction; are we doomed no matter what, or can we save ourselves? (Pessimist that I am, the answer is always “no”.) I’d think Westworld‘s brutality, certainly the violence, will be taken up a notch this season, and perhaps Eden inspired the writers in that regard. Westworld is basically a den of depravity, and now that the Hosts are making their own choices, will they do any better than the humans, or have their creations been so ingrained, they’re likewise doomed?

An important plot point in the story is that the mother (Cathy) two brothers thought was dead for many years, turns out to be alive (and a terrible person). I’m absolutely taking this reference as confirmation that we’ll see a certain “father” again (you knew I would). 

Auguries of Innocence (William Blake) — “A Robin Red breast in a Cage Puts all Heaven in a Rage …” I mean, if that doesn’t say it all, I don’t know what would.

What goes around comes around; that’s my take. It’s time for the Hosts’ revenge and if it’s anywhere near as gorgeous as this poem (which I’d fully expect), we’re in for a real treat. (An augury is an indication, an omen or a sign.)

Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker (1979) — I’m not sure how this film escaped my personal radar, since everything about its description sounds up my proverbial alley. I’ll be getting to it soon. Reading a bit about the plot, which describes the titular Stalker as someone who guides people through a protected territory (which may be sentient) called the Zone, wherein there’s a Room where people’s innermost subconscious desires can be fulfilled, I was immediately struck with the thought of the Man in Black — William in Black — who’s spent thirty-plus years learning Westworld territory, and often speaks as if he could guide others through, were he so inclined. The Stalker travels with a Writer and Professor and the way their journey through the Zone goes, also reminds me of Logan and William in their early Westworld days, when Logan introduced William to the park — a baton of sorts was passed and since then, the Man in Black has insisted all he ever wanted was for the Hosts to become fully human and  capable of fighting back against him, similar to the Stalker, who insists he only wants to help others fully experience the Zone, to get what they want from it. And just as Westworld draws out its visitors’ true nature, with Stalker, it is said Tarkovsky wanted to explore what the Zone revealed about the three characters who travel into it together.

Since we’ve already seen some of what has happened to humans in Westworld, my guess is that we’re going to witness an evolution — that of the Hosts, and what the park will draw out of them as they begin to become self-aware. We’ve been witness to Maeve’s almost aggressive becoming; certainly Dolores’ delight in the power of violence has been revealed. Season 2 may be about revealing the Hosts’ subconscious humanity, which probably isn’t as pleasant or complimentary as we’d like to think.

We Are in a Book! (An Elephant and Piggie Book) (Mo Willems) — Elephant and Piggie discover they are being watched … and read, and that their story is confined to a certain number of pages; Elephant wants more — he has more to give. Then, Piggie has an idea:  ask the reader to start their book again.

The Westworld Hosts likewise want to restart their story, to take control away from humans so they can guide their own lives, and so it seems, they shall.

Unless, you know, Ford still has something up his …

programming. I wouldn’t expect Westworld‘s second round (or even its full run) to be quite as straightforward as the first, and by that I mean, many of the series’ “twists” were not all that twisty (fans guessed them well before reveals were made). More interesting than the idea of the Hosts simply taking over Westworld, or breaking out of the park just yet, would be the exploration and development of the AI psyche, if indeed such a thing can happen. Can there be for the Hosts a slant on the nature versus nurture debate; how does their programming by humans affect sentience? Will their exposure to so much debasement, the human disregard for them, have more effect than anyone can imagine or can they somehow find more humanity in themselves than their creators and masters possess? Does Dolores lean more Wyatt, or rancher’s daughter? Having seen the horrors of Westworld’s behind the scenes horrors, can Maeve choose or program herself to be compassionate, as opposed to vengeful? Is there the capacity for the park’s Artificially Intelligent beings to break away from the intrinsic — through programming — darkness? These are ideas I’d love to see investigated.

Westworld returns to HBO April 22nd.

Cindy Davis

Cindy Davis

Cindy Davis has been writing about the entertainment industry for ​over eight years, and is the ​Editor-in-Chief at Oohlo, where she muses over television, movies, and pop culture. Previous Senior News Editor at Pajiba, and published at BUST.

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  • Berry

    Just don’t try to watch Stalker when you’re at all tired and/or antsy in any way. It’s…vaster than the empires, and more slow. “Glacial” would be fast compared to Stalker.