By the time the finale of HBO’s “Westworld” rolled around, reviews of the final episode hit a sharp divide due to a very obvious reason – online fan speculation.
Like any story involving a mystery, some within the audience ignore taking the time to enjoy the journey and unravelling of the clues and want to jump right to figuring out the twists and sharing them with others – so they come up with numerous theories in their head so that when one turns out right they feel vindicated for their basic problem-solving skills.
The online community surrounding this show in particular took that to extreme lengths with hundreds of theories being thrown about and picked apart on Reddit, fansite boards and social media throughout the show’s run. As this was a weekly released show, as opposed to a ‘full season at once’ deal ala Netflix, it comes as no surprise that in the two month or so run that a small handful of these theories proved to be true.
That resulted in some being disappointed in the finale not living up to some of the more ridiculous and/or overly ambitious theories whereas many reviews from those who didn’t participate in the wild speculation were very pleased with it and had no such issue.
It’s the double edged sword of fandom-driven speculation in that it treats scripted series more like reality television in that the social experience is key to the fun, but you’re engaging more with the reception to the work as opposed to the actual work itself. With reality series it’s not a problem – it’s lowest common denominator material shot cheap and designed to be throwaway. “Westworld” on the other hand is as high production value as TV can get.
“Westworld” co-creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy are well aware of the fandom and speaking at this year’s SXSW, the pair say they are working on plans to engage with fans this time around to help shape the new season. In fact, they’re going to try something risky. He tells Polygon:
“There are lot of theories about Westworld’s first season that proved to be plot twists. I think for every fan theory, we actually had an episode that dealt with it. We’re figuring out how to sort of interact with that in the second season. A somewhat controversial plan that we’re working on; we’ll have an announcement about it in a couple weeks. It’s incredibly gratifying to see people put that much work – not just into deciphering the season, but the fan art and music. The creativity you see coming back at you when you’re making one of these things is extraordinary.”
“Westworld” returns with its second season on April 22nd.