Westworld (TV series)

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Westworld (TV series) title card.jpg
Created by
Based on Westworld
by Michael Crichton
Theme music composer Ramin Djawadi
Composer(s) Ramin Djawadi
Country of origin United States
Original language(s) English
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 4 (list of episodes)
Executive producer(s)
Producer(s) Athena Wickham
  • Mark Yoshikawa
  • Tanya Swerling
  • Stephen Semel
  • Andrew Seklir
  • Marc Jozefowicz
Running time 57–91 minutes[1][2]
Production company(s)
Distributor Warner Bros. Television Distribution
Original network HBO
Picture format 1080i (HDTV)
Audio format Digital
Original release October 2, 2016 (2016-10-02) – present
External links

Westworld is an American science fiction thriller television series created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy for HBO. It is based on the 1973 film of the same name, which was written and directed by American novelist Michael Crichton, and to a lesser extent on the 1976 sequel Futureworld. It is the second TV series based on the two films, the first being the short-lived 1980 series Beyond Westworld. Nolan serves as executive producer along with Joy, J. J. Abrams, Jerry Weintraub and Bryan Burk, with Nolan directing the pilot. The first episode premiered on October 2, 2016. The first season consists of ten episodes.[3]

The program takes place in fictional Westworld, a technologically advanced, Western-themed amusement park populated completely by synthetic androids dubbed "hosts". Westworld caters to high-paying visitors dubbed "newcomers" (also known as "guests"), who can do whatever they wish within the park, without fear of retaliation from the hosts.

The series' debut on HBO garnered the network's highest viewership ratings for a premiere since the first episode of True Detective in 2014. Westworld has received positive reviews by critics, particularly for its visuals, story, acting, thematic elements, and world building.


Main cast[edit]

  • Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores Abernathy, as the oldest host; she is a Western girl who discovers her entire life is an elaborately constructed lie.[4] Her aesthetic drew influences from Andrew Wyeth's painting Christina's World as well as Lewis Carroll's Alice.[5]
  • Thandie Newton as Maeve Millay, a host; she is the beautiful and sharp madam of Westworld.[6]
  • Jeffrey Wright as Bernard Lowe, head of the Westworld Programming Division and creator of artificial people.[7]
  • James Marsden as Teddy Flood, a host; he is a newly-arrived gunslinger in pursuit of a local beauty.[8][9]
  • Ben Barnes as Logan, a veteran guest; he is a louche bachelor. His hedonistic romp through Westworld is equally motivated by self-indulgence and a desire to help his friend and brother-in-law, William.[10]
  • Ingrid Bolsø Berdal as Armistice, a host; she is a brutal and ruthless bandit.[7]
  • Clifton Collins Jr. as Lawrence, a host; he is a charming but lethal outlaw, with a knack for maneuvering and negotiating the various criminal elements of Westworld.[11]
  • Luke Hemsworth as Ashley Stubbs, the no-nonsense head of Westworld security, charged with monitoring Host and human interactions and ensuring the safety of the Guests.[12]
  • Sidse Babett Knudsen as Theresa Cullen, Westworld's terse operations leader, responsible for keeping the park from sliding into unscripted chaos.[11]
  • Simon Quarterman as Lee Sizemore, Westworld's narrative director, whose artistic temperament aggravates his co-workers.[7]
  • Rodrigo Santoro as Hector Escaton, a host; he is a wanted man bent on survival.[12]
  • Angela Sarafyan as Clementine Pennyfeather, a host; she works for Maeve and is one of Westworld's most popular attractions.[7]
  • Jimmi Simpson as William, a reluctant first-time newcomer to Westworld, joining his friend, Logan. Initially dismissive of the park's more lascivious attractions, he slowly uncovers a deeper meaning to the park's narrative.[11]
  • Shannon Woodward as Elsie Hughes, a rising star in the Programming Division tasked with remedying odd behavior in the park's artificial beings.[12]
  • Ed Harris as the Man in Black; a mysterious, sadistic rich guest of the theme park who is searching for a "deeper level" in the park.[13] Outside of the park, he has achieved prominence as the owner of a medical foundation.[14]
  • Anthony Hopkins as Dr. Robert Ford, the brilliant yet mysterious creative director of Westworld.[4]

Recurring cast[edit]


No. Title Directed by Written by Original air date Prod.
U.S. viewers
1 "The Original" Jonathan Nolan Story by : Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joy and Michael Crichton
Teleplay by : Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joy
October 2, 2016 (2016-10-02) 276083 1.96[18]
Teddy arrives on the train to see Dolores. The Man in Black kills Teddy and seemingly rapes Dolores off-camera, as he has done many times before. He is searching for the deepest level of the game and later scalps Kissy to obtain the map of a maze. The Sheriff glitches and Walter, a bandit, goes off script killing hosts. Bernard traces the problem to errors in Dr. Ford's reverie code which gives hosts subconscious access to past memories to make their behaviors more lifelike. Cullen orders Hector and Armistice's attack on the town be brought forward to cover for the removal of all the affected hosts. Dolores' father Peter finds a photograph that a newcomer left behind and malfunctions. He tries to warn her about Westworld whispering "these violent delights have violent ends". She heads to town for help and Teddy is killed protecting her during the attack. Dr. Ford interrogates Peter who quotes Shakespeare and vows revenge upon his creator. Stubbs interrogates Dolores who says the photo meant nothing to her, she is fine and wouldn't lie or hurt a living thing. Dolores is wiped and relives her day with a new father. She casually kills a fly that annoys her.
2 "Chestnut" Richard J. Lewis Jonathan Nolan & Lisa Joy October 7, 2016 (2016-10-07) (online)
October 9, 2016 (2016-10-09) (HBO)
4X6152 1.50[19]
Logan comes to Westworld for a good time and has little time for the role playing or hosts otherwise. His friend William disapproves and interacts with Dolores, as Teddy has been killed. Elsie is worried Peter may have corrupted Dolores' programming. Bernard secretly questions Dolores to make sure nobody has tampered with her. Cullen visits Bernard for sex. Dolores hears Bernard's voice telling her to dig up a gun buried in the yard and is experiencing flashbacks of the massacre in town. She whispers Peter's words to Maeve, who also begins having visions from past roles. Elsie fixes Maeve's personality and schedules her for maintenance so she can keep her role. Maeve wakes herself up from a nightmare of being attacked in the middle of surgery and panics. She sees damaged hosts, including Teddy, being hosed down. The Man in Black goes on a killing spree and abducts Lawrence from his own hanging, demanding that he tell him where the maze is. After he kills Lawrence's wife, their daughter warns the Man in Black the maze is not for him before giving him the clue to its location. Ford goes walking the desert by a Christian cross and controls a rattle snake with hand gestures. Ford vetoes Sizemore's new narrative calling it cheap titillation that underestimates the guests. Ford has his own secret project that they will use instead.
3 "The Stray" Neil Marshall Daniel T. Thomsen & Lisa Joy October 16, 2016 (2016-10-16) 4X6153 2.10[20]
After William is shot but only bruised, while getting involved in the action he drags Logan off on a quest. Dolores asks Teddy to leave with her now, but he has business to deal with first. She wants him to teach her to shoot but she can't fire the gun due to her programming. Ford changes Teddy's backstory for his new narrative. Instead of going to the homestead with Dolores, he joins a posse hunting Wyatt, an old army colleague who has gone rogue and is terrorizing the countryside. They find Wyatt's gang of fanatics but are outnumbered. Teddy tells a guest to flee and attacks but his bullets have no effect. Elsie discovers Walter was talking to an imaginary figure Arnold and killed hosts who had killed him in past roles. Ford tells Bernard that Arnold, who is dead, was his old partner who tried to make the hosts conscious using internal dialogues. Bernard is worried about the effect their conversations have had on Dolores but does nothing because she promises to keep quiet and follow her loop. Elsie and Stubbs are sent to capture a stray host. They find him trapped in a ravine and when Stubbs tries to retrieve his head, he wakes up and attacks them but then kills himself instead of Elsie. When Dolores arrives at the homestead the guest, whom Teddy had previously scared off in town, is with the bandits. One of the bandit hosts with the guest drags her into the barn to rape her. She steals his gun but is unable to shoot him until she sees him as the Man in Black. Dolores escapes, finds William and Logan's campsite and collapses in William's arms.
4 "Dissonance Theory" Vincenzo Natali Ed Brubaker & Jonathan Nolan October 23, 2016 (2016-10-23) 4X6154 1.70[21]
After rescuing Dolores, William decides to bring her along with him on his bounty hunt to keep an eye on her despite Logan's protests. William and Logan manage to capture their bounty after a firefight, but Logan betrays their guide and frees the bounty after he offers them a better deal. Horrified at Logan's casual cruelty towards the hosts, William decides to part ways with Logan. Meanwhile, the Man in Black follows the clues Lawrence's daughter gave him, and concludes that the bandit Armistice is the next clue due to her snake tattoo. The Man in Black helps her rescue Hector from prison in return for her telling him how she got the tattoo. Armistice then tells him that she adds to the tattoo whenever she kills one of the men responsible for killing her family, and the last person she is seeking is Wyatt. The Man in Black reveals he knows about Arnold before he decides to track Wyatt, and encounters a beaten and bloodied Teddy. In the control center, Theresa is concerned over the incident with the stray and puts the investigation into the glitches under the jurisdiction of the QA department. She then meets Ford concerning his narrative, and Ford warns her not to interfere with his plans. Back in Sweetwater, Maeve still has troubling visions of past memories. Believing that Hector has the answers she needs, she corners him and asks him about "The Shade". Hector mentions that it is a godlike deity the natives worship, and it visits people after their death. Remembering that she had been previously shot, Maeve cuts open her unscarred belly and pulls out a bullet, proving her suspicions correct before a force of marshals open fire on them.
5 "Contrapasso"[1] Jonny Campbell Story by : Lisa Joy & Dominic Mitchell
Teleplay by : Lisa Joy
October 30, 2016 (2016-10-30) TBA TBD
6 "The Adversary"[22] Frederick E.O. Toye Halley Gross & Jonathan Nolan November 6, 2016 (2016-11-06) TBA TBD
7 "Trompe L'Oeil"[23] Frederick E.O. Toye Halley Gross & Jonathan Nolan November 13, 2016 (2016-11-13) TBA TBD
8 "Trace Decay"[24] TBA TBA November 20, 2016 (2016-11-20) TBA TBD
9 "The Well-Tempered Clavier"[25] Michelle MacLaren Dan Dietz & Katherine Lingenfelter November 27, 2016 (2016-11-27) TBA TBD
10 "The Bicameral Mind"[2] Jonathan Nolan[26] TBA December 4, 2016 (2016-12-04) TBA TBD


Conception and development[edit]

Michael Crichton
Michael Crichton, the creator of the 1973 film that the series is based on.

Warner Bros. had been considering a remake of Westworld since the early 1990s and after the departure of studio executive Jessica Goodman in 2011, the project was again under consideration.[27] On August 31, 2013, it was announced that premium cable channel HBO had ordered a pilot for a potential television series version of the story, with Jonathan Nolan directing and co-writing with Lisa Joy. Nolan, Joy, J. J. Abrams and Bryan Burk are executive producers.[28] HBO later announced that Westworld had been taken to series and that it would premiere in 2015.[29] In August 2015, HBO released the first teaser which revealed it would premiere in 2016.[30] It is the second series based on Crichton's original story after the 1980s Beyond Westworld, which aired only three episodes on CBS before being cancelled.[31]

Abrams suggested that the show be told with the perspective of the "hosts" in mind.[32] Nolan took inspiration from video games like BioShock Infinite, Red Dead Redemption and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim to deal with the narrative's moral component on a spectrum.[33] He explained the show would explore why "violence is in most of the stories we like to watch, but it isn't part of what we like to do" through the characters known as guests, who give payment to satisfy those urges.[34] The autonomous existence of non-player characters in video games influenced the approach to the individual storylines in Westworld that are reset in a continuous loop.[35] "These violent delights have violent ends" –[36] a recitation from William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet – is made part of the show as a virus trigger within the hosts, which alters how they perceive their existence.[37] Asked whether the Roman Empire or Middle Ages-themed worlds from the original film would appear in the show, Nolan counted them out as possible new settings.[38] George R. R. Martin met with Nolan and Joy to pitch them the idea of a Westeros-themed setting featuring androids based on Game of Thrones characters.[39] Ed Brubaker served on the writing staff as supervising producer,[40] co-writing the fourth episode with Nolan.[41]


The ten episodes of the first season were reportedly produced on a budget of approximately $100 million, with per-episode budgets somewhere in the neighborhood of $8 million to $10 million. HBO and Warner Bros. Television shared the cost of producing the series; HBO reportedly also paid an undisclosed licensing fee to Warner Bros. Television for broadcast rights.[42]


Anthony Hopkins and Evan Rachel Wood were the first cast members to be formally announced, taking on the roles of Dr. Robert Ford and Dolores Abernathy, respectively.[4] Jeffrey Wright, Rodrigo Santoro, Shannon Woodward, Ingrid Bolsø Berdal, Angela Sarafyan, and Simon Quarterman were all announced as cast members in August 2014.[7] James Marsden and Eddie Rouse were also added to the cast.[8] Ed Harris was cast in a key villain role, known only as the Man in Black.[13] Other roles were filled by Demetrius Grosse, Kyle Bornheimer, Currie Graham, Lena Georgas, Steven Ogg, Timothy Lee DePriest, Ptolemy Slocum, Thandie Newton, and Miranda Otto.[6][17][9][43] In July 2015, it was announced that Otto had departed the show due to her commitments to the fifth season of Homeland and she was replaced by Sidse Babett Knudsen. Additionally, three others were cast; Eion Bailey, Jimmi Simpson and Clifton Collins Jr.[11] Bailey was later replaced by Ben Barnes.[10] Talulah Riley was revealed to have a role as one of the hosts after her ex-husband Elon Musk had stated so on Twitter.[44]


Castle Valley in Utah is one of the filming locations.

Filming for the show's pilot episode took place during a 22-day period[45] in August 2014 in and around Los Angeles[46] as well as Moab, Utah.[47]

Filming locations in California included various soundstages, backlots at both Universal Studios and Warner Bros., the Paramount Ranch in Agoura,[48] the Melody Ranch in Santa Clarita,[45][49] and the Pacific Design Center in West Hollywood.[50] The Melody Ranch set used for the town of Sweetwater had been used previously for many western films, such as Django Unchained and The Magnificent Seven, but was significantly upgraded for Westworld by production designer Zack Grobler to portray an idealized version of the American frontier.[49] Green screens were placed around the California sets to block modern objects like parking lots, so that the California shots could be later merged digitally with exterior shots from Utah.[49]

For the show's large-scale exterior look, the producers drew inspiration from the work of John Ford, who shot his last four films in Castle Valley, east of Moab.[48] In the spring of 2014, Nolan visited southern Utah with key crew members and a location scout to explore the possibility of filming there, and promptly fell in love with the place.[47] Location shooting for the pilot episode later occurred over five days in southern Utah,[47] including Castle Valley.[48] Most Utah locations, like Dead Horse Point State Park, were "walk-in" areas where both cast and crew were required to hike in and out with all their gear.[47] Horseback riding scenes were filmed at a private ranch, where the filmmakers were not subject to as many restrictions as when working on public land.[50] To seamlessly blend California sets with Utah scenery, set walls were shipped to Utah so that they could be used to film reverse angles of scenes originally filmed in California.[50] For example, conversations on the exterior balcony of Westworld's operations center were shot on a balcony at the Pacific Design Center facing towards the center, then reverse angles over the shoulders of the cast members were shot at Dead Horse Point, to make it seem as if the operations center was located on top of the state park's steep cliffs.[47][50] The train interior scenes were created by mounting the entire train car set on the back of a flatbed truck and driving the truck back and forth along Utah State Route 128.[47]

The 3D printing of hosts was shot utilizing almost entirely practical effects, with some of it polished by the visual effects team.[5]

Title sequence[edit]

The series' title sequence was created by production studio Elastic, which had previously created the title sequences for Rome, Carnivàle and Game of Thrones for HBO. Patrick Clair acted as creative director for the title sequence,[51][52] which took about five weeks to conceptualize.[53] Clair met with Nolan and Joy in February 2016 to discuss its development. He was interested in their decision to approach the show's point of view from that of the hosts, deeming the result an inherent psychological study. Upon its inception, the sequence would translate elements present in the series via computer-aided design. For example, once Clair was sent footage by composer Ramin Djawadi of a player piano in motion, its actual counterpart, situated in the Westworld production office, was photographed and then reconstructed in computer-generated imagery.[53][36] Nolan also applied it in reference to Kurt Vonnegut's first novel Player Piano, meant to represent the first Rube Goldberg machine to invoke an emotional response.[37] Clair saw the metaphor behind the player piano – "a primitive form of robot" – as an exploration into the disparity between man and machine, "being created to be made redundant". Hosts that were bathed in white liquid struck him as a juxtaposition between the grit and grain of the Western genre and its basis in science fiction. Motifs of Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man came about from Clair's wish to convey Westworld's depiction of the naked human body.[36] It commences with the ribcage of a horse, and then a set of hosts manufactured by industrial robots. The skeletal horse is shown in gallop to subvert the iconography of such a depiction.[53] As for his efforts in exposing the Western landscapes in connection with a world of robotics, he thought it sensible that it be done inside a single eye; craters and valleys are formed as the simulacrum of an iris.[36]


Ramin Djawadi
Ramin Djawadi is the composer of Westworld

The music is composed by Ramin Djawadi, who also worked with showrunner Nolan on the TV series Person of Interest.[54] The main theme blends the use of bass notes, light arpeggios and melody, all of which complement the "theme park aspect", says Djawadi.[55]

In an interview, Djawadi spoke about the modern songs used in the show. He stated, "The show has an anachronistic feel to it, It's a Western theme park, and yet it has robots in it, so why not have modern songs? And that's a metaphor in itself, wrapped up in the overall theme of the show."[56] The feature was invented by Nolan.[57] Player piano renditions featured in Westworld include Radiohead's "No Surprises"[58] and "Paranoid Android", Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun", The Rolling Stones' "Paint It Black",[37] Scott Joplin's "Peacherine Rag" and Claude Debussy's "Reverie L.68".[59]


In North America, the series is broadcast on HBO in the United States and on HBO Canada in Canada starting October 2, 2016.[60][61] Internationally, the series was acquired in Australia by Showcase[62] with each episode screening at the same time as the U.S. broadcast.[63] In the UK and Republic of Ireland, Westworld is broadcast on Sky Atlantic beginning on October 4, 2016.[64] In order to avoid competition with the second U.S. presidential debate of 2016, HBO released the second episode to its subscribers via its online distribution channels on October 7, 2016, two days ahead of the episode's announced broadcast date.[65][66]

As noted earlier, the premiere of the series had viewership numbers on par with another HBO series, True Detective.[67] Michael O'Connell of The Hollywood Reporter notes that sources put the grand total for the night (combining HBO Go and HBO Now streaming content, up at 3.3 million viewers. ScreenRant's Michael Kennedy concurs with this comparison, adding that HBO must be breathing a sigh of relief, considering that the heavily-promoted Vinyl "failed to resonate" with subscribers, despite both series containing recognizable names in front of and behind the camera, and each costing close to $100 million to produce.[68] Mandy Adams, of iTechPost notes that "Emotional reactions on Twitter were estimated to be 545-percent greater compared to the debut of Vinyl and 326-percent higher than the latest The Leftovers season."[69]


Prior to the airing of Westworld, HBO held virtual reality exhibits at events like San Diego Comic-Con and Techcrunch Disrupt devoted to Westworld: A Delos Destination. Attendees were allowed to navigate the process by which guests would enter Westworld, and interact with the 3D environment. Made to run on the HTC Vive virtual reality headset, the piece was conceived by showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy. It was designed using Unreal Engine 4, combining computer-generated content and live action 360-degree video. The subjects received a binary code whose function permitted the access of the website Discover Westworld as part of the viral marketing. Visitors were privy to the trailer of a fictional travel site leading them to order a trip to Westworld.[37][70][71]


Critical response[edit]

Initial reception of the series has been positive, with particular praise for the visuals, story, thematic elements, and world building. After early reviews, the first season has a 90% approval rating based on 66 critics on the review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 8.2 out of 10, and an average episode score of 97%. The site's consensus reads "With an impressive level of quality that honors its source material, the brilliantly addictive Westworld balances intelligent, enthralling drama against outright insanity."[72] On Metacritic, the first season has a score of 74 out of 100 based on 43 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[73]

The editors of TV Guide has placed Westworld fifth among the top ten picks for the most anticipated new shows of the 2016–17 season. In writer Tim Surette's overall review, he notes the perfect concept of blending the western premise into a futuristic setting, saying that "Well, Westworld has both, ensuring that it will be an exciting mashup of genres that will disrupt a television landscape that typically says we can only have one or the other." He also added "The look of the show and its fine cast swing open the saloon doors, but the real treat will be the intelligent discussion of whether or not robots will eventually kill us all. Thankfully, creator Jonathan Nolan already showed us he's the go-to guy for A.I. with Person of Interest."[74]

Audience viewership[edit]

The U.S. series premiere attracted 1.96 million viewers, with 0.8 million in the advertiser-coveted 18-to-49-year-old demographic. The premiere episode received 3.3 million viewers for its three Sunday night airings as well as on HBO's streaming platforms.[75]


Year Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
2016 6th Critics' Choice Television Awards Most Exciting New Series Westworld Won [76]
California On Location Awards Location Manager – Television One Hour Mandi Dillin Pending [77]
Assistant Location Manager of the Year – Television David Park Pending
Television – One Hour – Location Team Team for Westworld Pending


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