‘Westworld’ Showrunners Are Cool With Fan Theories Being Correct

“We very consciously and deliberately dropped a trail of breadcrumbs” that fans were able to pick up on, co-creator Lisa Joy said

(Major spoilers for the “Westworld” Season 1 finale are below.)

Looking back on both the first season of HBO’s “Westworld” and the conversations that have surrounded it for the past 10 weeks, it brings to mind how many fans were spot-on in their predictions for a lot of the major events and revelations that were coming.

The most notable of those is the reveal on Sunday’s finale that William (Jimmi Simpson) and the Man in Black (Ed Harris) were, in fact, the same person and that we’d been simultaneously seeing stories from several different time frames. Maybe “revelation” isn’t the right word — “confirmation” is more correct, because fans had accurately theorized that plot point after the second episode, when William was first introduced. That connection felt clear in the past several episodes, even if nobody on the show was saying it outright.

We spoke with “Westworld” showrunners Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan about this phenomenon, and whether they found it irritating, disappointing, endearing or none of the above.

“The nice thing here,” Nolan said, “is we made all the episodes first, so we could just put them out there and watch what happens.”

What that means, obviously, is they didn’t course-correct because fans correctly guessed some of the show’s biggest revelations ahead of time. And they probably wouldn’t want to because all that fans were really doing was picking up on clues that had been left for them.

“We very consciously and deliberately dropped a trail of breadcrumbs,” Joy said, “both in the writing and the performance and the set design and even in the editing for the audience to be able to explore and understand the world in the same way in which the characters within it, the hosts within it, were learning the truth of their world.

“Some people figured it out earlier than the hosts and, in that case, I hope — and the intention would be — that you’re cheering for the hosts to realize the reality of their situation.”

It was a complex situation, Nolan said, because the fact that these major fan theories were so on-point meant that they could be construed as spoilers. He contrasted it to an adaptation of existing material like “Game of Thrones,” where everyone knows to some extent what’s a spoiler and what isn’t.

“Here they were theories, and they were talked about as theories, and I think that has the capacity to seep out to people who were coming to the experience totally fresh,” Nolan said, noting that all this stuff was ultimately a good thing. “It’s an understandable phenomenon — and a happy one. It’s very fortunate to have so many people inspired to talk about your show. That’s a great problem to have.”

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