With Westworld now two episodes into its fourth season — and its seven-year time jump established — it’s clear that the HBO Max sci-fi series is navigating some fresh terrain as far as its setting goes. But for all the newness, there’s no escaping a certain… familiarity that hovers over certain scenes.
As part of a recent press roundtable interview, Gizmodo got a chance to ask Westworld executive producer, writer, and showrunner Alison Schapker about how season four subverts some of the show’s best-known tropes. (HBO Max’s own marketing hasn’t hidden the fact that Aaron Paul’s Caleb and Thandiwe Newton’s Maeve will be paying a visit to a 1920s gangster-themed Delos park this season, so no spoiler fears here!) We also asked Schapker about how the show’s writers decided how much of the show’s past to bring into its present, while also moving the story forward.
“I feel like in some ways, the show’s metaphors really do apply to the writing process,” she said. “We are, kind of every season, taking a loop and that loop is getting bigger, and it almost starts to feel maze-like a little bit in terms of the obstacles to that path. But I think we wanted to tell a bigger story this season; [creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy] really had this vision. They could tell you what all the seasons are about. And this one very much was about now that Hosts have left the park, now that we freed ourselves from this kind of — I want to say, like a more incipient moment of being controlled by algorithms and big data and all that stuff. We think maybe we put the genie back in the bottle, but can you ever? And if you can’t, where will this go? Where could this go? Those are very much questions that have an almost loop-like quality, but hopefully more like in that spirally sense of you’re getting somewhere new with each season’s go-round. I think in season four, hopefully fans will go on a ride, and I think we do go somewhere new and bold.”
Also present for this interview: Paul, who joined Westworld for season three’s post-park storyline, which had Caleb racing around a dystopian cityscape for the most part. This season, Caleb finally gets that season one-season two experience of seeing Delos’ idea of immersive entertainment up close. “I was so excited to finally go into a park!,” he said, calling himself a “crazy fan” of the series.
Schapker picked up his thread there. “And that question of what is a park? What happens when the dynamics of the park exceed the park, but then do all roads kind of lead back there in various forms? Those are all things we’re conscious of. And I think we’re consciously trying to play with the tropes of what Westworld or a park is, a theme park is, and the fact that a company would take shortcuts. You know, and I think you see that in the park this season, hopefully in fun ways.”
New episodes of Westworld arrive Sundays on HBO Max.
Want more Gizmodo news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel and Star Wars releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about House of the Dragon and Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power.