Warning: This article contains spoilers from Westworld season 4, episode 1.
The Man in Black has returned. (Some form of him, anyway.) And he has his sights set on the Hoover Dam.
HBO's Westworld kicked off its new mystery in season 4 by picking up several years after the season 3 finale. William (Ed Harris), presumably the host version of him that slashed at the real William in that post-credits scene, arrives at the hydro-electric dam to take it off the hands of its current owners.
We learn that William has been buying up most of "the old city" and the outlying areas around the dam, and now he wants the huge Forge-like data storage hidden within this landmark. "What I want is already in there," he mentions. "It was stolen from me from one of my facilities eight years ago." The person who stole this thing is a woman, and she's dead. "Which means I can't decrypt it and no one else can," he continues. "I don't want it moved or disturbed, so I'll take the whole shebang."
Courtesy of HBO Ed Harris is back as William (or is it robo-William?) in the 'Westworld' season 4 premiere
Westworld creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, of course, aren't giving away their secrets just yet. But Nolan tells EW that host William's interest in the data within the Hoover Dam is something we may already know about.
"It's a veiled reference to something that we have seen already stolen from him at the end of season 2," he teases. "I'll say that much."
Does it have to do with real William's daughter, whom he killed in season 2, thinking she was secretly a host? Maybe his guest book? And what's with all the flies (or robo-flies?) he can command and force others to do his bidding? We had so many questions — including what's going on with Evan Rachel Wood's Christina and the return of James Marsden at the end of the episode — so we went to the source for answers: Nolan and Joy.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let's start with one of the first things we see. Unless my geography skills have completely failed me, it looks like the Hoover Dam.
LISA JOY: It is the Hoover Dam, starring itself.
JONATHAN NOLAN: They were lovely to work with. It was kinda like, "Do you think they would let us?" "Yeah, sure." They haven't had tourists for a couple of years, so they were happy to let us run around. But it's our vision of what happens. And sadly, the vision's coming to pass a little faster than we'd hope. The vision of what happens to Hoover Dam in some indeterminate future, when the federal government is divesting itself of its assets, who would buy it? What would they do with it? What's its second life gonna be?
It looks like the Forge, almost. Is it a replica of the Forge?
JOY: Well, it definitely seems like if you were to need to house a lot of data in the future and had a privatized source of almost infinite power through water that it would be a good candidate for that.
NOLAN: The backend of a lot of these businesses — the Googles and the Facebooks of the world — the dirty little secret is there are these vast server farms run on often diesel backup generators, and they're actually moving towards hydro. So it's not actually that farfetched to imagine that this would be a great place. That certainly seems to be the future with all the conversations about meta and everything else you're gonna need. We think of it as a cloud, but these are actual physical spaces. The hard reality of where those data spaces exist was something we were fascinated by.
We do know some things. We know that William, or robo William... Robilliam?
JOY: Post-Man in Black, but Robilliam has a nice ring to it. Though it sounds a little friendlier than I think host Man in Black is.
He feels something has been stolen from him. We don't yet know what that is. Is there anything else that you could tease about why he wants this particular location?
NOLAN: It's a veiled reference to something that we have seen already stolen from him at the end of season 2. I'll say that much.
We also see this swarm of flies. Flies have obviously been a visual motif that you guys have been playing with since the very first season, but now it seems like flies are becoming a much more active role in the narrative moving forward. What can you say about coming to this idea and wanting to do more with the flies?
JOY: First, I have to applaud our fly stars for having patience. They cameod in the first season. We made Marsden wait for one season, but the flies have been waiting forever for their time to take center stage. And it has arrived. It is their season and here they are.
NOLAN: We just love this idea of the subtle things in our environment that shift and change, and the tectonic changes and control that might indicate. So that's just a lovely way to come full circle. In the original park, the flies were the only classic symbol of the things you can't control. The flies are like the last real thing in that park, and taking that and flipping it on its head so that something that was a symbol of chaos inside this very curated world becomes a symbol of control inside a chaotic world. We just love that inversion and the creepy sense that our technologies are becoming so small and insidious that they can go anywhere.
I love the visual of the flies being a literal black cloud hanging over this guy's head.
NOLAN: We love the idea of taking something small, the cumulative impact... The sense that you've missed this tiny thing, but when you stack it up... It's a little like all of the bad faith stuff that's happening now online with social media, whether it's nation states or other people. Something you think of as harmless and innocuous and tiny and who gives a s---, when it stacks up, when you bring enough of it together, it becomes something much more malevolent and frightening.
John Johnson/HBO The roomies head to a restaurant, where Christina (Evan Rachel Wood) will go on a not-so-great blind date
Now for Christina. I know you guys have been inspired by video games since the beginning of Westworld, and now you have a character who's designing NPCs for an actual video game. Can you talk about the creation of this character?
JOY: it's all become very meta now for me, because this show has always dealt with a lot of issues through metaphor and a lot of feelings and emotions. Now, though, it's getting really close to home because here we have this lady, this writer in the big city looking for love, trying to get by with a roommate. I just felt like I was, I was writing my 20s. Now that finally our timeline is so much more contemporary, it's really great to explore everything about that culture, and in that way also create a character that's very relatable to me and a way to reflect upon the act of being a writer itself. Being on TV, on staff, you get notes, you feel insecure, you have to deal with criticism and you wonder, "Oh my God, am I ever gonna make it? Am I an idiot?" This show has always been about storytellers too, from Dr. Ford early on to the notion of the park itself as a grand form of a story that the Man in Black was looking for an answer to. Dolores — dearly departed Dolores — used to want to be the author of her own story, and now we find this new character, Christina, who very much is an author of the stories.
It doesn't seem like it's a coincidence that there are echoes of Dolores in Christina, from the loop of her waking up every day to the fact that she's writing a story that has some similarities to Dolores' farmhouse story.
JOY: It doesn't look like anything to me. [Laughs]
What can you tell us about this city in which Christina finds herself? There was a moment where I noticed three guys running down the stairs on her commute to work, and they say to each other, "That was insane." "That was way better than I expected." "This place is f---ing wild." "I can't believe this is your first time." It made me think, Is this an actual city? Is this another Delos park that we don't know about?
NOLAN: One of the fun things about our show is the way we're asking the audience to find their own way through it in that game-like way. But this is an awfully big city. If it's a park, it's an awfully big one. The intention here is for the audience to feel the reality of New York. I shot on my first series [Person of Interest] in New York for five years. It's one of my favorite places to shoot in the whole wide world. Who couldn't resist the idea that we would take our story to the real New York? I'll leave it at that.
How would you describe the mystery that's going on in this futuristic New York with Christina, the man who was stalking her, and the man who looks like James Marsden's Teddy?
NOLAN: It's the mind f--- thriller that I've always loved. That's always been such a key component of this show, but on this deeper level, one of the things that we're also confronted with right now is with these larger data companies, gaming companies, social media companies our perception of reality has clearly become quite warped. Everyone's understanding of what the world is now radically [different]. We all used to have a fairly good set of facts we could agree on. Even the facts are now in question, and that's a very worrisome trend, that idea that there may be levels of mechanisms of control here, even inadvertent ones. It starts, for us, the series with the idea, "We're doing this to these robots, they don't know any better," and now the metaphor has spilled out and is coloring outside the lines. We're considering more literally our world. We've seen in the last season that we were controlling ourselves, and now you add the hosts to the mix here. They're smarter than us and they have a longer timeline they're working towards, as Ed's character mentions in the premiere, that slow, long patient, creeping threat, which feels analogous to some of the forces at play in our real world.
JOY: Especially in the Christina story, I wanted it to be like a paranoid thriller where we really got a feeling of being with her emotionally through some of this, like inside her head, feeling the creep and the second guessing that she has about the fear that she has of her stalker and that sense that she's being followed or being watched. The interesting thing about writing her is, on the one hand, that's genre, a paranoid thriller, but on the other hand, I honestly feel like it's what a lot of women feel when they're walking down the street at night. "Am I being watched? Am I safe?" And then a guy comes and accuses her of controlling him, making him do things he doesn't want, which is a very common way of manipulating women. "You're making me want this or do this." So for me, it's both a facet of a form of genre, but it's also pointing to some very real dynamics that occur. It also stays true to the relatability that I want Christina to have to people in our world.
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