Warning: This post contains spoilers for Season 1 and Season 2 of Westworld… or does it?
It’s safe to say that Reddit and Westworld share a love/hate relationship. As in Reddit loves to guess the twists on HBO’s sci-fi series before they happen, and Westworld executive producers Jonah Nolan and Lisa Joy hate it when they’re right (but in a loving way). So during an April 9 “Ask Me Anything” Q&A session on Reddit, Nolan and Joy proposed a truce of sorts: with HBO’s permission, they’d post a video outlining all of the twists for the show’s second season, premiering April 22. In return, Reddit users would promise not to leak the details to those viewers who wanted to watch the show spoiler-free.
“It’s a new age, and a new world in terms of the relationship between the folks making shows and the community watching them,” the husband-and-wife creative team wrote. “And trust is a big part of that. We’ve made our cast part of this decision, and they’re fully supportive. We’re so excited to be in this with you guys together. So if this post reaches a 1000 upvotes we’ll deliver the goods.” Not surprisingly, the post almost immediately cracked 1,000 upvotes and, true to their word, the duo posted a link to a 25-minute video in the early morning hours of April 10.
“All right guys,” Nolan teased. “We left this in your hands. Some may feel this is a drastic step, but I, for one, love and trust this community.” Go ahead and watch the clip above, and come back here in roughly 1 minute and 38 seconds.
SPOILER ALERT: The whole thing is a prank. And not just any prank: an epic Rickroll that will likely go down in Internet history as the gold standard for this particular gag. After purporting to show us the opening scene of Season 2, with explanatory narration by series star Jeffrey Wright, the video cuts away to Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) — looking fit as a fiddle again after her brutal Season 1 decommissioning — playing the piano as Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) starts to sing some familiar lyrics. “We’re no strangers to love, you know the rules and so do I.” Those are, of course, the opening lines to Rick Astley’s immortal 1987 classic “Never Gonna Give You Up,” the song at the center of every Rickroll.
To their credit, both Wood and Sarafyan make it through the first verse and chorus without cracking up. At that point, the screen fades to black and Nolan and Joy gently chide us for our gullibility with a written note: “Dear Reddit, From all of us here at Westworld, thank you for watching. We hope you enjoy season two…” As for those remaining 23 minutes? It’s black-and-white footage of an adorable dog sitting in front of the Sweetwater saloon’s piano while the Westworld theme plays on a loop.
Okay, so the Westworld crew got us good. Nevertheless, let’s rewind the tape a little and re-examine that opening scene, which could very well be a legit excerpt from Season 2. “Our season begins with Bernard waking up on a beach,” Wright says, catching up with where his alter ego ended up after the Dolores-led robot uprising that closed out Season 1. His creator, Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), was among those killed in the initial skirmish, taking the knowledge that Bernard is actually a host to the grave with him. As Wright tells us in voiceover, even Bernard doesn’t remember that particular piece of information, so he’s of little help to the two security experts overseeing the ragtag band of human survivors. That pair consists of Westworld security chief Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) and newcomer Karl Strand (Gustaf Skarsgard), who Wright describes as the “Delos head of security.”
If the video is to be trusted (and that’s a big “If”), this the first we’re hearing of Strand’s occupation; when Skarsgard’s casting was first announced last August, Strand was merely described as a “white-collar guy comfortable in the field.” This sequence shows just how comfortable he is when it comes to enforcing the law of survival of the fittest. The beach is littered with the bodies of dead hosts, and we watch a guard shoot another host point blank while passers-by are given the orders to “keep walking.” “Strand grows increasingly irritated with Bernard’s inability to remember anything,” Wright intones, adding, “The bodies littering the beach spark something, like a door opening in Bernard’s mind. The deeper he goes, the closer he gets to the meaning behind it.”
At that point, the scene cuts away to Bernard sitting on a Sweetwater-bound train, a shot that deliberately echoes James Marsden’s introduction in the series premiere. “Can he remember how it all began,” Wright says as Bernard disembarks in Sweetwater and wanders through the streets, eventually catching sight of Dolores in her blue gingham dress. Then time freezes and we head into obvious Rickroll territory.
While we obviously can’t definitively say that any of this material is authentic, certain details — like an amnesiac Bernard and a Strand-ordered mass execution of hosts — do feel like natural story fodder for Season 2. We’d ask Nolan and Joy, but after this stunt we don’t want to get fooled again.
The second season of Westworld premieres April 22 at 9 p.m. on HBO.
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