“These violent delights have violent ends,” Friar Lawrence says in William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. He’s talking about Romeo’s abrupt marriage to Juliet, and how it’s likely to come to an equally abrupt ending — one way or another. But HBO’s Westworld series has adopted that line as a kind of mantra, voiced by many characters and used to suggest another thing entirely.
The show, created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, and inspired by Michael Crichton’s 1973 movie, opens with a future Western theme park largely staffed by hyper-realistic humanoid robots, which park guests can follow on heroic adventures — or can rape and murder with impunity. As the hosts start to gain sentience and realize what’s being done to them, the guests may pay for their violent delights. Or will they? The series has been designed as a puzzle box, and the focus keeps shifting.
Here, we’ll look at everything from trailers to the show’s wild marketing tricks to the spoiler culture surrounding Westworld, as we unpack its narrative — and the increasingly elaborate meta-narrative being built around it.