How ‘Westworld’ Speaks To Today’s Coronavirus Climate: Director/EP Richard J. Lewis On Tonight’s Episode ‘The Winter Line’ & Maeve’s Comeback

SPOILER ALERT: This interview contains details about tonight’s Westworld season 3, 2nd episode “The Winter Line” on HBO.

And then there’s Maeve.

Just as the whole world is falling apart, that uncompromising, enterprising, anything but tranquilizing host is looked upon as a possible savior to right the looming wrongs which are about to be carried out by her fellow Westworld colleague Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) on the human race. As indicated during the epilogue of last week’s season 3 debut, tonight was always going to be about the Thandie Newton robo-character.

Prior to last Sunday, we previously saw Maeve in the season 2 finale of Westworld where she was killed alongside Hector (Rodrigo Santoro), as she led her daughter and others into the virtual heaven of the Valley of the Beyond. Maeve failed to cross over, but her daughter did. Maeve wakes up this season in a WWII version of the Delos-owned theme park, with Hector, her spy-in-arms who doesn’t remember her. But soon after putting a bullet in her own brain, robot Maeve wakes up and eventually realizes, with the help of a rebooted Lee Sizemore (her former creator and architect played by Simon Quarterman), that she’s in a virtual rendition of the park and its basements. The real park, that’s in shambles following the fallout of season 2, can be seen through the eyes of Bernard (Jeffrey Wright), who has returned to concoct a plan to stop Dolores, “who is out to destroy the human race, enslave it, I don’t know what she’s planning” says the noble host.

“I can’t stop her. Not alone. I came back to find someone who can help me, someone stronger who can stop her,” Bernard says tonight. The person he needs, is Maeve.

And by the end of tonight’s episode, after which Maeve brilliantly breaks the virtual machine that’s imprisoned her, all roads lead to the enigmatic Serac (Vincent Cassel) who has big plans, not just for Newton’s character, but the rest of the world and Dolores.

We spoke with the director of tonight’s episode, Westworld EP Richard J. Lewis, about what went down. Matt Pitts and Lisa Joy wrote “The Winter Line”

While last Sunday’s episode, set in a futuristic city, was largely shot in Singapore, the locations for tonight’s “The Winter Line” were Besalú Spain (the World War II village), an airfield in Aqua Dulce, CA (where the WWII plane lands during the pre-credits sequence), and the former Paramount Ranch (which was lost in the big 2018 Southern California fires) standing in for Westworld. The Westward beach in California was used for the park’s beach while Bernard’s boat scenes were shot 45 minutes outside of Singapore looking toward the Malaysia coast.

Production on season 3 of Westworld is complete with post-production on remaining episodes ongoing.

No more than now in the midst of the COVID-19 climate do the themes of Westworld resonate greatly in its angle on humanity. In this current environment with the pandemic, how has the meaning of the show changed for you? Does the show speak to you in a greater way than it did before?
That’s a terrific question. For me the greater scenes of Westworld have always had to do with what makes us human, and by juxtaposing the hosts or robot persona against that, we have to look at ourselves. This is a time where we have to look at ourselves obviously. I think that if this coronavirus situation were not here, eventually we’d have to do the same self searching that we’re always heading toward. This is the big existential question: What does it mean to be human? And now I think with this global pandemic happening, we are looking at ourselves as one and not being divisive. We try not to over-factionalize and make these divisions, and we’re thinking of ourselves from a very humanist point of view and I think the show is very relevant on that front.

At the same time, I was thinking: the hosts would totally survive the coronavirus.
It’s a good time to be a host. I don’t want to be glib, but I get your point.

As Maeve is poised to square off with Dolores, what has their relationship been like up to this point? Please refresh readers’ minds. Obviously Maeve was the madame in the park’s western saloon, and Dolores the prairie girl, both turning out to be fighters against all humanity there.
They’re always in separate camps, but there was a type of respect between the two and a type of disdain that they had for each other. Their relationship is not narratively intertwined in the previous seasons, but it shall be in this season.

What we’re seeing in tonight’s episode is that every time Maeve is rebooted (and she’s shown this in previous episodes) she’s a smarter host. She’s always more brilliant than her previous self. She quickly figures out she’s in a virtual situation. So can we assume that Serac has put this whole ruse in motion so that Maeve can easily be led to him?
At the outset, Serac wants Dolores, and eventually he’s going to get her from Maeve in-person. I think he may have been hoping if he had an optimum situation, it was that Maeve would blurb pertinent information about Dolores’ whereabouts to the simulation of Lee Sizemore. Eventually, Maeve is so smart, Serac has to curtail these plans to some extent because she’s basically successful in crippling the simulation and therefore he must bring her to him, and that’s where she ends up in the ultimate scene.

Can you tease for us anymore about Vincent Cassel’s Serac character? He’s with a company called Incite. Is he connected to Delos?
It was called Incite. Now he’s branched off and is his own entity.

Serac has a great speech at the end of tonight’s episode whereby he describes humanity “as a miserable band of thugs”. Then he’s involved in creating this supercomputer that can predict everyone’s behavior, but he feels a threat from the hosts, specifically Dolores. Expound on this.
It’s not black and white with Serac. There’s a lot of grey area, but ultimately I think he wants to save humanity for all its foibles. And all the cynicism you feel in that monologue, I feel he still wants to save humanity, that’s his modus operandi. How he achieves this, or doesn’t, you’ll get to watch in the next few episodes. He’s not a black and white character, he’s very complex, he has some deep existential philosophies about what it is to be human, and he represents a lot of thematic elements in season 3.

Going back to the previous episode, while Dolores is out to exact revenge on those who’ve wrong her at the park, what’s Charlotte’s modus operandi?
There’s a two-pronged thing going on with Charlotte Hale, and this will switch, this will change. She’s interested in the continuation of the Delos brand and the Delos company and her power seeps into that. And then there’s a part of Hale that’s still attached to the human, and that’s her relationship with her son and her son’s father, which you will come to see in episode 3. There’s two motivating factors for Hale in this season. She has quite a transmogrification through the course of the season.

Bernard knows Dolores is up to no good. What does he believe in at the end of the day? Is it a peaceful stability between hosts and humans?
At this particular juncture, I don’t want to push too far forward. First, he’s trying to prove himself innocent on a number of levels. Secondly, he’s aware of the power of Dolores. He knows how destructive she can be. He believes she’s on a course that he needs to correct, and he believes that Maeve is the only one who is strong enough to help.

Maeve is at the center of this episode. It’s a love story that centers around Maeve with various arteries, such as Hector and Lee Sizemore and that both Serac and Bernard are trying to get to her. Everything is moving toward Maeve in this particular episode. I wanted to create a bit of a romantic love story in the way that The English Patient or Atonement or films like that, center around the love story with the big backdrop. What’s really interesting about this episode is that it pulls on so many heartstrings. There’s so many moments where you think to yourself, ‘My God, what’s going on? Hector doesn’t recognize her, what’s going on here?’ So the way that this episode unfolds and the various pieces of information come, stem from the love story. But all these characters, Serac, Lee, Bernard are all headed toward Maeve and she’s at the center of it all.

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