Which Robot was the First to Have Free Will in Westworld?

After a long production schedule and some delays, once Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy Nolan's Westworld’s premiered on HBO, millions of us were more or less immediately hooked. The story of synthetic androids (called “Hosts”) who entertain the rich guests at the Western-themed amusement park known as Westworld struck a nerve. Unlike Michael Crichton's original, in this Westworld, the humans were the villains. The guests paid top dollar in order to live out their dreams and fantasies, finding themselves in bespoke "narratives" with the park's many hosts. Their narratives often revealed the darkest parts of their nature. The meta-narrative, about the functions of narrative itself, played out in kind of simultaneous series commentary—what are the stories we tell about ourselves, and what do they reveal, or hide, about our true natures? On a purely surface levle, the show’s many twists and turns offered viewers the chance to try and unmask hidden clues and theorize on what’s to come (and who's who). This meant a season-long mass sleuthing effort, with plenty of people picking up on some of the surprises long before they aired. Yet there are still a lot of mysteries from season one left unsolved, and the show’s cast and creators offered fans more insight this weekend during a panel at the Los Angeles PaleyFest.  

One of the big reveals from Paleyfest was that which of the hosts were the first to show they had achieved free will, or, in the parlane of sci-fi, become sentient or self-aware. Most viewers would credit Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) as the first host to become self-aware, considering her story arc was the main spine of the first season, and she was the first host we saw start exhibiting non-programmed behavior (like when she killed that fly very early in the season). However, the show’s creators revealed that it was in fact Maeve (Thandie Newton) who displayed the first sign of free will. She did this when she chose to exit the train rather than stay on and continue her normal commute.

Co-creator Jonathan Nolan said, “The way that we designed it and the way we shot it… that is really the first decision she’s ever made. For me, it’s a very emotional moment in the episode because you’re seeing the first free will.”

Although Maeve’s motivation is still unclear, many people theorize that she is looking for her daughter who is somewhere in the park. The creators didn’t reveal much more, but hopefully we will gain a bit more insight before the second season’s release in 2018. 

Featured image: Evan Rachel Wood in Westworld. Photo by John P. Johnson. Courtesy HBO