The creators of HBO's Westworld have announced a novel plan to combat the dangers of the spoiler culture online: they will give away all the great secrets of the next season of the show before a single episode comes out. Creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy made the announcement today during a Reddit AMA, recognizing the plan as a "potentially very controversial decision." They say their cast is on board with the plan.
"If you agree, we are going to publish a video that sets the plot (and the twists and turns) of season 2. Everything, the whole sordid thing, in the foreground," they wrote. "That way, community members who want the season ruined can look to the future, and then protect the rest of the community, and help distinguish between what is & theory; what a spoiler is. "
Westworld was in a unique position during its first season. The program used several deceptive narrative devices, including multiple timelines and characters represented as humans, but then revealed themselves as robotic "hosts". The revealing nature of the program gave rise to an artisanal online speculation and theorization industry, particularly in Westworld's active subreddit. There, the fans of the program did what they do best, exploring the details and discovering the biggest surprises of the event with much anticipation. Given the copious press coverage of those theories, even casual viewers could have ruined the revelations of the series without having to dig too much.
"Theories" can actually be spoilers, and the line between the two is confusing, "wrote the creators. "It's something we've been thinking about since last season – Game of Thrones fans, for example, came together and protected the secrets of the narrative partly because they already knew those secrets (until season 5)."
The idea of going to the Tronos model led the creators to the idea of the spoiler video, and although it seems contradictory as a strategy, it has a logic. Those who simply want to know all the secrets can learn them immediately, without having to wait, and those who can not avoid the video. But the simple fact of choosing not to watch the video will undoubtedly make a determined fan become more emotionally involved in the idea of not being pampered in the first place, and maybe make them go out of their way to avoid any coverage or sites that could follow the line. The release of the video would also make Westworld's subreddit radioactive for fans who do not want surprises ruined, perhaps by decreasing the number of people who could accidentally trip over it and learn a great future secret.
But Nolan and Joy are clearly trying to evoke a sense of goodwill as well. Fans who know the twists could end up feeling like substitutes for the show themselves: guardians of their greatest secrets, with the duty to protect fans who do not want to be pampered. That may also be contradictory, given the often toxic nature of online interaction, but as the creators noted, it somehow worked for Game of Thrones.
"It's a new era, and a new world in terms of the relationship between people who make shows and the community looks at them," wrote Nolan and Joy. Undoubtedly, this is the first time that a television series appears, especially one produced by the master of the mysterious box J.J. Abrams: he has chosen to pamper himself, and it is a testament to the vitality of online discourse for a show like Westworld.
It is not clear how the media will respond. Given the great interest in series like Westworld, publications are encouraged to squeeze every piece of program coverage they can, and speculative pieces about fan theories can be a quick and easy way to generate content and traffic. Even if the fans decide to do the right thing and not share spoilers, the entertainment press itself could end up giving away the game. But as Game of Thrones has shown, it does not have to be that way either.
Either way, the release of the spoiler video is not an inevitable conclusion. As a final test, Nolan and Joy left their distribution to receive the vote of a fan: if a thousand people voted in favor and against the publication of Reddit announcing the plan, then they will release the video. (At the time of this writing, the vote counting is located at 233). And in a strange way, that act makes the whole strategy feel like a social experiment that echoes the program itself. Do people really want to know all the secrets, just as some of the characters in the show so stubbornly wanted to know about their own traumatic stories? And if they learn them, if they get to the center of the labyrinth, so to speak, what will the fans do with that knowledge?