Westworld just wrapped up its second season on HBO, and even after 20 episodes, fans of the show like science fiction editor John Joseph Adams are still no closer to understanding how the show’s guns are able to kill robots but not humans.
“The creators must have some idea how these guns work,” Adams says in Episode 316 of the Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy podcast. “Could someone tell us? I want to know what they think, how they work. Because it doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Season 2 includes a passing reference to “sim bullets,” which makes Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy host David Barr Kirtley think that there must be something special about the bullets themselves.
“Maybe all the bullets have little incendiary things in them that cause them to self-destruct if they’re flying in the direction of a guest,” he says. “But in one scene they just hold the gun right against someone’s chest, and I don’t see how the bullet’s not going to kill you from that range, even if it is sort of programmed to self-destruct.”
Writer Sara Lynn Michener wonders if maybe it’s the guns that are special rather than the bullets. “You can have a gun that has paintball bullets in it, and you can have a gun that has real bullets in it,” she says, “and the gun determines, ‘All right, who am I aiming at?’, and decides which bullet to release based on that.”
But science fiction author Anthony Ha says that even if there is an explanation for how the guns work, he still doesn’t understand how humans are kept safe from other weapons such as arrows and axes.
“It definitely drives me crazy,” he says. “Do they have safeties on the swords here too? What is going on with this?”
Listen to the complete interview with John Joseph Adams, Sara Lynn Michener, and Anthony Ha in Episode 316 of Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy (above). And check out some highlights from the discussion below.
Anthony Ha on confusion:
“There are basically two main timelines, but what that overlooks is that there are also flashbacks and—we learn later—flash forwards within those timelines too, so it’s not the same as just tracking these two parallel paths. And I think that also ties to the point about some of the plots kind of spinning their wheels, particularly the timeline that’s further advanced and taking place after this flood. There really was not a lot of plot there, so I didn’t understand why—from both a narrative economy and clarity perspective—they didn’t just treat it as a frame story that you see in the first and last episodes. But the fact that you would flash back to that every episode or two and just have Bernard standing there looking disoriented, kind of furrowing his brow and everyone being like, ‘Why don’t you remember anything?’ It did kind of get old after a while, while also, I think, contributing to the confusion.”
Sara Lynn Michener on Westworld’s rich characters:
“There are these [wealthy] characters, who are, obviously, kind of awful people, and they went in deciding that they wanted to have this done to them. And then they realized that as soon as they give up the right to their bodies—because they want to participate in this, because they want to reap the rewards—they’re in this hell. Because they’re no longer in charge. They have signed over their intellectual property—literally—to the corporation. … And now they have been reduced to being slaves themselves in these realities that they bought and paid for, not realizing what they had actually signed up for, not realizing the implications. So I liked that, I liked all the moralizing of, ‘You made your bed and now you have to lie in it.’”
Sara Lynn Michener on religion:
“The difference in perspective between me and Dave might be because I was raised religious. Because being raised religious means you are raised in a very specific kind of bubble, where everything that you are told about the nature of reality turns out not to be true. Imagine being raised as a child believing in Santa, but your whole life is about Santa—not just Christmas. And so I feel like I am much more attracted to science fiction that just wants to go full-on metaphysical and talk about how we define these realities and how we decide what’s real, and I’m less interested in the specific details that make it feel real to me. I’m more interested in, ‘Why do the guests feel like it’s real? Why do the hosts feel like it’s real?’”
John Joseph Adams on ratings:
“The thing that depresses me is that [Westworld] will be seen as this standard-bearer for science fiction, as all big attempts to tell science fiction stories tend to be, so when one fails, or doesn’t perform up to expectations, it’s an excuse for other producers or networks not to pursue science fiction shows. … When a show like this doesn’t do as well, it’s more evidence that, ‘Oh no, we shouldn’t put more money into a brainy science fiction show, because people won’t watch it.’ Especially with the struggles that The Expanse has had. So I think it’s bad news in general for people who want brainy science fiction that this hasn’t done better, unfortunately.”