Finally, finally, HBO’s Westworld TV adaptation has finally been granted an official premiere date. No matter what goes wrong now, after all this time HBO has to stand by this premiere and show us the goods. The long-awaited show has been through the ringer and back with budget concerns, content controversies, and a complete production shutdown as recent as January 2016. Not to mention the urgent need for HBO to have another ratings champ waiting in the wings after Game of Thrones ends in two years or the high expectations that comes with an all-star cast and behind the scenes team working together on a prestigious adaptation.
But no worries, creative team, we’re sure everything will go just fine once the show premieres on October 2nd. To be fair, it’s not like this is the first time an HBO drama has hit some speed bumps on the way to air. Even current fantasy darling Game of Thrones had to have its entire pilot scrapped and re-shot before it became the awesome A Song of Ice and Fire adaptation that it’s become.
The premiere date wasn’t the only thing revealed about the show over the weekend, however. At the Television Critics Association tour currently taking place in Los Angeles, HBO’s panel encompassed talk of many new and returning shows but most notably it included discussions about instances of sexual violence against women in Westworld. The premiere episode of the show shows an android (Westworld centers around a theme park populated by robots where humans can go to carry out adventurous fantasies) being dragged by her hair to be raped off-screen. HBO is no stranger to the discussion of whether violence against women is warranted – that’s been much of the discourse around certain Game of Thrones episodes from its 5th and 6th seasons – so the fact that these concerns are once again surfacing about a highly-anticipated and exciting drama feels like a bit of deja vu.
When confronted with questions about why scenes like this are necessary and how the violence is integral to the story, showrunner Lisa Joy answered competently and honestly:
When we were tackling a project about a park with premise where you can come there and do whatever desire you want with impunity and without consequence, it seemed like an issue we had to address. In addressing it, there’s a lot of thinking that goes into it. Sexual violence is an issue we take seriously; it’s extraordinarily disturbing and horrifying. And in its portrayal, we endeavored for it to not be about the fetishization of those acts. It’s about exploring the crime, establishing the crime and the torment of the characters within this story and exploring their stories hopefully with dignity and depth and that’s what what we endeavored to do.
Joy’s answer is much more empathetic than other answers about the same subject that have been spouted by other showrunners in recent memory, but whether that is because she is answering it from the perspective of a female showrunner or not is unclear. For now, it is only an answer to a reporter’s question though – following through on the promise of not being about “the fetishization of those acts” is an entirely different beast. At the very least, it has been revealed that the same actors will be playing different roles throughout the show since the robot androids can be killed off and brought back to life with different personalities and motivations.
So even if some characters are marginalized, there is the opportunity to bring them back in a different iteration with alternate motivations and personalities and potentially the opportunity to tackle the show’s subject matter from a different perspective. Audiences will find out whether Evan Rachel Wood’s character (and any others subjected to extreme violence) really does get a layered and nuanced character to portray during the show’s 2-hour premiere in October.