Maeve (played by Thandie Newton) is the best character on Westworld (at least, until some of the other Hosts catch up in sentience, cunning, twisted humor, perseverance, and Britishness). As of last night, and really throughout the season, she’s been the true force that’s propelled the series in its “real world” sections — which are, frankly, a lot more interesting, and puzzling, than when the episodes dive deeply into tangential plot-lines within the game itself. (Spoiler alert: talk of last night’s episode, “The Adversary,” ensue.) And last night, both Maeve and the audience got a scene that we knew would come, eventually, but that was no less arresting for it. The producers of the show — Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan — spoke with Entertainment Weekly about the episode, and particularly that scene, which happens to have been enhanced to swelling melancholy and eeriness (which not everyone liked, but which I personally was quite swayed by) by the Vitamin String Quartet’s Strung Out on Kid A: A String Quartet Tribute to Radiohead version of “Motion Picture Soundtrack.” If you thought it turned out well, they seem to agree.
The scene in question sees Maeve convincing Felix to show her around upstairs — the place where Hosts are created, and where they’re hosed down and remade on the frequent occasion that they’re killed. Though we’ve already, as the audience, seen the processes by which the components of Westworld come together, it’s never been revealed to this extent, nor as lyrically, and it’s hard to remember a film or series that rendered the process of artificial creation with such a perfect pairing of humanness and dehumanization. (The most memorable image for me was of blood traveling through a long, winding tube and then seeing a plaster-white pre-Host’s cardiovascular system suddenly flushed with color; aided by the music, we quickly go from seeing him as an doll-like object to seeing him as a tragic being.)
Anyway. In the Q&A, the interviewer asked Joy and Nolan a few questions about that scene for EW, complimenting the music choice and Newton’s performance throughout her character’s cruel ontological awakening here; Joy responded:
It’s one of those moments where you realize as a writer that sometimes the best thing you can do is step back and let the actors and the director and mood and the music [take over]. On the page, it sounds like a cool scene. But then you see Thandie’s performance, and Jonah is a huge fan of Radiohead and has been very involved with making all these musical calls. So Jonah cut it together with our amazing editing team and when I saw the scene I started crying — I had no idea it would be this emotional. I didn’t know it would be the most important scene of this episode.
Nolan (who wrote the episode alongside Halley Gross) added:
It’s a beautiful piece of music. Chris Kaller, our music editor, found that version of the piece. We put it all together and what could have been a gotcha moment — oh, she realizes what this place is — there’s an emotional impact and there’s also a weird dark beauty to it. The bison being moved around, the hosts learning their behaviors … a huge amount of decoration and design when into this. It’s one of our favorite scenes.
Listen to the version of the song used in the scene:
Here’s the original: