13 Westworld Easter Eggs You Might Have Missed

John P. Johnson, HBO
John P. Johnson, HBO

Freeze all motor functions. Bring yourself back online. HBO’s hit series Westworld might be made up of a lot of cryptic speeches and shoot-em-up action, but there is definitely another level to the game. So saddle up and put some modern hits on the player piano at the Mariposa Saloon because here are a few of the best Easter eggs you might have missed. Spoilers ahead!

1. CONFUSED ABOUT TIMELINES? KEEP TRACK OF THE BRANDING.

Westworld doesn’t waste any time explaining that the series operates on multiple timelines, with characters appearing years—and even decades—apart. But if you’re confused about the “when,” keep an eye out for the distinctive “W” logo of the park in the background of certain shots. If you spot a retro, 1970s-infused looking wordmark—like the ones seen when Angela introduces William to the park in “Chestnut”—then you’re in the past timeline.


HBO

If you spot a sleek, Apple-like “W,” like the one seen toward the end of the same episode when Sizemore shows the Delos executives his new narrative, “Odyssey on Red River,” then you know it’s present day within the show.

A scene from 'Westworld'
HBO

2. THE ORIGINAL GUNSLINGER MAKES A QUICK CAMEO.

The series is based on the 1973 film of the same name, which was written and directed by Michael Crichton and features a similar premise of robots leading a revolt against guests in a Wild West-themed amusement park. The main villain of the movie, with his distinctive robotic posture and black hat, is “The Gunslinger,” played by actor Yul Brynner. While the movie and the series aren’t specifically in the same universe, Brynner’s antagonist makes a quick appearance in the background of the show when Bernard explores the old section of the park in “The Adversary.”

A scene from 'Westworld'
HBO

Yul Brynner as "The Gunslinger" in 'Westworld' (1973)
MGM

Co-creator Jonathan Nolan talked about any movie/show crossovers with Entertainment Weekly, saying, “We wanted to connect to the ideas in the original film, but also take a look at this place as a cultural institution that is not new, because these ideas aren’t new.”

3. DOLORES IS GOING DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE.

A scene from 'Westworld'
HBO

Besides Dolores’s distinctive blue dress, blonde hair, and a plot about awakening in a surreal locale, there are a few more direct allusions to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland throughout Westworld—and beyond.

In “The Stray,” Bernard asks Dolores to read an excerpt from the book during one of their consciousness sessions, having her say, “Dear, dear, how queer everything is today. And yesterday, things went on just as usual. I wonder if I've been changed in the night." But the mystery goes a little further down the rabbit hole ... or, more precisely, the J.J. Abrams rabbit hole.

The same exact passage was featured in Episode 10 of Season 4 of Abrams’s TV series, Lost, when the character Jack reads a bedtime story to Claire’s son.

4. ROBERT FORD AND ARNOLD ARE DEFINITELY CLAUDE DEBUSSY FANS.

The so-called reveries, first introduced in “The Original,” are a series of memories and gestures supposedly programmed by Ford and his partner Arnold as part of a routine host update, but actually end up causing the hosts to recall their past loops.

They could have been called something other than the eloquent-sounding term that roughly translates to daydream in French, but it’s obvious that Ford and Arnold couldn’t let their fandom for French composer Claude Debussy go unsaid.

We first hear Debussy’s song “Reverie” in “The Stray,” when a pianist host plays the track during Ford and Bernard’s private conversation in the park executive’s office. Ford later uses the specific song to calm Maeve down in “Trace Decay”—perhaps an indication he did the same thing to Bernard earlier, since we eventually find out that Bernard is, in fact, a robot version of Arnold. 

5. BIOSHOCK FANS BEWARE.

A scene from 'Westworld'
HBO

It’s no secret that the park resembles an open world video game construct where players can wander wherever they please and get into any number of subplots and scenarios. So it’s no surprise that series creators Nolan and Lisa Joy were inspired by classic open world video games like BioShock when planning out all the supposedly real-world shenanigans guests could get into in the show. 

The popular first-person shooter was such an influence that a bust of Sander Cohen, a character from the game, can be seen in Ford’s office in “The Stray.”

At a Westworld panel at New York Comic-Con, Nolan explained: “I was [with] Ken Levine, the designer of those games, talking about the non-player characters—Elizabeth, specifically, in BioShock Infinite. In a scene, I think I had just run through and shot everyone and kept going. And he was talking about how much craft had gone into all the conversations that the non-player characters had, and all their dreams and aspirations. And I just thought, 'Oh, isn’t that tragic? Isn’t that sad? And the player just ignores it all. The bastards.'"

6. FELIX SPEAKS JOHN HAMMOND’S LANGUAGE.

A scene from 'Westworld'
HBO

“Contrapasso” features a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it nod to original Westworld creator Michael Crichton’s other theme-park-run-amok classic, Jurassic Park.

In his spare time, bumbling but lovable host repairman Felix secretly tries to revive a malfunctioning robot bird in an attempt to be the Westworld programmer he always wanted to be. And when he finally wakes his fake feathered friend, he offers some familiar words of encouragement. "That’s it. Come on, little one," he says, sounding eerily similar to Jurassic Park’s Robert Ford proxy, John Hammond, in a scene from the 1993 Steven Spielberg film based on Crichton's book.

We suspect that won’t be the only Crichton/Spielberg allusion as the series progresses. In season two's "Reunion,” the host named El Lazo (played in this loop by Breaking Bad star Giancarlo Esposito) monologues about why he's done with his current situation by telling a story about a childhood visit to the circus, much in the same way John Hammond tells a metaphor for the failings of Jurassic Park by recounting a trip to the circus as a child.

7. THE CHARACTER NAMES ARE APOCALYPTIC.

Given Ford’s nihilistic look at humanity (this is the guy who said, “Never place your trust in us. We’re only human. Inevitably, we will disappoint you,” after all), if Westworld is building to some sort of robo-apocalypse, then it should make complete sense. It was all in the names.  

Some of the symbology behind the character names in the show are literally apocalyptic. Forlorn cowboy Teddy Flood’s surname could refer to the biblical flood of Noah’s ark. Teddy’s ostensible rival, Wyatt, is described by hosts as “a pestilence,” or one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in the Bible. Roguish bandit Hector Escaton’s surname is a slightly different spelling from eschaton, a theological word meaning the end of the world.

8. THE SERIES CREATORS MUST HAVE LOVED SHAKESPEARE IN SCHOOL.

If you’re a lit nerd, and especially a fan of the Bard, then watching Westworld must be a blast from the get-go. Malfunctioning host Peter Abernathy’s monologue at the end of “The Original” quotes from a whopping three different Shakespeare plays: King Lear, Henry IV, and The Tempest.

Arguably the most prominent line by a number of hosts (including Dolores and Peter) throughout the show comes from Friar Lawrence’s line from Romeo and Juliet, when they say, “These violent delights have violent ends.”

One of the scariest and saddest Shakespeare quotes is from “Trompe L’Oeil,” when Ford has the robotic Bernard kill head of quality assurance Theresa Cullen. Ford slightly misquotes Hamlet when he says "for in that sleep, what dreams may come?"

9. LIKE MOZART, BEETHOVEN, AND CHOPIN, FORD NEVER DIED.

In the season one finale, “The Bicameral Mind,” Ford hints that he isn’t done with the park just yet even though Dolores kills him. In his monologue in front of the Delos board he says, “An old friend once told me something that gave me great comfort. Something he had read. He said that Mozart, Beethoven, and Chopin never died. They simply became music.”

In much the same way those geniuses “became” their work, Ford pops up again in season two’s premiere, “Journey Into Night,” as the younger host version of himself who challenges the Man in Black to a new game in the park.

The Chopin connection goes a bit further in a flashback to Jim Delos’s retirement party in “Reunion,” when Dolores plays Chopin’s “Sonata for Piano No. 2 in B-Flat Minor,” to which the grizzled billionaire and Ford antagonist says, "Anything but f***in' Chopin."

10. ROBERT FORD MUST HAVE LOVED PSYCHOLOGY CLASS.

One of the incredibly abstract but driving concepts behind season one of Westworld was “The Bicameral Mind,” a theory that Arnold and Ford use to “bootstrap consciousness” in the hosts. The hypothesis imagines a three-tiered pyramid approach to allow the artificial intelligence of the park’s robots to be self-aware with memory at the bottom, improvisation and self-interest in the middle, and a big ol’ question mark at the top because, as Ford explains, Arnold never figured out what’s at the top. Maybe that’s why all the hosts go haywire.

Anyway, the notion of the Bicameral Mind isn’t some made-up mumbo jumbo. It actually originated in the 1976 book The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind by American psychologist Julian Jaynes. In the book, Jaynes posited that humans developed the ability to think for themselves only after they were able to discern that the voices in our heads weren’t god. Similarly, hosts like Dolores hear voices in their heads and think it’s Arnold only to realize they’re hearing their own consciousness, and thus are self-aware beings.

11. DR. FORD, OR DR. FRANKENSTEIN?

The similarities between Ford and the main character of Mary Shelley’s gothic classic Frankenstein are a bit obvious: mad scientists who create a new form of life that backfires against them. So it’s perhaps fitting that one of Ford’s witticisms is taken directly from the book.

In a conversation between Ford and Bernard in “Trace Decay,” when the latter asks the former why he had him kill Theresa, Ford responds by explaining that her death doesn’t mean much in the grand scheme of his new narrative. He caps it off by quoting Shelley: "One man's life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of knowledge which I sought, for the dominion I should acquire."

12. FORD KEEPS HIS FAVORITE HOSTS CLOSE.

Ford is nothing if not an eccentric weirdo. This is a guy who keeps a host in his office to do nothing put play the piano every time he wants some music while brainstorming AI consciousness. But there are some more recognizable hosts in his office besides the piano player.

If you look closely, directly behind Ford’s desk there is a wall of faces. Though never explained, these are ostensibly dry run versions of host faces created by the still unexplained white goo that solidifies into host skin. Two of those faces belong to Ford’s favorite star-crossed robots: Dolores and Teddy.

13. MAEVE IS OFF HER LOOP ... OR IS SHE?

A scene from 'Westworld'
HBO

The thrilling finale of season one saw the newly conscious, former madame Maeve recruit fellow hosts Hector and Armistice to mow down park security on her way out on the park train to freedom. But an onscreen revelation from Bernard makes it seem like she’s not as free to control her own destiny as she thinks she is.

After resurrecting Bernard, he uses one of the programmer devices to show her that her programming was actually altered to make her want to escape, recruit hosts, and get out via the train. Maeve, refusing to admit she doesn’t have free will, tells Bernard, "These are my decisions, no one else’s," but the device proves her wrong. Look closely and you see that Ford has pre-programmed the steps for her to "Recruit," "Escape," "Manipulate," and even "Mainland Infiltration." It seems Ford wanted her to be free, but not in the way she wants.

Can You Guess J.K. Rowling's Fantastic Beast From Its Magical Power?

The Many Lives of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah"

Leonard Cohen in London in June 1974.
Leonard Cohen in London in June 1974.
Michael Putland/Getty Images

In the late 1970s, Leonard Cohen sat down to write a song about god, sex, love, and other mysteries of human existence that bring us to our knees for one reason or another. The legendary singer-songwriter, who was in his early forties at the time, knew how to write a hit: He had penned "Suzanne," "Bird on the Wire," "Lover, Lover, Lover," and dozens of other songs for both himself and other popular artists of the time. But from the very beginning, there was something different about what would become "Hallelujah"—a song that took five years and an estimated 80 drafts for Cohen to complete.

In the 35 years since it was originally released, "Hallelujah" has been covered by more than 300 other artists in virtually every genre. Willie Nelson, k.d. lang, Justin Timberlake, Bono, Brandi Carlile, Bon Jovi, Susan Boyle, Pentatonix, and Alexandra Burke—the 2008 winner of the UK version of The X Factor—are just a few of the individuals who have attempted to put their own stamp on the song. After Burke’s soulful version was downloaded 105,000 times in its first day, setting a new European record, “Hallelujah” soon became a staple of TV singing shows.

It's an impressive feat by any standard, but even more so when you consider that "Hallelujah"—one of the most critically acclaimed and frequently covered songs of the modern era—was originally stuck on side two of 1984’s Various Positions, an album that Cohen’s American record label deemed unfit for release.

“Leonard, we know you’re great,” Cohen recalled CBS Records boss Walter Yetnikoff telling him, “but we don’t know if you’re any good.”

 

Yetnikoff wasn’t totally off-base. With its synth-heavy ’80s production, Cohen’s version of “Hallelujah” doesn’t announce itself as the chill-inducing secular hymn it’s now understood to be. (Various Positions was finally released in America on the indie label Passport in 1985.) Part of why it took Cohen five years to write the song was that he couldn’t decide how much of the Old Testament stuff to include.

“It had references to the Bible in it, although these references became more and more remote as the song went from the beginning to the end,” Cohen said. “Finally I understood that it was not necessary to refer to the Bible anymore. And I rewrote this song; this is the ‘secular’ ‘Hallelujah.’”

The first two verses introduce King David—the skilled harp player and great uniter of Israel—and the Nazarite strongman Samson. In the scriptures, both David and Samson are adulterous poets whose ill-advised romances (with Bathsheba and Delilah, respectively) lead to some big problems.

In the third verse of his 1984 studio version, Cohen grapples with the question of spirituality. When he’s accused of taking the Lord’s name in vain, Cohen responds, hilariously, “What’s it to ya?” He insists there’s “a blaze of light in every word”—every perception of the divine, perhaps—and declares there to be no difference between “the holy or the broken Hallelujah.” Both have value.

“I wanted to push the Hallelujah deep into the secular world, into the ordinary world,” Cohen once said. “The Hallelujah, the David’s Hallelujah, was still a religious song. So I wanted to indicate that Hallelujah can come out of things that have nothing to do with religion.”

 

Amazingly, Cohen's original "Hallelujah" pales in comparison to Velvet Underground founder John Cale’s five-verse rendition for the 1991 Cohen tribute album I’m Your Fan. Cale had seen Cohen perform the song live, and when he asked the Canadian singer-songwriter to fax over the lyrics, he received 15 pages. “I went through and just picked out the cheeky verses,” Cale said.

Cale’s pared down piano-and-vocals arrangement inspired Jeff Buckley to record what is arguably the definitive “Hallelujah,” a haunting, seductive performance found on the late singer-songwriter’s one and only studio album, 1994’s Grace. Buckley’s death in 1997 only heightened the power of his recording, and within a few years, “Hallelujah” was everywhere. Cale’s version turned up in the 2001 animated film Shrek, and the soundtrack features an equally gorgeous version by Rufus Wainwright.

In 2009, after the song appeared in Zack Snyder's Watchmen, Cohen agreed with a critic who called for a moratorium on covers. “I think it’s a good song,” Cohen told The Guardian. “But too many people sing it.”

Except “Hallelujah” is a song that urges everyone to sing. That’s kind of the point. The title is from a compound Hebrew word comprising hallelu, to praise joyously, and yah, the name of god. As writer Alan Light explains in his 2013 book The Holy or the Broken: Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley, and the Unlikely Ascent of "Hallelujah,” the word hallelujah was originally an imperative—a command to praise the Lord. In the Christian tradition, it’s less an imperative than an expression of joy: “Hallelujah!” Cohen seemingly plays on both meanings.

 

Cohen’s 1984 recording ends with a verse that begins, “I did my best / It wasn’t much.” It’s the humble shrug of a mortal man and the sly admission of an ambitious songwriter trying to capture the essence of humanity in a pop song. By the final lines, Cohen concedes “it all went wrong,” but promises to have nothing but gratitude and joy for everything he has experienced.

Putting aside all the biblical allusions and poetic language, “Hallelujah” is a pretty simple song about loving life despite—or because of—its harshness and disappointments. That message is even clearer in Cale’s five-verse rendition, the guidepost for all subsequent covers, which features the line, “Love is not a victory march.” Cale also adds in Cohen’s verse about sex, and how every breath can be a Hallelujah. Buckley, in particular, realized the carnal aspect of the song, calling his version “a Hallelujah to the orgasm.”

“Hallelujah” can be applied to virtually any situation. It’s great for weddings, funerals, TV talent shows, and cartoons about ogres. Although Cohen’s lyrics don’t exactly profess religious devotion, “Hallelujah” has become a popular Christmas song that’s sometimes rewritten with more pious lyrics. Agnostics and atheists can also find plenty to love about “Hallelujah.” It’s been covered more than 300 times because it’s a song for everyone.

When Cohen died on November 7, 2016, at the age of 82, renewed interest in “Hallelujah” vaulted Cohen's version of the song onto the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time. Despite its decades of pop culture ubiquity, it took more than 30 years and Cohen's passing for “Hallelujah”—the very essence of which is about finding beauty amid immense sadness and resolving to move forward—to officially become a hit song.

“There’s no solution to this mess,” Cohen once said, describing the human comedy at the heart of “Hallelujah. “The only moment that you can live here comfortably in these absolutely irreconcilable conflicts is in this moment when you embrace it all and you say 'Look, I don't understand a f***ing thing at all—Hallelujah! That's the only moment that we live here fully as human beings.”

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