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Westworld has been off the air for nearly a year and a half, and the Season 1 finale back in December 2016 left viewers with more questions than answers about what could possibly come next. The good news was that the first season set the stage for the show to expand in some exciting ways in future seasons; the bad news was that we had a while to wait before the second season and the folks behind the scenes were keeping a tight lid on spoilers. We now know that the show will visit Shogun World in Season 2, and Westworld writer-producers Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy have weighed in on why Shogun World is the world to be visited in the new season. Nolan had this to say:
Part of the reason we're going to Shogun World instead of to Roman World or Medieval World is, yes, you saw those in the original film. But also if you're doing a theme park, you wouldn't limit it to the Western European or North American experience. You'd try to reach a global audience. So the idea is you have a texture here that's totally different. And selfishly, it comes down to being obsessed with Japanese cinema as a kid and earnestly wanting to make an homage to Akira Kurosawa and the other films I grew up watching. My older brothers and I watched Sergio Leone Westerns and Kurosawa's classic samurai films and were fascinated to discover they had the same plot. You had this wonderful call and response between these two genres -- with the gunslinger and the ronin. They have identical tropes but are set within different cultures. Frankly, this was just a great excuse to go and make a samurai movie with all the trimmings.
The reveal that Westworld will visit Shogun World in Season 2 came as a surprise to fans who were expecting the show to more or less follow the worlds set up in the original Westworld movie way back in 1973, which teased Roman World and Medieval World. Obviously Season 1 took a lot of liberties with the movie and there was no guarantee that Season 2 would indeed move on to Roman and/or Medieval World; the introduction of Shogun World should be a big reminder to expect the unexpected from Westworld. Jonathan Nolan's comments reveal that he wants Westworld to have have a broader scope within the narrative than just Westworld, Roman World, and Medieval World. Shogun World will also allow him to play with adapting a samurai movie to the small screen with a distinctly Westworld twist.
Shogun World won't just unfold like a samurai movie, however. Lisa Joy went on in the chat with EW to say this about the decision to incorporate Shogun World in the second season of Westworld:
For me, it's also personal. I grew up in Asia, and I remember as a little kid being in Taiwan watching films there and being so awed by these new worlds of entertainment. You saw new talents with the actors, new fighting styles, new types of wardrobe. It was exhilarating to me. So we looked to all our [department heads] to make sure we had the full thrill of exploring Shogun World ... researching hair and production design and costume, working with choreographers who were skilled at fighting styles we haven't seen before, and of course working with incredible talent, from Hiroyuki Sanada and Rinko Kikuchi, and the other actors that we cast and the extras filling it out. It was wonderful to see that world come alive.
It sounds like we can expect Shogun World to be strikingly different from Westworld, but similar insofar as an entire world was built from top to bottom for the theme park. Shogun World will certainly be no less violent, as the Delos website recently revealed that "the true connoisseur of gore can indulge their fantasies with the slash of a katana" in Shogun World, which is modeled after Japan's Edo period. We'll have to wait and see if Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy deliver on their promise/threat to release a video detailing all the twists of Season 2. What we can apparently say for sure is that Season 2 won't go light on the violence.
For what has been revealed about Westworld, be sure to check out our breakdown of what we know so far about Season 2. The second season premiere will air on Sunday, April 22 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO. For more of what you can watch now and in the not-too-distant future, swing by our midseason TV premiere guide and summer TV premiere schedule.