During a recent Reddit AMA ahead of the April 22nd return of Westworld, series creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy announced a plan to spoil their own show.
It sounded a bit odd, but they sold the hell out of it, saying they hoped to mimic how Game of Thrones has cultivated a culture of book readers who don’t spoil things for show watchers. A ton of outlets reported on the plan (we almost did here, to be honest); here’s a representative example from The Verge:
The idea of hewing to the Thrones model led the creators to the idea of the spoiler video, and while it seems counterintuitive as a strategy, there is a logic to it. Those who simply want to know all the secrets can learn them right away without having to wait, and those who don’t can avoid the video. But the simple act of choosing not to watch the video will almost undoubtedly make a given fan more emotionally invested in the idea of not being spoiled in the first place — and perhaps lead to them going out of their way to avoid any coverage or sites that might toe the line. The release of the video would also make the Westworld subreddit radioactive for fans who don’t want surprises spoiled, perhaps decreasing the number of people who might accidentally stumble upon it and learn a big upcoming secret.
A very reasoned take. And then the video dropped. (Spoiler: there are no spoilers.)
That’s a really good prank. There’s no doubt about it. It forced a lot of those same outlets to write what amounted to lighthearted retractions. Again from The Verge:
Yup, it’s a Rickroll. It’s a very elaborate one, to be sure, complete with Evan Rachel Wood actually covering the song with piano accompaniment from fellow cast member Angela Sarafyan on set, but it’s a troll nonetheless. The rest of the video is filled with an extended clip of a dog at a piano, as a tribute to the recently deceased Bento the Keyboard Cat.
It’s a fun reveal, albeit one that preys on the goodwill of the most enthusiastic fans of the show by turning the endless attempts at guessing Westworld’s secrets into the butt of a joke. (Although commenters on Nolan’s post on Reddit seem to be taking the twist in good humor.)
I’d actually argue that it makes sites who go out of their way to write about every possible detail the butt of the joke; it was a day of widespread free advertising for the show, followed up by another day of widespread free advertising for the show, couched within a fairly clever thought experiment on spoilers and spoiler culture.
If the plot of season 2 is as tightly executed, we’ll all be very lucky.