SciFi Weekend: Westworld Season Two Finale; The Expanse Season Finale; 12 Monkeys; Oprah’s Cameo On The Handmaid’s Tale; The Orville & Discovery Among Saturn Award Winners; Further Rumors On Patrick Stewart Returning To Star Trek; Jonathan Frakes On Star Trek and The Orville

Westworld concluded the second season by answering many of the questions raised during the season, and opening up a whole new set of questions for season three. One meta question about the series going into the season was whether the producers could surprise fans with twists after the major twists of the first season were predicted on line. I give them credit for pulling it off this year. While it was apparent that something was up with Delores not being seen in the most recent timeline, I don’t think many realized that she was in a host version of Charlotte Hale’s body. It would be interesting to watch Charlotte’s scenes again knowing that she could have been Delores in some.

We know Delores left the park in Charlotte’s body, but we later saw both Charlotte and Delores, raising the question of whose mind is in Charlotte’s body at that point. We know that Delores took the minds of some other hosts with her, but not which ones. It is like the mystery of the Final Five Cylons on Battlestar Galactica. Which of the apparently dead characters will return this way? Will she reconstruct Maeve? When Delores left the park, it was obvious that Stubb realized she was a host, and most likely that he was a host constructed to protect the other hosts. This leaves open the question of how many other hosts there are impersonating humans. While some apparently dead characters will return, I suspect we will never see those who went to the virtual reality heaven again, but nothing can be ruled out entirely.

One of the most interesting questions was raised in the final post-credit scene. I assume that William and Emily were both humans when William first killed Emily. Apparently at some time in the future, perhaps third season or perhaps long beyond then, there will be a host version of Emily doing a fidelity test on a host who has William’s mind inside, reliving the events of William in the park. As on Battlestar Galactica, all of this happened before and will happen again.

The producers did clear up many of the questions raised in the finale in various interviews, while making clear that other topics are being saved for next season. Following are some excerpts from various interviews:

Deadline

Wait a second, isn’t Dolores in Charlotte? Why are they standing together in the end?

JOY: What Dolores has done is that she’s smuggled herself out of the park while impersonating Hale. She has put herself back into her body, and yet Hale is still there. The question is where is Hale now? And that’s a question we’ll be visiting next season.

As Charlotte buzzes away from the island, in a bag she carries several pearls from The Forge.

JOY: In those pearls are a handful of hosts that she is smuggling out of the park. Which hosts they are, we’ll be exploring.

We see the Man in Black digging in his arm, and he’s not in a lot of pain. Does that make him a host? We see that there’s actually a back-up of him that exists.

JOY: This season we’ve been seeing him in a lot of pain and as he digs into his arm, he suffers from madness. He himself doesn’t know if he’s a host or not. We’ve basically had two time lines this season in the classic film noir structure. We’ve seen him playing the game and figuring his footsteps to the Valley Beyond, but he’s become confused on his side of reality, questioning his nature. If you immerse yourself in the game for too long, do you lose the sense of what is real and not real? He struggles with this and it leads to the moment where he kills his daughter Emily thinking she might be a host. He was in fact mistaken, and he’s digging into his own skin for answers and doesn’t find any wires by the time Dolores arrives. By the end of this time line, he’s being shipped out into the real world. He did kill his own daughter, he’s in the prison of his own skin, locked in his own confusion and guilt.

The chapter that occurs after the credits [editor’s note: Where the Man in Black arrives in an apartment that looks a lot like the one that housed android James Delos being interrogated by daughter Emily as though she is the human, and he the robot] is a little piece of what to come in the future. It gives full closure of the timelines by validating what happened in the park as the Man in Black leaves.

And Bernard?

JOY: He’s leaving his home in the end to be in the real world. Dolores is being totally upfront with him. That they escaped the park, and even if they’re working as foes, it will take both of them to survive. The real world is what we’re investigating next season.

Entertainment Weekly

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY:  Do you know who each of those balls represent in Dolores’ purse? Or is your cast on edge about which characters Dolores found worthy of survival?
JONATHAN NOLAN: We’ve had some interesting conversations. It’s a large ensemble cast and sadly we’re saying goodbye to some people at the end of this season. But as always with this show, who remains and who doesn’t is something we’re having a lot of fun with. There’s going to be a bit of a wait for a third season but we want to surprise and hopefully delight people with the way things progress…

When we see Dolores walking with Charlotte out of the room at the end on the mainland, does that mean there are now two Doloreses played by different actors?
Ehhh, not really. The question of who’s who and what we’re looking at is something we’re excited to play with. We’re excited to withhold a little from the audience but … it’s complicated…

Is it safe to assume — and perhaps it’s not — that Zahn McClarnon’s character, the Ghost Nation leader Akecheta, and others who went through the portal to the virtual Eden are not going to continue on?
I think that’s on the safer end of things to presume. But there’s a big story we’re telling here so … yeah.

I know you’ve drafted the broad strokes of your multi-year plan, can you say if next season largely take place outside the park?
Yes. We’re very excited about where the third season goes. It’s been a long build-up to get outside the park. And we’re incredibly excited about what that looks like and sounds like and what exactly our hosts discover out there…

Your Marvel-like post credits sequence with William and his daughter that brought us back to the horrifying James Delos fidelity apartment. My read was that Dolores printed out a version of the Man in Black and his daughter using the park’s secret guest data to leave them entombed in The Forge to do the fidelity test for all eternity and that scene takes place many years later. But that it doesn’t mean the Man in Black was a host previously or that he’s not still alive in the real world like we saw with him in the tent. Is that more or less how we should be interpreting this?
I’d agree with a lot of that. They do explicitly say they’re not in the system. And we do see the ruins of it. So that does suggest in that scene we are further in the future. We’d always said with this story we wanted to consider the beginning, middle and the end the of the emergence of a new form of life on Earth and we managed to cover a lot of those bases in this season.

Based on that final scene, should we assume there will be a time jump for season 3?
Not necessarily. We just love the ability to play in perceptual terms with the hosts being immortal. There is a subtle shift in this season, when you started seeing more and more backstory of the Man in Black, it should raise suspicions, and it has for a lot of people but, um … returning to the last question, your take it on it, which, as usual, is astute, is we’re watching a series of events play out: We see Emily’s dead body, we see the Man in Black in extremis — but not quite dead yet — but we also understand we’ve explored Delos’ greatest mistake, the one unalterable moment, the cornerstone decision he makes in his life, and we’re seeing that play out with the Man in Black. We’ve seen how it is that, using The Forge, that you’d be drawn back to these key moments and you’d run them again and again…

The Wrap:

TheWrap: Where exactly did Dolores send the Hosts who went into the Sublime when she changed the coordinates?

Joy: I think what she’s done is she fulfilled their wish. They wanted to escape to a digital space where they could be truly free and create their own world, untarnished by human interference. And in changing the coordinates and kind of locking in and stowing them away, Dolores has finally found a way to accept their choice and give them what they so desired.

TheWrap: After the guest data in the Forge is erased, Hale/Dolores leaves with five control units in a purse. Who is in them? Maeve? Armistice? And can “Halores” remake them then?

Joy: There is Host data in the actual hosts who did not “sublime” — so their CPUs are still intact. So, if they didn’t sublime, those pearls still contain their information. In each of those little balls in the purse is a Host, so there is a handful of them — but not an infinite amount of them. There are five. One Host per pearl.

TheWrap: When Halores left the beach, it seemed like Stubbs knew it was Dolores — or at least that it wasn’t Hale. Is that safe to assume?

Joy: Yes! It is safe to assume. And there is a step further that you can assume too. And we don’t say it explicitly, but if you are left wondering with all [Stubbs’] talk, his knowing talk about, “I’ve been at the park a very long time,” and Ford designed him with certain core drives, and he’s gonna stick to the role he’s been programmed with; it’s a little acknowledgement of just why he might have his suspicions about what’s going on with Hale, and then lets her pass.

And doesn’t it make sense if you are Ford and designing a park and you have a whole master plan about helping robots that you would keep one Host hiding in plain sight as a fail-safe? Maybe the Host who’s in charge of quality assurance? And by the way, that was totally meant to be subtle [laughs]…

TheWrap: So, because we do know that Emily died in the current timeline we’re in, is it fair to assume whoever is down there with this iteration of the Man in Black is similar to Dolores training Bernard? That has to be a Host or some other something if this is in the future and Emily died. Yes?

Joy: Oh yes, the Katja Herbers in the future talking to the Man in Black is now a Host version of Katja Herbers.

More on the finale in the Behind the Scenes video above.

The Expanse season three was by far the best season yet, making me very happy that Amazon is keeping the series alive. I am also glad that they did move at a quicker pace and conclude Abaddon’s Gate. If they had ended a season mid-book again, it would have been really frustrating if the series was not renewed.

Showrunner Naren Shankar discussed the season finale and plans for season four with Entertainment Weekly:

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start right at the very end: What is the meaning of that last shot where the Roci goes through the Ring, and as Holden passes through it, there is a burst of energy. What’s going on there, and what are you setting up for season 4?
NAREN SHANKAR:
 When Holden was in that vision with Miller, he learns the beings that built the Rings, they’re gone. So what killed them? Because he had a vision of these things, he had a vision of something destroying the Rings and shutting them down. And Miller says, “I kinda wanna know too.” And so when the Roci goes to the Ring at the end, it comes to kind of an ominous little harbinger of things to come. That there is something inside that Ring space, in places between the Ring gates, that’s gonna come into play at some point as the series goes on.

We’ll talk more about what you have in store for season 4 in a bit, but let’s get into what happened this season. First off, you really sped through book 3, Abaddon’s Gate, doing the whole thing in seven episodes — much faster than the first two books. Why the accelerated pace for what is, in my opinion, one of the best books in the series?
Book 3 was a challenging thing to adapt. What was tricky about Abaddon’s Gate was that it starts with an entirely new cast of characters. It kind of builds up to getting them through the Ring. It’s more philosophical than intellectual. The space where they go into, it’s sort of the most… I don’t want to use this term disparagingly at all, but sort of science-fiction-y thing we have done in the run of the show. Which tends to be sort of more like science-realistic, or at least tries to achieve that. So for a lot of reasons, we felt like we had 13 episode seasons, we were gonna finish off Caliban’s War mid-season. We took the approach that we compressed it and we launched Anna, who was the character, really kind of the focus character in Abaddon’s Gate, early in the season, which we did because she is not actually in the second book at all…

One of the most interesting things you did on the show was your treatment of Ashford. He’s a pretty detestable character in the book, but you made him much more layered here and turned him into a guy who, while on the wrong side of things, does think what he’s doing is right and is admirable in the way he is willing to sacrifice himself for that. How did that character evolve for you?
Part of it was when we got this point in the narrative, it was about Fred and Dawes and their dueling agendas. But when we got to the Behemoth, it would be kind of weird to have Fred and Dawes on this ship. And so, it led us to this idea of their lieutenants. So Drummer was a logical one to take it for Fred Johnson, and then we were like, “Who’s the guy who worked for Dawes?” Then that was the starting point for Ashford, because he doesn’t have really that backstory in the book. And we asked ourselves, what would a guy who worked for Dawes have done before?

And so we crafted that character and built a backstory around him. And then, as we understood what he was going to do, we had the opportunity to reach out to David Strathairn. He was older than we thought initially the character was going to be, but that actually allowed us to give more layers and more depth to it. And so what you saw in the final product was kind of the aggregation of all of those different things. I think that it’s one of my favorite things in season 3, honestly. He just gives a terrific performance, all over.

Let’s talk about season 4. What can you say about where the story goes next?
One of the things that seems pretty clear, and we set it up at the end of the episode 13 with Holden’s thing, it’s going to be another blood-soaked gold rush. That’s about to happen, because you’ve got an entire species and several societies that have defined themselves on the fact that the solar system is all they’ve got, that those resources are what they have. But suddenly that all changes. It’s like the discovery of the New World — suddenly there’s land, there’s resources, there’s the potential of making incredible fortunes right there. What’s going to happen? Well, readers of the book know that these are things that that destabilize societies, and that’s what you are going to see the beginnings of in season 4.

The fourth book, Cibola Burn, takes place pretty much all on the planet Ilus, or in orbit of that planet. Will that be the same deal here? Is that going to be the battleground and the space version of expanding west?
[Book authors] Ty and Daniel often refer to the story of Ilus and Cibola Burn as kind of a classic Western in many ways. The book Cibola takes place entirely on Ilus. We are there for one complete novel. We are going to tell that story in season 4, sure, but we’re not leaving Earth and Mars and the Belt behind. They’re part of the story, and both of fans of the books and fans of the show are going to see something really interesting and new in season 4…

Finally, how does the show change now being on Amazon as opposed to Syfy?
There are some things that are amazing that we don’t have to worry about: restrictions on nudity, restrictions on language, and restrictions on length to some extent. It’s like we don’t have to jam the episodes into 43-minute boxes if they’re going to spill over into a 50-minute box. There were times in season 3 where I wished that I had been able to put another four or five minutes into certain shows, it would have been great. And we certainly would have done it, and that’s the beauty of being on another platform like this, is that if the material demands it, you can make the story a little bit longer to accommodate it.

We never wrote it going, “Oh, God, it’s going to be on basic cable so we’ve got to tone this down.” I think we did some pretty drastic things when we needed to. None of that’s going to change, and I hope that as we get into it more, we’re going to find more and more opportunities to really make the platform work for us, because it’s a great way to watch the show. When you can stream this thing in 4K and it’s seamless and there are no commercial breaks — we don’t even go to blacks — it’s a different experience when you watch. It’s incredibly engaging, and every time I show it to people that way, they go, “That’s a completely different experience than watching it on basic cable.” So we’re really excited to be on Amazon.

This week set of three episodes of 12 Monkeys was darker than the previous three as expected. While characters might not actually be gone in a time travel series such as this, it appears to have been the conclusions of the stories for Deacon, Hannah and Emma. The twist with Hannah was unexpected until late in the episode, but in retrospect makes perfect sense. Showrunner Terry Matalas told  TVLine that this was planned from the start: “From the moment we mentioned Marion Woods, I knew. In fact, on Brooke’s first day, I told her, right after she was cast. It was something that was always planned. And if you go back and watch the series, you can see many hints of that throughout.”

Like last week, the episode also ended with a family drink thanks to time travel.

There were other twists. We found that Cole is the living anomaly in the timeline, and the weapon mentioned in the previous episodes was designed to wipe him out of time. Yet another major twist had Cassandra be the one to release the virus, with the alternative being even worse should they not have time travel available to fight the threat against time itself. The danger is accelerating as Titan is completed and the sky is turning red over New York. The episoded ended with the message, To Be Concluded.

During last week’s episode of The Handmaid’s Tale, June was briefly free, and turned on a car radio to hear this message from Radio Free America:

And now, this news. The American Government in Anchorage today received promises of economic aid from India and China. In the United Kingdom, additional sanctions on Gilead were announced, as well as plans to raise the cap on American refugees relocating from Canada. Now, a tune to remind everyone who’s listening, American patriot or Gilead traitor; we are still here. Stars and stripes forever, baby.

The message was read by Oprah Winfrey. Showrunner Bruce Miller explained how this cameo came about:

“We’d heard Oprah was a fan of the show, and had a story idea, and thought, wouldn’t it be wonderful if… So we asked and she said yes, and it was a lovely, easy process,” showrunner Bruce Miller says. “The radio segment she recorded was inspired by the free radio of the Allies from World War II.  It was an absolute honor to have Oprah featured on the show, and especially thrilling as she was the one who presented us with the Emmy last year.”

The Orville has won the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction TV Series. The full list of awards is here. Awards for best television series in various categories went to:

Best Science Fiction TV SeriesThe Orville
Best Horror TV SeriesThe Walking Dead
Best Action/Thriller TV Series Better Call Saul
Best Fantasy TV SeriesOutlander
Best Presentation on Television:
  Twin Peaks
Best Animated TV Series:  Star Wars Rebels
Best Superhero Adaptation Television Series:  The Flash
Best New Media TV Series:  
Star Trek: Discovery
Best New Media Superhero Series:  Marvel’s The Punisher

Star Trek: Discovery won another Saturn Award with Sonequa Martin-Green winning as Best Actress on Television. Kyle MacLachlan (Twin Peaks) won for Best Actor on Television.

Blade Runner 2049 received the award for Best Science Fiction Film. Black Panther won the award for Best Comic-to-Film Motion Picture

The rumors continue that Patrick Stewart might be reprising his role as Jon Luc Picard. While it is not clear how reliable this is, The Mirror makes it sound like they are close to a deal:

Sir Patrick, 77, is “close to securing a deal” to return as Captain Jean-Luc Picard for a reboot of the Generation series.

The star is keen to reprise his most ­famous part – and deals are close to ­being struck, says a TV source…

The show’s co-creator Alex Kurtzman has a five-year contract to forge new adventures for the small screen. And his team has spoken to Sir Patrick about returning as Picard to helm the Enterprise for run or even longer.

An LA source said: “Patrick is ­looking pretty good to get back on board the Enterprise. There are some aspects of the deal to be finalised, but there is a verbal commitment from all parties.”

He said: “There are animated series also in the works, and Patrick could easily lend his voice to them.

“An announcement will be made in the next few weeks and the show should be out next year.”

If it comes down to one or the other, I hope it is a live action reboot of The Next Generation as opposed to having Stewart work on an animated series. It would also be great to see Star Trek finally move forward again, with the last two series and recent movies all taking place at earlier times. As other former Star Trek stars have not been mentioned, I wonder if the plan is to secure Stewart first, or if this would be done with a new crew under Picard.

TrekMovie.com has posted an interview with Jonathan Frakes in which he discussed both Star Trek and directing The Orville. He had this to say about type-casting:

And I don’t know if I knew subconsciously or consciously that there’d be this typecasting. As Leonard Nimoy famously said, “It’s better to be typecast than not to be cast at all.” But there was a certain thing that happened after the show that you can see evidence of from The Original Series, from our series, Voyager, DS9, Enterprise. The exceptions were Bakula, and Patrick, and Bill and Colm, and Rene and Kate, maybe, to a certain point. Jeri Ryan. More of a handful people were not painted with the Star Trek brush, right? I don’t know what you’d call that in your world, but there certainly is … It was a double-edged sword.