If Game of Thrones fans don't have a solution for how to fill their viewing time until next summer, HBO might have the answer. The network's long-awaited sci-fi Western, Westworld, premieres on Sunday — and if early reviews are any indication, it's going to live up to the hype for fans who are willing to replace Westeros with the wild, wild west.
Ahead of Sunday, here's what you need to know about the new series — and what to expect aside from robots, cowboys, robot cowboys, violence and sex.
Westworld is based off a 1973 film by Jurassic Park author Michael Crichton. The late author, best known for writing the Jurassic Park novels, wrote the screenplay for the original Westworld film. There are actually three fictitious worlds in Westworld: the aforementioned Westworld, Roman World and Medieval World. But the film primarily sticks to Westworld.
The premise: Human visitors at the titular Westworld park are in danger when the park's system goes haywire, causing the robots to turn and commit murder — particularly one menacing, black-hatted gunslinger.
In HBO's Westworld, the humans are the antagonists. While the original film focuses on the horror of the robots going rogue, HBO's Westworld is set to pull the back the curtain even further, focusing on Delos, the company that created the tourist utopia.
In turn, audiences will be asked to question the morality of the park and its visitors' for how they treat the realistic humanoids, since they can get away with anything — including murder and rape.
"I'll put it to you this way: Interstellar was, for me, a love song of a human spirit," Westworld producer (and Interstellar co-writer) Jonathan Nolan told Rolling Stone. "The first season of the show that [producer Lisa Joy Nolan] and I put together — it's pretty much the exact opposite of that."
The official Westworld promos have some trippy easter eggs. There is a website for the fictitious amusement park, Discover Westworld. Beneath the surface, a surprisingly dense alternate reality hides.
Just pressing the command/shift buttons on the homepage, as HitFix noted, is enough for the screen to malfunction along with an eerie voiceover: "You should go. Leave. Can't you see? Hell is empty, and all the devils are here."
Moreover, at the top right of the site is an "access" area for employees, and typing in "VIOLENTDELIGHTS" into it takes you to the Delos Incorporated corporate site. There, you can access flagged emails from the Delos communications staff, which hints at a lot of problems looming underneath the surface.
In one particularly disturbing example, an odorous issue in cold storage was caused by rotting corpses.
The show has gone through a ton of delays — and a controversial casting call. A Westworld reboot has been in the works for over a decade, with Arnold Schwarzenegger originally cast. But once he was elected governor of California, the hopes of a Westworld revival with Schwarzenegger (the Terminator movies show he can play a murderous robot quite well) was ostensibly lost.
But Westworld was still in development with J.J. Abrams' production company, Bad Robot, in 2011 — and officially got picked up by HBO in 2013. However, aside from an arduous production process, the series has not been without its problems.
The HBO revival has been met with backlash from critics for its portrayals of sexual violence, as well as a controversial casting call sent out to extras. Per Deadline, the extras would have to participate in "graphic sexual situations" that includes "genital-to-genital touching" as well as posing "on all fours while others who are fully nude ride on your back."
"Sexual violence is an issue we take seriously," executive producer Lisa Joy said during the Television Critics Association press tour in July. "It's extraordinarily disturbing and horrifying. In [Westworld's] portrayal, we endeavored for it to not be about the fetishization of those acts. It's about exploring the crime ... and the torment of the characters within this story, and exploring their stories hopefully with dignity and depth."
Whether the show's sexual violence is an indictment of its quality — or its chances at contending for an Emmy in 2017 — remains to be seen. Westworld premieres at 9 p.m. Eastern on HBO Sunday.