Westworld Post Mortem of “Riddle of the Sphinx”

Lisa Joy Director_S2 E4

As the dust continues to settle after Westworld‘s fourth episode of its sophomore season, “Riddle of the Sphinx”, more interviews and videos with cast and crew have popped up. Let’s take a look through them to see what everyone is saying about the episode!


We first start with co-creator Lisa Joy, who made her directorial debut with the episode. And, I must say, she hit a huge home run with it!

The co-showrunner recently sat down with HBO.com to discuss her thought process behind the visual and narrative decisions made for the episode, and specifically, how she approached capturing James Delos’s (Peter Mullan) circular test room. “I felt strongly that the room should be revealed in a pull back as opposed to a push forward, because it gives us less agency,” says Joy. “We’re just passive riders, observing from a vantage point that some other force is constricting. In the allegory of the hosts, they were only allowed to know or see as much as other people allowed them to see. I wanted to trap the viewer in a similar way and restrict their orientation, make them wait to understand where we are and what we are looking at.”

Throughout the majority of the episode, we see the room in its bright, clean, futuristic-looking aesthetic. But, as Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and Elsie (Shannon Woodward) discover the room in the present timeline, the look drastically changes to one of horror, a visual choice Joy says she intentionally made to help change the mood while talking with Variety:

“I wanted to take the same room that had been so sterile and antiseptic and safe and make it into this horror film. I looked at a lot of Tarkovsky films just in terms of how much set decoration and the slow movement of the camera could lead to a suspenseful theme — and the way the music interacts with things — to give a real sense of foreboding and horror while keeping it grounded in something emotional and real.”

Check out both the HBO.com and Variety interviews for a deeper look at Joy’s inspirations for the other storylines within the episode.

Bernard and Elsie Westworld

Next, we check in with Jeffrey Wright, who spoke with Insider about Bernard’s journey this season to piece together the jumbled memories clouding his android brain.

As is tradition, co-showrunners Joy and Jonathan Nolan only fed Wright information he needed to know to perform each scene, and the actor explained that this strategy ended up aiding him in his portrayal of Bernard’s struggle this season. “I wasn’t in on much this year, because Bernard is in a place in which he’s struggling with understanding it, so they wanted to keep me in the dark a little bit,” says Wright. “I was aware of where things were heading, but aside from that I think I might have been one of the less-informed on set this year. Which would serve the purpose, because it just allowed the process that I was going through to fuse with Bernard’s state.”

That being said, sometimes logistics, time, and budgetary constraints trump the desire to withhold as much information from the actors as possible, as was the case with Wright this season. “Because of logistical concerns, I ended up shooting scenes from probably seven or eight different episodes during the course of the first four or five weeks of filming,” admits the actor. “So I was able to connect the dots a little bit.”

Check out Wright’s entire interview with Insider here, during which he also discusses the subtle physical differences between his performances as Bernard and Arnold, and take a watch through a fun interview the actor recently did with Complex News below:

Emily and Stubbs Westworld

In an episode full of surprising reveals, one of the biggest came at the very end, when Grace (Katja Herbers) and the Man In Black (Ed Harris) come face to face, and we learn that Grace is actually Emily, the daughter of the MIB. Herbers recently spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about this big reveal, how she felt when she first learned her character’s backstory, and what we can expect from future interactions between Emily and her father.

Herbers explained that she didn’t know about her character’s connection to the MIB during auditions, and only found out when she arrived at base camp. “On my first day coming to the offices, Lisa Joy asked if we could talk for a second; she wanted to tell me her backstory. She told me everything, and my jaw was on the floor,” reveals the actress. “I got very excited.”

Though the connection between Emily and the MIB was intentionally hidden up until the big reveal, Herbers admitted that there is one part about Harris’s performance that she tried to mimic in her portrayal of Emily. “I got obsessed with the way Ed Harris uses his gun,” says the actress. “I thought it would be very cool to use my gun in the same way. He has a certain way of flipping it.”

Now that father and daughter are reunited, what can we expect in terms of their future interactions? Herbers provided a glimpse of what’s to come:

“We’re definitely going to see them talk and reckon with the fact that her mom is gone. I think she needs her father, now that she doesn’t have her mom anymore. She needs an explanation for things. She needs to get to know her dad. I think she wants to know what he does in that park. I think I’ve gone to the park a lot with him; growing up, I’ve been there many times. But I don’t think I know the kind of monster he is in the park. I’m going to find out who he really is, I guess, and who I am in the park — like everyone does.”

As Emily starts figuring out her father’s ruthless persona within the boundaries of the park, will she decide to stay with him and join his cause? Or will her discovery end up pushing her away?

Check out THR‘s entire interview with Herbers here.

Elsie_S2 E4

In staying with the theme of episode reveals, another big one came as we learned the whereabouts of Elsie Hughes. While the secret of Elsie’s return was already out before the episode aired, it was still great to see that the Delos tech was alive and well.

Shannon Woodward, the actress behind the character, recently spoke to Marie Claire about what it’s been like for her to be on the show, and specifically, how she’s dealt with the tidal wave of theories that fans throw at her. Woodward explained that she tries to be as respectful as possible as she hears the fans out, but sometimes, their assumptions of being right turn out to be a bit much:

“Last year I had a lot of people telling me their theories, and trying to convince me that they were right. I tried to be kind to them about it because I was so glad that they were enjoying the show, but at some point it got to sound a lot like mansplaining. I was like, ‘You know I’ve read the scripts, right? I do know what happens and that’s not what happens.'”

Woodward also got a lot of questions from curious viewers about whether Elsie was dead or alive coming into season 2. “[Fans would] walk up to me on the street and ask, ‘Are you dead?’ All the time, over and over again,” says the actress. “It’s a weird thing to keep being asked. Eventually I was like, ‘Am I dead?'”

Now that the secret is out and Elsie has returned, much to the viewership’s delight, what kind of story arc should we expect from her? Right now, it looks like her and Bernard have joined forces on the mission to find out which human the extra control unit was printed for, and to get Elsie back to the Mesa Hub, but I have a feeling someone or something may get in the way of their plan…it is Westworld after all…

Check out Woodward’s full interview with Marie Claire here.

MIB_S2 E4

We end our interviews with Ed Harris, whose character also had quite the arc this episode. Before running into his daughter Emily, the MIB rides into Las Mudas and proceeds to gun down Major Craddock (Jonathan Tucker) and his camp of men, after thinking back to the loss of his own wife Juliet (Claire Unabia) and realizing he doesn’t want Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.) and his family to suffer the same heartbreak.

In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Harris opened up about working with director Lisa Joy, and what all went into perfecting the shootout scene at Las Mudas.

“It was that much more in-depth for me,” Harris says when asked how he felt being directed by Joy. “Any questions I had, she was there to answer. [Joy and Nolan have] been living with these characters in their heads for a long time, in terms of their deeper motivations. It felt like we were penetrating the character deeper than we had at times.”

The gunfire scene that erupted between the MIB and Craddock’s men may have started and ended within the span of a minute, but the sequence itself took a lot of time to plan and master. “We really worked hard on the choreography of that: when the bullets were hitting and where,” says Harris. “The whole sequence of it was worked very specifically in rehearsal. I remember how excited Lisa was directing the episode. I really liked working with her on it.”

Harris’s entire THR interview can be found here.

Bernard Brain_Delos Website

On a separate note, there look to be a couple new features added to the Delos Destinations and Delos Incorporated websites.

On the Delos Destinations site, there’s now a map of Bernard’s brain (pictured above), within which you can see the host’s damaged brain. The plus signs invite visitors to click and gather more information, but as of now, only one works, and when clicked, it takes you to the first-person footage from last episode of Elsie removing Bernard’s glasses before going in and altering his code to save him.

We’ll keep an eye out to see if and when the additional markers become hyperlinked and offer more details or footage.

Over on Delos Incorporated, there is now a page that looks to be a basic computer rendering of James Delos’s circular test room:

Delos Inc Screen Shot_James Delos Test Room

The plus signs are present on this page as well, but all work, and once pressed, each brings up a brief clip from the last episode, many featuring Delos talking to Young William (Jimmi Simpson). It remains to be seen if this page will be built out or altered any more, but we’ll keep an eye on it!


And finally, in case you missed it, here’s a Shogun World-centric teaser for this upcoming Sunday’s episode, “Akane No Mai”:

3 responses to “Westworld Post Mortem of “Riddle of the Sphinx””

  1. Little update on the Delos Destinations website! Once you click on the only plus sign that works on Bernard’s brain map, and watch the video of Elsie taking Bernard’s glasses off, you can exit out of that video. Once you exit out, it brings you to another screen where somebody (it seems to not be that Aeden AI thing) types to you and you can have a conversation with them. Lots of choices to choose from– seems like it’ll be cool to explore them all!

    Update: It is some AI who calls themselves the “Second Officer.”

      Quote  Reply

  2. Jaehaerys,

    This is strange. If you can find your way over to the Mesh Network, and click on White Pearl, you’ll get this odd response, “Bernard’s brain is filled with doors, each containing a memory.
    But how does this human pastiche differ from the one he burned?”

    I wonder what in hell this means.

      Quote  Reply

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