How Radiohead’s ‘Exit Music (for a Film)’ Reflects Dolores’s Climactic Westworld Moment

Photo: HBO

Following each week’s episode of Westworld, show composer Ramin Djawadi (Game of Thrones) has been Vulture’s guide to the music.

All season long, our robot hosts have been gradually awakening, aided by a little bit of wake-up music. Someone (which we can now conclude was Dr. Ford) was using modern music cues to poke and prod the robots into the center of the maze, into consciousness. Until finally, the hosts did wake up, or at least some of them, and started choosing their own soundtracks. In the finale, when Dolores picks the music, we hear Radiohead’s chilling “Exit Music (for a Film)” merged with the show’s main title theme.

“I think more than ever, it’s been turned around,” Djawadi said. “They’re picking their songs, rather than the songs picked for them. They’re scoring their own actions. This is what they’re feeling at this moment, and what the future is holding for them. This song is the climax of that.”

Dolores might have picked Radiohead’s song for romantic reasons — it was originally written for Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet, “and there’s a tragic-love-story aspect to this, with Dolores and the Man in Black,” Djawadi said. Or, if she were familiar with the lyrics, it might have a special resonance for her. (“Wake from your sleep … Today we escape … We hope that you choke.”) The song is about defying authority (the father) and obsessive control. The song fades out just before Ford plays Debussy’s “Reverie” music once more, and Dolores shoots him — giving him the “exit” foretold in the song’s title, and perhaps giving herself an exit as well. Not the doomed scenario from Romeo & Juliet that her scene on the beach with Teddy also evoked, but a new fate that wasn’t preprogrammed.

All the piano reductions and orchestrations of modern music used in season one of Westworld (including a bonus “saloon” version of Radiohead’s “No Surprises” ) are now available on iTunes, including two songs that Djawadi didn’t arrange himself — Nine Inch Nails’ “Something I Can Never Have” and Radiohead’s “Motion Picture Soundtrack.” Those two were licensed from the Vitamin String Quartet, who specialize in doing much of what Djawadi did on the show: transforming modern rock songs into orchestral versions.

Djawadi doesn’t know where Westworld will go next season — Eastworld, perhaps? — but he hopes to continue the practice of using music as subconscious clues for the hosts, guests, and audience. “Whatever worlds they are in, we have to find a way, because it’s been so fun, and clearly, people like it,” he said. “So let’s see what’s next.”

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