Decrypted, Ars Technica's TV podcast

Welcome to Decrypted, Ars Technica's weekly podcast that follows TV shows like Mr. Robot and Westworld. We'll be diving into the shows in a way only Ars can—which is to say it'll be thorough, we'll talk with experts, and no detail is too minute or nerdy. // Mr. Robot S2 starts 7/13/16. Show is produced and hosted by Nathan Mattise. // Westworld S1 starts 10/2/16. Show is produced and hosted by Annalee Newitz, co-produced by Jennifer Hahn.
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Decrypted, Ars Technica's TV podcast


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Apr 22, 2017

In this week's podcast, Jonathan Gitlin talks with Ars Techinca culture editor Annalee Newitz about this season's finale: how the future of the series will relate to the books; what will Fred Johnson's next move be; what is Avasarala's fate on Mao's ship; and what in the universe is Project Caliban up to?

Apr 14, 2017

In this week's podcast, Ars Technica's Jonathan Gitlin talks with Ars Video Producer Jennifer Hahn about episode 12, "The Monster and the Rocket": Errinwright makes a bold move that can't be taken back; Avasarala tries diplomacy on Mao's fancy yacht-ship; Naomi tries to help refugees off Ganymede with tragic consequences; and Holden-as-Ahab continues his mission to kill the humanoid protomolecule. Our hosts also discuss classic and obscure sci-fi television that influenced them to become fans of shows like The Expanse.

Apr 6, 2017

On this week's podcast, Ars Technica's Jonathan Gitlin recaps The Expanse S02 Episode 11: things go from bad to worse for the Roci crew on Ganymede, Bobbi Draper takes a stand against Mars by defecting to Earth, as things heat up in the Mars/Earth conflict. Then Ars Technica science editor John Timmer talks with authors Amanda Hendrix and Charles Wohlforth about their new book Beyond Earth, which details the challenges of space colonization.

Mar 30, 2017

On this week's podcast, Ars Technica's Jonathan Gitlin talks with Ars Business Editor Cyrus Farivar, who is a huge fan of the show. Last year, Cyrus held a live talk with Nick Farmer, the linguist who invented the Belter language for the TV show and became intrigued. Cyrus talks about how his interest grew out of being a fan of shows like BSG, and how he's impressed with the tech, culture and science of The Expanse. Later in the show, Ars Technica's John Timmer sits down with actress Frankie Adams to talk about her Martian character Bobbie Draper.

Mar 23, 2017

On this week's podcast, Ars Technica's Jonathan Gitlin talks with actor Wes Chatham about his character Amos on The Expanse. Wes talks about being a fan of the books before being offered the role on the show, how he approaches this unusual character, and the discussion veers off into Blade Runner territory (which version is Wes' favorite?). Jonathan also recaps season 2, episode 9: the Roci crew commandeer a ship to Ganymede, Bobbi Draper takes her first trip to Earth to be grilled during the UN/Mars peace talks, and a crew travels to Mars to find out what happened to Eros.

Mar 16, 2017

In this week's podcast, Jonathan Gitlin talks with Ars Technica's space editor Eric Berger about NASA and the possibilities of space travel and colonization. Jonathan also recaps this week's episode: we meet Praxideke Meng, a refugee scientist from Ganymede who becomes key to finding out what happened there; the Belters rebel against Fred Johnson after Anderson Dawes kidnaps his "secret" (Cortizar, the scientist working on the protomolecule). Later on in the podcast, Ars Technica's science editor John Timmer talks with Steven Strait from NBC's 30 Rock about his character James Holden.

Mar 10, 2017

On this week's podcast, Ars Technica's Jonathan Gitlin is joined by linguist Nick Farmer who created the spoken language of Belter for The Expanse. Last year, Nick was our first Ars Live guest at Oakland's Longitude bar, and he's back to speak with us one-on-one. Jonathan also recaps season 2, episode 7: as the UN leaders argue about what to do about Mars, the Roci crew helps refugees from Ganymede on Ceres, Bobbi Draper tries to recall what happened to her crew, and Anderson Dawes challenges Fred Johnson's leadership.

Mar 3, 2017

On this week's podcast, Ars Technica's Jonathan Gitlin is joined by Ars' very own science editor John Timmer, as we discuss a particular science fiction trope he can't stand, and recap the latest goings-on with Eros, the UN on Earth, and the Mars soldiers on Ganymede. John also speaks with Dominique Tipper, who plays Naomi Nagata, whom he interviewed at NBC/30 Rock before the season started, about her overall thoughts on her character.

Feb 23, 2017

In this week's podcast, Ars Technica's Jonathan Gitlin recaps season 2, episode 5 of The Expanse, as we follow Miller on his journey to stop Eros from hitting Earth with the help of an old "friend"; the UN puts their plan into action to stop Eros, as the powerless Roci crew does what they can to support Miller, the UN and Fred Johnson's plans to save Earth. Jonathan also talks with geophysicist and sci-fi TV consultant  Mika McKinnon about her possible 'Sharknado' connection, the wonderful world of geophysics and the "hard science" of The Expanse.

Feb 17, 2017

In this week's podcast, Ars Technica's Jonathan Gitlin recaps season 2, episode 4 of The Expanse, as we join the crew as they commence their plan to take the Nauvoo on its mission to Eros, and the noose tightens on Protogen and its allies back on Earth, thanks to everyone's favorite UN badass, Avasarala. Jonathan also talks with award-winning sci-fi author Kameron Hurley about space opera in general, biotech in science fiction, and some of the politics in The Expanse. 

Feb 8, 2017

In this episode of Decrypted: The Expanse, Ars Technica's Jonathan Gitlin recaps season 2 episode 3: The Rocinante crew and Fred Johnson deal with the aftermath of Miller's decision, Mars soldiers gear up for a fight, and Earth's government tries to figure out the OPA's motives. Jonathan also talks with showrunner Naren Shankar about creating the show, his studies to be a PHD-level engineer, and why he decided to take the Hollywood career route.

Feb 1, 2017

In this episode of Decrypted: The Expanse, we join the Syfy show in its second season. Ars Technica's Annalee Newitz and Jonathan Gitlin talk about the show's many layers, themes and the adaptation from the books. Jonathan also talks to Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, the authors of the books (under the pen name James SA Corey), about the challenges of adapting for the screen. NOTE: there is a minor spoiler from one of the later books in this podcast.

Dec 6, 2016

Topics discussed: We just don't care that William and MIB are the same person (seriously why is this such a big deal); how Maeve's final revelation completely sold her character short (and also made no sense given her past actions); why Bernard why (you were our favorite character and now you're a blob); the differences between Arnold and Ford's ideas about consciousness (or lack thereof); W.E.B. Dubois' idea of double consciousness (and why it completely fits robot consciousness in this story); robots and slavery (and some of the not-so-subtle racial subtexts); the trouble with Dolores (it's still not clear why she's leading the rebellion); and how much we want Felix to be promoted (go Felix go!).

Nov 29, 2016

This week's guest is Norman Chan, co-founder of Tested, where he writes and makes videos about science, technology, and pop culture. He is a huge fan of Westworld, and has some fascinating observations about which robot characters are the most realistic.

Topics discussed: The big reveal about Arnold (and what this says about Ford's plans); timeframes and robot memory (this is a lot more complex than a "dual timeline" theory); long loops and short loops (and OMG we are starting to think a lot about Matrix: Reloaded); what the robot revolution will really be like (and how maybe we don't really want to see the robots leave Westworld); how the show really sells us on robots (it's not the effects; it's the acting); robot therapy (which involves nuking your memories); Maeve's incredible scene with Bernard (one of the most intense moments in the show so far); what needs to get resolved this season and what we are OK with leaving until season 2 (seriously we don't mind waiting to know more about the Delos plot).

Nov 22, 2016

Topics discussed: Why the MIB is really looking for the maze (he wants a game with consequences), what makes the gameplay in Westworld so unsatisfying (there's no Minecraft element to it), Jane's so-crazy-it-just-might-work theory about who the MIB really is (and what the maze really is too!), how many timelines are floating around inside Dolores' head (yes we are finally coming around to the multiple timeline idea), whether it's cheating on your partner if you have sex with a robot (it's more complicated than you might think), how many people are actually robots (it could be everybody), Maeve's incredible new story-changing abilities (she's the ultimate gamer now), the tragedy of loops (and the horror of memory), how Westworld invites viewers to interact with the series like it's a game (and stay up late reading theories on Reddit), and whether there's something inherently limiting about the Western story (maybe we're about to see Futureworld soon?).

Nov 15, 2016

Topics discussed: Metafiction (AKA fiction about fiction), what the hell with the Bernard reveal (really, what the hell), the challenge of telling a story that feels familiar yet surprising (and how Westworld did it), whether the robots are just like humans or radically different (yes and no), Ford's real motivations (it's complicated), how intellectual property might be the enemy of storytelling (or maybe not), whether stories can be dangerous (sometimes), what characters and ideas got Yu excited about writing for Westworld (hint: Bernard and metafiction), and why Felix is so important (he shows us a side of Westworld that no one else can).

Nov 8, 2016

Topics discussed: The unregistered robots (Ford's robot family is seriously creepy), the true meaning of the maze (and why Teddy has gotten so boring), Maeve's attribute matrix (and the greatest scene in the entire show), what it means to be trapped in a narrative (male and female roles for robots are both terrible), when will a guy have sex with a male robot (it can't happen soon enough), why the park offers no romance stories or female-centric adventures (what? ladies don't want sex?), and how Dolores and Maeve are trapped in the middle of an argument between Ford and Arnold (plus they are the ultimate victims of gaslighting).

Nov 1, 2016

Topics discussed: The state of Dolores' mind (Arnold and a bunch of other things are in her head), Ford's freaky conversation with the MIB (a treat to watch), the economics of Westworld (it's hemorrhaging cash), the economics of the real world (MIB says it's peachy, but the poor med tech Felix is terrified he'll lose his job), the two faces of Lawrence (El Lazo!), what's going on in Pariah (and are the Confederados linked to Wyatt?), how guns work in Westworld (here's what we've figured out so far), why it's important that the bots use GPS (we have to be on Earth, under open sky), and how the two most popular fan theories about Westworld just got nuked (bye bye double timeline). 

Oct 25, 2016

In this episode, our guest is combat tech expert Peter W. Singer, author of Wired for War and strategist at the New America Foundation.

Topics discussed: Whether it's inevitable that humans will use robots for violence as Ford says (a philosophy question that goes back centuries), how the robots in Westworld are like military robots in the real world (creepy parallels abound), how you program a robot to be ethical in war (it's much harder than you think), why it matters that Westworld's war is a mashup of several wars during the 19th century (these wars were especially lawless), what's really scary about AI in the real world (no it's not superintelligence), and our guest Peter W. Singer's theory about how Westworld is a robot preserve because they've been banned outside (love that idea).

Oct 18, 2016

This week, we explore episode 3 of Westworld with guest Kyle Orland, Ars Technica's games editor.

Topics discussed include: Julian Jaynes' theory of the bicameral mind (you must do LSD to fully understand it), robot consciousness (it ain't your grandmother's three laws of robotics), Teddy's new backstory with Wyatt (holy crap Wyatt's gang is scary and confusing), Ford's anti-robot racism (he's got issues), the Westworld gameplay (why are there no consequences to getting shot?), the kinds of quests available to guests (they seem very hack-and-slash), whether the MIB is going on fan forums late at night to compare notes about clues he's found in Westworld (definitely maybe he is), moderation and griefers in Westworld (it's complicated), and who among the so-called humans is actually a robot (Bernard? Ford? Lee?).

Oct 11, 2016

On this episode, I'm joined by Ars Technica's video editor Jennifer Hahn, who is a documentary filmmaker and editor. We talk about the recent episode, as well as how it fits into the world established in the original Westworld movie, its sequel Futureworld, and the short-lived 1980 TV series Westworld. Jen also talks to us about Westworld's cinematography and design.

Topics discussed: Whether the Westworld theme park is underground (maybe?), William's white hat status (dubious), the robot UX (command line mode and analysis mode are fascinating), the clash between Lee and Ford over why people come to the park (revealing), the plots of the original Westworld movies and TV series (they involve robots taking over the park and creating clone versions of world leaders so they can control humanity), and why it matters that the series is shot on 35 mm film (you can control the shadows). Also: holy crap was that scene in the robot repair area with Maeve ever creepy!

Oct 4, 2016

In our debut episode of Decrypted: Westworld, we talk about the show's many layers of conspiracies, and its overarching themes. We're joined by award-winning science fiction author Charlie Jane Anders, who talks to us about how the series grapples with the idea that memory is key to identity, and wonders whether Westworld can achieve the same mainstream popularity as Game of Thrones.

Other topics discussed include: Anthony Hopkins (annoying or not?), Ed Harris (holy crap scary), the big reveal (very cool), Westerns and backstage musicals (key to thinking about the action), the future of game design (obviously), and why Bernard makes the Professor/Mr. Abernathy cry. Also: what is up with all the flies?

Oct 3, 2016

Ars Technica continues our Decrypted podcast with the first season HBO's Westworld created by Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan. Based on Michael Crichton's novel and the 1973 film with Yul Brynner of the same name, this drama about robots in a wild west theme park will fascinate, make you (extremely) uncomfortable, and generally creep you out. Join us each week as we explore the latest episode with colleagues, writers, and technology experts to discover and decrypt this complex, psychological world.

The Decrypted podcast began with season 2 of Mr. Robot, hosted and produced by Nathan Mattise. Visit us from Decrypted episode 1 and join Nathan as he explores the complexities of the fascinating, hit hacker drama.

Sep 28, 2016

"As I was preparing to utter the first part of the sentence I just stopped," says Stephanie Corneliussen, aka Joanna Wellick. "I looked across the table at Sam Esmail and gave him that kind of 'What did you do? I can’t say this' look. And he just gives me one of those famous Sam scowls that’s like 'Go ahead, do it.' I said it, and everyone is reading along but hearing it out loud... we just burst out laughing because it’s so over the limit, so over the top.”

Mr. Robot S2 ended with its share of fireworks, Joanna Wellick's nasty streak chief among them. On the final episode (pyth0n_pt2) for this season of Decrypted, we unpack the many highs (and few lows) of the season at large: Elliot is like Batman, we all love Leon, and everyone seems to have a different favorite character or S3 theory.

And after that debrief (roughly the 26m mark), Stephanie Corneliussen joins the podcast to discuss Joanna Wellick's wild ride and her dreams for S3 (including Bloody Marys with Whiterose). 

Sep 17, 2016

Only one hour of Mr. Robot S2 remains, but many questions do. Before the second half of season two's finale, GQ's entertainment and culture critic Scott Meslow helps us take stock of what answers we can expect and what's likely to linger into S3. 

"I have such a hard time getting mad at a show for being ambitious," Meslow says. "And they are really swinging for the fences. It's been a lot of fun, but ultimately it's a season that doesn't know which cards it should be playing at which times. Even right now, they're still dangling cliffhangers that I go, 'There's no reason we shouldn't have this information yet, except it's being withheld.'"  

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