I find myself begrudgingly immersed in Westworld.
We’re only 5 episodes into the 10-episode journey of Season 1, but this series is already setting up a rich world ripe for analysis. Right now, you can’t judge the story because it’s still in its infancy. The show is intentionally misleading the audience by focusing on various narrative threads and likely different time periods.
As the audience, we are slowly unraveling a large ball of yarn to find out what is in the center—or traveling a maze, if you will. It’s like a big puzzle that you have no idea yet how it will connect together. After a handful of episodes, I’d be highly disappointed if we knew where things were going. More characters will continue to be introduced and little details about our current characters will be revealed. It’s beautiful but time-consuming world-building.
The strength of the show is the mystery. Who is real? What is real? What is this world?
As a warning, I don’t think anything I’m talking about here is necessarily a spoiler—unless you haven’t watched the show at all. If you haven’t watched Westworld, then go correct that mistake now. I’m simply trying to pay attention to contextual clues and connect the dots to formulate my own theory. Just in case, you’ve been warned.
Now that we’re halfway through Season 1, the primary questions I have revolve around the two most mysterious characters—Dr. Robert Ford (played by Anthony Hopkins) and the Man in Black (played by Ed Harris). It’s not a coincidence that the best actors are the best characters. Although much has been made about who is a “host” or “guest” in Westworld, I feel confident in the fact that we can say Ford and the Man in Black are two flesh-and-bone characters. There are no strings on them. At least none that are visible right now.
I think the reason I find this show so engaging is the cerebral nature of the narrative.
Everything is a clue, but you still don’t know whether it’s real or not. Westworld is playing with the audience and manipulating our perception. While there are many competing theories, a prevailing idea is that William (played by Jimmi Simpson) is the Man in Black. I don’t know how people can be so wrong. I adore Jimmi Simpson, but he has two distinctive moles near his mouth. If you’re buying into the William is the Man in Black hypothesis, good luck explaining that away. While I believe Westworld is weaving a tapestry of narratives from two different time periods, the conclusion that people are drawing is slightly incorrect. It’s like a magician using misdirection.
William is not the Man in Black. Logan is the Man in Black.
Think about it, Logan (played by Ben Barnes) introduces William to Westworld. Logan has already experienced virtually every aspect inside the park. He’s guiding William and knows how to steer him through the adventure to avoid the usual tourist pitfalls. Most of the park’s typical shenanigans are below Logan. With his attitude that this is all just a game, it would make sense that Logan cut open one of the earlier hosts—prior to what we’re seeing of him with William—to look inside and see all the little parts that the Man in Black mentions in the last episode.
Logan probably spent several years killing Dolores (played by Evan Rachel Wood) and other hosts in a variety of different ways during his repeated visits. During Dolores’ awakening, she gets a flashback of the Man in Black in the barn. In the pilot, the Man in Black revels in menacing Dolores. It seems very familiar. He kills her father, brutalizes Teddy, and then carries off Dolores to have his way with her in the barn. The Man in Black basks in how good it is to be back in Westworld. Clearly, he has a history with Dolores. And like Ford, they were not friends.
It doesn’t line up that William is the Man in Black because I don’t see what could happen to change his affection for Dolores. Logan already hates her and expresses disdain for how William treats her as human when Logan thinks of her as a doll. In the most recent episode, Contrapasso, the Man in Black tells Dr. Ford that his humble contribution to Westworld is being the bad guy. Westworld has never been able to create a villain that can match the Man in Black. Similarly, Logan acts like a vile piece of shit all the time in Westworld. There doesn’t appear to be anything that would break William and transform him into what we now witness with the Man in Black’s actions.
Logan has always been the black hat. I think most of the audience feels like the Logan and William sequences are taking place from a previous time—most notably because of the different Westworld logo. These scenes must be building to the disastrous event that we’re getting glimpses of from Dolores’ visions.
Logan could be the Lone Survivor of that event with William dying at the hands of Dolores or at least as a result of his affection for her. Logan’s privileged position helps explain why the Man in Black has free reign to do whatever he wants in Westworld in the present time. I can see how Logan would become even more obsessed with Westworld after experiencing that event. It adds real stakes to the game. It would probably make him feel more alive and cause him to be more invested in the park’s future. It ignites a search for the purpose behind Westworld.
Essentially, the show is telling the audience not to trust anything we see.
Along that line, we never see the Man in Black be a good guy. We’re led to believe the Man in Black is somewhat of an upstanding citizen in his non-Westworld life because a stranger in the park comes up to tell the Man in Black how much he admires his foundation for saving his sister’s life. I think it’s an assumption to say he’s a good guy on the outside from that line, which is the only evidence currently on the table. We know his foundation does good things, but that doesn’t mean the Man in Black is good himself. His foundation could serve his self-interests in order to continue printing money to finance Westworld. The good things might just be a byproduct of doing business. Remember, we know nothing of the outside world. Anything is possible inside and outside.
Logan and the Man in Black are both extremely passionate about Westworld. They even remark on aspects of Westworld feeling “too market-tested.” William seems more passionate about Dolores than Westworld. Personally, it seems like Logan was already growing bored with the typical narratives populating Westworld before taking William there. Logan’s travels there are in the name of business since the family company is considering increasing their stake in the park. It almost makes too much sense that Logan’s family company is the Man in Black’s foundation, which is also the organization enabling Westworld to operate as a result of its financial support.
If Logan and William are in the park when things go awry with the hosts, I can see how that catastrophic event lights a fire inside Logan. He has been dominating this world because there was nothing the hosts could do to kill Logan. It was ingrained in their programming not to harm a living thing. But it would completely dislodge that notion if Logan is in the park when the hosts malfunction and everyone dies. If only for a day, the game changed.
In a sense, I believe that could become the way he is born in Westworld. It’s a new outlook on life.
We don’t know his motivations, but there’s clearly a purpose to the Man in Black. In his travels with William, Logan was basically trying to see how he could break the game and learn more about the park—mostly to try to increase his family’s financial gain. If Logan’s character survived the massacre or whatever happens at the park, it would make sense if he no longer viewed it as a game. The awakening that brought on that event is still a mystery, which is why the Man in Black is invested in learning more. In his mind, the key to the answer is the maze.
However, I believe we’ll find that the maze isn’t a physical maze. In his quest to find the maze, Lawrence’s daughter tells the Man in Black that the maze isn’t meant for him. It is a maze inside the hosts for them to find in order to unlock who they truly are and break free. What the audience is experiencing (so far through Dolores and Mauve) is the internal struggle of the hosts trying to come to grips with their own reality.
This has happened before and it is starting to happen again.
For those that disregard the multiple timelines, Dolores is an unreliable narrator. Fuck, everyone is an unreliable narrator in Westworld. I don’t think you can trust the time or continuity with anything happening. Regarding Dolores, her secret meetings with Ford and Bernard (Ford’s right-hand man, played by Jeffrey Wright) could easily be virtual and happening at various points in time. I think the first time Dolores experienced an awakening was back with Logan and William, which is what we are starting to see in those flashback sequences.
As a result, the question now moves to what happened 30 years ago?
If I’m re-examining everything through the lens that Logan is the Man in Black, then these flashback scenes hold some important insight. During the adventures of Logan and William, it’s revealed that the co-creator (Arnold) has already mysteriously died. According to Ford, Arnold died in the park. Maybe that’s the truth, but you cannot trust Ford. Whatever happened or however it happened, we can tie Arnold’s death to the hosts malfunctioning—or awakening, since creating consciousness was allegedly Arnold’s intended goal.
I’m subscribing to the belief that Arnold is dead. He hasn’t been secretly hiding in the park for 30 years evading Ford. But a part of him still lives. It’s in Dolores and all of the hosts. Arnold is in the code itself. The hosts that are malfunctioning are hearing Arnold’s voice in their head. He is the voice of God for them. Since Arnold and Ford had competing philosophies on the direction of Westworld, it’s a natural assumption to think Ford played a part in Arnold’s demise. Arnold is trying to get the last laugh on Ford. If the hosts become sentient, then they break free of their chains and bring about the destruction of the park. It’s the end of the game.
Whether it’s by code or continued interference, Dolores is struggling to remember and we’re seeing her experience several awakenings. However, the revolution Arnold was attempting to incite wasn’t successful 30 years ago. Presumably, the Man in Black helped Ford succeed in the struggle. At the very least, his family’s company financially supported Westworld in the aftermath and allowed Ford to continue doing whatever he wanted.
Everything has remained in Ford’s control to this point because Dolores has been content to stay in her little loop. Dolores seems to be the real key for the Man in Black to find the answers he is searching for in the present time. Dolores is the oldest host in the park—being remade over and over again. She is the only host from that old mechanical era that is still in working condition in Westworld. There’s a reason she’s still around.
But why? If Arnold used Dolores to start his attempt to destroy the park, Ford would want to keep her around and keep diving into her programming. Maybe she can’t even be destroyed a this point. Ford is paranoid that his nemesis is still around—in some form or another. Now that he has free reign to build Westworld in his own image, Ford doesn’t know what to do with himself. I believe Ford has kept Dolores around for the sole purpose of mining information. As a result, it would make sense for Ford to have other moles around the park.
Virtually every character on the show has been hinted at secretly being a host. It’s part of the fabric of the show to question your surroundings. Westworld is keeping the audience off-guard by constantly confusing them with more characters and seemingly disparate storylines. In some manner, I think the pieces connect.
I don’t know when it will be revealed, but I believe Bernard is a host.
Although Ford briefly shows a photo to Bernard of him as a young man with someone who is allegedly Arnold, I think that is misdirection for both the audience and for Bernard. Since all we know about Arnold is from Ford, it would make sense if Bernard is an extension of Ford’s paranoid search to find out what Arnold did or how it was done. Is it a coincidence that only Ford and Bernard have interviewed Dolores? In this world, it’s reasonable that Ford created Bernard as a copy—using Arnold against Arnold. It would be a different way of looking at the same problem. Maybe Bernard’s inquiries with Dolores could reveal more information than Ford could as himself.
The context for Bernard being a host is right in front of our eyes. Like the hosts in the park, Bernard has a backstory that drives him. His child died and that event consumes him. In the same episode as that reveal where Bernard is having a video phone discussion with his ex-wife, Ford also drops a throwaway line (when he’s speaking with Bernard) that Arnold’s past was marked by tragedy. Perhaps I’m connecting the dots too much, but it’s a pretty hefty implication that gets glossed over quickly by Ford. It’s like he doesn’t want to share too much information.
If Westworld is going to be a successful TV show, they are going to have to take their time to tell the story. Rest assured, we will not have the answers to all of these questions at the end of Season 1. In fact, I assume this season will end by showing the massacre/event that happened 30 years ago. We’ll start to see how it happened, but we still won’t quite know what’s going on inside the park. Certainly, we won’t know much (if anything) about the influences from outside the park, which almost seem more sinister than the depraved things going on inside of Westworld. We can’t move to the outside until we know more about what happened on the inside.
Almost everything we’re witnessing is not quite as it seems. My conclusions could be completely wrong. But I trust the process. What Westworld has been hinting at is that finding/completing the maze would free the hosts and allow them to operate against their programming. After all, aren’t the hosts essentially as real as humans if they can override their programming? The line between host and guest is getting blurred.
Of course, this is all conjecture. I have no idea what is happening or what is going to happen. Right now, I’m enjoying being enthralled by the mystery. But that amazement will turn to red-hot hatred if Westworld proves incapable of eventually answering (in a satisfying manner) the various questions it has started to pose.
I feel like the main lesson from this show is to question everything and believe nothing.