All Your WESTWORLD Theories Are Probably Right
I’ll admit it. I’m almost as big a fan of Westworld theories as I am of the show itself.
A well planned and confidently executed first season coupled with an unhurried style that allows stellar actors like Anthony Hopkins, Jeffrey Wright and Evan Rachel Wood to shine all lay the groundwork for some intense post-show speculation each week.
Unlike Lost, ABC’s heavily serialized smoke monster that famously left fans wondering WTF was going on weekly, I’ve actually enjoyed guessing who’s a host, and who isn’t, whether William and The Man in Black are the same person, if there’s a 30 year gap in the events we’re seeing, and if Arnold is really somehow still alive. My happy sense of intrigue has thus far been bolstered by a belief that answers are coming. And based on the events of Sunday’s “The Well Tempered Clavier” we weren’t wrong.
With just one episode remaining this season, Westworld chose to lay bare some of its best kept secrets this week.
Spoilers for those not caught up with the first 9 episodes.
We previously speculated that an AI version of Arnold might exist somewhere in the park. We never imagined that AI might be Bernard himself, not even after we recently discovered that Bernard was an AI!
The breadcrumbs were there from the beginning though. At the outset, Ford mentioned that Arnold’s personal life had been “marked by tragedy.” Bernard’s “cornerstone” was the tragic death of his son. Both characters have exhibited identical personality and behavior traits from episode one, and both seem, for now, to be doomed. The real Arnold was murdered (By Dolores!), and his host counterpart Bernard appears to have been forced to kill himself by Ford.
Sunday’s episode saw Logan and William reunited. During their encounter, Logan produced a photo of his sister, William’s fiancee, and shoving it into his former friend’s face, he reminded William of his duties outside of the park. The photo is the same snap that was unearthed at Dolores’ father’s ranch, and looking at it caused his mental break. The photo is the first physical proof of two distinct timelines we’ve had to date.
The second is Dolores. In a cruel attempt to jolt William back to reality, Logan cut Dolores open, exposing her sophisticated internal machinery. But that’s how the hosts used to look, before all the upgrades, according to a previous remark from the Man in Black.
We can either believe that Dolores, one the park’s original hosts was never upgraded (unlikely, given how often she’s been killed), or that William, Logan and everyone associated with their storyline are living their grand adventure 30 years in the past.
William is The Man in Black
Ok, this one has yet to be proved definitively. All we can say is that William is either the Man in Black, or the show’s creators are doing their damnedest to make us all think he is.
Knowing that there are two timelines in play helps this one along. We know that the mysterious Man in Black is basically allowed to roam the park unhindered and unchecked. Why? Is it because his monetary investment helped keep the park running, or is it because something bad happened to him or a friend that the park would like kept secret?
If it’s the latter, then episode 10 will see that moment explored in more detail. (Our bet is that Logan will be murdered by a host, and that William will inherit his fiancee’s business. The Man in Black also spoke about his wife to whom he was married for 30 years before her suicide. The timeline adds up perfectly. Just saying.)
Also of note, Angela, the host who killed Teddy in Sunday’s episode, is the same woman who offered her services to William when he first entered Westworld. The Man in Black recognized her immediately, and remarked that he thought she would have been decommissioned by now — a rather bizarre statement if the dual timeline theory is not correct.
Dolores and Teddy Have Blood on Their Hands
Both Dolores and Teddy have been taking major trips down memory-circuit lane in recent episodes. Sunday’s hour saw Dolores’ search for Arnold come to an emotional and literal dead end when she recalled that she had in fact killed Arnold. Oops!
Teddy, likewise remembers (correctly this time) mowing down a town filled with self-aware hosts, per Wyatt’s instructions. It’s likely that this is the critical failure we’ve seen referenced in previous episodes, and also likely around the same time in which Arnold was likewise killed.
We know that Ford, Arnold and the hosts lived in the park for three years before any guests set foot there. Our bet is that Ford had Dolores and Teddy (the sheriff of the experimental town) murder Arnold after Arnold’s struggle to make the hosts self aware ended disastrously.
These painful memories are finally coming to the surface for both beleaguered hosts.
The question still remains. Who is Wyatt, the person responsible for shutting down Arnold’s flawed creations? The A answer seems to point to Ford, but he might also be Arnold, run amok in his final moments.
There is Beauty in this World, So Why All the Suffering?
What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, as the saying goes.
Painful memories, and trauma, are the keys to sentience on Westworld, it seems.
“We’ve had to make some uncomfortable decisions, Bernard. Remembering them will only cause you trauma,” Ford warned Bernard in Sunday’s episode, right before Bernard remembered who he was, and was then promptly ordered to shoot himself in the head.
But Bernard’s defiant “Send me back. After all, a little trauma can be illuminating,” was more than just a one-fingered salute to his creator. It was also a statement of truth about the hosts, sentience, and what it means to be fully human.
While Westworld is far too subtle to beat the audience over the head with its philosophy on the human condition, it does subtly point out that to exist is to suffer. This was perfectly illustrated in Bernard’s recollection of Maeve, who took her own life following the murder of her child.
Maeve’s cornerstone memory was overwritten by the trauma of her child’s death. “She showed a level of emphatic response outside of what she was programmed to exhibit,” as Bernard pointed out.
In that moment, Maeve achieved consciousness.
Is this what Bernard discovered that Ford is so anxious to make the hosts forget?
Yes. Yes it is.
Westworld airs its final episode of the season “The Bicameral Mind” on Sunday, December 4 on HBO.