Westworld: Multiple Timelines (and Other Theories)

(Unlike my usual posts, this one will be updated and edited after being posted so if it looks incomplete, that will be why. Feel free to comment with any evidence or critique towards what I mention. Each episode “summary/analysis” will not be edited after a new episode has been released. That way, you can see where my mind was wandering to rather than allowing me to correct mistakes.)

Just when you thought that robot cowboys inhabiting a futuristic theme park was crazy enough, the guys behind Westworld begin to show that we’ve only just entered the maze and that there are plenty more twists and turns ahead of us! If you haven’t watched the show or aren’t caught up then I’d advise not reading past the second paragraph as I’ll be delving into each episode to look at evidence for this current theory that is spreading like wild fire…

Amongst all the sex, gun fights and malfunctioning computer programmes, it’s difficult to notice the smaller details to a show such as Westworld. As long as you’ve watched at least the first episode then you will have already have witnessed the “man in black” in all his triumphant glory. Described as a guest who “gets whatever he wants” and has been visiting the park for 30 years, this black-hat wearing psycho has raped, murdered and scalped his way from episode to episode in search of a deeper level to the game: the maze. Playing the game in what is the polar opposite way, we have white-hat wearing William…but what if these two men weren’t so different after all? In fact, what if they were literally the same person? One of the latest theories to float to the surface is the idea that we are in fact viewing two, possibly three (maybe even more) periods in time. In the early episodes we were led to believe that the main story would revolve around this “bug” that is sweeping through the hosts and causing them to remember previous experiences and ultimately act way out of their usual routine. This appears to merely be a distraction to keep our attention away from the real story: What led William down such a dark path?

Well let’s look at what we know so far:

-William (who arguably is the Man in Black but younger) is travelling with Dolores who is often described as “special” and “the oldest host in the park”. She is beginning to hear voices and remember her past “lives”.

-The company that William works for has been thinking about buying shares in the park or buying it out completely.

-Arnold’s death (35 years ago) almost took down the park but didn’t because of the actions of the Man in Black.

-The Man in Black has been visiting the park for 30 years

-The last “critical failure” was over 30 years ago and was caused by an update

-He knows some of the hosts (Dolores and Lawrence, for example) which are the two main hosts that William has interacted with so far.

These are of course very minor and abstract details that certainly don’t supply enough evidence to suggest that this theory holds any water. So instead, let’s take a look at each episode and see what evidence is contained within. I’m also going to be dropping in some other theories along the way which I think are being used as a smokescreen to keep the hidden storyline hidden for as long as possible.

Episode 1: Despite William not actually appearing until the 2nd episode, there is actually a lot of evidence to be taken into consideration here. While this episode may be best known for the incredible version of “Paint It Black” during the gun fight scene, this episode introduces us to the infamous man in black. Within the first few minutes, we witness Teddy repeating his train journey into town. During these repeated journeys, we can overhear who I assume are guests, talking about hat colour. One guy (who I feel could be an early version of The Man in Black but I don’t actually have a great deal to support it) is talking to someone about his hat colour: he mentions that the first time he came he went white hat with friends but that the second time he went full evil black hat on his own and had the best few months of his life. The show is already introducing the idea that white hats represent good while black hats are of a more sinister nature. This seems more important when you imagine the reveal (if there is a reveal) that William and the man in black are the same person, considering that when they are first introduced to the audience they have different colour hats. One thing I noticed is that the man in black doesn’t seem phased at all by the bullets when he is being shot in the first episode. We know that the hosts can’t kill guests but as we see with William and Logan, they get hurt by the bullets and even beaten up. Of course, it could be argued that after 30 years of playing, the man in black is just used to the impact and so it appears that the bullets simply don’t hurt him. I would theorise that when you take this timeline theory into consideration, we know that there was an “incident” of some kind 30 years in the past from the present day storyline so what if this incident is the reason that guests no longer feel the pain of being shot? When William and Logan get shot, the incident has not yet happened and part of the thrill is the dark reality that you can still get hurt. Once the incident happens the company has no choice but to pull on the ropes a little and tighten up health and safety in order to keep the park open. We hear the Man in Black announcing “Goddam it’s good to be back” so we can assume that when we meet him for the first time, this is him having just returned to the park. It’s in this episode that we also hear the staff mentioning the critical failure that took place 30 years ago. It’s mentioned just after an update is put into place when Theresa Cullen points out that the staff always get nervous when a new update is released because of what happened 30 years previously. This next point could be wrong because I haven’t gotten round to comparing it to the later episode but when Hector and his posse roll into town guns blazing (or quite the opposite initially) it is a black man with a badge who confronts them. I don’t remember that being the case later on but I’ll need to check that out and come back to it. If not, I think this would further support the idea of two timelines. Having the same character appear makes sense due to the fact that the hosts don’t age but having a different character within the same storyline might seem a little suspicious. Of course it could still be nothing as we’ve witnessed Dolores’s father being replaced already. Another potential theory I think could easily be true is that the staff (or at least some of them) are in fact the same as the hosts but made to fit into the futuristic (at least to us) environment rather than the West. This goes a step further into the idea that Bernard is in fact an Arnold replica and has some or all of Arnold’s consciousness floating around in his brain. This idea comes more into play when we look at the second episode.

Episode 2: In what I can only really compare to the early moments of Donnie Darko, the second episode has a sleeping Dolores be awakened by a voice saying “Wake up Dolores. Do you remember?” The weirdest thing about this scene is that after we hear/see it, the story skips to William on the train…Coincidence? I think this is an early nod to the idea of William’s story being in the past. We also have to wonder who was talking to Dolores. It certainly sounds like Bernard but what if it is the “glitch” or “bug” that is messing with her programming? This would certainly add weight to the idea of Bernard being an Arnold clone or at least having some sort of connection to Arnold despite claiming not to have really known about him. When we watch William and Logan get off the train, the area they step out into strongly resembles an area we saw in episode 1: namely an area that Bernard and a team went through in order to get to cold storage. Only when they went through it, it was dark and flooded with water. I haven’t properly compared the areas but just after seeing them I noticed a similarity. Later on in the episode we hear the mysterious voice in Dolores’s head saying “Remember”. This is where memories from Dolores’s past begin to be revisited as she sees dead people despite her memory being wiped after each visit. An interesting thing about Dolores is that she plays a pivotal role not only in the show, but in this theory. We see her and Teddy constantly meeting each other and repeating the same routine over and over. However, we know that this isn’t a daily thing as the stories can go on for days, even weeks, maybe even longer. The immediate repetitions make it appear as if we are viewing day 1 then day 2 then day 3 so that when we are introduced to the Man in Black in episode 1 as he hands Dolores the can she drops, it fits in after Teddy does the exact same thing. Then in episode 2 we notice William also handing her the can and it may even appear that this is merely over the course of a few days but that just wouldn’t make sense. I mean Dolores does repeat this same process several times over the first few episodes but the show doesn’t really tell us if it’s actually every single day, week or maybe every cycle when newcomers arrive. Speaking of William, after being left to choose his clothes, he is presented with what appears to be a serious choice: a black hat or a white hat. As I already mentioned, he chooses a white hat but there really wouldn’t be any reason to put as much emphasis on his hat choice unless there was a deeper meaning. I mean sure, you could argue that it’s merely a representation of good vs evil, right vs wrong. I mean in Lost we had the game of checkers and the colour of clothing to lead the audience into a whole light vs dark battle. I just feel like that idea is a little played out and given how complex the storyline seems to be so far, I’d be very surprised if it was simply meant to represent good and evil. I mean Logan chooses a black hat and he certainly acts like he deserves it…but then what is evil? He isn’t doing anything differently to the other “players” at this theme park. I mean it’s what it’s there for, right? While on the train, Logan is constantly telling William that this place is where people go to find their true selves. He wants William to let loose and expose his true personality, thinking that there might be more to him than he lets people see. This plays into the theory a little more when later in the episode we hear the Man in Black talking to Lawrence. After explaining how good friends they are (or at least how well they know each other), he comments saying “..you used to be a little eloquent” before saying “I was born in this here!” Now since he is referring to the park, I think it is safe to assume that he doesn’t mean literally, although that would be a somewhat interesting story to hear. So if the Man in Black was “born” in the park, we have to assume that he was a completely different person before arriving. Being in the park turned him into the Man in Black.

Episode 3: I have to admit that the first time I watched the third episode, I didn’t really notice anything out of the ordinary or anything that would lead me to suspect that a deeper level of storyline was in play. The second viewing was akin to stumbling upon a treasure map. Let’s even look at the very start of the episode (or at least near the start): We have the Man in Black telling Dolores “Why don’t we reacquaint ourselves, Dolores. Start at the beginning!” Funnily enough, the same thing happens as in episode 2 in that the scene then cuts to William. It really couldn’t be any more like a flashback without the words “30 Years Ago” appearing on the screen. This episode is really all about laying even more foundation of the “white hat” that William really is. It doesn’t take long before he is saving the cliched damsel in distress which also happens to be the scene where we seem him feeling the physical pain after being shot by a host. No bullet wound or bleeding but definitely an impact that manages to knock him off his feet and leave a mark. Coincidentally enough, in what I will describe as the later timeline (the one with the Man in Black as opposed to William), Teddy comments that Wyat (his new enemy thanks to Ford’s new storyline) is neither a man nor the devil because “the devil can’t be killed.” This happens to be one of the traits that the guests have but perhaps used most noticeably by the Man in Black who stands and takes the bullets that in the real world would kill a man, and to the hosts makes no sense. Another interesting thing about episode 3 is that I believe it hints at a third timeline, one focusing on Arnold or Bernard (or possibly both depending on whether they are indeed a form of the same person). There is a scene that I think could be Arnold (who if this theory is correct, would of course look exactly like Bernard) creating the initial problem that will lead to the critical failure. We see him talking to Dolores, explaining change through stories and telling her that he’s made a mistake and perhaps she should put back to the way she was before. He even uses the same quote that Ford used in an earlier episode about mistakes and evolution. I mean it could quite easily be Bernard repeating a quote from a man whom he respects…but perhaps it’s Arnold using the quote which is later used by Ford. I think this scene with Dolores hints at one of two possiblites:

  1. We are witnessing Arnold during the early days of the park. He is experimenting with the idea of creating consciousness rather than simply mimicking it but is having his own concerns regarding the impact it is having on Dolores. Despite having doubts, he continues to be amazed after she improvises without her programming showing any reason why she would say certain things. I think that Arnold’s pride and general curiosity lead Dolores to have this “special” side to her that we see in other episodes and perhaps Arnold planted ideas and code within her so that at a later date, he could access her “mind” in one way or another.
  2. The second possibility is that we are witnessing Bernard after another incident i.e. another critical failure. He begins to blame himself because he viewed Dolores as different to the others and perhaps gave her more leeway than he should have resulting in her faults going unseen by other members of staff and therefore not dealt with in a way that protocol would dictate.

There is of course the possibility that this scene is simply Bernard talking to Dolores but something just feels off about it. It’s all very cloak and dagger considering moments before she was being taught how to shoot by Teddy so there would only have been the rest of the day for Bernard to talk to her. Not to mention that there seems to be something the matter, some bigger issue that Arnold/Bernard is concerned about when it comes to Dolores. I mean she isn’t causing anyone harm and she isn’t going outwith her routine by any great amount so I don’t think it can be as simple as it seems. I also think that this episode adds to the idea that Bernard and other members of staff are in fact hosts of a higher caliber. Arnold/Bernard during a video chat with who we can only assume is the mother of his dead son, says “I forgot where I am…what I am” which again, might not mean anything and to be fair, it almost seems like too obvious a hint. Then again, what is he? Is he simply an employee in a remote park? Is he a host who is aware of what he is? Is he a replica of the dead founder of the park? Perhaps he is even more than that? We know that Arnold’s life was full of personal tradegy and we know that Bernard’s son died but what  if the two are the same? I also think that one of the members of the security team (the one played by a lesser known Hemsworth brother) is a modernised host. Again, it almost seems like the show is hinting at it too obviously for it to be true but all the jokes about “maybe it’s in my backstory” or why was he given the all clear to carry a weapon, something we know hosts go through. Before the malfunctioning, wandering hosts smashed his own head with a giant rock, he actually managed to hurt this security guy. Sure he is malfunctioning but isn’t the core code meant to stay in tact during such an event? We do, however, know that hosts can hurt or even kill other hosts. In fact, in many storylines it’s essential. We also know, thanks to Ford’s explanation, that Arnold was working based on a theory that early humans would have believed their conscience to be the voice of God which coincidentally enough is what the voice saying “kill him” inside Dolores’s head seems to sound like. It certainly seems more and more likely that this issue with the hosts is the work of a dead man.

One final point for this episode, taking us back to William on his journey to become the Man in Black. There is an interesting moment between him and Logan where the latter says “…to play white hat” which once again bring the whole hat colour issue into play again.

Episode 4: This episode opens with Bernard (or possibly Arnold) talking to Dolores again. If there are indeed multiple periods in time being shown within the show, it is difficult to work out where this one belongs. I suspect it may be outwith the main two timelines we’ve seen already. This episode gives us more information on William and Logan: we know from earlier episodes that William is/was married to Logan’s sister and that the two men work together. We learn here that Logan is higher up than William and that the only reason he brought William on this trip is because he isn’t a threat. He’s basically seen as having reached the peak of his career. I think this is important because it will show even more difference between William and the Man in Black as we learn in the same episode that the Man in Black owns a foundation of some sort. We hear another guest telling him: “your foundation literally saved my sisters life.” Rather than being evidence against William being the Man in Black, I think it’s actually supportive evidence to this theory. The purpose of it is to show us how drastically William changes. He enters the park as a timid, passive, wannabe-hero white hat but will leave as quite the opposite, only to return again and again. Another interesting moment in this episode is a conversation between William and Logan (two if you include yet another hat colour comment between the two: “Go black hat with me” Logan to William) They are talking about certain areas of the park and how their not the usual market-tested bullshit but come at a great cost to the park. Logan even mentions that the park is hemorrhaging money and that their company should take this opportunity to buy more shares. This becomes more relevant in the next episode but one final point I shall mention from episode 4 that I believe to be relevant is a conversation that Ford has with Theresa Cullen where they are talking about the park, specifically Ford’s new storyline and the board’s opinion of it. As the conversation gets a little heated, Cullen says “The board will agree with me, they’ll be sending a representative” only for Ford to reply “But they already have. I thought they would have told you!” My thinking is that the Man in Black is this representative. I think that after leaving the park as William, he takes control of the company he works for, investing in the park by buying shares, possibly even buying the majority. I think his trip to the park while seeming to be a holiday (he even says as much) is as much business as pleasure. Perhaps he is trying to see whether the park is still as exciting or maybe he believes there is more to this storyline than the audience has seen so far. Maybe he thinks Arnold has left something for those who can complete the maze.

Episode 5: Episode 5, while being an incredibly interesting episode and revealing some key moments such as us seeing the maze symbol on a coffin that is being transported by none other than Lawrence, actually doesn’t supply a great deal of evidence to support these theories i’ve been mentioning. That being said, we get some more moments of Dolores hearing voices: “Find me” which interestingly enough comes across as the same way that Ford communicates with her when he puts her to sleep by saying “deepened, dreamless slumber”. We do learn from this episode that it is possible for the hosts to be communicated with while they are still in the park (or at least that’s how it appears). Referring back to the point I made in episode 4; William and Logan discuss the idea of buying shares but Logan actually mentions that their company was thinking about buying out the park. When the Man in Black is talking to Ford, he mentions that Arnold’s death almost took the park with him and he mentions “almost, but not quite…thanks to me. Or maybe he left something behind.” We know that Arnold died 35 (ish) years previous to the Man in Black’s story and that he died just before the park opened. If that’s the case, did Arnold’s meddling with consciousness result in the critical failure after his death? We have to assume that him dying wasn’t the single reason that the park almost failed. What did he leave behind?

Episode 6: So this episode focused on one theory in particular: the idea of Bernard being an AI (or at least being made of the same stuff as a host). Within the first few moments of this episodes, those of you who have been paying attention will have noticed something rather odd: Bernard’s son was in a hospital on what looked like a rather old-fashioned drip. We’ve learnt from previous episodes that the world outside of the park is far beyond our level of technology. It was even stated that people don’t get sick anymore, yet here we have Bernard’s son in a hospital dying. If anything was a big clue to this theory, it was this opening moment of episode 6. Luckily, the episode actually confirms it later on but not before slowly dropping the hint. When Bernard and Theresa walk into Ford’s creepy holiday home where the host-version’s of his abusive father and the rest of his family were living, Theresa asks what is behind a certain door, a door that Bernard cannot see until it is opened. If this didn’t make you click then the quite up front reveal moments later would have. Quick note: the basement sort of room in the house where Ford was building other hosts looked very, very similar to the room where “Bernard” had been talking to Dolores. If we assume that it is indeed the same room then it means one of two things (in my opinion) 1) Bernard is in fact a copy of Arnold and it was actually Arnold who we saw conversing with Dolores which is a theory I mentioned after an earlier episode; or 2) Ford has been using Bernard to interview hosts who are the oldest in the park and have been impacted by the update. I have to stick with the first theory on this one, assuming of course that it is in fact the same room which is something I haven’t got around to checking. One other major point to come from this episode is that Ford is now removing the code that stops hosts from killing. That is unless Theresa is also a host which wouldn’t completely surprise me. I mean maybe the entire show only has three main human characters: William/the Man in Black, Ford and Arnold. Arnold, who could quite possibly now be a host but with his own mind inside. The entire show could basically be about some weird, futuristic type of corporate espionage and sabotage. We also saw some more of William and Dolores this episode as Dolores draws a place before they visit it. Could that suggest that she is in fact following a story arc that she has taken part in before and William isn’t some special guest leading her astray?

 

For those of you who have been watching, Westworld has now come to an end. In my opinion they wrapped everything up nicely and even though they’ll be doing a 2nd season, it seems like it will be largely separated from the goings-on of this season. I might come back and finish up my write up of these theories but now that the show is over and there is no more guessing to be done, I’ve kind of lost interest in summarising what these theories represent. I will however be writing about bicameralism (a theory of vital importance throughout the show) but I will be focusing on bicameralism in relation to my own theory of consciousness rather than relating it to to the events of the show.

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