This show’s questions have had me rewatching each episode, and I must admit now that the scenes with William and Logan appear to be taking place much earlier in time than other scenes in the show. Before I get there, however, let’s start with what most certainly is the present.
I believe all the scenes involving Bernard and Elsie, Ford and Cullen, Maeve and her newfound memories, and the Man in Black and his quest to find the maze take place in the present. This means the problems with Abernathy’s cognitive dissonance and the code phrase that triggers Delores’ and Maeve’s memories – these violent delights have violent ends – are also happening in the here and now.
From the first episode, which I believe took place entirely in the present, we know that Teddy rides the train into town, where the sheriff and his men are recruiting newcomers to go hunt down Hector the bandit. In this world, Maeve is the saloon’s madam, and all the scenes with her and Teddy, and even Hector at the end of the last episode, are going on now. When it comes to Delores, however, things are less certain.
Delores is the oldest host in Westworld, so her scenes could theoretically take place at any time in the park’s history. But the telltale signs of a separate timeline are all contained in the scenes with Logan and William.
First, there is the Westworld logo William sees when riding the escalator into the visitor center. It’s an older looking black logo that appears different from the shiny silver logo visible in scenes involving the control room (and in the show’s logo too). Then there’s the fact that when William and Logan ride the train into Sweetwater, Teddy isn’t on it. Even more, when the two enter town, the narrative appears to involve Union soldiers passing out fliers and recruiting men to fight, rather than the sheriff gathering a posse to hunt down Hector. In fact, in episode 3, when William is looking at a wall full of wanted posters, Hector’s isn’t among them.
Furthermore, when they go to the saloon, Maeve is nowhere to be found. Her absence is important because we know from her flashbacks that she used to be a character in a narrative that took place in the country, where her and her young daughter were attacked by Indians and the Man in Black. Perhaps she is still in that narrative when William and Logan are in the saloon. Also, if I’m not mistaken, even the sheriff seems to be played by a different character in William’s timeline.
Of course, last week I thought the show had put to rest the theory of another timeline when Delores fell into William’s arms after the attack on her family’s home. That said, after rewatching episode 3, there were a number of clues that this was not the first time she had escaped that attack.
For one, when she sees her dead father, it’s the new host. Yet then her perception flashes to her old father, Abernathy, lying on the ground. After that, her would-be-rapist tells her “no daddy, no cowboy, no one to interrupt us this time.” This is more proof that this scene has played out before, so it’s entirely possible that the scene where she shoots her would-be-rapist is in the present, while the scene where she falls into William’s arms is in the past. It’s just another ending to a narrative she has relived hundreds of times. The only hitch is the gun she is carrying when she wakes up next to William, which links her to the present storyline, unless she’s had that gun in other iterations of the narrative. Someone did bury the gun outside her house, after all, and maybe that someone was her in a past life.
Dual timelines also may explain the scenes between Delores and Bernard spliced between those of her and William. Maybe her scenes with Bernard are in the present, while her scenes with William are in the past. Otherwise, Bernard and the techs have been scooping Delores up while William and Logan were sleeping by the campfire, which seems a little risky in case the guests woke up in the middle of the night.
All this said, we cannot ignore the scenes in episode 4 where Delores is with William in the Spanish village interacting with Lawrence’s daughter and she sees flashbacks to her past (in that black steepled church no less, which Ford showed Bernard in the wasteland). She also seems to be questioning her life’s purpose. All of this is consistent with her recollections in the present, casting a shadow of doubt on the theory that her scenes with William are in the past. I’m not sure what to make of these, but I’m sure the explanation will arrive before the seasons’s end.
So, what might this evidence mean? For one, the fan theory about William being the Man in Black from 30 years ago seems more plausible now. It’s even supported by the Man in Black’s words to Delores in episode 1, where he says “I’ve been coming here for 30 years, and you still don’t remember me, do you? After all we’ve been through.” He could be taking about the very adventure between her and William that we’re watching unfold on the show. Although there’s a tiny sliver of me that wonders whether Logan might actually be the Man in Black. Logan already has an evil disposition, so all he would need to do is lose the beard and age another 30 years.
Yet even if the theory about the Man in Black is false, we could still be watching events from 30 years ago, when we know the park had a critical failure of some type, based on Bernard’s dialogue with Cullen in episode 1. Maybe that failure is what we’re about to relive in these older scenes, and it might explain Delores’ flashbacks in episode 4. After all, as the oldest host in the park, she was undoubtedly there when that failure occurred, and may have even been part of it. I also suspect the mysterious Arnold had something to do with that failure, and I would not be surprised to find him in William’s timeline before it’s over.
I know I may be coming late to this theory, but the evidence is making it more difficult to disprove. But those are just my thoughts. Do you think Westworld is taking place in two different time periods?
P.S. – What a powerful scene last episode with Ford and Cullen, where he literally shows her that he is the god of Westworld. Anthony Hopkins is a master, and that scene was played to chilling perfection!
* Images courtesy of HBO.