Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Three Theories about “Westworld”

Time is scarce this week, but with episode three of Westworld in the rear view mirror, I thought I’d touch on three theories about the show that are whirling around the web. Note, while these are just theories, they could become *SPOILERS* if any prove to be true.

Who Is The Man in Black?

One of the first and most intriguing fan theories I’ve read speculates that the Man in Black is actually William, the guest we’re introduced to in episode 2. The premise behind this theory is that the scenes with William and his friend Logan are flashbacks from 30 years ago, a time when the Man in Black told his captive, Lawrence: “You don’t understand Lawrence. Been coming here for thirty years. In a sense, I was born here.”

Last week’s episode, however, seems to have put this theory to rest. At the end of the episode, after Delores’ consciousness begins to emerge and she kills one of the hosts in the barn, she wanders into Williams arms. This suggests William is living in the present, though I suppose this could be a writer’s trick, and that the episode’s very last scene was a flashback again. But I doubt it. 

Another theory is that the Man in Black is really Arnold, Dr. Ford’s friend and fellow programmer who wanted the android hosts to become self-aware. Ford tells Bernard that Arnold died in the park, but what if he was just pulling an Obi-wan to Bernard’s young Skywalker? Might Arnold and the Man in Black be like Anakin and Darth Vader? Again, doubtful.

First, it’s clear the techs have the Man in Black on surveillance, and I suspect they might question why a supposedly dead employee is wandering around Westworld. Second, the Man in Black seems fixated on the Maze, whatever that is. You would think that Arnold, being one of Westworld’s creators, would already know the answer to that question. Lastly, I really don’t think the Man in Black wants the androids to be become self-aware. If so, they might remember the horrible things he’s done to them. In Elsie’s words, he’d be f-cked.

A final theory is that the Man in Black is actually one of the androids. That would sure explain his comment about being “being born here.” But is doesn't explain why the techs are letting him run amok (unless he's part of some violent storyline), nor does it explain why the android’s bullets don’t hurt him. Also, if the androids like Delores are the real heroes of the story, it’s only fitting that the chief villain be one of the humans who has been making their lives a living hell.

Is Someone Sabotaging the Androids?

Last week, Bernard offered this theory as the simplest explanation for why the androids have been misbehaving. Then this week, we learn about the mysterious programmer Arnold, who was trying to make the androids self-aware. We know this began to happen when Delores’ father told her, “These violent delights have violent ends.” One of the best theories I’ve read is that this line may have been part of Arnold’s code:
So Ford’s partner died in the park after becoming too close to the hosts. The only thing that remains from Arnold’s programming are the verbal command codes. So here’s a theory for the rest of this paragraph (potential spoiler): I’m thinking the “violent delights” phrase is one of Arnold’s original command codes opening up host consciousness. Perhaps Arnold died in the park after using that phrase himself to unlock the hosts, and one killed him. But even if this is true, the bigger mystery still remains: Who started the hosts down this path now, 30 years later? Dr. Ford seems like an unlikely suspect given his strong feelings about host humanity. Bernard is allowing Dolores to awaken but also seems genuinely confused as to the full story. Perhaps Lee Sizemore or Teresa Cullen, who have anti-Ford agendas, started this? Or perhaps the Reveries that Ford introduced simply revived that bit of code?
The theory comes from EW’s excellent recap of episode 3 written by James Hibberd. You can read the whole piece here. His theory doesn’t answer the question of who may be the saboteur, but it provides plenty of food for thought.

Where is This Place?

This question is another hotbed of fan theories, ranging from “Westworld is on an island” to “Westworld is on another planet.” I’ve even read one theory that Westworld could be under a giant dome at the bottom of the sea. Here’s some more from EW:
Back to the show: Bernard goes into this pod to Skype home to talk with his wife. It’s impossible to not be distracted by the clues we’re getting here to the location of the park. Bernard references “how difficult it is to get an open line out here.” Even as a senior member of the staff he has to use this shared pod to communicate home. This once again suggests they’re on another planet — or, possibly, that Westworld is on Earth… but everybody else has moved to another planet (does Westworld take place in Jonathan Nolan’s Interstellar universe where Earth became largely uninhabitable?). Then again, Bernard at another point during this hour notes that evolution was responsible for all life “on this planet,” suggesting they are indeed on Earth. 
Fortunately, EW, which has some of the best Westworld coverage out there, did a Q & A with showrunners Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy. Here is what Nolan told EW:
I remember when [executive producer J.J. Abrams] called after watching the original film. In my memory I conflated that hovercraft sequence when they arrive in the park with the space-hotel with 2001. And I said to J.J., “Is that park even on this planet?” The important thing for us was, when you come to the series you have no idea where you are. Disneyland is in a parking lot in Anaheim, but it’s spectacular and you forget where you are when you’re inside. By the end of the first season, if you’re paying close attention, you will know where it is.
You can read the rest of the EW Q & A here.

That’s it for now, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts. Which of these Westworld theories do you think might be true?

* Images courtesy of HBO

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