Decoding HBO’s ‘Westworld’

Decoding HBO’s ‘Westworld’

HBO’s new hit sci-fi meets Western series “Westworld” has proven to be a welcomed distraction from the 24/7 news cycle covering this year’s presidential election.

A coterie of Redditors have opined their crackpot fan theories on what’s really happening in the series starring the inimitable Anthony Hopkins, Ed Harris, Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton and Jimmi Simpson (guinea pig shout out to Cashew’s owner, Gavin, on “House of Cards”), so here are a few of my own, including some of the most obvious, besides “Bernarnold”:

William is the Man in the Black: The series has hinted at this all along. William chooses the white hat at the beginning of the series. The hat gets more dusty and “grey” as time passes. His overwrought dialogue in the train in “Trompe L’Oeil”, when he kisses Dolores, and tells her that he finds comfort in stories, matches up to something else that the Man in the Black said in a previous episode.


The only thing I had when I was a kid were books. I used to live in them. I used to go to sleep dreaming I’d wake up inside one of them ’cause they had meaning. This place, this is like I woke up inside one of those stories. I guess I just want to find out what it means.”


This whole world is a story. I’ve read every page except the last one. I need to find out how it ends. I want to know what this all means.”

There are three timelines in Westworld: If you don’t believe in the multiple timelines theory by the end of “Trace Decay”, you’re, how should I say, out of the loop. There are three timelines in this crazy world that Dr. Robert Ford (played by Hopkins) has helped co-create:

  1. 35 years ago: The catastrophic event happens. Arnold, Ford’s partner, dies in the park. Dolores is almost assuredly involved in the massacre. We first see the church fully intact and see the prototypes of the robots first learning how to dance.
  2. 30 years ago: Dolores meets William. We see the steeple submerged. Dolores has faint memories of five years ago and hears Arnold calling to her–echoes of the bicameral mind (also, the title of the last episode this season).
  3. Present day: The Man in Black is searching for the end of the maze. Ford is also in present day, as well as Mariposa’s Maeve (played by Thandie Newton) and “Bernarnold”.


Arnold is at the end of the maze: Arnold may be dead, but I think his consciousness still lives on, from the center of the maze.  Despite their partnership, I think that Arnold was always one step ahead of Ford in creation of Westworld, and it may have led to disputes over its future (Ford wanted to play “God”. Arnold wanted something else for the hosts). If any of the hosts can make it to the end, they may be able to “free” themselves, and become unchained from their loop and from the nightmare that they must endure day to day locked inside in their artificial world.

The Man in Black’s motivation to make it to the end of the maze is more obscured. In “Trace Decay”, M.I.B. reveals his backstory:

You want to know who I am? Who I really am? I’m a god. Titan of industry. Philanthropist. Family man. Married to a beautiful woman. Father to a beautiful daughter. I’m the good guy, Teddy. Then, last year my wife took the wrong pills, fell asleep in the bath. Tragic accident. 30 years of marriage, vanished. How do you say it, like a deep and distant dream. Then at the funeral, I tried to console my daughter. She pushed me away. Told me that my wife’s death was no accident, that she killed herself because of me. And she said that every day with me had been sheer terror. Any point I could blow up or collapse, like some dark star.”

The Man in Black may not see a place for him in the “real” world anymore. Westworld has stirred something dark within him that he can never reverse. Perhaps he wants to live in Westworld forever. He wants to transfer his consciousness into the hosts, much like Arnold has, in some pursuit of immortality or divinity that no amount of money can buy.



Maeve will escape Westworld: Like Tweety Bird, Maeve has managed to flutter her eyes and have the insolent techs, Sylvester and Felix (both named after famous felines) alter her code. Viewers may be confused on why exactly the wayward techs are helping Maeve and how, in a glass cube nonetheless, that no one suspects that something’s amiss when all employees, guests and hosts, in Delos are always under surveillance. I’m not convinced that Ford isn’t the mastermind behind the Sylvester/Felix/Maeve subplot, but I still think that she will escape the park and her containment, a la Alicia Vikander’s character in Ex-Machina, only to discover that achieving consciousness may be its own version of purgatory where one cannot erase love, grief and loss.

Ford has something big brewing: I’m convinced that Ford has something big in the works, something that even Lee Sizemore has no idea about. There are a lot of religious allusions in Westworld, and I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some type of catastrophic event in the near future, and perhaps more specifically, some type of flood event (Teddy’s last name is Flood) to cleanse the park. The only reason that Ford hasn’t stopped the Man in Black in the present day timeline is that even Ford is curious on what belies the maze. Arnold’s host creations and their newfound consciousness has clearly intrigued Ford to a degree that he won’t pull Dolores out of the park, and because he has plans for her (Dolores=Wyatt) to be the ultimate adversary to the Man in Black.

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