First, let’s check out that trailer. Short and bitter. Welcome to Westworld.
Bernard wants Dolores to tackle the maze — presumably the same maze that The Man in Black is hunting for — in order to prove that she’s worthy of freedom. This, more than anything else, raises a disgusting amount of questions (surprise!) in a show already brimming with them. How can a maze bring an AI into consciousness? Or, if that isn’t the goal, how does it prepare them for freedom? Does that mean freedom to join regular society beyond the train tracks? Or does it mean earning the freedom to — wait for it — become an employee of the park?
In another area of the attraction, Dr. Ford is threatening someone not to get in his way. It’s an employee most likely, maybe Theresa since she’s high enough up the chain to be a true check on Ford’s intentions, but it could also be Bernard, whom he lightly scolded last week for focusing on the human potential of the Hosts.
Which leads back to the original question: does Ford want Hosts to become sentient or not? If he does, why isn’t he working with Bernard on that front? If he doesn’t, why does the maze exist in the first place? Is it something Arnold installed that Ford doesn’t know about? It seems unlikely that Ford wouldn’t know something so massive lying at the heart of his own park, but other gods have been proven fallible before.
Now for the spoilers and fan theorizing. (If you need to brush up on Westworld details, make sure you check out our weekly recaps first!)[brightcove video_id=”5167317762001″ brightcove_account_id=”3653334524001″ brightcove_player_id=”2bfa565b-5412-4cfd-9211-6269880b8a5e”]
The William In Black
I’m with Joanna Robinson at Vanity Fair when it comes to the death of the popular theory that William (the new white hat arrival) and The Man in Black are the same person. For one, Dolores encountering The Man in Black at the beginning of her rise to consciousness and her running into William at the end of the last episode all but rules it out. It makes the timeline far too clunky. They still may prove to be the same person — this might not be the first time Dolores has groped toward awareness — but I also hope that’s not the case because both characters are interesting enough with introducing a twist like that into the mix.
Plus, William and The Man in Black are interacting with the iPhone 7 version of Hosts which, sorry fandom, should assure that they’re in the same timeline.
On the other hand, as Jessica pointed on a fan theory-focused Nerdist News (above), Dolores (the oldest Host) is the only one William has really interacted with and the Westworld park logos change between his arrival and all the office politics we’ve been privy to.
So maybe they are the same man. William falls in love with Dolores, something tragic happens, he learns the secrets of the park, and, a changed man, decides to live out his days in a fantasy land where he’s a VIP.
Maybe the Hosts aren’t rickety anymore because the technology stalled out at near perfection. Ford’s already said that it does the park no good if the Hosts are too real…
Dolores is Trolling Us
This one seems so obvious, and yet, so unprovable because it hinges on whether or not a character is lying to everyone (including us). Is Dolores playing the long game in order to gain freedom — or maybe even seek revenge? The only question we have to answer when assessing this particular fan theory is whether or not she’s capable of it. Since she’s the oldest AI in the park, why not? There’s nothing that specifically prohibits her from being smarter (read: sentient) than we’ve been told, so it’s a safe assumption that she can probably ace the advanced Turing Test that Oscar Isaac kept roiding out about in Ex Machina.
The whole idea that Dolores is already sentient gets a slight wrench in the works with Bernard telling her about the maze, but that might all be part of her plan — or a new piece of information that happily fits into her plan. Maybe she’s already gained awareness, which makes her smart enough to recognize the difficulty of an escape from the world she’s in.
One bucket of cold water on the theory that she’s already self-aware is her surprise and dismay at Teddy’s inability to look outside his own loop. This, more than anything else, seems to prove that her rising awareness is as fresh as the photo her malfunctioning father shows her. Plus, on a story level, Dolores is an avatar for the viewer: just as we are constantly seeking meaning and definition for our existence, she recognizes that she’ll be free when she learns what she is.
The bigger question is if Bernard is leading Dolores to the maze because he’s a former Host who already went through it. Exploding mind emoji.
Arnold and Ford and Bernard
We need more milk for this one. In “The Stray,” we found out that Ford had a co-founder named Arnold whose voice is in the heads of some of the Hosts, particularly while they’re going on the fritz and murdering other hosts with milk bottles. The big question is who this Arnold is, and in the classic fan theory spirit of This Person = That Person, Josh Wigler at The Hollywood Reporter suggests five possibilities:
- Arnold = Ford: Fight Club style
- Arnold = Man in Black: never wanting to leave
- Arnold = Bernard: new body, old brain
- Arnold = Wyatt: the new villain is Ford’s old nemesis in story form
- Arnold = dead: let’s take Ford’s word for it
I like that last one the best, simply because it’s tough to keep looking for twists upon twists in the program when Westworld is already telling a compelling story. Arnold being Ford is implausible because he shows Bernard a picture; if he’s The Man in Black, he’s wasted a ton of time searching for a maze that he would have already known about; if he’s Bernard, why would Bernard have a totally different backstory and just now be gaining thoughts about pushing AI to the next level?; and it’s possible that Arnold is the inspiration for Ford’s new fiction (all great ones are “rooted in truth” after all), but it has no real impact on the reality of the show.
So let’s stick with death.
As for Bernard, he continues to be the second-most curious puzzle piece in the box. Is he a home-built successor for an aging Ford? Is he just a dude who went to MIT or somewhere and passed a rigorous application process? Is he the one standing in Ford’s way?
Whatever the case, he’s in cahoots with Dolores, so we’ll find out more answers and a fresh pile of questions on Sunday.
My personal favorite theory is that the show isn’t a reboot, but a sequel to Westworld ’73, using its catastrophic incident as the 30-years-ago toehold people keep mentioning. What’s your favorite theory?