I never was a “LOST” viewer and felt utterly bored with all of the obsessive water cooler talk about what it meant. Thus I sympathize with non-WESTWORLD viewers and my warning that this blog post is SO NOT FOR YOU.
(**** Also, many spoilers ahead, so stop if you haven’t been watching. ****)
There has become a flowering… no a weed sprouting of people putting out Youtube videos not only re-capping the often – depending on one’s perspective – very confusing or very mind-blowing events / philosophy / dialogue / visuals, etc. of WESTWORLD, but more importantly, the theories of what is really going on and what it really means. The show quite deliberately obfuscates with very clever editing and misdirection. This is both supremely manipulative and annoying yet simultaneously fascinating and intriguing. I’ve never been a cross-word puzzle person but this is the rare puzzle that I’m enjoying.
There are many mysteries some like “what is the maze” will take years I assume to play out.
I have never subscribed to the popular Man in Black being William for textual reasons (it is far more likely to me that he’s Logan, William’s traveling companion), but I do subscribe to the popular multiple timelines interpretation of the show.
Besides the 2 different Westworld logos noticed by many, I see massive evidence – too long to explicate in a short essay – of 3 timelines: (a) the present (major events: Dolores goes off loop a 2nd time to pursue the maze, Maeve rebels, Ford creates the Wyatt narrative), (b) 30 years ago (Dolores, William and Logan adventures with the Union and “Confederado” soldiers, etc.), approx. 34 years ago (the park development phase which includes traditional flashbacks to the town of the now buried church, Dolores “dream” visions and probably the original Arnold – who looks like Bernard – talking to a clothed Dolores).
Admittedly it can be quite hard to identify a scene as belonging to which timeline since they are presented out of order in manipulative editing, but Angela is a good character to use as a touchstone: she’s woman with the parasol in the now buried town, greeter in the William / Logan timeline and Wyatt follower in the present.
NOW IF MIB TURNS OUT TO BE WILLIAM, I WILL BE SEVERELY DISAPPOINTED IN THE WRITING FOR PROMULGATING ABSURD VIEW OF HUMAN BEHAVIOR, RED HERRINGS AND UTTERLY VIOLATING GOOD CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT. The MIB and Logan both use the language of “the game” over and over. It’s what drives both of them.
A note to those who say, but the MiB recognizes Angela in the present and says “I thought they would have retired you by now” She was William’s greeter thus why MiB recognizes her – watch the initial greeting scene again. Logan talks to William as he’s being led away by Angela so both William and Logan have seen Angela in that greeting role.
Now, Logan, William and the MIB (and for that matter the writer Sizemore too) all have used a significant phrase (in 4 separate episodes) about the Westworld showing the guests who they are – so we could use that use of language as a wash. More significantly Ford in episode 1 shuts down Sizemore after he uses that exact phrase and says, no, WestWorld gives the guests a chance to become who they could be.
We know that William’s life in “real life” was marked by ambition, hardwork and denying his deeper humanity in order to climb the corporate ladder – thus why his imagination in books felt more real to him. His upcoming marriage to Logan’s sister isn’t for love but what is expected of him – part of that corporate climb. Yet, he’s innately decent – NOT for show but innate. He helps hosts off the ground for no gain, etc. He falls in love with Dolores partially because she’s breaking her behavioral loop just as he is himself. In essence, both of them are using WW to become more human. So, for him to become the MiB, violates both what he wants to become but the way human beings act in general.
Humans don’t change that way. Changes in real life are small and gradual in functioning human beings. Massive, sudden changes much more likely lead to actual breakdowns in people that could take years to recover, if ever. For William to be the MIB, he would have had to be a sociopath from the beginning and the show did not show us a sociopath. You don’t become one without at least already exhibiting signs of narcissism and lack of empathy.
Even using the example of how people act in war, that war behavior (of violence) remains isolated to that time in their life or if it comes out post-war, it’s sporadic and uncontrolled marked by prior depression, anxiety and other marks of mental stress or even severe illness. The MIB actions are all controlled with a clear goal. So those who argue William becomes so traumatized by something in the next two episodes ignore actual human behavior and consequences of trauma.
Also, there is the notion of theme.
All of these plot and character developments should have an ultimate meaning. The show in episode 1 makes its disdain very clear regarding human evil (the sympathy is all with the hosts and the view of humanity is exceedingly dark and cynical). It’s only in episode 2, we meet an actually clearly decent human being (William played Jimmi Simpson). Yes, there are other characters, especially those played Jeffrey Wright, that have nuance and kindness – but again as it appears Wright is playing 2 different characters, his actions become much less clear.
Thus, we are really only left with William as a clear audience point of view character.
That, yup, all humans are evil and irredeemable. Whipdidoo, we got that in the 1st minutes of the show. So there would be no point for these hours of watching the show.
On the other hand, a if not the major theme that has been evolving since the first episode is what is consciousness and what is sentience? If William (and I assume William’s death) plays a major part in the host Dolores’ (Evan Rachel Wood) pathway through maze of / to consciousness, then that would make thematic sense. William would exit for an actual reason rather than some superficial cool plot thing.
Finally, there’s a little textual clue in episode 8, with body of Theresa, a.k.a Tess in the background, the security chief tells Ford (Anthony Hopkins) and Charlotte (the Delos corp rep) that Theresa has a brother who will be notified of her death. With a show that is so deliberate in everything, why a brother and not “family”, “husband”, “sister”, “brothers” even? In the show, mention of siblings is very rare. I believe Ford does so once.
But definitely and prominently, there is Logan talking about his sister (and that his family are considering bailing out Westworld). I don’t have deep evidence for this, but I believe Theresa is Logan’s sister. If so, it’s clear, she never married William and like Logan (again my choice for the MiB), she had trouble making deep emotional connections except and values loyalty to Delos, the corporation, above all. Theresa’s behavior and motivations, while not an exact mirror to the MiB are nonetheless rather similar.
Addendum re Identity of Arnold – the mysteriously deceased park co-creator: just heard a fascinating theory by Mesh Flicks ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bL1q4fNm7eE go to just past 13 minute mark), that Dolores is Arnold (Arnold being her last name). At first that sounded silly to me.
His theorizing was primarily, but not solely, based in the camera’s perspective when Dolores views the original town and when Ford recounts the story of Arnold to Bernard. The shots are nearly identical. That is indeed a cognizant observation.
However, of course, people forget that filming is expensive and budgets aren’t unlimited so it’s also theoretically positive, this was just a cost saving issue, or also quite likely, the writers creating a red herring. They do love misdirection after all. So, never eliminate the pragmatic reasons, BUT I think Mesh is on to something.
Everyone – including me and formerly Mesh – is assuming Bernard was once Arnold based on the interviews that a character played Jeffrey Wright is playing with Dolores. (Initially, everyone assumed this was Bernard in the present until the multiple timelines theory became more or less proved.)
In those interviews, Bernard (Arnold?) tells her to seek the maze and visually we have the distinct difference that he’s talking to a clothed Dolores. When Anthony Hopkins interviews her, Dolores is naked as all Hosts are (i.e. treated as “meat” and not sentient beings deserving of dignity). That remains the strongest evidence that Bernard is a host based on Arnold, and that the real Arnold was conducting those interviews 34 years in the past.
But like always, it’s character that always convinces me. Generally we know that Arnold and Dolores shall compassion as a character trait and both Arnold and Dolores – which means pain or suffering in Spanish – both had lives with tragedy.
But, more importantly, we know a lot, quite a lot about Arnold’s antagonist and Dolores’ ultimate tormentor: Ford (Anthony Hopkins)… We know how Ford likes to keep Host representations of his family in Westworld, yet he also like to manipulate those representations in less positive ways that he considers more true. We also know from his words and actions that Ford has a serious God complex and wants to tell his stories – and that all good stories are not literally true but have a basis in truth.
Yet, there is a sibling missing from the family cottage. I can’t recall the exact language and I don’t have a script to refer to, but my contribution to this Arnold equals Dolores, is that Dolores is actually Ford’s sister. Now my evidence is circumstantial and uses one of the main pieces of evidence of why people think Bernard is Arnold: the photograph Ford shows Bernard.
When Bernard looks at it, he sees a young Ford and another older man. At the time, the audience assumed that man was Arnold. Later in another episode, we realize from the Host that Ford created, that older man is actually Ford’s alcoholic father.
The Westworld theorists correctly pointed out that we were seeing the photograph through Bernard’s eyes. Once we knew Bernard was a host, then we knew Bernard is programmed not to see anything that could hurt or confuse him. So, everyone assumed the empty space next to Ford’s father was filled by an image of Jeffrey Wright as Arnold.
Frankly what no one has been asking is, why is Ford’s father in the photograph at all??? If he was between his two children, that would actually make sense.
Why would Ford put a Host representation of “Arnold” in such a painful loop as the one he put Dolores in? I think Ford has shown both a paradoxically and a sadistic streak toward multiple characters and thus would particularly to someone – Arnold – who he saw first as a invaluable collaborator and then as a rival who tried to stop him in his vision for the park. Plus, having Dolores / Arnold in such a contained loop also gives him regular access to monitor the computer coding that “Arnold” that remains in the base coding of the Hosts. As the saying goes, keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
In other words, there are reasons, both emotional and pragmatic, that are very consistent to Ford’s character to create a Dolores / Arnold host. Taken with Mesh’s point about camera p.o.v. and the gravestone with the hidden name that could be Arnold, what seems absurd, is at least possible.
(P.S. in her journey into the Maze, I noticed immediately that the Arnold voice in Dolores head always sounded like a female speaking at the lowest register with some electronic trickery added, but I always considered this part of her pathway toward consciousness – if Arnold had placed beneficent coding in her – it’s nonetheless her pathway… as she said once, there’s not two of me, there’s just me.)
(On a final fun note: one youtube commentator said an anagram of Dolores Abernathy is “Dolores by the sea” which matches Dolores dialogue about being home she sees the water by the mountains and finds the original town there.)