Two episodes into HBO’s Westworld, and it already has an immersive Lost-like quality. It’s a show that’s meant to be enjoyed on the first viewing, but dissected, scrutinized, and pulled apart on the second and third. After two episodes, the theories coming out of the series are a little wild and scattershot, because we still don’t know exactly with what we’re dealing with. It’s hard to provide answers when we don’t know what the questions are. Where’s the show going? When is it set? Where is it set? How many timelines are we dealing with? What’s going on with the hosts? How are they being infected? Who is infecting them? Are the hosts based on real people? Who is a host and who is a guest? Where does the maze go?
Many of those answers are likely to come soon, but the reason why the second episode echoes the pilot so much was that much of it was originally meant to be part of the pilot, but it was pulled apart and separated to simplify the premiere episode. In other words, this second episode is still laying out the premise and while Westworld already has an addictive quality to it, we are still waiting for the narrative hook.
In the meantime, there are a lot of theories floating around on message boards, in comment sections, on Reddit, and on a growing number of podcasts devoted to the series. Here are the most prominent and compelling of those theories.
Theory: William is the Man in Black
There is some evidence, if viewers are wiling to believe that William’s current storyline is set 30 years in the past. Logan, after all, did tell William that Westworld was addictive, so this could be the beginning of The Man in Black’s 30-year fling with Westword. Ford also suggests that the addictive quality of Westworld had nothing to do with the more thrilling aspects, like the sex and violence, and the Man in Black seems mostly bored with those aspects of the park, as one might be after three decades.
At the beginning of the journey, however, William seems to be smitten with Dolores. He picks up the can and introduces himself in this episode, while in the pilot episode the Man in Black picks it up and tells Dolores, “Not tonight,” suggesting that he had, in the past, taken up with Dolores. The Man in Black also seems to be familiar with Dolores. William’s storyline could be the beginning of their relationship, while the Man in Black’s storyline could be the bookend.
There’s also this quote from Jonathan Nolan in EW: “When you play a role playing game, one of the first decisions you make is am I going to go good or bad? Committed gamers will play twice.” It could be that William entered the first time with the white hat — as the hero — and the second time with the black hat, as the villain.
In this episode, we can see that Dolores is “waking up.” She has visions. She hears voices. She unearths a gun. However, William isn’t in any of the scenes with a waking Dolores, therefore the Dolores/William scenes could be a part of a different timeline.
The rub here, however, is that if there are two timelines, there would have to be at least a third, because when Maeve has a flashback to the moment in which she was nearly scalped. she sees the Man in Black, meaning the flashback could not have been of 30 years ago. It would’ve had to have been more recent. It’s one thing to trust viewers to follow two timeliness — one providing the origin story for another — but three storylines would be difficult for most viewers to follow.