In the pilot episode of Westworld, the Man in Black called Dolores his “old friend,” and asks her, “I’ve been coming here for thirty years, and you still don’t remember me… after everything we’ve been through?” Once William was introduced in the second episode, that conversation became the original foundation for the most popular theory on Westworld: That William is the younger version of The Man in Black, and what we are watching unfold on the series is occurring on two timelines.
The theory has not been completely proven after seven episodes, but the evidence is persuasive. Here are the most convincing clues, so far, suggesting the dual timeline theory where William and the Man in Black are the same person:
Clues that Place William’s Timeline in the Past
— The Westworld logo from William’s timeline…
…is different from the current Westworld logo with the Man in Black.
— Moreover, In episode one (the Man in Black’s timeline) we learn that all diseases have been eradicated. (Ford to Bernard: We can cure any disease, keep even the weakest of us alive and one fine day perhaps we shall even resurrect the dead.”) However, in episode two (William’s timeline), he is asked by the welcoming host if he has an pre-existing health conditions. That suggests that William’s timeline took place long before diseases were eradicated.
Similarities Between the Man in Black and William
— Underneath their jackets, they both similarly wear collarless shirts (via Vanity Fair)
— As Joanna Robinson illustrates with this GIF, they also both use the same knife.
— These two conversations are natural bookends (via Reddit)
Ford and the Man in Black’s Bar Scene
The conversation between Ford and the Man in Black is telling. They treat each other as adversaries who are compelled to put up with each other. But why?
In William’s timeline, we learn that his family is an investor in the park. Logan also suggests at one point that they invest more in Westworld, so the Man in Black/William may well be part of the ownership board, which would make the Man in Black a natural enemy of Ford. (It’s clear after Theresa’s death that Ford is in a war with Delos.) Is it possible that William’s last name is even Delos? It would explain why they let the Man in Black do whatever he wants in the park. It might also explain how the Man in Black saved Westworld 30 years ago, as he told Ford during the bar scene. “The man who created this place died 35 years ago,” the MiB tells Ford. “He almost took the place with him. Almost, but not quite, thanks to me.”
Meanwhile, because the Man in Black has been around long enough to know about Arnold (though Arnold has otherwise been scrubbed from the history books), he also knows that Arnold is responsible for whatever “deeper meaning” exists in the park, which is why the Man in Black doesn’t revere Ford as much as one might expect. He doesn’t care about the hosts. He cares about the maze that Arnold created. Moreover, if the Man in Black runs Delos, it would explain why the company is trying to force Ford out. The MiB doesn’t care about him. He only cares about Arnold’s contribution to Westworld (while the corporation itself only cares about Ford’s source code and its financial value).
Moreover, the Man in Black told Lawrence in the second episode, “You know, you and I hunted down Ghost Nation Braves in their winter grounds. I know the whiskey you like to drink.” In the seventh episode, William hunted down Ghost Nation with Lawrence, and the whiskey that Lawrence likes to drink? Perhaps it is the same one that Ford and the Man in Black consumed in their conversation together.