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.
Theory: That Teddy Was Modeled After William
Another theory, which feels more likely to me, is that Teddy is a pseudo-clone of William. The Westworld Contract that guests have to sign when they enter the park specifically says:
By entering the Delos Destinations Port of Entry, you acknowledge that Delos, Inc. controls the rights to and remains the sole owner of, in perpetuity: all skin cells, bodily fluids, secretions, excretions, hair samples, saliva, sweat, blood, and any other bodily functions not listed here. Delos, Inc. reserves the right to use this property in any way, shape, or form in which the entity sees fit.
The wording of the contract is specific to the show. For instance, there’s a clause that says that all of the animals in the park are synthetic except notably the flies, which helped explain Dolores’ awakening last week. This particular clause hints that Westworld reserves the right to clone others or duplicate their storylines.
If William’s storyline takes place in the past, it’s perhaps possible that he dies, but his storyline with Dolores was so compelling, Westworld sought to duplicate it with a host. William and Teddy’s experiences, after all, are similar: They both come in on the train, they both bump into the same man on the way into town, and they both pick up the Dolores’ can. When Dolores says to Teddy in the first episode, “I knew you would be back,” the “you” may be referring to an earlier version of Teddy, William. Note, also, that Teddy and William are never in the same scenes together.
If that is the case, it’s also possible that Hector Escaton is based on Logan. The actors’ resemblance is probably not a coincidence. Moreover, Hector’s storyline was noticeably missing from Logan’s visit to Westworld. In subsequent visits, Logan may become the villain that Hector now is — and there’s certainly evidence to suggest that Logan has a mean, evil streak.
Theory: The Boy Is a Host
It seems clear that the boy walking along with Ford in the episode is a host, based mostly on the fact that — in his last interaction with Ford — Ford seemed to give him a voice command. “You’re not going to come back here again, are you?” The boy’s eyes dimmed, and he walked away robotically. But what sort of host is he? Did Ford create in him a younger version of himself with whom to communicate (they have similar accents and wear the same clothing), or is he just a random host that got separated from his storyline and stumbled upon Ford?
Theory: Bernard Is a Host
This is actually my favorite theory, and the one with the most sly evidence supporting it, which means it’s probably not true. Here’s a few moments suggesting Bernard could be a host:
— “‘Mistakes’… is the word you’re too embarrassed to use,” Ford tells Bernard in the first episode. “You ought not to be. You’re a product of a trillion of them.”
This statement is a complement to a later statement said of Dolores. She’s been “repaired so many times she’s practically new,” Stubbs says. Each repair was fixing a mistake, making her a better and better host. It’s possible that Bernard is the product of a billion repairs.
— In the second episode, Ford says to Bernard, “There’s something else wrong with you. I know how that head of yours works.” He may know because he created Bernard’s head.
— Later, after he sleeps with Theresa, he tells her that the hosts are always talking even when guests aren’t around because they are trying to “error correct.” Theresa asks Bernard if he’s trying to “error correct” in having a rare conversation with her. That not only suggests that Bernard is a host, but that Theresa knows it.
— Bernard seems most sympathetic to the malfunctioning hosts. He lies to keep them in service. He asks them pointed questions, and then insists that they erase their memory of those questions. It’s possible that Bernard — in asking them about the nature of their reality — is really trying to determine the nature of his own reality. Is he a host who has been implanted with a backstory that includes even a dead son? Is he part of the “life created out of chaos,” of which Ford refers?
Theory: Bernard is responsible for the sentient virus.
Whether Bernard is a host or just a real person who is sympathetic to the host, it’s possible that Bernard injected the virus into Peter Abernathy. After all, he continues to question Dolores about the nature of her reality — always alone — to determine whether the virus is working. It seems quite likely that the virus is being passed along through a voice command. Peter uttered the Shakespeare quote to Dolores — “these violent delights have violent ends” — and she repeated it to Maeve, and all three are malfunctioning. Consider, also, that Bernard “covered” for Abernathy, and that he fought to keep Dolores in Westworld. He also whispered something that the audience couldn’t hear to Peter Abernathy before putting him out of service. What was he saying? “Thank you”? “Don’t worry, I”ll get you out”? “When all the humans leave, repeat the Shakespeare quote and awaken the decommissioned hosts”?
There is also some speculation that Bernard inserted the virus as a means to awaken the hosts. He wants to learn how to make them sentient, because he wants to recreate his dead son and bring him to life.
Theory: Who Is Arnold?
In the first episode, the host who malfunctions and goes on a killing spree, pouring milk on his victims, says “I’m not going to die this time, Arnold. Ain’t nothing going to kill me.” It’s possible that the host was hearing a voice — perhaps the same voice that Dolores is hearing — and that voice is that of Arnold. I don’t want to get too far into this theory, however, because critics who have seen the third episode suggests that Arnold becomes another major player in the series, and I don’t want to spoil his identity. For now, viewers should simply keep it in the back of their mind that the voice speaking to Dolores — and to the malfunctioning host — could be that of a man named Arnold.