From the first episode of HBO’s Westworld, the drama and violence have been tinged with a single, burning question: what's going on in the park? While Westworld’s hosts struggle with burgeoning questions about who and what they really are, the park’s employees wrestle with moral and emotional conundrums, and a mysterious Man in Black searches for the “deeper game” at the center of the park, fans are left to speculate as to the park’s true purpose. Fortunately, in the absence of information, keen-eyed fans have begun to formulate fan theories of their own.
HBO’s newest hit series Westworld may be a no-holds-barred romp through a hedonistic Western amusement park on the surface, but just underneath lies a torrent of mystery that has yet to be revealed. At least, not as far as we know. Perhaps some of these Westworld fan theories are hitting the mark, perhaps not, but as questions burn, theories about the park abound. Here are some of the best. Vote up the theories that you think explain what's going on in Westworld.
Be warned: there are spoilers in them thar hills.
Update: Given the surprising conclusion of Season 1 of Westworld, we’ve updated the list with a few theories about what might be in store for fans in Season 2. Enjoy!
White Hat William Is the Man in Black
Original Theory: Jimmi Simpson’s William is one of the few park guests who has actually shown some decency towards the hosts. Donning a white hat and remaining somewhat segregated from the rest of the town, theories have cropped up that William is actually the nefarious Man in Black, only thirty years younger. Fans point to some subtle distinctions in the details—such as changes in the decor of the train station—to indicate that William and the Man in Black are actually operating on two different time lines, with the Man in Black pursuing an end game that’s begun in William’s time.
Though this theory has been discounted (because fans want to see William run up against the Man in Black, duh), it’s plausible that William’s journey could be taking place years before the Man in Black’s story.
Consider the new story arc being implemented by Dr. Ford; the Man in Black is clearly walking through some aspect of a story that in some scenes appears to have not even been implemented yet. Is it possible that chronologically, William’s story (and Dolores’s slow awakening) is first, followed by the employee drama of the new arc, before ending with the Man in Black’s journey?
The Man in Black Is Actually a Nice Guy
Update: Not exactly. While outside the park he gives every appearance of being a deeply caring person, but those who know him intimately - like his late wife - feel something sinister simmering beneath the surface. So yes, he's benevolent, but he doesn't actually seem to have feelings. Might he be a psychopath?
Original Theory: Though he appears to be a borderline sociopath in the game, there is evidence to suggest that the Man in Black is actually true to his word when he says he’s there on a quest to free the hosts in Westworld.
First, we have to acknowledge that the show’s writers love screwing with the audience. So, using that evidence, we can point to the fact that the Man in Black’s whole demeanor and ensemble absolutely screams bad guy. However, in "Dissonance Theory," one of the other guests actually recognizes the Man in Black from his life outside the park and even thanks him for saving his sister’s life, a clue that points to the Man in Black’s real-world benevolence.
So, what if the Man in Black is operating under the assumption that killing a few androids in order to free all of them is worth the sacrifice? What if he didn’t rape Dolores in the pilot; he actually set her on her path to freedom? What if he’s been secretly trying to nudge Dolores—the oldest android in the park—towards enlightenment for 30 years?
There Is No Arnold and Bernard Is a Host
Update: Half debunked, half confirmed. Bernard is a host - a host replicant of Arnold, who did, in fact, exist.
Original Theory: There still some debate over this one, but the two are certainly connected. While fans know for certain that there’s very little chance we’ll actually see Arnold in the flesh (showrunner Jonathan Nolan confirmed it), some have postulated that he doesn’t even exist in the first place. Fans have pointed to the fact that, in flashback, Arnold doesn’t appear at all. In fact, the only evidence we have of his existence is Ford’s word and a photograph that looks totally photoshopped.
Only Behaviorist Bernard Lowe has seen the picture, and some fans suggest that Bernard himself only saw “Arnold” because of some suggestion in his programming. In other words, it’s entirely possible that Arnold is a figment and the “accident” in the park thirty years ago had nothing to do with him.
Now, as to Bernard being a robot, fans have suggested that he is, perhaps, the only host who’s walked the maze and come to enlightenment; either that or he is the last remaining robot built in Arnold’s design. Both would explain a) Lowe’s knowledge of the Maze, b) his apparently human behavior, and c) his apparent enthusiasm for helping Dolores reach consciousness. Maybe he’s just looking for some company.
The Maze Is an Easter Egg Left by Arnold That Will Lead Hosts Toward True Consciousness
Original Theory: In the Southwest, the O’odham people believed in a trickster god called Iʼitoi, or the Man in the Maze. In the cosmology of his people, the Man in the Maze was the guardian of the underworld, and the god responsible for providing the commandments that help people live in harmony with the world and interact with it as intended.
Another aspect of the O’odham culture is the belief that every crafted basket should include a mistake, called a dau, or “door.”
Juxtapose those lessons with Ford’s conclusion that evolution used only one device to ensure the survival of every species: the mistake.
Now, what if Arnold, drawing from these ancient myths, created the Maze as a means to help bring the hosts to full consciousness and then planted the mistakes necessary in the code to get them to the door of the maze? That might also explain why the little girl tells the Man in Black that the Maze isn’t for him.