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The 10 biggest Westworld theories explained

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We’re now at the halfway point of Westworld’s first season, and the questions and theories are piling up. Are we watching what we think we’re watching? Are we heading for some epic twisting and rug-pulling? Almost certainly yes. There are dozens of theories spinning around the web and we've distilled them into the 10 most widely asked questions (and theorised answers) below.-

NB. These aren't necessarily spoilers, because nobody yet knows if they’re true. But they might be… and some of it’s looking increasingly on the money. So be warned…


Is Westworld actually showing us several different timelines?

Westworld - Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores

This is the mother of all Westworld theories, and once you’re looking for it, it seems clear that it’s correct. Clever editing is disguising the fact that not all the events we’re seeing are happening concurrently. Next sub-question: how many timelines are there? Some say two, with the Dolores/William adventure, in this scenario, taking place decades (30 years or so) before The Man In Black’s quest to find The Maze. Evidence for this includes glimpses of slightly differing Westworld logos in the William and Man In Black scenes, and the fact that William was at one point bruised by a bullet, suggesting he’s playing at an earlier time when the safety protocols were still developing.

Others have posited a third timeline, specifically in the scenes when Bernard is having his secret conversations with Dolores away from the park. For reasons we’ll get into below, it’s possible that these sequences are even earlier than the William ones: five years or so earlier, to be precise.


Is there more than one Dolores in Westworld?

Westworld Season 1 Episode 1

Dolores is Evan Rachel Wood’s character: the wholesome farm girl at the centre of layers and layers of mystery. The timeline theory is a neater explanation for this, but some have speculated that her jumping around locations indicates that there’s more than one copy of her. There’s no reason why the ‘Hosts’ (the cyborgs) in the park couldn’t be mass-produced like Terminators, and it’s certainly unclear how Dolores is being pulled from the park without anyone noticing for her meetings with Bernard - if that’s what you think is happening. They’re different Doloreses (Dolorei?) in this scenario. But as we said, we’re more inclined to believe those Bernard meetings are happening much earlier than anything else, and that there really is only one Dolores.


Who is the Man In Black?

Westworld Season 1 Episode 1 Ed Harris’ grizzled gunslinger remains enigmatic, to the extent that we don’t know his name. We’ve been told (by him) that he’s been coming to Westworld for 30 years, and we’ve witnessed staff being told that he’s got carte-blanche to go wherever and do whatever he likes within the park. And intriguingly, there was also a brief hint that, out in the real world, he’s some sort of philanthropist doing great things for people with some sort of foundation.

But the core theory here – the other big one along with the timelines business – is that The Man In Black is an older William (Jimmi Simpson, who has similarly piercing blue eyes to Harris). The scenes we’re seeing with William are his first go through the park — part of a business/takeover deal, remember — during which he’s gradually won over. And the Man In Black scenes are decades later.

The strongest evidence yet for this came via Clifton Collins Jr’s character 'Lawrence' in episode 5. Lawrence met a bloody end with The Man In Black, only to show up pristine shortly afterwards in William’s storyline. Now he could have been repaired by the park staff and dropped back in at his starting point. Or he could be another copy. But given The Man In Black’s assertion that he’s known Lawrence for years, we’re leaning towards the William scene’s being their first meeting, all that time ago.

If this is all true, only time will tell how the white-hatted William became the black-hatted enigma.

Dolores is present in both these scenarios, of course. If we’re accepting the different timelines theory then her lack of ageing doesn’t matter, since she’s artificial. But it does raise the question of why, since she appears to be evolving to sentience during the William scenario, she’s back in her auto-programmed, memory-wiping loops during the later Man In Black story. This hints at a bleak future for William-era Dolores, who’ll presumably reach some sort of apotheosis and then be forcibly regressed…


Are some of Westworld’s humans actually Hosts?

Westworld - William

Almost certainly. For a show like this — in which humans and near-perfect human-looking cyborgs share the same space — it’s practically guaranteed that the odd character is not at all who or what we think they are. One character in particular is drawing most of that kind of close attention (see below)… In earlier weeks people latched onto the idea that nobody was human at all. Arguably the only thing that explains Simon Quartermain’s performance is that he’s malfunctioning, but the everyone’s-a-robot theories can, we think, be put to bed. At this point there’s been too much evidence that most of the cast who appear to be really real are exactly that.


Is Arnold really dead?

Westworld - Arnold

Clues are stacking up to suggest not. Arnold was the original business and design partner of Anthony Hopkins’ character Robert Ford. We’re told by Ford that Arnold committed suicide 30 years ago (there’s that number again) having become obsessed with the Hosts’ potential sentience, but Ford is far from a reliable narrator. One theory is that Arnold found a way to upload his consciousness to Westworld’s computer mainframe, and that he’s now a ghost in the machine manipulating events. By that rationale, the voices that some of the Hosts hear are all Arnold. But there’s another possible Arnold in the park (read on)…

And by the way, note Hopkins’ character’s name: history’s real Robert Ford is famous for having shot his former partner Jesse James in the back. Too obvious? Red herring?


Who is Bernard?

Westworld - Bernard (Jeffrey Wright)

Jeffrey Wright’s 'Bernard Lowe' is a senior member of the Westworld staff, working closely with Ford and having an illicit relationship with money-woman Theresa Cullen (Sise Babett Knudsen). But the fan theorists are increasingly convinced that Bernard is a Host, and a copy of Arnold. In that version of events, during the scenes of — apparently — Bernard talking to his estranged wife on Skype, and all his secret conversations with Dolores, we’re actually watching Arnold himself in the past. If this is correct, it seems unlikely that Bernard knows he’s a clone. He’s been shown a photograph of Ford and Arnold in which Arnold appeared to be someone else, but we’ve seen through Dolores that when the Hosts are confronted with images that don’t fit their personal reality, they find ways to dismiss them.

Incidentally, 'Bernard Lowe' is an anagram of 'Arnold Weber'. We don’t know that Arnold’s surname was actually Weber, but nevertheless, that’s a thing. Also, 'Dolores Abernathy' is an anagram of 'Arnold Base Theory'. But that might just be a funny coincidence. 'Hector Escaton' (Rodrigo Santoro’s character) is an anagram of 'Cato The Censor', which would be a very obscure plot point. Not all anagrams necessarily mean anything.


Who is Wyatt?

Westworld - Wyatt

In short, he's apparently a rogue Host with a following of monstrous Bone Tomahawk nutcases... but, of course, there's more to it than that. Some are saying he's Arnold (at some point, everybody is going to be an Arnold suspect). Others believe he's a complete red herring designed to keep everyone's attention away from... something else. There's been a suggestion that he and Teddy (James Marsden) are the same person, since we explicitly saw Ford give Teddy a back-story involving Wyatt (the picture above shows Sorin Brewers in the role, but this is only Teddy's perception/implanted memory, so may not really be what Wyatt looks like). There's even a suggestion that he's the Westworld game's final 'boss': the ultimate test, defeating whom will mean... something significant and/or cataclysmic. What's certain is that, currently, four separate sets of characters are on Wyatt's trail, wherever it may lead.


Who is The Little Boy?

Westworld - Little Boy

No particular evidence for this, but some people are liking the idea that The Little Boy (Oliver Bell) is Robert Ford’s childhood self. Because hey, it’d be nice to bounce ideas off yourself in kid form once in a while. Possibly.


Where does Westworld take place?

Westworld - Monument Valley

Not necessarily important, but nevertheless intriguing. To all intents and purposes Westworld appears to be Monument Valley in Utah: famous from any number of Westerns since the days of John Ford and Sergio Leone. But how could miles of historic national park be appropriated by a commercial venture? The possible answer is that it’s a constructed, artificial Monument Valley of some sort. Some suggest Virtual Reality. Some suggest we’re miles underground with an artificial sky: a theory lent credence by the apparent fact that the staff travel upwards a great distance in elevators to get from the park to the control hub. Some have even speculated that the park is off world, although that seems based on little more than Monument Valley’s red rocks looking a bit like Mars.


What is The Man In Black looking for at the centre of Westworld’s Maze?

Westworld - Maze

He’s said that he’s looking to 'honour Arnold’s memory' and that he thinks he’s on the path to unlocking 'a story with real stakes'. These things remain ambiguous, but if he wants to achieve what Arnold apparently wanted to achieve, The Man In Black would seem to be on a quest to wake all the Hosts into sentient consciousness. Why? Some believe it’s for love of Dolores: a Host he became infatuated during his William days, but who was only ever following programmed parameters and couldn’t genuinely love him back. We’ve been led to believe that the encounter between The Man In Black and Dolores in the barn in the first episode was a rape, but we didn’t actually see what happened, so that may well not be what went on at all. Perhaps 'getting reacquainted' meant something else. And the empty space at the top of Arnold’s pyramid brain design? The place he never reached? Maybe that’s love too...

Read Empire's reviews of Episodes one, two, three, four and five.

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