Westworld is a technologically advanced, Western-themed amusement park populated completely by synthetic androids dubbed “Hosts”, who cater to high-paying visitors dubbed “Newcomers”, who can do what they wish within the park without fear of retaliation from the Hosts. Free to explore every human appetite, no matter how noble or depraved, there hasn’t been an incident between host and newcomer in over 30 years.
“There aren’t two versions of me. There’s only one. And I think when I discover who I am, I’ll be free” – Dolores
“All that’s stopping [the hosts] from killing us is one line of code” – Ashley
Let’s start with some theories currently littering the interwebs. First, William (Jimmi Simpson), the meek and impressionable first-time guest to Westworld, will evolve into the Man in Black (Ed Harris) and thus we’re watching the same person at two different points in time. Second, the Delos park is on another planet (how else to account for the huge amount of real estate it owns?), the popular idea being that it’s a terraformed Mars. Both theories are intriguing, both can be argued both for and against and the chances of any quick and definitive answers are slim. This is one of the genius strokes of Westworld; it’s outrageously entertaining, the story is moving along at a clip, seemingly giving lots away whilst also holding it’s cards very close to its chest and keeping the big answers to itself. For now.
Episode 3, “The Stray”, concentrates again on Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood). Bernard – who we’re still saying will be revealed as a robot (don’t judge us if we’re wrong) – continues to spend time with her, questioning, coaxing and influencing. During one of their conversations, we learn that Bernard had a son, now dead, whom he liked reading to. Does Bernard see the hosts as children? It’s an interesting thought; as a parent, it would be his role to see them develop, mature, question their lives and ultimately leave the roost. It would certainly explain why he would give Dolores “Alice in Wonderland” to read, the story of a blonde girl who fell down a rabbit hole and encountered a world stranger than she couldn’t possibly imagine. And why he’s keeping the knowledge that she is evolving to himself.
The suggestion that we’re observing the hosts during many varied timelines, and the kernel that the William/Man in Black theory rests on, is also given some credence with Dolores. One moment she finds the gun she unearthed outside her homestead and hides it under some linen in her drawer, the next it’s not there, leaving her somewhat confused for a second. Later still it will turn up in the barn, and it’s an easy and logical jump to see we’re also watching her storyline at different points over many years. After all, these hosts have played and replayed their stories, hundreds of times over several decades.
Elsewhere in the park, a host has gone off-story and wandered off. This in itself is not that uncommon it seems, and Ashley and Elsie are charged with bringing him back. This host is a woodcutter, and his disappearance means that his group, and the story they are all part of, are effectively stranded, unable to get past a loop without the his part of the narrative. As Ashley and Elsie get to the camp from where he absconded, Elsie finds intricate wood carvings with an intriguing design on each. Ashley says it’s the Orion star group and, if so, how would a host know what that is or how to carve it?
All of this mystery is lost on Ashley, who’s more concerned with the fact that a host programmed to use a potentially lethal tool – an axe – is now a stray. “All that’s stopping them from killing us is one line of code” he casually drops. One line of code? Really? That’d make a robot uprising all the more likely, but it’s hard to take seriously; one would think there would be multiple protocols and fail-safes to guard against harm coming to a guest or employee, and not just simply one code line.
At Delos HQ, a long chat between Dr. Ford (Anthony Hopkins) and Bernard showcases the brilliance of Westworld‘s writing, dumping huge amounts of information and backstory whilst introducing ever more questions. Delos was started over thirty years previous by Ford and his partner, Arnold. Arnold? Where have we heard that before? Ah, yes, the name muttered by several hosts in mysterious conversations they seemed to be having with no one. With a CGI-heavy, drastically de-aged Ford flashback – which also gives us a look at a mark #1 host, a neat throwback to the original 1973 film – we learn that Arnold had become obsessed with developing actual consciousness in the hosts. This mysterious partner of Ford, whom we see briefly in a photograph, met his demise in a park accident, despite being the most careful man Ford had ever known. Such tidbits, especially when delivered by an actor as consummate as Hopkins, beautifully reveal nuggets of vital information – Westworld demands you take careful notice at these moments or you’re gonna get lost.
“Don’t make Arnold’s mistake” Ford warns Bernard, for Arnold had apparently begun to credit the hosts with sentience (this is an interesting instruction if Bernard is indeed a ‘bot himself). With this scene, together with him uploading an expanded backstory to Teddy featuring a former friend called Wyatt who went mad, believing he could hear God himself, Ford is the most enigmatic character at Delos and shows the perfect casting of Hopkins. Is Ford good or bad, mad or sane, benign or evil incarnate? Maybe he’s also a ‘bot. Maybe everyone is.
- “I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night? Let me think; was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is, ‘Who in the world am I?'” A line from Alice in Wonderland and clearly a blueprint for Dolores.
- Bernard’s videophone conversation with his wife either discounts him being a ‘bot or adds weight to the theory; she could be real, a host herself, a park employee acting out Bernard’s script or a nothing more than a visual effect.
- “I’ve been coming here for 30 years. In a sense I was born here”. The Man in Black reveals a little more about himself, and this line is what makes some fans think he’s a much older William.
- The stray overriding his sleep mode, attacking Ashley and only stopping short of crushing Elsie, is the first real host malfunction with threat. It will not be the last.
- Is Arnold really dead? Does Ford think himself God? And just how will the new Wyatt storyline play out?
Episode 4, “Dissonance Theory”, has Dolores joining William and Logan on a bounty hunt; The Man in Black finds a critical clue in his search to unlock the maze; Dr. Ford and Theresa discuss the park’s future and Maeve is troubled by a recurring vision. Follow it all here at XO.TV