It’s not often that a show is only on its third episode and there are something like 600 fan theories floating around the interwebs about it. However, that is totally the case with Westworld, HBO’s new sci-fi-western hybrid. The show focuses on the maintenance of a western theme park inhabited by androids, who are virtually indistinguishable from humans. It costs $40,000 a day to go to the park and those who can afford it seem to enjoy killing and raping the androids, which the show has named “hosts.”
Why exactly have so many fan theories developed for a show only on its third episode? Well, for starters, with the hosts never aging, there are theories about the timeline of the show. Technically, we could be jumping all over the place in terms of past, present and future without realizing it because the hosts don’t age. Furthermore, there are a handful of mysterious characters, whose motives and identities seem unclear.
On top of the premise, there are also the names behind the show: Jonathan Nolan and J.J. Abrams. We’re big fans of both Nolan and Abrams, but we also know they are not to be trusted. Nolan wrote the short story which Memento was based off of, The Prestige screenplay and the Interstellar screenplay – all of which played with our perception of reality and/or time. Abrams was responsible for Lost and yeah, that’s enough said about him and how he's seduced his audiences with some zany, twisting plots.
Because of all of these factors, fans have dissected everything about the show so far and come up with a ton of fan theories. Below are the best 16 fan theories you should know if you watch Westworld, because what's the point of watching a show if you aren't going to get sucked into the fan theories? This is why the internet was invented, after all.
13 We're Watching Different Timelines
The likelihood that we are watching different timelines play out seems plausible for several reasons. Considering the fact that Jonathan Nolan is shepherding Westworld, that may be one of the biggest tip offs. Nolan wrote “Memento Mori”, the short story off which Memento was based. With the screenplay to Interstellar also under his belt, it's obvious that Nolan likes to dissect the passing of time, which makes playing with timelines in Westworld seem like something he would totally do. Furthermore, being that the hosts don’t age, this is a show primed for tricking us with timelines.
This theory seems very likely, though pulling apart what is happening during which timeline is difficult, as some fans have begun to disagree about what exactly is in the past and in the present. Oh, how quickly fan theories can turn fans against one another.
15. What The "Critical Failure" Was
In the first episode of Westworld, Bernard says that the park experienced a critical failure 30 years ago. This could easily be something that was just said by a character, with no real depth, but since we’re talking about fan theories, we have to dissect everything.
In the original 1973 film, two friends visit Westworld for a vacation of debauchery. When the system goes haywire and the robots start killing people, the main character must try to escape his vacation gone horribly wrong. One theory suggests that William and Logan's timeline is actually in the past and will play out exactly like the film. This then would be what Bernard was referencing as the critical failure.
Also, 30 years is exactly how long the Man in Black said he’s been coming to the park. If something traumatic did happen 30 years ago while The Man in Black was visiting the park, this may explain why he's allowed to do whatever the hell he wants. It also may have sparked his obsession with the deeper layers of the game.
The likelihood of us finding out what exactly this critical failure was seems pretty high. Plus, it would seem very off for two characters to mention 30 years on the dot without it being interconnected somehow.
12 Hosts Are Based On Real People
This is a fan theory that stems from the end of Futureworld, when it’s discovered that hosts have been made in the likeness of real people. Creating hosts in the likeness of one’s self or a loved one would almost be like granting said person immortality.
Indulging in this idea, remember the odd little boy who Ford bonds with in the desert during episode two? It’s been theorized that this was actually a host who Ford built in his likeness as a child. Ford uses this boy version of himself as a confidant.
Also, the way Ford uploaded a story to Teddy, seemingly similar to a story from Ford’s own past, further supports this theory. Even if hosts aren’t made in the complete likeness of actual people, it’s likely that their backstories are drawn from personal experiences of the creators, thus meaning they could have similarities to real people.
11 The Man In Black Is Arnold
Ah, Arnold. The man at the center of so many of these theories.
In episode 3, we were introduced to Arnold, the mysterious co-creator of the park, via Ford’s story. According to Ford, Arnold was obsessed with creating a consciousness in his hosts. He slipped into madness, only spoke to hosts and eventually, died in the park. Now, that is the story Ford told and the truthfulness of all the details is up for debate. Could Arnold still be alive? Certainly, and some theories suggest that the Man in Black is actually Arnold, who is now trying to free the hosts into consciousness through this mysterious maze.
The greatest flaw in this theory is that if Arnold helped build the park prior to its opening, he would likely know about deeper levels or any mazes in the park. Because of this, we're going to say that this theory isn't very likely. Still, being that many of the theories are about the identities of the Man in Black and Arnold, it only seemed fair to mention the one theory that has them both figured out so easily.
10 Arnold Uploaded His Consciousness
This theory suggests that Arnold is the Man in Black... and also, the Man in Black is a host. We know, but follow us through it.
It’s been theorized that perhaps Arnold uploaded his consciousness into the Man in Black, so he could potentially live forever in his park. This would help explain why the Man in Black is obsessed with solving the parks deeper level, which may be his first step towards freeing his robotic consciousness from any of the programming he still has to follow, ultimately giving him the perks of robotic intelligence (not dying) and the perks of humanity (free thought).
One of flags of the Man in Black’s supposed humanity is that he cannot be shot by a host. This could certainly lead one to believe that he’s, in fact, a guest in the park. However, one could argue that if the Man in Black has been able to achieve higher levels of consciousness, like Dolores, he might have been able to outthink his programming that would command him to react to a shot. None of the hosts actually die when they are shot, they are just programmed to react that way. If Dolores can outthink her programming and learn to shot a gun, it is plausible that the Man in Black has outthought his programming and learned how to not “die”.
Now, if the Man in Black could get to the deeper levels, he may be able to free himself of any and all programming left that he has to follow... or so the theory goes.
9 There Are More Robots Than We Know
Speaking of the possibility that the Man in Black is a host, another theory states that maybe there are a lot more hosts than we know.
Like, maybe everyone is basically a host.
With it being very difficult to tell the difference between hosts and people, this makes sense. I mean, we’ve already seen hosts evolve to the point of living through a gunshot, going off script or using a weapon they aren't authorized to use, so the likelihood of this is pretty high. Also, it’s an obvious plot twist that would seem like a missed opportunity if not even one “person” turned out to be a host.
There’s also a theory that every single "person" on the show, other than Ford, is a host and he’s playing god among all of his inventions. Is Ford that twisted? Maybe.
10. Bernard Is A Host
If anyone who was “human” turned out to be a host, it would make sense for it to be Ford's right hand man. I mean, why wouldn’t Ford create a host to be his handy helper?
This makes sense logically, but also some of the episodes seem to be screaming this fact at us. For example, the third episode talked in depth about the need for a host to have a backstory, as it is what anchors their personality and perception of reality. Then, in this very episode, we learn the backstory about Bernard’s dead son.
Bernard could, in fact, be Ford’s ultimate story - The host who doesn’t realize he’s a host, building other hosts and pushing hosts to achieve consciousness. Seems like a pretty messed up mind game on Ford's part, which may be exactly what Ford is all about.
8 Bernard Is Arnold
While one Arnold/host theory suggests that Arnold uploaded his consciousness into a host himself, this one seems to suggest that Ford created a host in Arnold's likeness.
If Ford did create a host to be his right hand man, it could be very likely that he built him in the vain of his old partner Arnold. Considering the fact that hosts are given backstories, Ford could have programmed Bernard with all he knew of Arnold, which one would assume is extensive knowledge, as they were partners for many years. Bernard’s story about his son could very probably have been something that happened to Arnold, and the very thing that drove Arnold to his obsession with consciousness.
This could also be an experiment to Ford, who may want to see if filling a host with a real person’s history will put the host on the same path of said human. It certainly seems that Bernard is starting to have the same fascination with hosts as Arnold. Also, Bernard has a special connection with Dolores, the oldest host, who may have been around during Arnold's time.
7 The Man In Black Is William
This is one of the best theories out there but depending on your thoughts, the end of episode three may have supported or ruined the theory.
As we pointed out earlier, there could easily be several timelines going on without us realizing, as hosts don’t age. A major theory is that William is The Man in Black and their stories are taking place 30 years apart.
If William and Logan are, in fact, going to play out just like the 1973 Westworld film, this may mean that William is going to survive a host uprising. From that point on, his fascination with hosts would consume him, leading him to become the Man in Black on the quest for the deeper level.
The third episode sparked much debate about this theory. At the end of the episode, Dolores remembers a moment spent with the Man in Black in the barn during a different loop. She then learns to shoot a gun and defend herself against rape. Upon escaping from the barn, she flashes to a loop when she was shot then ride off to William and Logan. The flaw presented here is that Dolores cannot remember a moment with the Man in Black only to ride off to see William if William's timeline is happening 30 years prior to the Man in Black's. This completely dispelled the theory that William and the Man in Black are the same person.
However, this was an episode completely screwing with our sense of time. It floated between past and present fluidly as Dolores was learning to access memories. Could Dolores have shot the gun in the present day but ridden to Logan and William in the timeline that happened 30 years prior? I'm voting yes, because William being the Man in Black just seems so perfect.
6 The Man In Black Reprogrammed Dolores
Ah, another Dolores and the Man in Black theory. In the first episode, we see The Man in Black gun down Teddy before dragging Dolores into the barn and most likely raping her. Being that this is HBO, if the Man in Black had raped Dolores, it’s likely that we would have been shown this. Seriously, when has HBO skipped an opportunity to show us nudity, sex or rape?
There’s a theory that instead of raping Dolores, the Man in Black actually reprogrammed her or enlightened her. Being that Dolores thinks back to her moment with the Man in Black right before shooting the gun, that could point even further to his reprogramming her or his telling her how to override her programming. So, is the Man in Black a good guy after all?
5 An Allegory For The Creation Story
We all know the creation story in the Bible. God created the world and us humans were all-good until the serpent tempted Adam and Eve into taking a bite of the apple from the forbidden tree. Is Westworld going to play out like the creation story? Some fans think it already is.
Obviously, Ford would be the creator/god character, as he created the entire would in which the hosts live. The hosts are currently like the humans before the fall of mankind, as they aren’t full capable of their own free thoughts and don't feel shame. I mean, they have no problem being naked whenever, just like Adam and Even. The development of free thought and actions is like biting the forbidden apple.
Lastly, the Man in Black seems to be the serpent, who is tempting the hosts with the forbidden fruit of breaking their scripts and thinking freely.
4 Then Man In Black Is Arnold’s Son
This theory doesn't care much for chronology but we'll throw it in here.
Since everyone is dying to find out who exactly the Man in Black is, there's a zillion theories floating around out there about his identity. One particular theory is that he's Arnold's son, who is seeking revenge for his father or is working to complete his father's work.
This seems unlikely because Ed Harris and Anthony Hopkins are only 13 years apart. If they were going to cast someone as his partner's son, you'd think they would cast someone who is more likely to be the son's correct age.
Since the timeline doesn't fully pan out, there's also a theory that the Man in Black could possibly be Arnold's brother.
4. The Church Steeple Is Where The Maze Leads
When Ford goes into the game, it's never into the main town area. In fact, he goes to what seems like the middle of nowhere. Some have actually theorized that this is exactly where the maze leads.
The clue that the Man in Black was given about the maze is that he is to "follow the Blood Arroyo (red river) to the place where the snake lays its eggs". Since there was even a snake at Ford's feet, people think that the maze may be leading the Man in Black to this spot.
Furthermore, the theory also suggests that this location may have been where the "critical failure" occurred 30 years ago. Keeping the hosts away from this location is in Ford's best interest, as it could trigger a memory about the event and spawn another uprising.
3 The Man In Black Is Helping The Hosts
While the Man in Black seems like he’s the villain, it could be very possible that he is, in fact, trying to help the hosts. Regardless of if he is a host himself or not, getting to the deeper level of the game seem to suggest a deeper level in the hosts' consciousness. If this is the case, the Man in Black may not be as evil as he seems.
The theory also suggests that he didn’t rape Dolores in the barn but rather enlightened or reprogrammed her. His "raping" Dolores was one of the reasons we were lead to believe he was a bad guy in that very first episode. If he, instead, helped Dolores, we may have figured out the Man in Black all wrong.
He is also extremely violent towards the hosts, but an argument could be made that they are simply programmed to feel pain and die but they do not actually feel pain or die. His violence towards the hosts may not be as evil as we think, if he justifies it with the fact that it is just their programming - programming which he is trying to rid them of.
2 The Man In Black Is Ford’s Ultimate Storyline
If the Man in Black is a host, he could perhaps be Ford's ultimate storyline for several reasons. The first theory suggests that he is a host with no script or loop to follow. This is Ford’s ultimate storyline because it is a host with freedom to decide what to do for himself. Another theory suggests that the Man in Black is the ultimate storyline because he is a host who is seeking consciousness through the maze.
We don't know what the deal is with the maze or with the Man in Black in general. If he is actually a host, he may, in fact, have been built by Ford to be behaving the exact way he is right now for Ford's ultimate storyline.
1 All Hosts Are Connected
All of the hosts seem to be connected, which is obvious. It’s easy to assume that it’s their programming and a similar glitch that connects them, but something Dolores said in the first episode makes it seem like it could be something else like camaraderie that connects them.
When Dolores and Teddy watch the cattle, Teddy asks how they all know to go a certain way. Dolores says that they follow the Judas steer. Teddy then asks how they know which one is the Judas steer and she says that you just know. This would suggest that the virus may not be a glitch in the system but an evolution in the hosts, who are following in the footsteps of their own Judas steer.
Obviously, it would seem that Dolores is the Judas steer, as she is the oldest host in the park and the most evolved on her way to consciousness.
By the end of the season, hopefully some of these questions and theories will be answered... but, by that point, there will probably be 600 new theories.