As we head into the season finale of the first season of Westworld, it's safe to say we still have far more questions than answers. What is Maeve's actual plan? What is the Man in Black going to do now that he's reached the church? And okay, so Dolores killed Arnold, but friggin' how? With all that in mind, Complex Pop Culture guests (OR ARE THEY HOSTS!?) Andrew Gruttadaro, Ian Servantes, and khal got together to talk out where we've been in Westworld with the goal of trying to figure out where we're going. Hopefully, the following discussion will be less confusing than the show itself.
Andrew: Okay, so before we try to figure out what's going to happen next (LOL, it’s cute that we’re even attempting this), we should probably figure out what's actually happened. Because even that is still pretty touch and go. So what are the things we know? Like, FOR SURE know to be facts?
Ian: Death and taxes? I still feel like I know more about this show than real life, but I’ll spare you the existentialism. We know Bernard is definitely a host and definitely a reboot, if you will, of the infamous co-creator of Westworld, Arnold. We also now know that Dolores killed Arnold, but how sure are we about that? Maybe she killed him but did so at the behest of Ford? The multiple timelines thing has been all but spelled out for us, but you still seem to be able to make more sense of the structure than I can. You think there are three timelines, right?
Andrew: Yeah, though my knowledge in this field has mostly been constructed by comments sections—which is a terrifying thing to even say. Here’s how I understand it: there’s the present day, which includes the Man in Black’s quest, Maeve’s rebellion, all the corporate dealings with Delos, and some of Dolores’ scenes. Then there’s a timeline of events happening about 30 years in the past—all the stuff happening with William, Logan, and again, some of Dolores’ scenes. The third timeline is even further in the past than that, and includes some of Dolores’ scenes, specifically the ones where she’s having discussions with who we thought was Bernard, but was actually/probably Arnold. Does that make things a little clearer? Dolores is the key to the show, and if you use her “life,” so to speak, as a unifying timeline, it helps situate everything else that’s happening. I think.
khal: Well, you can’t talk about Dolores’ “life” without getting into the Man In Black, who we’re pretty sure is William. Prior to the “Trace Delay” episode, we’d been shown that this mysterious man ran some kind of foundation, and was kind of a big deal outside of Westworld. We also know that the MiB has been playing his own “game,” trying to figure out the ins and outs of the maze within Westworld, after his wife passed away (or committed suicide?) in the real world. What was William doing back in the day? Going on a trip to Westworld with Logan before marrying Logan’s sister. It’d make sense that the MiB's quest to “feel” something after his wife’s death would drive him back to Westworld, where, as we're seeing in William's scenes, he seems to have felt a deeper connection to than anything than ever before. Fresh off his wife's death, the MiB comes to Westworld and murders Maeve and her daughter, which sets him on this quest to find the center of the maze. It also makes sense that his higher status outside of Westworld would afford him the ability to sit on the Delos board (which we learned in “The Well-Tempered Clavier”), which in turn explains why, whenever he needs to do things like use explosives, he's given free reign from security in HQ. The pieces fit, we just need to be shown the page.
Andrew: Hey guys, just so you know, a clavier is a keyboard-like instrument. I looked it up. I guess a "well-tempered" clavier is one that plays hella Radiohead songs.
Ian: I still don’t think we can say for certain, but it is getting harder to argue against William as the MiB. My gripe with that is that the MiB’s journey is basically predicated on him being a sociopath, and that shit’s inherent. If you’re a sociopath, you grew up lighting cats on fire or whatever. You don’t become a sociopath. So I have a hard time seeing William flicking the switch from the sensitive dude defending Dolores like she’s a person to the dude murdering a (robot) child in front of her (robot) mother to see if he can feel remorse. Some of the best shows center on an extreme transformation (what up, Breaking Bad), but I just don’t buy this one. And if this theory ends up true, I think it’s bad writing.
Andrew: I’d actually argue that while the MiB was depicted as a sociopath early in the season, it’s being revealed that he’s a little more nuanced than that. This is a guy responding to a traumatic event (albeit in an extreme way), searching for a deeper meaning behind existence. Yes, he’s done a fair share of murdering along the way (and just murdering, I want to point out—I’ve seen people also characterize him as a rapist, but nothing in that regard has actually been shown), but I think it’s a little harsh to say at this point that he’s doing all of it without conscience. As for William turning into this guy—which does feel like a foregone conclusion, the same way the truth about Bernard did—remember that the MiB didn’t really become this guy until a year prior to his current storyline, which is presumably 29 years prior to William’s storyline. I do think it’s a narrative mistake to include an older version of any character in a TV show—because if you already know the end point, does anything in between really matter? But on the other hand, there’s still about three decades of untold story before William becomes the MiB; there’s still plenty of opportunity to digress from the path.
khal: Thirty years of untold story is scary, especially considering we only have one more episode in this first season. And while it will be 90 minutes, apparently their main goal is “to tell an ambitious story in season-long chapters.” I have a hard time thinking everything will be resolved, but the question is, how do we see this first season (chapter) ending?
Ian: Does Ford’s whole ruse with Bernard take the steam out of Maeve’s rebellion? If his little backdoor can’t even be lobotomized from a host, what’s to say Ford won’t shut that shit down faster than the soon-to-be unified Republican government and Obamacare? Those strings will have to be tied up, and I imagine we’ll have to see the true nature of the massacre surrounding Dolores, Wyatt, Teddy, and all those cold bodies. If we’re bound for another reveal seen miles away, then Dolores is actually Wyatt and she convinced Teddy to murk everyone. I also think it’s possible that Arnold will be a casualty of that same massacre. Is that last thought too wild?
Andrew: Not at all. As Dolores was flashing between timelines last episode, we got a quick shot of a hallway full of dead people. I think it’s pretty reasonable to assume that after gunning down the entire town, Dolores headed inside and did the same to everyone behind the scenes, Arnold included. As for Maeve and her inevitable faceoff with Ford, I’m not sure we’ll see that culminate on Sunday. I actually hope it doesn’t, because the buildup in Maeve’s storyline has been too exciting for it to just end so quickly. I hope there are bigger things in store for her (and Thandie Newton). I will predict though that Maeve, Neo-from-The-Matrix that she is, figured out how to disable her backdoor, something Bernard wasn't able to do with Clem. Maeve may be the only actually free host in this world, and I hope we get to see Ford truly realize that he isn’t actually god. What do you think, khal? Any other bold predictions?
khal: I don’t have bold predictions per se, but I do hope we see this corporate talk come to a head. While the bulk of the theories revolve around the different timelines and “games” being played within Westworld, tension has been bubbling between Ford and the board. One also has to imagine that Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) has something up her sleeve regarding the information that Theresa died trying to smuggle out of the park. After casually confirming he's on the board at Delos, the MiB also made it clear that he doesn't care if they force out Ford—he's only interested in Arnold's deeper games. So what happens when the majority of the board votes to terminate Ford? I feel like there has to be a stand-off between Charlotte and the board and Ford about his future within the company, and whatever comes of that will play a big part in where the show goes for the second season.
Ian: The only storyline more boring than the board’s quarrel with Ford is Sizemore and his tantrums, and Tessa Thompson went and made him a co-conspirator. At one point I humored the admittedly absurd theory that the board was a creation of Ford as another sort of game, but that’s been deaded by the revelation that the MiB is on the board. In theory, the capitalist machinations behind this fantasy could be another interesting element, but I just can’t fuck with it. At least it’s Charlotte leading the charge, instead of a white man. We’ve got enough white man business quarrels in life. Something truly juicy will have to happen between Ford and the board to get me invested.
Andrew: Wow, Ian is so woke.
khal: So woke, but probably not wrong.
Andrew: That actually speaks to what I think Westworld’s biggest issue as TV show is—it’s too many shows in one, and some are better than others. You’ve got a robot rebellion show, a Western littered with existential questions, and a show about corporate intrigue that has some House of Cards vibes to it. They’re trying to tie all of this together, but deliberate connections aren’t exactly Westworld’s style, so it’s all still pretty muddled. I would not be against Maeve starting her war on Sunday and relieving us of some of Westworld’s unnecessary characters (Lee Sizemore and Sylvester? Fucking BAI). That might help things heading into Season 2.
Ian: So to summarize, we’re expecting (and hoping for) a lot of murder. And although Maeve’s fight may not reach its climax yet (gotta save something for season two), we think she’s successfully removed her backdoor and will hopefully use her freedom to kill people we hate. We’re also expecting to see a clear depiction of Dolores’ massacre at last, which may or may not involve Arnold’s death and will likely reveal her as Wyatt. And we’re predicting what’s been seen from 5,280 feet away: much like Bernard being RoboArnold, the Man in Black will be confirmed as none other than Liam McPoyle himself. Whatever happens, it better be good because we’re not going to see this show again until 2018.
Andrew: The double-edged sword of basing your show’s entire worth on mysteries! But okay, before we get out of here, I need to ask a very important question—khal, have you ever had sex in a burning tent?