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Week 4 Westworld Roundup: Which theories are the best, and which need to be put to rest?

If the prevalence of rampant speculation and crackpot online theories is any metric of gauging the popularity of a given TV show, then HBO’s Westworld is surely the most popular program in the entire universe. The Westworld subreddit alone is an endless rabbit-hole of theoretical musings and postulations, not to mention the countless other speculative corners of the internet. In the Westworld Weekly Roundup, we do the leg work of sifting through all theories big and small, and report on the ones worth talking about.

This will be an ongoing series that will be updated every week for the rest of the season, and consider yourself officially warned: here there be spoilers.


Cold Storage

Sometimes theories thrive as new information is revealed, and sometimes the same information invalidates them. The Cold Storage section of the Roundup is where debunked theories go to die.

The Man in Black =/= William (or Logan)

Images: HBO
Images: HBO

Ever since William and Logan were introduced in Episode 2 (“Chestnut“), the MiB = William theory has thrived. In this theory, it is posited that the narrative of Westworld is actually taking place during two points on the same timeline. It is believed that William is actually a younger Man in Black, and that the William storyline will culminate with the “critical failure” that happened at the park some thirty years ago.

At the end of Episode 3 (“The Stray“), however, we watch as Dolores escapes the shootout at the Abernathy Farm and makes her way through the wilderness to William and Logan’s camp. This alone is enough for me to completely discredit the two timeline theory; Dolores escapes the farm as a result of her newfound ability to remember past events (as a result of Ford’s recently-implemented reverie codes), which is happening during the present timeline. The fact that she finds William tells me that William also exists in the current timeline.

Lastly, in Episode 4 (“Dissonance Theory“), we see a few scenes that take place in the Control Room. As redditor _TommyDanger_ points out,

The control room is told the following things in episode 4: Dolores is off her path but possibly with a guest; MiB requests a pyrotechnic; Guests are riding in with Hector. The same people are in the control room every time it is shown.

How can the Dolores/William/Logan part be in the past when the others are clearly not? Is the entire control room filled with Hosts AND we are being gotcha-editing tricked?

This is as solid an argument against the MiB=William theory as anything I’ve heard. Time to send this one down to Cold Storage.

Mesa Gold

Like guests decompressing at the Mesa Gold after their time in Westworld, the Mesa Gold section of the Roundup is where theories that continue to be validated are allowed to relax: no Cold Storage for these ones… at least, not yet.

Bernard is a host

Image: HBO
Image: HBO

This just might be the most popular long-running Westworld theory – one that also has the distinction of not being debunked. There are a few theories floating around suggesting that most, if not all, of the Westworld staff are actually hosts. This would be silly from a storytelling perspective; the philosophical and emotional thrust of the show revolves around the ethical implications of humans creating artificial intelligence for the sole purpose of exploiting it for our own entertainment. From this perspective, making everyone hosts would be silly. But having just one staffer be a host – in this argument, it’s Bernard – is a very interesting prospect. Here’s the evidence for Bernard being a host, which has been building since Episode 1 (“The Original“).

  • Bernard has a respectful kinship with the hosts that we haven’t seen from the other staffers at Westworld. Every time Bernard has one of his clandestine meetings with Dolores, he treats her with kindness – something we don’t even see from Dr. Ford, who berates an employee for showing respect to a deactivated host. Bernard respects Dolores; when meeting with him, she stays clothed, and Bernard asks her open-ended, emotionally probing questions about her fears and desires. Does he see himself in her?
  • Bernard rarely use his reading glasses. They’re always perched on the end of his nose, but they seem to be there more for affect – something akin to window dressing – than for anything pragmatically useful. He cleans them more than he actually uses them. Perhaps they’re nothing more than a prop?
  • Bernard has a mysterious kinship with Arnold. When we learned that Arnold essentially lost his mind in his quest to bring sentience to the hosts he created, it was impossible not to see the same style of altruism in Bernard himself. Perhaps Ford created Bernard as a way to emulate the qualities that Ford admired in Arnold, while at the same time tempering the qualities Ford didn’t like. If nothing else, both Arnold and Bernard seem committed to exploring the furthest reaches of the possibility that the hosts might one day achieve self-awareness.
  • Bernard could very well be “practicing” to be more human, the way all hosts do. After Bernard and Teresa Cullen surreptitiously sneak off to have sex, Bernard explains to her that the hosts are always interacting with one another – practicing – even if a guest is nowhere near them. He explains they do this in order to become more human – to “error-correct” their behavior to be more believable. Teresa asks him if he is practicing, too. Maybe Teresa knows something we don’t, or maybe she’s just telling the dude he needs to lighten up.
  • Bernard is told by Ford that “I know how your brain works.” This definitely hints at Bernard being one of Ford’s creations; Ford always seems to be one step ahead of Bernard as Bernard seeks answers about what’s been happening in Westworld since Ford’s reveries went live. In Episode 4, Ford alludes to Teresa that he knows everything about his employees – including her tryst with Bernard. Perhaps this is simply Ford being a dastardly old opportunist who assumes he knows more than he does, or maybe Ford has access to Bernard’s secrets, because he has access to Bernard’s brain.

Fresh Rinds

When a new theory rolls into town, the ladies at the Mariposa welcome them with open arms. It’s up to the rest of us to decide if the theory is worth keeping around.

Dolores’ most recent reverie explains the buried church steeple – and Arnold’s true fate

In Episode 4, we are shown a fast sequence of shots that are in fact Dolores experiencing a reverie. In one of the shots, we see Dolores bent over a grave:

Image: HBO
Image: HBO

In this screenshot (you can zoom in here), we can see that the name on the grave marker is clearly “Dolores Abernathy.” Standing behind Dolores is an unidentifiable man holding a bible. Also seen in the reverie is a town built around a church with a black steeple:

Image: HBO
Image: HBO

Surely this is the same steeple wee see protruding from the sand in the closing moments of Episode 2:

Image: HBO
Image: HBO

Redditor BoobTubeBuddies (seriously, who comes up with these user names?) puts forth the theory that Arnold was trying to help Dolores achieve consciousness by telling her to dig down into the grave. This is totally confusing – unless you take this Host Intake Protocol into account:

Image: HBO/
Image: HBO/

In the chart (available at the Delos Incorporated website, found here), we learn that there is an intricate webwork of shafts and tunnels underneath Westworld, ostensibly to quickly transport hosts and park staff between points.

What if the answer to host consciousness lies beneath the park. BoobTubeBuddies goes on to speculate that, in the confusion that Dolores surely felt when being told to dig a grave, shot and killed Arnold (in the reverie, she has the same gun she finds in Episode 2, only in the reverie it’s shinier; newer). In an effort to avoid controversy regarding Arnold’s death, Ford (either with or without the help of Delos officials) “…cover[s] it up by using that giant excavator machine to fill the whole area with sand until only the top of the steeple remains as a grave marker for Arnold.”

This theory works on a lot of levels. The evidence is sound: seeing Dolores’ reverie of the old town in the same episode we see the giant earth-moving machine can’t be an accident, and the fact that the Delos Incorporated site just added the Host Intake Protocol diagram only adds to the speculation (for more interactive fun, go to Visit Westworld and talk to Aeden). If nothing else, I think it’s fair to say that whatever mysteries Westworld holds, they’re buried underground.


What other Westworld theories are worth talking about? Let us know in the comments!

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