Fan Theory: Westworld and "The Man in Black"




Before I dive into my Fan Theory let me be a gentleman and say: SPOILER ALERT!!!  If you have all the episodes saved on your Tivo and haven't had the chance to binge watch Westworld shame on you!  And, please stop reading here unless you want me to ruin it for you.

One of the things I found particularly difficult about Westworld initially (for the record I have and continue to love the show), was the extreme fluidity when it came to time.  One might even call this method of storytelling "mosaic".  All of the characters share a common setting, and the story IS being told in a linear fashion.  There are early references to Dolores being the oldest or one of the oldest hosts in the park.  Maeve, at one point, hints that she'd been killed thousands of times.  So we know almost immediately that the park has been around for a few decades at the least.  However, we don't get much of a hint as to how relevant this is, and until I began to postulate the theory I am about to share, I wasn't sure where I was in the story or if it made any sense.  In fact, I was about to relegate the entire show to a sort of "Love Boat" status where each of the characters have individually resolved issues despite sharing a common setting.

Maeve is not central to this theory at all so we won’t be including her in the summary.  As it stands now (as of the end of Ep 9), Dolores has attacked Logan after she and William were recaptured by the Confederados (btw, she leaves what might be a lasting mark on his face in the form of a scar), and escaped into the park.  And apparently, while everyone else was passed out from a night of drinking, William went on a giant killing spree, murdering the entire contingent of Confederates.  While threatening Logan, he explains that he has finally learned how to play the game.

In the “Man in Black” timeline, Teddy is killed and the Man in Black is knocked unconscious.  When he awakes, he finds himself in a trap that nearly kills him.  The trap begs the question about a possible loophole for hosts to kill guest.  After escaping the trap, the Man in Black is approached by Charlotte Hale, the boards’ representative at Westworld.  She has entered the park to get his blessing to forcibly retire Ford from his position.  He basically tells her he doesn’t care what they do as long as they don’t disturb him anymore.  He also tells her that he knows where he is going.

There is a lot of focus on the possibility that two characters could be one.  But there is very little focus on the possibility that the story is being presented in a non-linear fashion.  No one seems to be looking at the idea that two of the storylines don’t really intersect at all.  And when you factor in the idea that the hosts don’t age, we have to consider the possibility that we have no idea when these stories are taking place relative to one another.  So I have put together a theory of my own.  Are you ready for it?

William IS The Man in Black.

#1 The main human or "guest" characters in the show never appear on screen at the same time.  

From time to time you will see generic guest characters enter the park in order to establish something or move the story forward.  As was the case with the John who Maeve goaded into strangling her to death in Ep 6.  And when you really think about it there are really only 3 guest characters at all.  The Man in Black, Billy, and Billy's soon-to-be brother in law.  It's entirely possible, having established that Dolores is the oldest host in the park and the park has been around for decades, that The Man in Black could simply be an aged Billy.

#2 Thematically, Billy and The Man in Black are diametric opposites to one another.

Billy, while being outfitted for the park, is given the choice of outfits and gear.  In the following scene he is wearing dull tan and carrying a white hat, which he puts on.  This establishes his character as "good", or at the least, benign.  Forgetting for a moment, about the psychological implications of his choice, archetypally and thematically, he has clearly chosen his path.  This is further demonstrated by the contrast to his brother in law who wishes to "kill and fuck" everything in the park and is wearing black.  As cherry on top, the host who is initially helping him get outfitted, makes it more than clear to him that she is there for his sexual enjoyment, which he declines like a good little white hat.  Returning to our theme of diametric opposites, Billy is young and idealistic, and The Man in Black is mature and cynical.  Billy appears to be drifting through his life, and the Man in Black is driven by purpose and obsession.

#3 Billy is going to marry Logan's sister.

At one point in Ep 3 ("Chestnut"), Logan indicates that Billy is going to marry his sister.  Billy tells this to Dolores on the train after they escape the Confederados in Ep 7.  Dolores becomes upset and then Billy tells her that Westworld is what is real to him.  He even goes so far as to tell her that Westworld is even more real to him than his actual life and that she is real to him too.  As they travel together, Billy becomes more and more obsessed with Dolores' well being largely due to the fact that he comes to realize that she is different from the other hosts.  Toward the end of Ep 6, The Man in Black begins to confess to Teddy, the host travelling with him, that he was married once and his wife died.  He goes on to say that though he was never abusive toward his wife, he was a monster to her nonetheless and his daughter doesn't want anything to do with him.  Could it be that this wife is the same one that was spurned in favor of Dolores, and Billy's obsession with Westworld?  The Man in Black also mentions 30 years of marriage.  I am not able to verify this, but there was some mention in episode one about one of the hosts (possibly Dolores) being in operation for about 30 years.  It would seem to tangentially support the idea that Williams' story began 30 years ago. He talks about the maze and how uncovering its secrets have provided him with a purpose that his real life lacked.  It points back to the conversation with Dolores on the train, and some of the things Logan has said about wanting to increase the families stake in Westworld.  It certainly seems to support the theory that Billy and The Man in Black are the same person.

#4 Billy Saved Westworld

We have established that Billy, is indeed, obsessed with Westworld.  In one of the final scenes of Ep 9, Logan even talks about how seductive the park is to most, but how it seems to have really taken a hold of Billy.  In the beginning of Ep 9 we also have a scene where The Man in Black is having a conversation with Charlotte Hale, a representative of the board.  This establishes that The Man in Black is a member of the board, and it ties into what Logan said about increasing the families' stake in Westworld.  It's entirely possible that Logan and or Billy end up doing precisely that, though for two completely different reasons.  But here is where the this little bit of information gets interesting.  Hale tells The Man in Black that she knows he helped Arnold save the park back in the early days.  This could be the result of the Billy following Logan's advice to increase the families' stake in Westworld.  It might be that he inherited that stake from his wife, or simply controlled that stake for her by proxy. Whatever the mechanism, a young "Man In Black" might have, because of his obsession with Dolores and the park, bought huge chunks of the company in order to guarantee himself access.

#5 We only see Ford interact with The Man in Black

We never see Ford interact with William.  As stated above, we only see Ford interact with one guest and that is the cantina scene in Ep 6.  This scene supports the theory not only because it is the only guest interaction Ford has but also feeds into the contentious narrative between the two.

) Dolores exposes herself to Logan and William

In Ep 9, Dolores escapes the Confederados by slashing Logan with a knife, shooting a few of his "men" and running off into the darkness.  But before this happens, Logan, as part of an effort to convince William of the falseness of Westworld, cuts Dolores open with a knife exposing her mechanical innards.  I was particularly shocked to see this because it reminded me of the original film.  In fact, at first I thought it was some kind of Easter Egg homage.  However, if we go back to Ep 6, where Lutz is having a conversation with Maeve and he is trying to explain to her that he is real and she is not she replies by saying "Funny, feels the same to me."  He responds by saying: "These days we are the same, except for one major difference...".  This little exchange sheds quite a bit of light on the biomechanical evolution of the hosts, and hints at the possibility that with the exception of having, literally a singularity, worth of processing power, they are identical to humans.  The disparity in technology signifies a disparity in the timeline. 

So far I haven't seen anything that directly contradicts this theory.  Though I welcome any challenge to it.  I would love to know your thoughts so feel free to leave a comment beneath this article or on the Fresh Pulp facebook page.  Below are a few more things we feel might play into and expand upon our proposed theory.  Enjoy!

Some other things to consider:

1) We know that The Man in Black helped Arnold save the park in its early days.  This may be, part of the reason why The Man in Black and Ford have such a contentious relationship.  This is demonstrated in Ep 5 in the Cantina when the Man in Black tries to harm Ford, or at least test his ability to inside the park.

2) Dolores admits to killing Arnold toward the end of Ep 9.  This could explain some of the odd interactions between her and Man in Black.  Of all the hosts, she seems to be the only one he bothers to rape.  And in truth, the rape is never actually shown so we don't know what happens in the barn at the end of Ep 1.  His obsession with her may have soured after she killed Arnold.  Or, more likely, he came to understand the true significance of the park and Dolores' role in it.  

3) The host's sentience and the maze are clearly tied up in one another.  Has anyone noticed that the maze also appears to look like a brain?  Did anyone notice midway through Ep 9, Ford takes a notebook out of a safe and opens it to pages of designs for hosts, detailed sketches of Dolores and the Abernathy Farm?  How about the opposite page from the sketches?  The maze/brain is skethed along with what appear to be random formulas or computations.  In that one 9 second scene we have the thematic trilogy; Dolores, The Maze, and The Brain.

4) Did anyone notice that Ford decided to stop short of demolishing the entire town for his new narrative in Ep 6?  On the table where some locals are playing cards, The Maze appears etched.  And keep in mind that Bernard, once he realizes who and what he is, his first impulse is to liberate the other sentient hosts.  Is the Maze inscriptions a sort of "fuck you" to Ford?  Perhaps imbuing the hosts with sentience was always part of Arnold's plan to Ford's dismay.  We now know that Ford has a backdoor built into all of the hosts, something Bernard/Arnold doesn't know.  Is it possible that though Dolores murderd Arnold, she did so at the behest of Ford?  

About the author
J. Austin Yoshino
Author: J. Austin Yoshino
That's what I do; I read and I know things.
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