Westworld: 7 Things We Need to Know Now

by | November 18, 2016 | Comments

Warning: This post contains spoilers for the first seven episodes of HBO’s Westworld

After last week’s big reveal that Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) is a Host, everything we thought we knew about the “real” world of Westworld is suddenly thrown into doubt. In a series about the existential crises of sentient robots coming to grips with their own realities, this fork in the road was going to come sooner or later. But with only three episodes left to go this season, there are bound to be a lot more forks before we ride that train back home.

Here are seven questions worth noodling over when you sit down to watch Sunday night.


What’s at the center of the maze?

Westworld Episode 1 robotics lab (John P. Johnson/HBO)

The maze is the McGuffin of season 1: It set the Man in Black (Ed Harris) off on his brutal quest, apparently in search of the secret behind what gives the Hosts life. Also, Bernard tells Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) that if she reaches the center, she can, perhaps, be free — though the concept of freedom in this world has been decidedly corrupted by Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins).

The maze emblem that mysteriously appears inside the bloody scalp of Kissy (Eddie Rouse) gradually starts popping up everywhere, either to remind the character of his or her quest or to serve as a giant red herring. Remember, the same guy who brought you the Dharma Initiative and its ubiquitous logo in Lost executive produces Westworld, so don’t be surprised if the show gets a little J.J. Abrams-y.


Who is Bernard, really?

Westworld Episode 7: Jeffrey Wright, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Anthony Hopkins (: John P. Johnson/HBO)

There’s one big mind-bending fan hypothesis out there that Bernard is really Arnold — a copy of him, that is. Ford has shown he can synthesize robot versions of people who actually existed, and the closeness of their relationship — modified with a little subservience on Bernard’s part — could be the same as what Ford and Arnold had. The idea that Bernard has been at Westworld “forever” could therefore be much more than euphemistic.

But more unsettling is the question of whether Bernard has ever interacted with people outside of Westworld. The dead son is easily explained away as narrative programming and a manufactured photograph. (Note that Ford is the first person to mention Charlie by name in episode three, when he pointedly says, “I know that the death of your son, Charlie, weighs heavily on you.”) But Bernard has a wife, whom he videoconferences in a room full of people who can see her, and who also remembers their son. Is she a real person? Did Ford build a whole wife for Bernard? Or is that projection another sort of lie?


Who’s talking to the Hosts?

Westworld: Evan Rachel Wood (HBO)

If we are to believe Arnold is really, totally dead, then Ford’s theory that first-generation Hosts like Dolores are accessing bits of code Arnold programmed decades earlier is the only way they could be hearing his voice now. That hypothesis meshes with Arnold’s pyramid of consciousness, designing Hosts to hear coded instructions as voices in their head.

The problem is, the voice seems to know what the Hosts are doing, and can interact with them in real time. It certainly stands to reason that in this futuristic sci-tech world, programmers could write code that could lie dormant for 35 years and then come to life, but it would unlikely be able to get feedback on their location and thoughts and respond accordingly.

Besides, Elsie (Shannon Woodward) was on the brink of revealing that someone is using the pirated satellite relay to actually speak to the Hosts, which leads us to…


Where is Elsie?

Westworld Episode 6: Shannon Woodward (John P. Johnson/HBO)

Elsie was kidnapped in the sixth episode, just as she was uncovering some major secrets about the person manipulating the first-generation Hosts. (Traipsing alone at night into a creepy abandoned theater filled with expressionless marionette heads and dusty sideshow props never ends well — ever.) Despite multiple attempts to reach him and the urgency of her words, Bernard accepts without question the explanation from an underling that Elsie went on leave early.

Could Ford-minion Bernard have taken Elsie? Was it not-really-dead Arnold? Is she even still alive? Elsie didn’t appear at all in the seventh episode, so hopefully we’ll get some answers this week.


Can Maeve really escape?

Westworld Episode 6: Thandie Newton, Ptolemy Slocum (John P. Johnson/HBO)

Fan-favorite Maeve (Thandie Newton) has amped up her intellect enough to override her narrative, even when she’s in the park. She’s learned all she can stomach about the fake world of Westworld, and she wants out. Sure, Maeve has the gumption and wit to fight her way out, but the myriad safeguards in place may make it physically impossible for her to leave the grounds.

On a more spiritual level, if Maeve lacks consciousness, can she ever truly be free? The limitations of the microchips in her brain may prove too much to overcome as she tries to become human, and she could wind up shorting out just like Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum).


Who is the Man in Black?

Westworld Episode 2: Ed Harris (John P. Johnson/HBO)

Ed Harris’ as-yet unnamed character definitely has an endgame. Superficially, it appears to be simply getting to the center of the maze. But what Ford asks him suggests deeper motivations: What does he hope to find there? The Man in Black appears to play the park’s ultimate villain, while also mostly ignoring all the narrative structure in pursuit of a game of his own devising. For all the confounding stories and characters in Westworld so far, this one takes the cake for its sheer ambiguity.

One popular fan theory holds that the Man in Black is an older William (Jimmi Simpson), who has returned each year in pursuit of whatever the center of that maze holds. (Slashfilm has a nice discussion of this theory here.) Maybe Dolores’ memories of their love were lost following the critical failure that required her to be reset, and William tries over and over to bring that version back. Some fans have noted that we don’t see what the Man in Black does to Dolores when he brings her into the barn — and that it could be he’s attempting to reprogram her.

Ultimately, how you feel about sentient artificial intelligence will determine who you root for in Westworld. After last week’s shocking revelation about Bernard and the subsequent murder of Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen), we’re pretty sure we won’t be rooting for Dr. Ford.


Am I really a Host?

Westworld Episode 6 Jeffrey Wright (John P. Johnson/HBO_

By the end of this season, we may all be questioning our own programming. Is that not what the slow build of our own brain function over time is? Are not we all susceptible to viruses and bad programming — even if they are of the biological kind and not mechanical? These moral and philosophical dilemmas are exactly the ideas put forth by author Michael Crichton in his screenplay for the 1973 film that starred Yul Brynner, upgraded for contemporary audiences by series creators Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan.

Westworld airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on HBO


Tag Cloud

Stephen King canceled free movies Summer franchise Comic Book Pride Month television animated independent Tarantino E3 Holidays PBS Pet Sematary social media technology APB news quibi HBO twilight blockbuster Amazon Oscars anime richard e. Grant boxoffice rotten movies we love child's play facebook Grammys batman screen actors guild 2018 Apple TV Plus Adult Swim south america A24 24 frames Marvel Television psycho See It Skip It Writers Guild of America The Purge Western Shondaland Action Comedy what to watch movie Britbox Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt criterion Interview spinoff FX Sundance versus spanish language Pirates witnail historical drama TBS NBC Amazon Prime Video parents children's TV The CW Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Netflix Year in Review 2016 TV Land Drama breaking bad slashers VH1 name the review Lifetime Christmas movies Turner MSNBC elevated horror Trivia Shudder based on movie dceu cancelled TV shows stand-up comedy 2020 comics miniseries Crackle LGBT zero dark thirty TLC die hard concert Fantasy transformers E! USA Network Columbia Pictures Disney romance psychological thriller Elton John VICE San Diego Comic-Con biography DGA Masterpiece Biopics sitcom sag awards Epix foreign joker Sneak Peek Pop PlayStation YouTube Premium Opinion dogs Ovation SDCC sports Tubi Christmas Nat Geo Kids & Family cancelled TV series mutant cars National Geographic kids Apple TV+ robots TruTV zombie OneApp indie best CMT Emmy Nominations latino Hear Us Out Tumblr science fiction Acorn TV TIFF 71st Emmy Awards a nightmare on elm street Video Games christmas movies Apple award winner all-time Reality El Rey Disney Channel discovery Captain marvel PaleyFest YouTube Red AMC Hulu DC Comics Food Network Sony Pictures halloween ABC Family TNT war Peacock dragons HBO Max serial killer thriller cats 2015 TCA Nickelodeon Television Critics Association documentaries films GIFs 21st Century Fox ITV crime Turner Classic Movies Trophy Talk TCA Winter 2020 Infographic tv talk DC streaming service space Red Carpet Sundance Now comiccon Mary poppins movies 2017 Disney Plus unscripted Amazon Studios Premiere Dates Rom-Com scary movies hispanic romantic comedy cooking LGBTQ Musical Lifetime Thanksgiving TV Ellie Kemper game of thrones Teen Box Office YA strong female leads vampires video on demand reboot Esquire stoner CNN Photos crime drama IFC Films Ghostbusters Mindy Kaling supernatural streaming documentary Hallmark Cannes reviews GoT theme song werewolf Spike adventure The Arrangement Countdown binge travel spider-man cancelled television Travel Channel series Comedy Central Television Academy doctor who IFC politics jamie lee curtis disaster First Look renewed TV shows Logo WGN Mudbound cartoon 2019 Bravo RT History Rocketman 4/20 indiana jones Film Festival finale Warner Bros. YouTube BBC Creative Arts Emmys Women's History Month Superheroe toy story Best and Worst Quiz CBS All Access Endgame Cartoon Network Toys Super Bowl cops Lucasfilm Cosplay Reality Competition American Society of Cinematographers Anna Paquin revenge Discovery Channel cults Music crime thriller zombies ratings Animation diversity Polls and Games Pixar TCM Binge Guide spy thriller adaptation SXSW blaxploitation Hallmark Christmas movies Syfy Superheroes Marvel Studios Nominations mockumentary New York Comic Con cinemax HBO Go Election FOX Amazon Prime Winter TV SundanceTV ESPN CW Seed nature BBC One mission: impossible golden globes video Song of Ice and Fire Freeform Dark Horse Comics ghosts Trailer Character Guide Heroines Mary Tyler Moore comedies NYCC X-Men GLAAD Baby Yoda Netflix Christmas movies TV renewals medical drama justice league Emmys Martial Arts universal monsters Rock Podcast Schedule Paramount Network anthology natural history true crime FXX Chernobyl sequel Winners critics Showtime Walt Disney Pictures Country Academy Awards crossover Spectrum Originals Universal BET Marvel Mystery Awards Tour Horror Black Mirror directors Film Awards singing competition BBC America First Reviews Watching Series harry potter WarnerMedia dark Lionsgate dramedy Holiday Fall TV Mary Poppins Returns ABC Brie Larson asian-american Tomatazos Set visit Black History Month green book Disney streaming service History docudrama FX on Hulu screenings DirecTV Calendar canceled TV shows Starz A&E 007 Arrowverse Valentine's Day police drama The Walking Dead period drama BAFTA chucky 20th Century Fox BET Awards Rocky The Witch MTV 45 Musicals political drama Comics on TV Paramount Sundance TV cancelled game show satire MCU Crunchyroll DC Universe festivals Spring TV OWN book spain President talk show Pop TV comic aliens Funimation Vudu Disney+ Disney Plus Certified Fresh dc Marathons Sci-Fi USA TCA 2017 TCA Awards Extras Avengers Family Star Wars CBS Fox News casting composers VOD Classic Film teaser RT21 hist Star Trek