Westworld has taken great pains in previous episodes to put the viewer and its guests in the same position, and more specifically to shame anyone who’s more interested in the action and sex scenes than the philosophical questions it’s asking. This week, again, there was violence and sex all over the place. And, once again, it’s not at all the important part.
All images: John P. Johnson/HBO
There’s a spectrum of ways to watch Westworld. On one end is the straightforward interpretation, one that says that everything is pretty much as we see it, the various storylines are taking place at roughly the same times. On the other hand, there’s the view that we’re seeing events that actually took place decades apart presented as if they’re contemporaneous. And then there’s the question of who, if anyone, is secretly an android.
I think I fall somewhere in the middle of that spectrum. There is clearly some kind of twist being hidden here. I’m not sure it’s nearly as complicated as there being many timelines and many hidden androids and a bunch of clones. But last night did a lot to convince me that Billy’s quest is the precursor to the Man in Black’s.
Obviously, it’s impossible to discount that unwilling travel companion Lawrence was killed by the Man in Black, and then almost immediately appeared in Pariah for Billy, Logan and Delores to encounter. And when you hear Logan tell Billy that he’ll never amount to anything and see Billy far more willing to shoot and act out than ever before, it brings to mind the Man in Black saying that he was “born” in this park. We know the Man in Black is a big deal in the real world, so we could very well be seeing the thing that pushed him out of middle management.
In Billy and Logan’s time, we’re also seeing what looks like the beginnings of an android uprising that Arnold programmed into the park before he killed himself. The Man in Black says it’s because of him that things didn’t go south, which again hints at the idea that Billy is a young Man in Black. (On the other hand, it would be so sweet if he’s actually Logan — and he’s been a black hat forever. I’m actually fully into that twist, more than the Billy one.)
We previously saw that Delores couldn’t even pull the trigger on a gun, much less shoot like she does in this episode. The question I have is whether Delores is breaking out of old programming or if she’s hardwired that way because they had to put down an android uprising that she was a part of. The latter works with her finding her gun and her own grave. But the former makes the dual-timeline theory more likely. Or maybe it’s both.
The most interesting detail is actually one that seems the most mundane, given all the journeys of self and gameplay mechanics in this episode. It’s Logan saying that the rumour is the park is “haemorrhaging” cash and that “we’re” considering buying them out. “Supposedly, this place was all started by a partnership. And right before the park opened, one of the partners killed himself,” Logan says. “Sent the park into a free fall. I mean, I don’t know any of the details, I don’t even know his name.”
Logan doesn’t say when this was supposed to happen, that is, give us any time stamp that would help us place all these events. But he does say that all the lawyers he had look into the park came up empty — that the person we all know as Arnold is a “complete mystery” and there isn’t even a picture of him.
Now, if this is the past, Billy and Logan must work for Delos, right? Being a bigwig at the company that owns the park would explain why the Man in Black gets the kinds of privileges in the park. And why Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) is so disdainful of Delos, which might have come into the park post-giant disaster/uprising.
Everything Ford’s doing now could simply be an attempt to wrest control of the park back. Or for Ford to just bring the whole thing down the way he wants to. Or get everyone to leave him alone with his weird robot version of himself as a child, who popped up again this week. That and Teddy’s instinctive protection of Ford is a reminder of the power that Ford has in this place.
There’s obviously something brewing with Delos. The things inserted in the androids could either be corporate espionage or maybe Delos is using the park for some sort of experiment that justifies the expense. Remember, a few episodes back, Cullen (who works for Delos) told the head writer that, yes, there’s another agenda at work for Delos. And Robert said that there’s always been a fight about the park, but he’s always prevailed.
The big mystery, in my mind, isn’t actually what the timelines are or what the maze is. It’s Delos. The big corporate entity cannot have anyone’s best interests in mind. And the show is doing a lot of work to spin the park’s fake plotlines into something to distract from the weirdness happening outside the park. Delos and Robert Ford are the key.