WARNING!!! THIS STORY CONTAINS MAJOR SPOILERS WITH REGARDS TO EPISODE 9 OF WESTWORLD! IF YOU ARE NOT UP TO DATE, DO NOT PROCEED!
When Westworld creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy previously mentioned that viewers needed to pay careful attention to everything in the sci-fi western drama and that nothing was being done without being completely intentional, they were not kidding. The critically acclaimed new series has dropped major bombs in the last three episodes, and for those of you who have not been keeping track of every piece of minutiae, you may be a little lost right now. Have no fear though, because we’re here to explain it all.
The gist of the reveals relate to two major plot points, the first of which is actually pretty straightforward: Episode 7’s shocking revelation that Bernard Lowe (Geoffrey Wright) is actually a host himself, created by Westworld founder Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins). This was a huge twist, but there was another clue hidden in this revelation that was even more important.
Eagle eyed viewers would have noticed that the secret underground room where Bernard learned the truth of his existence from Ford looked exactly like the room we’ve often seen Bernard interviewing Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) in many times. But what if it wasn’t Bernard? We know that Dolores is the oldest host in the park and was there at the beginning, so what if we these interviews we saw were actually happening at a much, much earlier time? What if Bernard was actually an AI version of Ford’s deceased founding partner Arnold?
And as we learned this week, that’s exactly who/what he is. To be frank, some of the clues to this twist, like Bernard Lowe being an anagram for Arnold Weber, were obvious (maybe even so obvious that some dismissed them), and it fitted in perfectly with what we’ve come to know about Ford’s character that he would create a simulacrum of his dead partner to work with. But what made this week’s reveal really big was in how it helped to answer the biggest mystery in Westworld: When is all of this taking place?
Early on, fans started picking up that certain characters never interact, with the only mutual acquaintances between them being the practically immortal hosts they all interact with. There were also more subtle clues, like how the Westworld logo itself looked different in some instances. And sometimes, certain things just didn’t make chronological sense as hosts seemed to appear one way in one scene, then completely different in the next. All these clues and more led fans to start positing that maybe what we’re seeing is actually separate timelines, jammed together with some clever editing.
More specifically though, what if young, still slightly naive good guy William (Jimmi Simpson) was actually the younger version of the cruel Man In Black (Ed Harris)? What if we were seeing two timelines, an early one which showed William and his soon-to-be brother-in-law Logan meeting Dolores for the first time and then going off on their walkabout, while 30 years later we see MIB on a quest to find the centre of “The Maze” that Arnold had once designed?
And in this week’s episode, the confirmations of this came through thick and fast. We saw William using the same knife as the MIB when he dismantled the Confederate hosts and essentially went from white hat to black hat. Said hosts were also mechanical inside, like they were decades ago, as opposed to the very human looking hosts walking around in the park in the “present”. We saw Logan handing William a very new looking picture of his sister, the aged version of which we saw being found on Dolores’ father’s farm in an earlier episode. Etc, etc.
It was also revealed that it was actually Dolores who killed Arnold, but since we know absolutely nothing more about that mystery, we’ll put it on the back burner for now. We also learned though that Dolores’ beau and MIB’s travelling partner Teddy (James Marsden) may have some shoddy memories of his own. While initially he believed he was out to track down the evil Wyatt who murdered all the people in Escalante before running off to form a death cult, it’s actually revealed that he helped Wyatt to murder the people. Or maybe there was no Wyatt and he did all the killing himself. It’s all jumbled up in Teddy’s head.
And speaking of jumbled up, there was a problem in that certain events surrounding Dolores just didn’t add up when viewed in light of a two timeline theory. Turns out there was a catch: We’re actually looking at three timelines. And Dolores is the key to it all, as what she’s wearing actually tells us which timeline we’re in. Except, that in multiple timelines she wears the same clothing, and the producers have edited scenes together so that one timeline flows into the other, as she’s schizophrenically jumping between memories of events in her past and what is currently happening to her. This could get very confusing so let’s break it all down.
Using clues scattered throughout the dialogue of all the episodes, we know that these three timelines take place approximately 35 years ago, 30 years ago and the present respectively.
Timeline A – 35 Years Ago
- Ford and Arnold are busy living in the park, perfecting the hosts before a single guest has even arrived. Most of the prep work and testing is conducted in the town of Escalante, with its prominent church steeple
- Arnold tries to jumpstart consciousness with a technique called a “bicameral mind” that lets hosts hear their instructions as voices in their heads. This drives some of the hosts insane
- Dolores though appears to be gaining sentience, intriguing Arnold, prompting him to conduct interviews with her (wearing her blue dress) in the lab hidden underneath Escalante
- Something happens and Dolores kills Arnold
- Dolores is possibly involved in some version of the massacre that Teddy is struggling to remember, and in the process shoots herself (still wearing the blue dress)
Timeline B – 30 Years Ago
- William and Logan arrive in Westworld. The park is in financial dire straits, and Logan’s family is looking to bail it out. William is engaged to Logan’s sister
- William meets Dolores when he picks up the can she drops, and has an instant connection with her
- Dolores (blue dress) is attacked by another host as part of her normal narrative loop, but this time instead of being raped and abused, she hears Arnold’s voice in her head, prompting her to override her programming and fight back killing her attacker. She is starting to gain true sentience and independence
- Running away, Dolores stumbles into William and Logan’s camp. The duo take her in and she joins them on their adventure to the edges of Westworld. Dolores changes from her blue dress to her white shirt and khaki pants outfit
- The band make it to the town of Pariah, where William and Logan have a fundamental falling out, as William starts to suspect that Dolores is different to the other hosts. William and Dolores abandon Logan to the Confederates
- Dolores has “memories” of a home, and prompted by this, she and Logan make their way to the town of Escalante which now stands abandoned, but unburied
- Logan catches up to them and captures them with the help of the Confederates. Realizing that William is falling in love with Dolores, Logan tries to shock him out of it by cutting up Dolores’ stomach to reveal her mechanical parts. Her shirt and khaki outfit is now bloody and slashed
- Dolores escapes and makes her way back to Escalante
- William pretends to agree with Logan, but then snaps and dismembers all the Confederate hosts in the most violent fashion, before going after Dolores
NOTE: Before the next definitive timeline, some events occur though their timing is unclear:
- The Delos company saves Westworld and starts using it for some secret ulterior motive
- Ford stockpiles all the data about the hosts onsite, and gives himself godlike powers to erase it all causing Delos to panic
- Ford has the town of Escalante – the centre of Arnold’s maze – completely buried
- Ford creates Bernard in the image of Arnold to help him perfect the hosts
- Man In Black visits the park regularly, playing a bad guy, including assaulting Dolores a number of times. He has a VIP status with the park workers due to his company (Delos?) having saved the park from ruin
- MIB randomly picks a narrative featuring Maeve (Thandie Newton) and her daughter, and executes the daughter just to see what would happen. He notices Maeve show a spark of sentience as she experiences the pain of losing her daughter
- MIB’s wife of thirty years dies in the real world, prompting him to find a deeper meaning to the park
Timeline C – Present Day
- Dolores is back in her loop, with Teddy having been programmed to perform a lot of the actions that William once did when he met her
- Dolores’ father finds a photo of William’s fiance, causing him to glitch out. This picture causes Dolores to hear the voice of Arnold in her head telling her to “remember”
- After MIB assaults her again , she sets off on her own, at some point changing into the exact same outfit of white shirt and khaki pants that she was wearing 30 years ago and begins retracing her steps on that journey
- Dolores experiences flashbacks to her previous journey, intercutting memories of what she went through 30 years ago as she retraces her steps (this is why William and El Lazo disappear out of the shots of her on the train – its actually showing both her present and past journey’s side by side)
- Maeve begins experiencing her own sentience after Ford begins introducing “reveries” into the host’s programming, which aims to make them more human by having them draw on past experiences (this backfires because hosts have perfect recall and the crystal clear memories and all the accompanying emotions are breaking their programming)
- Ford is building his great big new narrative which involves Wyatt and the massacre at Escalante, which Ford has unearthed
- All the corporate espionage involving Delos – more than likely MIB’s company – takes place
- Bernard learns that he is really a host version of Arnold – created some time in the last few years – before Arnold reveals he has a backdoor into the host’s programming and makes Bernard kill himself
- Dolores (with the unslashed abdomen) makes her way back to Escalante, and into the underground lab where she remembers what happened
- Coming back up to the surface, she is confronted by MIB who she addresses as William for the first time
And all of that leaves us now with three converging climaxes that will all play out in the final episode this Sunday: In Timeline A, we need to learn how/why Dolores killed Arnold; in Timeline B, William needs to catch up with the stabbed Dolores on her way to Escalante, and we need to see how he snaps completely and goes from white hat to full black hat; and in Timeline C, Dolores and the MIB finally face off in the newly excavated Escalante, the sight of whatever new narrative Ford is cooking up, which is also where we need to find out the truth behind Teddy and Wyatt and the massacre they seemingly committed.
Oh and of course there’s the now super-intelligent Maeve’s plan to break out of the park using outlaw Hector who is now in her thrall. And on top of that there’s the entire corporate espionage angle that we’ve barely even touched on as the Delos execs – with the help of MIB – concoct a plan to oust Ford as head of the park without him destroying all their data, and maybe even reveal what their actual goal is for Westworld. That’s a whole lot of story to get through in one hour, though with the show already planned out for about five seasons don’t expect to get all your questions answered just yet.
And remember, if you want a quick guide as to which timeline is which, just look for either the different Westworld logos or Dolores’ appearance. In the case of the latter, she’s wearing a blue dress for Timeline A, blood-stained and slashed white shirt and khaki pants for Timeline B, and clean white shirt and khaki pants for Timeline C. I hope that helps!
Last Updated: November 30, 2016