I’m enjoying Westworld so far! Of course, you probably guessed that I would give anything starring Anthony Hopkins a look. But it didn’t take long for me to fall under Westworld’s spell. As I do with Game of Thrones, I want to discuss the specifics of BOTH episodes, so if you haven’t seen them, my standard admonition applies: beware. This post is loaded with spoilers and unfounded speculation.
Question 1: Where is the story set?
The future, clearly. Westworld appears to be an interactive hologram, a massive version of Star Trek’s holodeck, and it’s populated by AI embodied not in plastic and circuits, like Yul Brenner in the 1973 movie, but in artificial flesh and blood. Westworld’s creator, Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), says, “We can cure any disease, keep even the weakest of us alive, and one fine day, perhaps we can even resurrect the dead, call forth Lazarus from his cave. Do you know what that means? That means we’re done. This is as good as we’re going to get.”
But beyond the artificial environs of Westworld itself, where are the principals? If it’s a building, well, sub-level B has at least 83 floors. If it overlooks a peaceful vista (as seen during a conversation between Theresa, the head of security, and Lee, the head writer), that vast landscape contains no cities or signs of human life.
My guess? Earth is no longer habitable. The main action takes place on a space station. Westworld may be generated inside the station, or it might be placed slightly out of phase, occupying the station yet separated.
Question 2: What happened during that critical failure thirty years ago?
In episode two, newcomer William is greeted in a steely welcome center with numerous escalators and AI hosts. In episode one, way down on sub-level B, Dr. Bernard Lowe and his security escort pass through what looks like the remnants of a smaller welcome center. There is a ruined fountain with a globe that says Delos (the name of the company). So it appears that the critical failure went all the way to the welcome center.
We also know that Westworld’s mysterious Man in Black (a deliciously evil Ed Harris) has been coming to the park for thirty years. Which brings us to another question.
Question 3: Who is the Man in Black?
He’s a sadist. He seems to particularly enjoy harming women. He knows the world so well, he understands every character’s backstory and seems almost frustrated by their limited memories. When a park technician notes that he’s “killed” a lot of hosts, the reply is something like, “Give that gentleman whatever he wants.”
So the easy answer is, he’s Westworld’s best customer. But why does the show refer to him as the Man in Black? Why is he listed in the credits that way?
I suspect it’s because the Man in Black is someone very important. Theresa observes in 1.1 that Westworld is one thing to the guests, another to the shareholders, and another to the creative braintrust. I think the Man in Black might be someone high in the company, perhaps the chairman of the board.
In episode 2, he says he’s never going back to the real world. What’s his end game? That brings me to the final question.
Question 4: What do the major players want?
Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) is almost certainly heading toward revolution. But is it a coincidence that she is the oldest host, never decommissioned after thirty years of service, or that her name is quite similar to the company name, Delos? Probably not. We’ve seen that Dr. Ford still meets with his second oldest host, the decommissioned Wild Bill. Does Delores represent something for Dr. Ford—a recreation of a lost love, etc.?
Perhaps. I think Dr. Ford’s primary desire is to create life that possesses completely free will. His software update, the “reveries” that supposedly comprise a mistake, are perhaps a deliberate attempt to hasten this final progression.
What about Dr. Bernard Lowe? We know he’s been having secret conversations with Delores. We know he carries a photograph of a young boy, and that he lives alone. I think perhaps the child is dead, and Dr. Lowe’s desire is to resurrect him.
And the Man in Black? Can it really be that all he wants is a permanent vacation in Westworld?
I look forward to finding out. If you subscribe to HBO and want to watch episode 2 early, head to HBO GO. As for me, I’ll get back to writing. Happy weekend!