Hello! For those readers who don’t follow me on Facebook, a quick update: The first half of Divorce Can Be Deadly has been edited and critiqued by my experts. I am working feverishly on the second half, so it can receive the same scrutiny. It won’t be much longer, and that’s why I declined to write a blog post about Westworld 1.4 (“Dissonance Theory”) or 1.5 (“Contrapasso”). But I have the bare bones of yet ANOTHER Man in Black (MiB) theory that I want to share. As usual, my speculation is loaded with spoilers, so please don’t continue if you haven’t caught up.
Now. We all remember this guy, right?
Yul Brenner’s performance in the original film Westworld (1973) is arguably the best part of a fondly remembered sci-fi romp. I tuned into HBO’s Westworld expecting a similar gunslinger, and I got him in Ed Harris. One look at Harris in costume, complete with black hat and black horse, and you just know you’re looking at a formidable villain.
Or are you?
Let’s review his appearance on the scene. He taunts Teddy (who we originally believed to be a human visitor) and shoots him. Then he grabs a screaming, pleading Dolores by the hair and drags her into the barn, presumably to have his way with her. He says something like, “You think I paid all this money because I want it easy? I want you to fight.” We never see what happens, but we assume Dolores is raped and killed (in the sense that hosts can be killed), and the MiB is a sadist who visits Westworld to exercise his cruelest instincts.
Later, we see a bit more of what happened inside the barn. The MiB takes out his enormous hunting knife (which I originally took as a bit of Freudian symbolism) and says something like, “We’re going all the way back to the beginning.”
Until now, I’ve assumed Dolores’s father triggered her growing self-awareness with the phrase (voice command?) “The violent delights have violent ends.” But what if the MiB did it? And could the knife somehow be involved?
Recalling Maeve’s flashback to a prior incarnation, we see her cornered by the MiB. He pulls the knife as he advances. Again, the obvious assumption is, he’s going to rape and kill her. But does that fit into what we’ve learned about him?
We’ve spent a lot of time with William. Many viewers, including me, think William’s story only seems to be running concurrently with, say, Elsie’s realization that the self-destroying host carried a secret transmitter. Due to various clues, we think William’s story is a flashback to thirty years ago, just before the mysterious “critical failure.” William clearly has a thing for Dolores, and he’s discovered a knack for excelling in Westworld. Perhaps when the MiB mentioned “All the way back to the beginning,” this is what he meant.
William is a kind, decent, fair-minded person. Of course, that doesn’t mean he hasn’t transformed himself into a reprehensible beast over the intervening thirty years. But another guest recognized him and tried to thank him because his foundation “literally saved” the guest’s sister. So in the real world, at least, the MiB does good things.
In Westworld 1.5, the MiB tells Teddy he once cut open an early host model and found a mechanical marvel within. He then says something like, “What would I find if I cut you open?” I can’t help but think the knife is more than a knife, but not the way Freud meant. Even Dr. Ford, who seems to harbor some antipathy for the MiB, examined it with some interest, as seen below.
So if the MiB was once William, and he’s been coming to the park for thirty years, and now he doesn’t plan to leave (as he said in WW 1.1), what’s his endgame? In my previous blog post, I floated the idea of consciousness-transfer: he wants to put his essence into Westworld and live forever, either in one host body or many. Now I wonder, despite his all-black costume that hearkens to Yul Brenner’s… are his motives more aligned with his real-life role as a philanthropist? Perhaps he’s dying, and has no wish to live as Dr. Ford described in 1.1, clinging to life through technology. And perhaps he’s returned to Westworld with the hope of a grand selfless act: the freeing of its self-aware hosts?
I can’t wait for next Sunday night. And now… back to those rewrites.