Our Biggest Questions After Westworld, Episode One

Who is the Man in Black? Photo: HBO

Mystified about the Westworld pilot? You're not alone. We don't have many answers yet, but HBO's sci-fi brain teaser will surely parse out a few from week to week. So starting tonight, we're going to follow up each episode with the myriad questions we're pondering.

"The Original" introduces us to Dolores, Bernie, Teddy, the Man in Black and, ahem, a host of others bent on playing god to indulge their basest whims. How their story lines get resolved is anyone's guess, but if you want to make a Westworld prediction of your own, give it a shot in the comments.

Where does a host's reality begin?
Let's jump right into the deep end. Are Dolores and Teddy inching closer to full consciousness while reliving the same nightmare, day after day, or does their restful sleep induce a meta-consciousness that would trigger an existential panic among their human engineers? Or maybe they're virtually sentient robots under the sway of flawed mortals? These will be the central philosophical questions of Westworld, and it's doubtful the series will provide any concrete answers.

When, exactly, does Westworld take place?
They're generations removed from the crude tech of Michael Crichton's 1973 film, but while talking with Bernard, Dr. Ford intimates that they're a bit further along in medical science than we'd anticipate for a show set in the near future. After all, we only ever see guests in their retro Western duds, and the severe fashions of Westworld's brain trust are a bit mid-21st-century modern. Whatever year or era we're in, humankind seems to be on as hasty a collision course with its fate as Dolores is with her destiny.

Will Hector Escaton be the hero of this story?
Everything is backwards in Dr. Ford's theme park for the superficially rich but richly inferior, so it would follow that Westworld's badass bandit will discover he's good for more than being racially profiled on a daily basis. Also, Rodrigo Santoro is dreamy. Do I detect a possible love triangle around Dolores? 

How soon until a person dies in Westworld?
I give it an episode. One way or the other, a newcomer or recurring guest will be killed, whether by the Man in Black's pistol and hunting knife, a short-circuited assault by a sensitive host, or the hooves of a pissed-off robo-steed. Why not all three? Naysayers be damned.

Does the lady with the white shoes actually exist?
Is it Dolores? Perhaps. Is it just a meaningless fragment of Old Bill's past life? Might be. But it's worth bearing in mind their age: Bill was the park's second host, Dolores the first. In Westworld's Garden of Eden, there'd be no Adam without Eve. And Dr. Ford may wind up reaping what he sowed.

What's with the flies?
Could be a plague. They sure are everywhere, bugging tourists and park lifers alike. Initially, it appears they might carry some kind of nascent sickness that infects the hosts, but then Dolores swats one into smithereens after swearing she couldn't, well, hurt a fly. It seems likely they're just a useful symbol to help bookend a cinematic pilot. Either way, flying insects and two-legged humans alike will feel the biblical wrath of Westworld's Eve.

What is the Corporation?
Not since Prison Break's "the company" has a shadowy organization been so playfully teased. It wouldn't be a stretch to fathom that some of Westworld's guests have stumbled into their wealth by gambling on the fortunes of this faceless corporation. Plenty seem to treat its wager on the limitlessness of human innovation as a kind of game. For the sake of all parties involved, let's just hope they're not as sinister as these guys.

Does the bar always play saloon versions of '90s alt-rock?
That was one mean instrumental of Soundgarden's "Black Hole Sun." Though it may be more of a color-scheme motif, given the creative usage of "Paint It Black" during the pilot's big shootout. Is it too soon to hold out hope for a white wedding?

Will Elsie rescue Clementine from her life of prostitution?
It's a potential love story for the ages. Elsie's the nerd scientist, and Clementine is the part-automaton hooker with a heart of metal and wires. That kiss Elsie steals will reverberate, if it hasn't already, and Clementine's reveries should prove more potent than her sex appeal. The park's story lines include room for improvisation, but Westworld has already set the stage for some familiar interpersonal drama.

… Is that a scalp map?
Relatedly: Who else knows about it? Do all of the hosts have them in case they get lost? And will this lead the Man in Black's holy terror straight to Westworld HQ? If so, can he sacrifice Lee Sizemore first?

What does Peter whisper to Dolores?
It's the oldest trick in the book, but Westworld seems poised to eventually show its hand. Beyond some rehashed Shakespeare, Dolores only seems to tell half the story of what he muttered. And what about Bernard's hushed final words before Peter got siloed off in cold storage? Is this a game of telephone? Is Bernard secretly inciting a host revolt against Dr. Ford and the corporation's cruel experiments? It's also possible that Peter reminded Dolores of something she'd left behind several characters ago. Perhaps it was those white shoes.