wild speculation

The Best Westworld Fan Theories So Far

L-R: William and the Man in Black. Photo: John P Johnson/HBO

After only two episodes, HBO’s Westworld already has thousands of people speculating in a way that television hasn’t really seen since Lost. Some of the theories are pretty far out there — Ford is God and Lowe is the Devil — but others appear to hold water. We may be only two episodes in, but fans of the show are populating message boards with easter eggs and clues that arguably point to the secrets of Westworld. Which ones are the most interesting?

The Man in Black is William.
This one is a little complicated. First, you should know that most of the posts about Westworld online are devoted to Ed Harris’s Man in Black — his purpose, history, and identity. Some people think he’s actually a host (doubtful) who is rewriting the codes of other hosts. The most interesting suggestion is that he’s William (Jimmi Simpson): What if William, the rookie optimist, becomes the villainous Man in Black after 30 years in Westworld? This theory rests on the idea that we’re watching multiple timelines in the second episode of Westworld, but don’t realize it because the hosts look the same 30 years ago as they do today. There are hints that suggest the William/Logan timeline takes place in a different era. First, where’s Teddy when they get off the morning train? Second, the station where William/Logan get off looks to be in notably better shape than the one we saw in episode one — almost as if it’s newer. There are also references to a critical failure 30 years earlier. Could the Man in Black’s special status be related to something that is going to happen in the William/Logan timeline, which is really three decades old?

Likelihood: Mixed. The idea that William/Logan are on a different timeline than everyone else feels plausible, but you’d have to buy that very little has changed in the universe of Westworld to believe it. Given how much ambition we’ve seen from Lowe and Ford, wouldn’t the Westworld of 30 years ago look drastically different to the one of today?

There are more androids than we think.
The first two episodes make it clear who is human and who is android in the universe of Westworld. Or do they? First, you should know that there’s ample source material from the Westworld films to back up the idea that androids exist outside of those in Wild West costumes. In the show, many people side-eye Lowe (Jeffrey Wright), whom we first presume to be human — but could he be Ford’s greatest creation? Perhaps the games he’s playing with Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) are even part of that new narrative Ford references. Ford even says to Lowe “I know how your head works.” What if he means it literally?

Likelihood: High. In fact, I’d be stunned if the host-human delineation were a simple one. We know that Ford has been working at this for decades. Why wouldn’t he create an android that could work for him outside of the park? The idea that Ford is the only human in this world — a God among his creations — isn’t even that far-fetched if you really think about it thematically.

The hosts are based on real people.
This is related to the one above, but it goes a little deeper. At the end of the 1976 Westworld sequel, Futureworld, the lead characters discover that Delos is trying to create replicas of real people, including them. What if characters like Teddy and Maeve are based on real people, possibly even former guests? This opens up the idea that Westworld could exist as a form of immortality. Lowe could have been a human, but we are looking at the host version of him. And could Ford’s end game be doing the same for himself? Could this relate to the Man in Black’s quest to find the maze? Perhaps he knows there’s a way to essentially become a host. And several people have theorized, probably correctly, that the boy Ford meets in episode two is a version of his young self.

Likelihood: Too soon to tell. It’s easy to see this one intertwining with the former theory in a season-finale revelation. Picture it: We learn that Lowe died a decade ago and that what we’ve seen is the host version of him. It would be more interesting to consider the future storytelling potential of such a revelation: Go to Westworld and Live Forever!

Westworld exists on another planet.
There are dozens of theories as to where and when Westworld takes place. The music cues (“Black Hole Sun” and “Paint It Black”) hint at the modern era, but how far in the future does the show take place? And where are they? Some have even suggested that Westworld is on another planet. Or perhaps it’s underwater (what was up with all that H2O in cold storage?) or on a man-made island?

Likelihood: Doubtful. The show is so steeped in Americana, it feels unnecessary to add an interstellar element to an already dense narrative. My guess is that it’s a few decades in the future, right here on Earth.

The maze is outside Westworld.
We know that the Man in Black is seeking the maze, something legendary in the universe of Westworld, and something the Man in Black believes represents the ultimate endgame. But what exactly is the maze? Many people have theorized that it’s outside the park of Westworld. It could be the maze-like tunnels we see Dolores in behind-the-scenes at Delos. In a sense, that would make the maze not unlike the Emerald City, and Ford the Wizard of Oz waiting at its end. Or could the maze merely be a mission in the heart of the game? The ultimate level? Perhaps it’s even related to Ford’s final narrative.

Likelihood: Very possible. Can’t you just picture the Man in Black reaching Ford in the final episode of the season, delaying the satisfaction of a meeting between Harris and Hopkins until the very end?

Westworld Theories: The Best So Far