The Best Westworld Fan Theories, Post-Finale

Dead or alive? Photo: HBO

Spoilers ahead for season one of Westworld.

All season, we’ve been analyzing the message boards and Reddit threads in search of the best fan theories about HBO’s Westworld — we reported on early theories that William was the Man in Black, Bernard was a host based on Arnold, and more conjecture that turned out to be true. So what are people talking about after the finale? What’s the hot speculation for season two? And what can we say about the likelihood that these theories are true? Dive in.

Ford isn’t really dead.
The climactic moment of the finale, in which Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) shoots Ford (Sir Anthony Hopkins) through the back of the head, sure seemed final, but this is a TV series with a lot of loopholes and few absolutes. Of course, fans almost instantly started to question whether or not what they were seeing was real — which I’m guessing show creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy loved. Most of the fan theories that suggest Ford is still alive actually come down to an examination of his hands.

Reportedly, when he’s shaking hands with Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) before taking the stage, something about his digits just didn’t look right to some viewers. This is significant because hands were the major giveaway to who was a host and who was a guest in Michael Crichton’s original film. And remember all those times that Ford seemed to be hard at work on a secret project? What if the climax of his greatest narrative included a host version of himself?

Likelihood: Doubtful. First, it would feel like something of a cheat to have that major moment followed up with a “just kidding” in the season-two premiere. Second, Hopkins only signed a one-season deal. But even more conclusively, Nolan came out and told Variety, “Oh, he’s dead.” The funny thing is, we can’t even say those three little words close the door forever. What if the human Ford was killed but a host one remains? It could be a lingering mystery. Ford/Hopkins takes a couple seasons off and perhaps returns far down the road. I’m not sure we’ll ever completely rule out that possibility.

Maeve’s final decision was her own.
The most dramatically interesting arc of the first season reached a climax when Maeve (Thandie Newton) discovered that her recently acquired independence was just a narrative created and implanted in her by someone else. If you looked closely at the screen of choices that Bernard read through at the end, you could see that her final programmed choice was “Escape” and that the goal was “Mainland Infiltration” (a choice of words that also got Reddit spinning about the theory that Westworld is on an island). After receiving the news that her former host-daughter was in “Park 1” (implying multiple parks), Maeve made what could be interpreted as her first actual decision and got off the shuttle, defying her programmed order to escape.

Likelihood: Certain. Nolan and Joy have revealed that this interpretation of Maeve’s final scene is correct, noting to Vulture how they altered the camera work to subconsciously convey that Maeve was going off her program by using a handheld camera for one of the first times on the show. What this means for Maeve in season two could be the most fascinating mid-season discussion topic yet.

Elsie and Logan aren’t dead.
The lack of finality in the arcs for two of season one’s supporting characters has been a pressing concern for online theorists. First, there’s Elsie (Shannon Woodward), who disappeared and was seen being choked by Bernard, before Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) spotted her beacon on a map and headed out to find her. Many fans were surprised that this arc wasn’t mentioned at all in the finale, leading people to wonder if Elsie will return next year. By the same token, Logan (Ben Barnes) began his Lady Godiva ride to the edge of the park in what could be the final William flashback in the series. Is that the end of him? Remember, when hosts try to escape, they explode because of a charge in their vertebrae. Some have theorized that the explosives that activate when hosts reach the end of this world would go off within Logan’s horse, killing him (that is, if the horse is a host). And it certainly seems likely that William might have a few questions to answer back in the real world if Logan ever made it out.

Likelihood: Yes and no. It would be deeply unsatisfying if we don’t get more finality in the arc of Elise and Stubbs, but it seems more likely that we may never know exactly what happened to Logan. Nolan has admitted that some plot threads were purposefully left dangling at the end of the first season (including Elsie’s), but we’re more likely to soon forget about the man who encouraged William to find his true self and likely died, in part, because of it.

The Man in Black isn’t dead.
We saw the Man in Black (Ed Harris) shot in the shoulder as the massacre began. Two thoughts immediately surfaced. One: He was purposefully injured and not killed. He could have been shot in the head. Two, if he was killed we’d know about it. You don’t show Ford getting blasted through the forehead and leave the Man in Black’s fate ambiguous by accident.

Likelihood: Certain. It’s surprising that there are so many people who actually do think the Man in Black is dead. Again, you don’t have a character this resonant die off camera. And Harris has said that he’ll be involved next season. To what degree is unclear, but I bet it’s more than just to reveal he died in the season-one finale.

Abernathy shall return.
Is Dolores’s father, the man who made such an impact in the first episode, in the forest with Clementine and the rest of the renegade hosts? Or have Sizemore and Charlotte used him to transport data out of the park? And what role will he play next season? When Sizemore gets to cold storage at the end of the episode, Abernathy is certainly nowhere to be seen, and one has to assume that Sizemore was going there to get him. So plans have changed.

Likelihood: Likely. Nolan reportedly was incredibly satisfied with Louis Herthum’s performance in the first episode, and likely left the door open in an ambiguous way for him to return in season two in whatever manner the writers see fit. Perhaps they just couldn’t get the actor for the finale and realized that wondering where he is and how he’ll be used was just as fun.

The show takes place in 2052.
Many season-one theorists spent hours trying to decipher exactly when Westworld was taking place. With the multiple timelines making pinning down a specific point in our future more difficult, conjecture about whether this was 2050 or 3050 became a fun party game. It may not be completely canon in Nolan and Joy’s mind, but there’s a website for the fictional Delos Corporation, which posted a bit of security camera footage from Maeve’s escape that, believe it or not, had a time stamp! According to the footage, Maeve tried to escape on June 15, 2052. Which means Ford and Arnold are working on the park right now!

Likelihood: Mixed. The writers could easily dismiss the website as being inaccurate; however, it’s hard to believe that someone would have just randomly included that date. It probably did come from somewhere official.

Westworld Fan Theories, Post-Finale