What makes HBO’s Westworld so damn great — aside from the superb acting, directing and smartly executed philosophical dialogue underpinning an action- and sex-packed story — is that its cryptic plot leads to near-endless internet chatter about fan theories.
Will any of them actually pan out?
HBO boss Casey Bloys hinted in Variety that the audience is on to something: “I think people will get the answers they’re looking for by the end of Season One. A lot of the ones that people are buzzing about.”
But I think that only one theory will make or break it, because only one theory can answer so many of the glaring unknown: the show's plot is not continuous, but rather an amalgam of two storylines unraveling at two disparate points in time.
What we know about the show's time continuum (or, more importantly, what we don't) is the single biggest key to understanding Westworld. It’s still not clear when things are happening, which lends credence to the theory that William is a younger version of the Man In Black, a theory I think holds up better than the theory that Logan — William’s repugnant brother-in-law and apparent employer — is the Man in Black (though at this point it’s probably as much of a toss-up as the election).
The underlying question here is where (or I guess when) is Dolores being questioned by Bernard, and then later, by Ford? When she’s questioned by Bernard, she’s wearing the damsel outfit, and he says they have to get back. Then she’s back with William, with no explanation of where she went or if he noticed she was gone.
(The theory that this world is like the Matrix, and people and robots are both plugged in, doesn’t sit well with me: Why are the technicians going back and forth replacing the robots if it’s all virtual?)
Later, when Ford interviews Dolores after the scene in which she passes out at the Day of the Dead parade, she’s naked, just like the decommissioned robots in the first episode. Ford is a sick man, but not in that way, right? When she passed out, she was wearing the gunslinger outfit, but here she is clearly naked, and she then acknowledges the voice that’s been speaking to her as Arnold once Ford leaves. In the next scene, she's back with William. That’s a clear break.
Some fans have noticed that the Westworld logo is different in scenes with William and scenes with the Man in Black, which could be a great clue. However, the theory that robots play different roles in those scenes isn’t a clue to me, because the technicians on the other side often recycle and repurpose stories, a fact they’ve made clear with Dolores’s dad, the addition of Teddy’s backstory and the different bounty hunters and lawmen that enter the action.
The big twist last week came when, after the Man In Black slit Lawrence’s throat, drained his blood and then transfused it into poor Teddy, we saw Lawrence as Lazo. This is, of course, another clue that fans are pointing to support the two timelines theory: See, he’s different.
But then he tells William at the end that his real name is Lawrence, and the Man In Black tells the little boy who’s transfixed on the dead Lawrence not to worry, that they’ll come for him soon. So Lawrence/Lazo could’ve been cleaned up and headed to Pariah to wait for William, keeping things within the current timeframe.
Ah, who am I kidding? It’s still not that clear.
One thing is for certain: in time we’ll learn when things are happening, and once we do, hopefully we'll finally understand what is happening.