This post will be talking about HBO’s science fiction drama Westworld, and will be talking about some spoilery speculations. If you’re not into theorizing about the show, I guarantee this will either be spoilery (if correct) or just irritating to you (if wrong.)
At the time of this post’s publishing, we’re halfway through the first season of Westworld, which has presented a plethora of mysteries to chew on. And chew on them people have, with intriguing observations and theories.
Seriously, if you’re not into possibly spoilery speculation, hop out of this post now.
One of the more interesting speculations about the season is that we’re watching more than one timeline being presented in such a way as to give the illusion that storylines separated by years are happening at the same time.
I agree that there are at least two timelines, and probably three.
One of the difficulties posed in trying to identify if a storyline is taking place years and years before or after another one: the robotic hosts don’t age or change over time.
Changes of appearance in humans would of course give us a clue to the era we might be seeing, if they physically look different due to makeup or digital effects (like the de-aging CGI used to present a younger Anthony Hopkins) or it’s unambiguously established that a different actor is playing a known character. (For example, if we ever see a family with a young Teresa Cullen eating at the hacienda that Ford destroys in the Contrapasso episode, we know that we’re in her past.)
Otherwise, it’s hard to gauge a vast passage of time just from the appearance of hosts. With a few exceptions.
Beautiful on the inside…
Let’s assume that the show is consistently showing us two timelines.
If the two timelines are set far enough apart in time in the Westworld park’s history, the hosts can be used to determine a ‘modern’ timeline from one in the past. We just need to see inside them.
As established by dialogue from Ed Harris’ mysterious Man in Black, the hosts in the ‘current’ timeline (one shared by Elsie, Stubbs, Ford, etc.) are synthetic but organic. Flesh, bones. Some kind of fluid like blood. Elsie has mentioned wetware when talking about hosts’ computers/brains, so we can assume that there is no inorganic device used for guiding the hosts. It’s almost like they’re humans. Just not.
The Man in Black mentioned in the past that he’d dissected a host and exposed a million perfect pieces that were inorganic, not like the organic models of the hosts in the later time.
We’ve seen the hosts with mechanical internals in a Ford-centric flashback, consistent with the Man in Black’s observations, and we’ve seen some hosts take grievous damage, like one of Escaton’s outlaws having his face blown off from behind by Maeve, or the stray host Elsie and Stubbs were pursuing who caved in his skull with a rock. Those ‘modern’ hosts seemed very organic.
But what we haven’t seen is grievous damage to hosts in William and Logan’s timeline, to give us a glimpse of their internals, in order to assess if they’re in the park during a much earlier era, when the hosts were composed of inorganic metal bones and silicon circuits.
So keep an eye out for that.
Parts is parts
Another element to be on the watch for in regards to establishing some kind of timeline order: what parts a host is playing. We know that the host playing the role of Peter Abernathy, Dolores’ father, changed in the first episode as the glitchy model we were introduced to was put into cold storage.
The host that had been playing Peter Abernathy had had a previous role in the park’s history though, as the leader of some cannibal cult in what must have been a gruesome narrative. (Westworld! It has many surprises!)
We’ve seen that the brothel madame Maeve probably had a previous role as a homesteader, with a nightmarish narrative.
There’s no guarantee that this isn’t some kind of “memories” for Maeve, that we’re supposed to assume that Maeve’s character had been a homesteader, but the backstory she repeats, over and over in the Chestnut episode doesn’t really jibe with that.
Regardless, I’m keeping an eye out for homesteading Maeve or a cannibal host that looks a lot like Peter Abernathy making an appearance, which might not give me an exact date, but would certainly put a timeline earlier than the ‘modern’ one.
Evan Rachel Wood’s character Dolores is a wonderful enigma on the show, and complicates my rules-of-thumb on trying to date a timeline in Westworld.
Dolores was described as one of the original hosts, and we know from Ford’s interrogation of Dolores that she was the last host to be in contact with the mysterious Arnold, Ford’s partner who reportedly died years before the park actually opened.
What does it mean that she’s “the original”? Is the Dolores on the show one of the metallic-on-the-inside hosts? I doubt the park wouldn’t upgrade all of their hosts from inorganic to organic when that technology became available, but I have to consider that there might be old hosts running around, unupgraded, with the operations staff just waiting for them to break down.
Was the reference to “the original” in regards to Dolores’ role? Maybe. But Ford talking to Dolores and asking about details from thirty four years before flat out requires that the underlying operating system that runs the Dolores host has existed for that period of time. Maybe transferred from robotic inorganic host to organic host.
(We assume that the cognitive models that run the hosts are backed up and deployable to new wetware since we’ve seen cases of what must be devastated damage to host heads.)
So, if the Dolores role has never changed, we should always expect to see her on her loop as the rancher’s daughter with a dark fate. Obviously, we’ve seen her off-loop with William, so there are exceptions to take into account, but we shouldn’t see her as some other kind of character, like Maeve seems to have done.
(Unless there was that one period of time in the park where they really needed an extra showgirl or whatever. But I don’t think Westworld will do that to us. Will it?)
Careful observation of the hosts, I think, will yield interesting insights into watching the show. By nature, they should be unchanging: trapped in their narrative loops, unaging, living ordered lives even if those lives have been preordained to tend to disorder and mayhem.
So the unexpected changes we can identify might be our key to navigating this maze of mysteries we call Westworld.
The Man in Black is currently, if we believe Ford, on a voyage of self-discovery. It’s fun to be on our own journey with him. (Hopefully we’ll be treated by the show better than Man in Black treated Lawrence.)
(Comments are always welcome. Super welcome!)
Images from HBO’s Westworld (obviously.)
If you liked this article, thank you! I’ve written a previous post on Westworld, and have more planned.
© Patrick Sponaugle 2016 Some Rights Reserved