Westworld recap: Why Two Timelines Matters
Westworld Season 1, Ep 8 | Aired Nov 20
With the creative mights of some of the best known twist makers in Hollywood behind it, Westworld has immediately become a show that fans pour over in search of hints, easter eggs, and spoilers. With that in mind, we forgo our usual recap in favor of a consideration of the biggest twists each episode has to offer.
Eight episodes into the first season of Westworld, it seems like fans have been pouring over the possibility of the two
timeline time period theory for months. And maybe they have been. It's hard to remember when the theory first reared it's head in our collective consciousness. But, whenever it was, it's dominated our viewing of the show ever since. And this week, Westworld dropped one of the biggest hints about the truth of the theory, leaving us to wonder what the implications of the theory will be if it pans out in the next two weeks.
"They're not looking for a story that tells them who they are. They already know who they are. They're here because they want a glimpse of who they could be"
For those not deeply entrenched in the possibilities of the Westworld fandom, two timeline (we're not changing it every time, complain in the comments if you must) theory goes something like this: The show does not all take place at the same time. We are being presented with multiple different periods in Westworld's history. One that takes place during early on in the park's history, immediately following Bernard's death and another taking place approximately 30 years later. The connective tissue between these two stories? The theory that Jimmi Simpson's character William is a younger version of Ed Harris' character The Man in Black. The show then becomes the story of our most morally upstanding character becoming the most morally complex one.
But is there anything more interesting at play here? What are the actual stakes of William becoming The Man in Black? What makes this anything different than Matthew McConaughey hiding in his daughter's bookshelf or the Dharma Initiative bringing a polar bear with them to the island?
The most obvious link between the two characters seems to also be the theory's biggest weakness. William and the Man in Black both appear to be in love with Dolores. But where William is affectionate, MiB is scornful. Where William is couscous, MiB is brazen. The two share an obsession, but their approaches to it are entirely different. And this may seem like a major weakness to the theory, but perhaps it is just the reason that telling the story is so interesting. To find out how a sympathetic and preconscious Westworld rookie becomes a cold and disconnected park expert.
We got our biggest hint about how this transformation could take place this week, starting with the Man in Black recognizing one of the park's hosts. The woman he finds in the desert on her own- and immediately recognizes- is the same host who we saw introduce William to the park. MiB remarks that he thought that host had been retired years ago and that he supposes Ford doesn't want to waste a pretty face.
This host, like every other host we've met on the show, seems to be deeply imbedded in her own plot. And while we don't have a great sense of how long William has been in the park, it doesn't seem like it's been long enough for this host to transition to this new role. And it seems even less likely that MiB would think she had been decommissioned if he only just entered the park recently as well.
But if the Man in Black and William are the same character, it could also speak to the relationship between William and Ford, and the nature of the park. In Episode 2 of the show, as we are shown William meeting Dolores for the first time, Ford tells Sizemore that the park doesn't tell people who they are. That when people show up to the park "They're not looking for a story that tells them who they are. They already know who they are. They're here because they want a glimpse of who they could be".
The very nature of the park could be defined by who is right, Ford or William/MiB. If Ford is right, MiB has always been cruel and unforgiving, even when he was young and hiding it. If he's wrong though, the park could change people. And we could be watching William going through that change that Ford says cannot happen within the park. Considering that the original Westworld film was about things happening in the park that the people in charge thought could never happen, we won't be surprised if we find out the park changes people.
The final issue with the theory though is the fact that so many people seem to have seen it coming. J.J. Abrahams and entire Nolan clan are notorious for hitting you with twists that you never saw coming. And, considering there have been rumblings about this for weeks, it seems that they might have fallen flat this time around. But again, we can look back at Ford's speech from Episode 2. Ford tells Sizemore that "The guests don't come back for the garish things. They come back for the subtitles. They come back because they discover something they think no one has ever noticed before. Something they fall in love with". Perhaps the MiB/William connection is the subtle thing that we all thought was subtle. The thing we could fall in love with because we were sure we were the only ones who noticed it.Whether that is the case or not, we have certainly fallen in love with this show, and are ecstatic to see how these plots finish out this season.
Westworld airs on Sunday nights at 9:00 on HBO