If the prevalence of rampant speculation and crackpot online theories is any metric of gauging the popularity of a given TV show, then HBO’s Westworld is surely the most popular program in the entire universe. The Westworld subreddit alone is an endless rabbit-hole of theoretical musings and postulations, not to mention the countless other speculative corners of the internet. In the Westworld Weekly Roundup, we do the leg work of sifting through all theories big and small, and report on the ones worth talking about.
This will be an ongoing series that will be updated every week for the rest of the season, and consider yourself officially warned: spoilers will follow for “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” as well as potential spoilers for next week’s 90-minute finale.
As I said in my Westworld review earlier this week, “The Well-Tempered Clavier” did a lot of narrative housekeeping in order to set the table for next week’s extended Season 1 finale, “The Bicameral Mind.” By “narrative housekeeping,” I meant, among other things, that Westworld was beginning to answer some of the larger questions surrounding the show’s mythology. I touched on some of these in my review, but wanted to save some of the more potentially spoilery details for the Roundup. There are a few big theories I want to talk about for the finale, and they all depend upon the theories that were proven true (or damn-near true) in the last few episodes of Westworld. Here are the things that I now accept as unwavering truths of the show, which I will then use as support to explore some theories regarding the finale.
1. Bernard was created by Ford in the image of Arnold
A popular theory for weeks, this one doesn’t need much explanation – it was laid out pretty clearly by the show in the closing minutes of “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” first when Bernard sees Ford’s picture (above) for what it really is, and second, when Arnold (who until now we were led to believe was Bernard) enters the remote diagnostic facility to speak with Dolores. This scene is latest in a series spread throughout the season, in which Arnold has his clandestine meetings with Dolores, 35 years before the present events of the park. Speaking of which,
2. Multiple timeframes are confirmed
It took me a little while to warm to the multiple timeframe theory – I even dismissed it outright earlier in the season. But by the sixth episode, it was pretty clear that we were dealing with events that were spread far and wide across the history of Westworld, though the way they all fit together was a bit of a mystery. What we can say now for sure is the show takes place over four timelines. Here’s how it breaks down:
- 35 years ago (T-35): These were the early days of beta testing inside the park – this is when the early hosts are being taught to dance in the streets of Escalante. Dolores has her clandestine meetings with Arnold during this time period, which culminates with Wyatt’s massacre in the streets.
- 30 years ago (T-30): This is when Dolores goes on her journey with William to find out what the maze is. Two main pieces of evidence to back this up: first, Logan shows William a picture of William’s fiance Juliet, which is the same picture Peter Abernathy finds on his ranch in the present timeframe, and second, we see that the Dolores in William’s timeframe has the antiquated robotic innards that hosts had in the early days of the park. We also see that William and the Man in Black use the same bad-ass knife.
- 1 year ago (T-1): This is when the Man in Black returns to the park for the first time since his wife’s death. This is when he kills Maeve and her daughter at the homestead, and the maze “reveals itself” to the Man in Black for the first time.
- Present day: The current time period involves the Man in Black, Ford’s new narrative, and everything happening inside the facility itself, including Maeve’s storyline.
After the events of “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” we can also fairly easily determine which timeframe Dolores is in by what she is wearing:
- In the T-35 timeframe, she is wearing the yellow-frilled blue dress; we also see her wearing it in the first four episodes of the season.
- In the T-30 timeframe, she is wearing blue button-up shirt and slacks, and has a pretty obvious gut wound from where Logan sliced her open in Episode 9.
- In the present timeframe, she is wearing the same button-up shirt/slacks combo, but doesn’t have the gut wound.
Now that the multiple timeframe theory has been confirmed, the question remains: what does it mean?
What it all boils down to is that Dolores very likely killed Arnold and all the other hosts in T-35 Escalante, and that Ford has recreated the event in the present-day timeframe with Wyatt as Dolores’ stand-in. When Teddy talks about his memory of Wyatt’s massacre in Escalante, he says that Wyatt brought the general into the street in front of the saloon and executed him.
We also know that Dolores once held a gun to her head in front of the same saloon, which could very well be the moments following her killing Arnold. So, to turn Ford’s new narrative into the events that actually happened T-35 years ago, we can say with some certainty that Wyatt is Dolores, and that the general is Arnold:
To sum it up, Ford is intentionally recreating the events that led to the critical failure in Westworld some 35 years ago, for reasons that aren’t yet clearly known – but we can speculate. A few pieces of information to consider:
- We know Ford sees himself as a god figure over the hosts, saying in Episode 7 that they’re “free, here [in the park], under my control.” Ford’s end game presumably sees him still in control of the park, and the hosts therein. For him to maintain his hold over Westworld, he needs to get rid of the interfering Delos board – of which the Man in Black is an important member – otherwise, he’ll be ousted from his position, and presumably removed from the park.
- In Episode 9, Ford mentions he has a “celebration” to plan for, though he leaves the meaning ambiguous. In an email from Aeden, the interactive host from the Discover Westworld site, it says “At long last, Dr. Ford’s new narrative is ready. To celebrate the long-awaited project, the Delos Board of Directors will be visiting the park.” (I’m not always a fan of this kind of meta interaction between a show and its fans, but Westworld is as much a puzzle as it is a story, so these kinds of clues are actually pretty fun).
- Based on the above two pieces of information, I think it’s fair to conclude that Ford has orchestrated his entire new narrative – from creating the story of Wyatt to excavating Escalante – to lure the board into a place of vulnerability and presumably kill them (and perhaps even replace them with hosts to do his bidding, if the show wants to borrow a concept from the original Westworld film’s sequel, Futureworld).
This strategy may explain Ford’s plan for the board*, but for a man who can control hosts to do anything he wants them to – including killing a human being – it seems like an awful lot of extra work to create such a massive narrative with so many different and important parts. Why wouldn’t he just take the board members on a tour of a secluded corner of the park, wave his finger, and have some hosts ambush them? Why the whole Wyatt story?
*Another way Ford may be planning on taking care of the board is through manipulation of Maeve. Since Ford is pretty much on top of every little thing that happens in the park, he must surely know what is going on with her plans of insurrection – he may even be pulling those strings himself, and will use Maeve’s rebellion as a means of disposing of the board.
I think the simple answer is this: for Ford, getting rid of the Delos board is all business, but as far as the Man in Black is concerned, it’s personal. If William is the Man in Black, then we know that after the events of T-30 years ago, William leaves the park and goes on to save Westworld from the financial ruin Logan speaks of in Episode 3, and becomes an important member of the Delos board. If this is the case, one can only imagine the degree of animosity Ford and William felt toward each other over the course of three decades.
Now that the board is moving in for its decisive strike, Ford is taking the opportunity to get his personal revenge on the Man in Black. We know Ford is sentimental (his robot ghost family not being the least of the evidence supporting this), so why would his brand of revenge be any different? He’s forcing the Man in Black to face and potentially kill the woman he once fell in love with inside the park, but now that the Man in Black has reunited with Dolores inside the church in Escalante, it might not be much of a stretch to think he may end up being the Arnold in this narrative, and will be killed by Dolores.
Which brings me to my final point, a question: in the conflict between the Man in Black and Ford, who do we want to see emerge victorious? Going into the final episode, we still don’t know who has the nobler vision in mind, or what those visions even really look like. But since we know that Ford wants to keep the hosts under his control, and the Man in Black wants to exploit the maze to advance his own agenda, neither seems very heroic at this point (not to mention that Ford is totally a murderer). Our sympathies at this point rest squarely with the hosts, and it seems they will have to eliminate both Ford and the board in order to find any kind of freedom.
Donald Trump as Seen by Google’s Deep Dream
THIS CONTENT WAS REPUBLISHED FROM AN EARLIER DATE.
Last Summer, Google unleashed Deep Dream, their neural network that takes pictures and tries to identify patterns and overwrite them, on an unsuspecting public. When you put an image into Deep Dream, what you get when it “wakes up” is often nightmarish. Dogs, birds, insects, pagodas are inserted at random places in the image, giving it a surreal and sometimes beautiful–if terrifying–aspect.
So, since this election season is already off-the-charts surreal, I thought to myself, “What would it look like if we ran some candidates through Deep Dream?” Well, now I know. I started with Donald Trump, who is already deeply weird and unsettling. The results are spectacular.
From the MRA Evidence Archives: The Journal of a Normal, Average Feminist
Awoke and whispered to my boobs, Bea Arthur and Jackie O, “It’s Tuesday. You know what that means, ladies? Time to oppress some dudes.”
THIS CONTENT WAS REPUBLISHED FROM AN EARLIER DATE.
Tuesday July 5, 2016
Walked to work wearing my plunging crop top that says, “This is what a feminist looks like,” hot pants, and six-inch heels. Tossed my hair a lot and sexily chewed my lower lip. Dropped change so I could slowly bend over and pick it up. It took me about an hour to walk five blocks, which is standard.
Exceeded my catcall goal by seven, a personal best. Super flattering, of course, but will pretend to be terrified and make men feel bad about it with a bunch of tweets. That’ll show them.
Some dowdy librarian tried to help me with the change I kept dropping, and she got catcalled too! No one invades my catcalling turf. Slapped the books right out of her hands. Mostly by Hemingway, whom I both hate and would totally do if he were alive.
Arrived late per usual, but the boss didn’t say anything, just stared at my tits and gave me a pass. I had buttressed Bea Arthur and Jackie O in a push-up bra stuffed with the hard-earned cash of some beta male I cheated on. Good thinking.
By Friday I hope to a) screw my way to executive assistant, b) replace some poor slob who works really hard, or c) file a sexual harassment lawsuit. We’ll just see what the week brings, like whether or not the boss is a lesbian. Fingers crossed!
Spent the rest of the workday playing Candy Crush and convincing Dale from accounting to do everything for me. Stringing Dale along is why I keep coming in. It makes all the pretending to work worth it. I might boink him someday, but I want to see how low he’ll stoop for a bit of action.
I don’t get off on it per se, in so much that I don’t get off. Ever. At all. But I pretend that I could, just to make all the guys I’ve ever been with feel like losers. Watching them fumble and feel emasculated without pants is like Christmas – if I were to sleep with Santa and watch him fumble and feel emasculated without pants.
Went to happy hour after work and didn’t pay a dime. Cosmos just appeared in front of me. Dumb guys just handed me cash for being hot, and I filled my bra until Bea Arthur and Jackie O ballooned up like the boobs of evil women on TV. My role models, natch.
Some dude wearing a huge, purple hat came up to me and said I looked like an uglier Angelina Jolie. He lifted his shirt to show that his torso was hard, rippling, and embroidered with diamonds so he had every right to tell me that. I hooked up with him in the men’s room. That’ll show him.
Went home and let loose a series of drunken, liar tweets about how hard my life is and how I want equality. Even inebriated, it’s important to keep my stilettoed foot on the neck of men everywhere. Those tweets and opinion pieces just skewer them. More powerful than the laws of God or man are the messages I hastily type with my thumbs.
A good Tuesday over all, but did not receive free coffee by sexily slow jamming my order. The barista must’ve taken the red pill.
Woman begs city council to bring back McRib
The McRib Shortage of ’15. It was the single greatest tragedy this country has ever endured. But one woman, one brave voice, said, “No. This will not do.” #mcrib #sheslovinit
Well over a year ago a tragic event occurred: In the fall of 2015, the executives of McDonald’s made a grave decision, the consequences of which are still felt to this day. They decided that when the McRib was released that year it would… it would allow the regional managers to decide whether or not they would offer the McRib. As a result, a staggering 45 percent of McDonald’s locations elected not to offer the McRib. It was the single greatest tragedy this country has ever endured. But one woman, one brave voice, said, “No. This will not do.”
First off, shout out to Reader James from Lake Elsinore, CA for alerting us to the tale of hardship and heroism. You see, when Xanthe Pajarillo, a “McRib activist,” realized that none of the ten McDonald’s locations in her hometown of Santa Clarita would be offering the McRib, she did what any reasonable red-blooded American citizen would do. She brought the issue before the city council.
Now it is no secret that the McRib Shortage of ’15 nearly brought the nation to a standstill. In fact, if it weren’t for the release of a special McRib locator app, experts speculate that America would have ceased to exist as it does today. But amidst all of the rolling blackouts, the deaths, and the riots, we overlooked all of the smaller, personal tragedies that took place because of the cruel decision made by nearly half of McDonald’s regional managers.
In her impassioned plea to the Santa Clarita city council, Pajarillo explained just why the McRib meant so much to her and her family, and why the city council had to act in order to bring it back.
“The removal of the McRib from the menu has affected my family, because every Thanksgiving, my family would, like, order a 50-piece chicken McNugget and like, 10 McRibs. It was like, a tradition in our family, and now it’s like—well, like my family’s holiday spirit is kind of messed up and broken.”
Recently Pajarillo heroic speech before the city council has gone viral, gaining attention at the national stage across social media. Since that dramatic event, Pajarillo has continued to fight for the return of the McRib, even going so far as to release a song dubbed “The McRib Blues.” In it, she lays bare her soul and the souls of those like her to whom the McRib is more than just a barbecue pork sandwich, but is instead, a way of life.
There are those out there, deplorables who hardly deserve mention, that call her bravery nothing more than a stunt. Performance art holding up a mirror to America’s consumerism and obsession. However, others stand by the truth. Pajarillo is a hero, fighting for both a sandwich, but also for something more. Something ephemeral. That little piece of Americana that brings us all together. The McRib.
Fight on, brave warrior, fight on.
♪ Cause we have right to eat what we like, McRib is worth the fight ♪
Still can’t get enough of the McRib? Learn how a McRib is made, courtesy of BuzzFeed.
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