“The maze isn’t meant for you.”
The Man in Black (Ed Harris) encountered those six frustrating words on more than one occasion in the first season of Westworld — but much like another bald hunter on another Bad Robot show, the gunslinger we now know as William doesn’t like being told what he can and can’t do.
With that said, the maze William sought throughout season one truly wasn’t meant for him, and not for any personal reasons. As revealed in the finale, the maze was an exercise for hosts to discover their own consciousness, represented literally in the form of a handheld marble game; not so impressive to William, based on how he idly minded the game once he found it.
In season two, however, William is walking on a new path that’s very much meant for him: the “game,” as the Little Boy (a young host version of Robert Ford, played by Oliver Bell) names it. Given how much of a central role the maze played in the first season, one imagines the game will have an equally vital role this year — and in that spirit, we’re laying out everything we know about Ford’s new activity for the Man in Black below, updating throughout the season with more information as it comes in.
From season two, episode one, “Journey Into Night” (aired 4/22/18):
• First, let’s put down on paper what young Ford tells William about the game: “What I’ve always appreciated about you is you’ve never rested on your laurels. You made it to the center of Arnold’s maze, but now, you’re in my game. In this game, you have to make it back out. You must find the door. Congratulations, William: this game is meant for you.”
• Young Ford mentions “the door” as the key object of the game, and the name is the same as the subtitle creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy bestowed upon season two: “The Door.” The masterminds behind Westworld have described the season as “a search for what else is beyond the park, and what else is in the park.”
• As a pivotal member of the Delos board behind Westworld, William knows a lot about the park from a bird’s-eye view, and even on a gritty street level given the blood, sweat and tears he’s poured into his immersive trips. But there are doors that are hidden even to someone with Bernard’s (Jeffrey Wright) clearance levels, as seen in Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) activating a hidden outpost in the season premiere. One can easily see the Man in Black having a similarly profound level of ignorance to Westworld’s secret passageways, both the literal and figurative ones.
• On a fundamental level, a maze is something you’re “in,” while a door is something you pass through. The maze implies discovery and transformation; the door implies momentum and action, even transportation. This season, we’re finally set to explore the multiple parks outside of Westworld. Will the door require William to transport to one of these parks?
• Ford offers a clue: “The game begins where you end, and ends where you began.” William first arrived at the Mesa on a train ride, and first arrived in Westworld proper through a door that led to another train. If the door is something literal, the very first door in Westworld we ever saw William walk through seems as strong a guess as any.
• William snarls at Ford: “Even now, you’re speaking in code?” Ford retorts: “Everything here is code, William. You know that more than anyone.” If everything here is code, then Ford’s comment about everything being a code is also probably a code. Insert mindblown Eric Wareheim gif here.
• Ford’s final words: “The game will find you.” The way it’s phrased makes it sound like the game is something with agency. Paired with the game being where William begins and ends, one wonders if the game is none other than the most important host in the Man in Black’s life: Dolores.
From season two, episode two: “Reunion” (4/29/18):
• Ford wasn’t kidding when he told William: “This game was meant for you.” Over the course of “Reunion,” the Man in Black moves with the confidence of someone who knows where he’s going: the site of his “greatest mistake.”
• The “mistake,” for what it’s worth, is starting to come into focus. Throughout the episode, the Delos board’s greater interest in the park starts to make itself known, through testimonies of both the young and old versions of William. In the past, young William (Jimmi Simpson) convinces his father-in-law James Delos (Peter Mullan) to invest in the park due to an untapped market potential: “This is the only place in the world where you get to see people for who they really are. If you don’t see the business in that, then you’re not the businessman I thought you were.”
• It seems Delos has been gathering personal information on guests for decades now, and the older William makes it clear this information exists in a location somewhere onsite: somewhere due west, a three days ride from where William reunites with his old pal Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.).
• William fills Lawrence in on his quest, and in the process, announces his interpretation of the game: “I have received my judgment, and I take issue with it. Up until this point, the stakes in this place haven’t been real. I’m going to fight my way back and appeal the verdict, and then I’m going to burn this whole fucking thing to the ground.”
• The game leads William to Pariah, where he encounters El Lazo, played here by Giancarlo Esposito (Gus Fring of Breaking Bad fame). William attempts to compel El Lazo into joining his cause, but no dice; not only does El Lazo refuse, he and his men all commit suicide rather than fall behind the Man in Black. El Lazo speaks with the word of Robert Ford: “This game was meant for you, William, but you must play it alone.” Sounds like co-op mode is off the menu.
• Ford speaking through the vessel of El Lazo makes one thing clear: the visionary behind Westworld is still making moves, even without his original corporeal form. “Everything here is code,” he told William in the premiere, which we can now safely assume includes Ford himself.
• “I’ll see you in the Valley Beyond, William,” Ford via El Lazo says shortly before blowing his own brains out. Whatever awaits the Man in Black at the end of the game, Ford will be there, waiting.
• Also likely to face off against the Man in Black at the end of the game: Dolores. The episode ends with the oldest host in Westworld making it clear that her ultimate destination is the same one as William’s. It further enforces the idea that the game will end for William precisely where it began: with the most important host in his life, Dolores.
From season two, episode three: “Virtu e Fortuna” (5/6/18):
• The Man in Black sits out this episode, so not much on the game front. A few things of note, however…
• Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum) returns in this episode, filled with some premium information that Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) and the Delos board would love to get their hands on. Based on what we’ve insinuated about the Man in Black and his “greatest mistake,” could Abernathy be the cheese in the middle of the maze — or the prize found on the other side of the door?
• We’re also introduced to Grace (Katja Herbers), another guest in the park who, like William, seems like a bit of a loner, seems like she knows the hosts and park culture pretty well, and is unquestionably a bit of a badass. Despite William being told that he has to play the game on his own, could he wind up in co-op mode after all, fighting alongside Grace?
From season two, episode four: “The Riddle of the Sphinx” (5/13/18):
• So… about “Grace.” Turns out, that’s not her name, but she’s deeply connected to William all the same: she’s his daughter, Emily. The episode ends with Emily and William reuniting in the middle of the desert. Is it a happy reunion? Not so much. Keep in mind, elsewhere in the episode, William says she would probably want to watch him die. Looks like she might get her chance in the episodes ahead.
• The episode also reveals more about William’s greatest mistake: he was instrumental in technology built on the premise of merging human consciousness with host bodies, therefore achieving a form of immortality. The tests were being carried out on James Delos, with multiple iterations of the experiment — 149 of them, to be precise — and all of them considered failures. Gradually, it appears William realized the experiment was no longer worth the effort. Consider the lesson fully learned once William loses his wife, and finally decides that “some men are better off dead.”
• We also learn that just because William abandoned the project, doesn’t mean the project itself was fully abandoned. Elsewhere in the episode, Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and Elsie (Shannon Woodward) stumble upon the project and discover that Ford was having Bernard create a control unit for another human. “I don’t know who, but I need to find out.”
• Planting a flag in the ground here: the control unit Ford had Bernard build was for none other than the Man in Black. When William goes through “the door,” he will meet himself, in the form of a host body played by Jimmi Simpson. Watch this one be wildly wrong, but worth getting the prediction in ink.
• In his present day storyline, the Man in Black and Lawrence return to Las Mudas, Lawrence’s hometown. There, they find it overrun by Craddock and his Confederados. After some back-and-forth, the Man in Black overpowers the gang, seemingly motivated by the pain he feels over the death of his own wife, and not wanting similar pain to befall upon Lawrence and his family. Is the purpose of the game to renew the Man in Black’s sense of humanity?
• Maybe not so much. Lawrence’s daughter approaches William the morning after the gunfight, speaking with the voice of Robert Ford: “They might not remember, but I know who you are, William. One good deed does not change that.” William doesn’t seem to care much about rehabilitating his humanity, either: “I’m going to play [the game] to the bone,” he says, refuting the notion of a transformative good deed.
• Ford adds: “You still don’t understand the real game we’re playing here. If you’re looking forward, you’re looking in the wrong direction.” Hence why it would be worth looking backward at who William was once upon a time — his younger self, brought back in host form. Could the battle we’re striding toward be one of a remorseful Man in Black hanging up his hat and doing battle with a darker version of his own self?
From season two, episode five: “Akane No Mai” (5/20/18):
• Facts, theories and wild speculation from episode two will be posted here on May 21.
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