'Westworld' Theories: Eight Mind-Blowing Possibilities

Westworld had a record-setting debut on HBO, and so far we're loving it. But it wouldn't be a Bad Robot production if it did cause us to ask all sorts of questions, speculate at the possibilities and obsess over the many Westworld theories floating around the internet.

Westworld Theories

And that's part of the fun of it all, right? That's something we lose from the culture of binge-watching. Part of what made Lost great week to week was the watercooler discussion that came from the mysteries and twists, and that was possible because we were all experiencing the story together (even through DVR time-shifting).

What I'm presenting here is a collection of Westworld theories I've compiled from around the internet. These theories will get you to question the reality that we've been presented in the show, and consider the possible mind-blowing twists that await us.

As with most of the Lost theories, I'm willing to bet that a majority of what follows is not in the plans of the showrunners. It is fun to discuss and contemplate this kind of stuff, but there is the chance that one or two of these could end up panning out. So, if speculation of possible spoilers worries you, turn back now. If you want to speculate and swim in the possibilities, continue to read the Westworld theories below.

DELOS in Westworld

Westworld Is Only One of the Worlds in This Theme Park

When Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and the security team go to cold storage on sub level B83, we see an area that looks like it was intended to be a grand lobby, with an escalator, high ceilings and remnants of decorative furniture which doesn't appear to have been used for decades. And we see a sculpture of a planet with the word 'DELOS' emblazoned on it. What was this area originally used for?

In the original Westworld movie, DELOS was a theme park that consisted of three themed "worlds" — West World (the American Old West), Medieval World (medieval Europe), and Roman World (the ancient Roman city of Pompeii). Think of it like Walt Disney's Disneyland park.

But in the show, DELOS is the company that runs Westworld. The website HBO created for Westworld presents Westworld as if it's an actual place you can visit and it lists the park as a "DELOS Destinations compound" which suggests there may be others.

Showrunner Jonathan Nolan was asked if we can assume that there are other worlds in this theme park, like in the original movie, and here was his response: "I would assume nothing. We've got an awful lot of material to cover just with Westworld, but you want to stay tuned."

His answer seems dismissive but never directly debunks the theory. Is it possible that we will later discover the other lands outside of Westworld? If so, will they be part of this series or could they get their own eventual spinoff series? We've already seen HBO struggling to come up with a Game of Thrones spinoff show to continue their mega hit, and we know that Westworld has five or six seasons planned out. Can it be that they have already planned for spinoffs, just in case?

Westworld

Westworld Is Not Set on Earth

What lies beyond the park boundaries? Is it a post-apocalyptic future? Or is it a more futuristic version of our modern society, something like Minority Report? Jonathan Nolan has said that we are entering into this world from the eyes of the hosts, and "they don't understand much; they don't know what that outside world is, they don't know when that outside world is. They're coming to discover that." So what lies outside the gates of Westworld?

Hitfix's Donna Dickens is convinced that Westworld isn't even taking place on Earth. I even wondered in my list of logistical questions, how it would be possible that a corporation would obtain so much land for this western theme park experience. The sprawling map of Westworld includes deserts, grasslands, mountains, and even big patches of water. The Westworld showrunners have said that we will find out that the landscape is just as methodically designed as the hosts, whom we have seen 3D printed and programmed.

During one moment in the pilot, Lee Sizemore (Simon Quarterman) asks Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen) "When do you get to rotate home again?" The showrunners have mentioned that the characters were making a reference to "getting leave," which gives us a sense that the staff is on location "in the park for several weeks at a stretch before they rotate home." This could be because Westworld is located in a remote part of the country, far from the employees' home cities. Or maybe they are much further away from home? What if they are on another planet, like a terraformed Mars?

We know that the show is set during the 21st century, but we don't know how far into the 21st century we are. It is possible that humanity could make a home on another planet in the next 84 years. Certainly that is Elon Musk's plan with Space X.

Anthony Hopkins character Dr. Ford talks about how "evolution forged the entirety of sentient life on this planet using only one tool: mistake" and goes on to explain how humans have "managed to slip evolution's leash now" being able to "cure any disease, keep even the weakest of us alive."

DELOS

But the biggest piece of evidence to support this theory is that sculpture we saw in the sublevels, of a planet with the word 'DELOS' emblazoned on it that. If you look carefully, that world doesn't look like Earth. Dickens points out that "Delos" is a word of Greek origin, an island where Apollo and Artemis were born.

While the island has no capacity to produce food or timber, it was crucial to many cultures for its religious significance. For the purposes of Westworld the interesting piece of Delos' history comes from the the Delphic Oracle who declared no one on the island could give birth or die there in order to preserve its sacred nature.

Fascinating, indeed. As I mentioned previously, the official HBO website for the series presents Westworld as a real destination, and some of the information on the website may give us more clues. In a section about entering the park, it says the following:

Westworld is the only vacation where you don't have to pack a thing. The park is all inclusive, and bespoke clothing awaits you, along with everything you need to enjoy your stay. Free yourself of modern inconveniences that inhibit your ability to sever ties with the outside world. Upon booking your dates, our consultants will work with your local port authority to chart your course to the park. Bring nothing; worry about nothing.

Space travel is expensive, and bringing no baggage might make things a lot more affordable.But it's also possible that DELOS doesn't want guests to bring in their own items which could contaminate the world (like the photo) or real weapons which could pose a safety hazard. Another section on leaving the park says the following:

Even humans need to recalibrate — Westworld is an experience like no other and we have designed the world's finest decompression chamber: the Mesa Gold. At the conclusion of your stay, begin the process of dipping your toe back into the real world: swap adventure stories with other guests, drink award-winning cocktails, experience food prepared by world-renowned chefs, burn off adrenaline at professional-grade athletic complexes. Even here, you can fulfill your every desire.

It's interesting that it calls it a "decompression chamber," a term usually used for deep diving and space travel.

Westworld movie

Westworld Is a Sequel to the Original Westworld Movie

It is mentioned that Westworld hasn't had a critical failure in 30 years. Could it be that the events of the events of the 1973 film are canon and the backstory to this new series? Series creator Jonathan Nolan has written the mention off as "playful but not meant to be literal." He told EW:

We wanted to connect to the ideas in the original film, but also take a look at this place as a cultural institution that is not new – because these ideas aren't new. They stretch back to when Crichton was playing with them. We wanted to consider the park in that capacity, as a cultural institution in the manner of a Disney World. We feel like there's a long story here. Like there's something so pointed and sad for us about the idea that Dolores, this sort of evergreen frontier girl next door. She's been that plucky heroine for 30 years.

Again, Nolan dismisses the suggestion without outright denying it. More on this later.

westworld

Westworld Is a Test For Something Else, But What?

Looking out over the world from some DELOS headquarters patio, quality-assurance manager Theresa (Sidse Babett Knudsen) tells "narrative" writer Lee (Simon Quarterman) that "This place is one thing to the guest, another thing to the shareholders, and something completely different to management." What are those hidden motivations?

Lee would prefer that Ford quit improving the robots because he seems to believe that they don't need to be that lifelike in order to excite the visitors. But someone, either shareholders or the management, is pushing for the AI to evolve. What could be their motivation? Maybe the DELOS corporation is trying to improve AI for military means, which could explain how this theme park was able to get the huge amount of funding needed to operate. Or maybe there is a billionaire behind the whole thing who wants to live forever inside of one of these AI androids, basically fulfilling the singularity.

Westworld Premiere

The Man in Black Was Involved In the “Critical Failure” 30 Years Ago

Bernard tells us that the park hasn't had a "critical failure" in over three decades, and The Man in Black (Ed Harris) says he's been coming to the park for 30 years. Is it possible that the two statements are connected?

But if the Man in Black caused such a disaster, would they continue to allow him to come back into the park for the three decades afterward? I would think, however, that he was there to experience that critical failure and his motivations now have been to either repeat it or discover some secret.

Or what if the Man in Black isn't a human after all? /Film reader J. Smith suggests that Ed Harris' character in Westworld is a sentient robot out to get revenge, that he was "The Original" glitch from 30+ yrs ago that DELOS doesn't know is still on the loose, operating off the grid.

westworld scalp

Westworld Is a Video Game Virtual World

The Man in Black tells the card dealer that "There's a deeper level to this game," before scalping the robot on the edge of a cliff. Inside the robot's head scalp is something that looks like a map or a maze.

Where is this leading him? Is this a game for him to discover? Could this be a virtual simulation, an extremely advanced VR world? That could explain how DELOS can afford all this land and materials, as it would be all digital.

westworld spoiler review

Some of the Human Characters Are Actually Robots

Maybe not all of the human characters are actually human after all. Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen), as Reddit user shelfdog points out, leaves the room in a scene before Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) and Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) examine a malfunctioning robot. Could it be that they made her leave so that the voice commands wouldn't affect her? Bernard Lowe is Ford's right-hand man What if he was a creation of Ford?

Harris' character is apparently based off of Yul Brynner's Gunslinger character from the original Westworld movie. But in that original film, he was an android that started killing people. Is it possible that The Man in Black is secretly an android? Well, we saw that Teddy couldn't kill him which should mean he's a human. But what if he is actually an android, like the original Gunslinger? What if he has not only realized the world he lives in isn't real but has found ways to reprogram himself and the people around him? This would allow him to shoot down Teddy.

The character seems to be experiencing Westworld like a video game, trying to discover the hidden secrets of the world. Harris told us at the TCAs that we will learn about who his character is in "the outside world, his past, why he is here and who exactly he is."

He's been coming here for 30 years. When he first came, he was not the man in black. This is a character he has assumed and developed over the many years he's been coming to this place. I think initially when he first arrived, he was exploring what his place was like. I can do whatever I want. I can kill people if I need to or make love to strange robotic prostitutes. I think something happened to him at some point that this part of him that's very dark, very violent, all of a sudden he recognized this was a real part of him he'd never really lived with in his life outside, obviously repressed in civil society for many years and realized this is a part of myself I should check out and see where this takes me. But there's also a much deeper purpose for him being here at this point. He thinks there's some deeper level to what's happening in this park. I'm not sure what it is or why, perhaps Tony's character is in charge of something that's not really obvious on the surface. I think he thinks the more chaos he causes, the more destruction he can create with the A.I. folks, [the better], but it's not random. There's always some narrative he's following. Someone gets in his way and he has to blow them away.

Harris' comments read much differently if you approach the above paragraph under the theory that the Man in Black is an android who has had a self-realization. Reddit user jz68 suggests that for whatever reason, the Man in Black "became self-aware long ago and had been going around looking for answers."

As for the Man in Black saying 'I didn't pay all this money because I wanted it to be easy,' for some reason, he's been programmed to think he's human and retains that part of his programming.

This might also explain why he's wearing gloves. If he's an early model, conceivably his hands aren't up to the standards of the current models in the park.

However, Westworld co-creator Jonathan Nolan explicitly calls the Man in Black a human in a behind-the-scenes video posted by HBO: "He's a human guest who has taken the fantasy to its utmost extreme. He wants to play the villain; he wants to be the bad guy, omnipotent, manipulative, and evil." Does this debunk this Westworld theory? It's not like directors, screenwriters, and showrunners haven't lied to preserve secrets in the past.

Man in Black rape Westworld

The Man in Black Reprogrammed Dolores

The moment which jumpstarts this entire series is when the Man in Black shows up at the Abernathy homestead. After killing Teddy, he drags Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) away to a barn where it is implied that he rapes her. But what if that wasn't what actually happened? We never actually saw what happened inside the barn. What if the Man in Black reprogrammed Dolores in some way?

When asked about the rape controversy, Wood told The Hollywood Reporter:

It's absolutely very rough, I don't like gratuitous violence against women at all, but I would wait for the context in which it's being used.

And by the end of the first episode, this robot who was programmed not to harm a living thing is now swatting flies off of her. Dolores' father also malfunctioned after the visit from the Man in Black. What if the photograph was only part of the reason this happened?

Jonathan Nolan has said that "How much [the robots] can remember is an important question for the season." At the end of the first episode, it is revealed that Dolores is the oldest "host" at the park. Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) says that  "she's been repaired so many times, she's practically brand new." Is it possible that Dolores will begin to remember what happened 30 years ago, and maybe even events before that?

What do you think? Have a theory we didn't touch on? Comment below!

If you liked our Westworld theories, please check out our other Westworld features:

  • 'Westworld' Cost How Much? It's HBO's Biggest Premiere in Almost Three Years