The Church Steeple In 'Westworld': What Does It Mean?

We first saw the church steeple we saw in episode 2 "Chestnut" with Anthony Hopkins' character Doctor Ford leading a boy he met on the outskirts of Westworld to an empty field, where a church steeple stands buried in the sand. We are left wondering what this church steeple represents.

Why was Ford admiring it? How does it fit into his new plans for the park? How does the church fit into Dolores past? Might it involve Arnold and the infamous glitch that happened 30 years ago? Let's explore these questions and more, after the jump.

westworld church

First up, the church as seen in Dolores flashback appears to have the same church steeple as the one that Ford sees in the ground. Showrunner Jonathan Nolan has revealed that the Church steeple is part of "older storylines that Ford has literally paved over, and it's a question how they connect to the new one he's building now."

Was the church burned down and the steeple is now all that remains of this old town, or did Ford bury this entire storyline beneath the earth? Burying old theme park attractions is not unheard of, some of the old rides in Disneyland's Frontierland supposedly still exist in the ground underneath the current property.

For those of you that have been suspicious of the Man in William theory, you may be in for a rude awakening. The theory essentially suggests we are seeing two different time periods and William/Billy is the Man in Black on his first trip to the park intercut with the Man in Black on his latest adventure into the park. And while some of the happenings in the last two episodes may seem to disprove the theory, I am about to prove to you that we will, at the very least, be seeing different timelines in this show. We are definitely seeing events from Evan Rachel Wood's character Dolores' past.

westworld gun

We have been told that Dolores is the oldest host still operating in Westworld, and we assume she was around during the major malfunction that happened thirty years ago. Dolores is experiencing flashbacks which may show us that event. In the second episode, she found a gun that looked pretty old and weathered. You can see an image of it above, from the opening of the third episode.

In a previous Westworld theory breakdown, we wondered the meaning of that episode title, "Chestnut." The most direct interpretation of the title is that a chestnut is an old, hackneyed song or story that gets repeated ad nauseum. But Joanna Robinson, co-host of Decoding Westworld, points out that the title might actually be a reference to the gun.

In the flashback, Dolores seems to have possession of the gun in the church, all new and shiny. Also, when Dolores wakes up next to William at the beginning of the fourth episode, her gun looks in brand new condition. Does this confirm the Man In William theory? Or at the very least, does this confirm we are watching parallel stories in two very different time periods?

We see more imagery of the Church in the flashbacks. Remember, she sees these visions when presented with the maze. Bernard tells her that if she solves the maze she can finally be free. So I would assume that she associates freedom with the events that went down surrounding this church. Again, probably the events that led to the park-wide glitch 30 years ago.

Why else would the entire town be buried?

Something very bad must have happened to retcon this town from Westworld.

delores grave church westworld

The most interesting image by far is the one of Dolores laying in front of a grave outside of the church. If you look carefully, you can see that the name on the tombstone reads "Dolores Abernathy."

A recent image has been uncovered as part of the Westworld ARG showing the protocol for host intake at DELOS, which shows why there might be a grave for Dolores:


But the question becomes: why does Dolores still exist in the park despite most-likely being part of this major glitch 30 years prior? Why wouldn't they throw her in cold storage?

Maybe she has a bigger connection to Arnold. We know that, like Bernard, Arnold has had a tragic past that has resulted in him throwing himself into his work. Is it possible that the design of Dolores is based on Arnold's daughter who tragically died?

And who is that character to the right of her? Is it Teddy? Is it Doctor Ford? Is it William? Could it be Arnold?

westworld arnold

Yargi on Reddit believes the man is Doctor Ford's old partner Arnold.

"The guy we see with Dolores in the graveyard, I think, is Arnold. Just before Dolores killed him with the gun. Being shown her grave might have made her self-aware, develop a consciousness, which was exactly what Arnold was trying to achieve but it led to his death, and Dolores's memory to be wiped."

This would certainly be interesting. From what Ford has told us, Arnold got too close to the hosts and believed them to be real people, which ultimately led to his death within the park. Could it be possible that Arnold gets murdered by Dolores? The theory goes on to suggest that Arnold masqueraded in Westworld as a priest:

We know that he didn't like actual humans and preferred to be in the company of hosts. He was obsessed with their creations to develop consciousness, and tried to apply "Bicameral Mind" theory to achieve this. Either he was trying to help the hosts make sense of the "voices of the gods" they were hearing by being a priest... or maybe he was trying a different approach after "voices" method failed. Instead of "bootstrapping consciousness" he tried to help the hosts fill the top of the pyramid themselves by guiding them, and what better way to guide people back in those days than being a priest.

Remember, we now know of a narrative for Teddy's arch-enemy Wyatt having heard the "voice of god." Maybe Wyatt's reaction to being "awakened" is what leads to the town massacre and ultimately Arnold's death.

I had initially believed Doctor Ford may be planning to bring a new narrative that introduced the idea of a higher power to this world, but maybe that was already attempted? And it seems like the native American hosts have found their own god to worship, in the form of the Westworld staff in hazmat suits.