The Mystery Behind That Westworld Times Square Photo

In the first episode of HBO's Westworld, Louis Herthum's android character Peter Abernathy discovers a mysterious photo in the dirt. The photo, which showed a woman standing in front of Times Square, should have been something that the host was programmed not to see. But instead the photo apparently sparked a critical malfunction. Why this happened, we don't quite know yet (or will we ever know?) but the photo took on a larger meaning later in the season.

You might be surprised to learn that the Times Square photo was actually a stock image licensed by Getty Images and not an image of an actress taken specifically for the series. And this stock photo have led some Westworld fanatics to a new conspiracy theory. Find out more about the Westworld Times Square photo mystery, after the jump.

The fact that this photo is a stock photo rather than a production produced prop is interesting for a variety of reasons. Later in season one of Westworld, it is revealed that the picture is of Juliet, Logan's sister who William is to marry after returning from Westworld. You might think that the showrunners might be planning to introduce Juliet into the series at some point — it is mentioned that she has visited the park at some time before Logan and William's visit. We know from the Man in Black's story that his daughter has blamed him fro the death of his wife, presumably Juliet, who she believes committed suicide. So it's unlikely that we would see Juliet in the modern timeline, but it is possible we could meet her daughter.

Twitter user Anna Hulkower noticed that the woman in the photo is actually a model named Claire Unabia from Cycle 10 of "America's Next Top Model." Unabia later confirmed her identity to The Huffington Post that it was "so cool to find that I am a character on 'Westworld' unbeknownst to me!" That's right, the woman in the photo didn't even know she would become a character on the series. Unabia, who had yet to watch the HBO series, told the news site that "Hopefully I can come back to life on the show as a host."

In any case, it seems extremely odd that the showrunners would use some random stock photo over creating their own prop via an actress standing in front of a green screen. Many fans who have learned of this have just written it off as an error. Maybe the showrunners put the photo in the series as a placeholder, and they planned to replace it at some time. The weird thing is they already did that.


At one point in the pilot you can see Peter Abernathy pick up the photo from the dirt, and in this quick shot, we see that it is not the same photo. It is a picture of the Golden Gate Bridge. Sometime after shooting the pilot the Showrunners went back and reshot the close-ups of the photo revealing the woman in Times Square. I assume that when they originally planned the photo malfunction, they didn't plan to tie it into the William storyline. And later when they decided it could connect, they went back and reshot the close-ups with the new photo. So why then use a stock photo?

Stock photos have even played a part on screen in the Westworld story. In episode 7, Bernard puts a host named Hector through a Self-Awareness Protocol test, "just to put his mind at ease." The test involved showing the host a series of stock photo images.

Some Westworld fanatics have noticed that the photographer credited by Getty Images for the picture is a man named Erik Von Weber, and believe this might be intentional. Late into the season, it was revealed that Arnold's last name was also "Weber." The Westworld showrunners have admitted that they have planted many clues throughout the first season, and wanted some fans to pick up on them. Nolan has talked about this a bit in interviews, like this clip from TVLine:

It was definitely a give and take in the edit suite in terms of, "OK, how far do we go here?" and knowing that you're creating a show for a larger audience that maybe isn't going online and digging around and doing the math on it and just wants to watch the show and let it roll over them a little bit. You're layering things in for that audience and for the folks who are doing the deep math on it. We balanced it a little bit.

These Westworld conspiracy theorists believe that the photo might be one of those clues for those fanatics doing the deep dive.

They suggest that The Man in Black is not actually a human but a host. This has been a theory of many people from the start of the series as the original Man in Black in the Westworld movie was a host. And add onto that Ford's mention of the early hosts had giveaways in their hands combined with the fact that the Man in Black wears black gloves and many fans were pushing this theory for some time. But when William was revealed to be the Man in Black, most fans dropped the argument altogether. Also, a park guest recognized the Man in Black from his charitable work in the outside world.

But what if it is possible that the Man in Black is a host? That his memories of his visit to Westworld from three decades earlier were actually just cornerstone memories.

Westworld Season Finale Spoiler Review

I have seen some criticism of the season one finale that Ford's assumptions of the Man in Black's actions. That William would have had to do an exact series of things that Ford couldn't have anticipated to climax with the death scene on the beach in front of the DELOS board. Perhaps he wasn't assuming, but instead was a master puppeteer of the situation with the Man in Black being a host on his own set narrative.

I'm not buying this theory as there is just too much evidence against it and very little circumstantial evidence to support it. But who knows, perhaps there is something here? At the end of Westworld season one, we see the DELOS board surrounded by hosts with real weapons. One fires at the Man in Black, who is enthusiastic about the new prospect of hosts who can fight back. Many viewers assumed that all of the DELOS board members were to be killed in what follows, but Ed Harris has insisted he will return for season two of the series.