westworld maze

Who Knows What About the Maze?

The maze remains Westworld‘s central mystery and the driving motivation for a few key characters. It is also impossible to talk about because we know almost nothing about it. We can only address what the Man in Black has said about it and what we’ve seen in his hunt for it:

The maze is the deepest level of Westworld (a secret quest, so to speak), and it can only be reached by following a very specific scavenger hunt (which seemingly involves “breaking” the game by following a particular pattern that causes hosts to act out of character). The Man in Black, who has otherwise exhausted the park in his thirty years of visiting it, expects it to be a real game changer.

And in one telling line of dialogue, the Man in Black also mentions Arnold, which seemingly implies that he’s the one who built this secret level. Considering what we know about Arnold, this casts an interesting light on what the maze could be. What’s especially interesting is that Bernard Lowe tells Dolores to seek out the maze for herself, which means that Bernard knows about the maze which means that he may know more about Arnold and the park’s history than he initially suggested. And since Bernard has been secretly meeting with Dolores and gently nudging her off her loop and toward consciousness, he may very well share Arnold’s sympathies for the hosts.

Does this mean that the maze will “solve” Westworld by granting the hosts the self-awareness denied to them by Ford? Is the maze Arnold’s legacy, his final gift to the world he built that will be issued to the hosts long after his death? If Arnold is our Christ figure, are Bernard and the Man in Black his prophets, spreading the Good News (through indeed unconventional means) and pushing all of creation toward salvation?

westworld dissonance theory ed harris

What If the Man in Black is the Real Hero of This Story?

The Man in Black remains shrouded in mystery. As a figure in Westworld, he’s the mysterious and brutal outlaw cutting a violent swath through the landscape. To the men and women in park ops, he’s the kind of guest who has been visiting so often (and probably spends so much money at the park) that he can bend the rules and get away with things other guests could not. But who is he in the real world? Our first clue comes in “Dissonance Theory,” when another park guest “breaks character” and approaches him to thank him. It seems that his work in the real world saved the life of this man’s sister and he’s grateful.

The Man in Black snaps at the man for intruding on his vacation.

Although we don’t know exactly what the Man in Black does outside of Westworld, this is a telling revelation. Whatever he does helps people and it helps them in such a way that he has genuine admirers who feel compelled to approach him to thank him for his work. He’s literally saving lives. The real man looks like he could the literal opposite of the cruel and merciless character he plays when he’s on vacation.

So let’s consider this. If the Man in Black works to save lives in the real world and if he’s attempting to solve the maze and if the maze is part of a secret Arnold-designed level that will grant free will to the hosts of Westworld, does that mean this vicious and seemingly evil guy is the real hero of the show? Some viewers have even suggested that he did not assault Dolores in the barn in the first episode, but reprogramed her and sent her on the path toward self-awareness (which could also be considered a form of assault, but we’ll tackle that if and when we know more).

As he tells one host in “Dissonance Theory,” he wants to set him free, which offers more evidence toward the purpose of the maze and toward the Man in Black’s real motivations. If he’s some kind of humanitarian back in the real world, then maybe he’s trying to do similar work in Westworld. Maybe he wants to save the hosts by giving them the life Dr. Ford has denied them for decades.

Of course, this would be the first humanitarian mission also to involve mass murder and sexual assault, but hey, that’s Westworld, I suppose.

westworld dissonance theory jimmi simpson evan rachel wood

Was that William/Man in Black Theory Strengthened or Totally Debunked?

I don’t want to dwell too much on the “William is the Man in Black thirty years earlier, and the show exists on two separate timelines” theory because I already wrote about it over here and “Dissonance Theory” doesn’t move the needle too much in either direction. Like last week’s episode, this hour manages to either strengthen the theory or totally debunk it, and it depends entirely on whether or not showrunners Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan are telling a straightforward story or actively tricking the audience.

If they’re actively fooling us and we are floating between two timelines, they really threw some misdirection our way this episode. After all, William is hanging out with Dolores, who has strayed from her loop, at the same time that Ashley Stubbs, the head of park security, finds himself addressing Dolores straying from her loop. That means one of two things:

  1. All of these events are happening at the same time, and Stubbs is simply reacting to Dolores breaking free from her programming and things are exactly as they appear.
  2. The scenes with William and Dolores are taking place in the past, and the scene with Stubbs is occurring in the future, as he reacts to another instance of Dolores breaking out of her loop (perhaps at the insistence of Bernard). The implication here is that Dolores initially broke out of her loop years thirty years ago and that she is doing it again with some outside assistance.

So there you go. “Dissonance Theory” either proves that William is definitely the Man in Black or it proves that he definitely is not the Man in Black.

Continue Reading Westworld Episode 4 Spoiler Review >>

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