The Massacre in Sweetwater

The Massacre in Sweetwater and the Town with the White Church/Escalante (30-34 years ago)

“The park hasn’t had a critical failure in over 30 years” (Bernard, episode 1).

In one of Dolores’ flashbacks in episode 8, we see the massacre in the Town with the White Church unfold. If we assume that Ford’s flashback in episode 3, which depicts the same scene when they’re dancing before the massacre begins, is from “the early glorious years” after the hosts passed the Turing test (34-36 years ago), it stands to reason that Dolores’ flashback is from the same time. And since the park hasn’t had a critical failure in over 30 years, according to Theresa, we can surmise that this event took place sometime between 30-34 years ago.

What led to this massacre and how it unfolded is unclear, but we’ve seen the same massacre in Teddy’s flashback from his point-of-view where he shoots people with a rifle along with the mysterious Wyatt. The Union soldiers and Teddy refer to the town as Escalante. In fact, we might’ve even seen Teddy in the background in Dolores’ flashback in episode 8 gunning down people. In the trailer for the show, we actually see Dolores and Teddy standing together after a massacre. It seems that the Wyatt narrative has been uploaded as a reflection of what actually happened during the massacre.

“No. No, I couldn’t have”

“You did. And you will again. This time we’ll be fighting with you. When Wyatt returns, you’ll be by his side in the city swallowed by sand” (Teddy and Angela, episode 9).

The other Dolores flashbacks of the Town with the White Church that we’ve seen don’t seem to give us any more information, but rather appear to be telling a fragmented story of what led up to and/or happened after the massacre.

In episode 2, we also see a Dolores flashback from Sweetwater that appears to depict a similar massacre. Whether these two events are connected is, however, as of yet unclear.

“What was the last thing he (Arnold) said to you?”

“He told me I was going to help him. To destroy this place” (Ford and Dolores, episode 5).

“The man I’d be asking died 35 years ago. Almost took this place with him. Almost, but not quite, thanks to me” (The MiB, episode 5)

Whether the massacre was the event where Arnold ended up dying and almost took Westworld with him remains unclear, but if it was, that means that the event occurred roughly 34 years ago (unless Arnold died before the massacre, but was still the one who instigated it from beyond the grave). It also means that the MiB couldn’t have been in Westworld at the time because he has only been coming to Westworld for 30 years (again, unless Arnold died before the massacre).


Time Period 2: 30 Years Prior to Current Events

Dolores & William (30 years ago)

“I’ve been coming here for 30 years” (The MiB, episode 1).

William and Logan arrive at Westworld where they are greeted by Angela in her new build as “Greeter Host.”

William and Logan arrive in Sweetwater where they spend the night before going on the bounty hunt to find Slim. Just before going on the bounty hunt, William has his first encounter with Dolores who drops the can that William picks up (mirroring both Teddy and the MiB).

While out on the bounty hunt for Slim, Dolores stumbles upon them at night and wakes up in their camp the next morning. Dolores wakes up on a blanket with a gun in her hand with William next to her.

  • The obvious thing to extrapolate from this as a viewer is that this is the same Dolores that we just saw in the current time period who remembered her encounter with the MiB in the barn and her old father (Peter), who killed the outlaw (Rebus) who wanted to rape her, and who escaped from his gang. However, for the two time periods theory to be correct, one of two things has to have happened: 1) We have to have seen current Dolores wake up alone with a gun in her hand on a blanket that she brought and then the scene cut back to 30 years ago with William next to her, or 2) There were similar events that led up to her going off loop 30 years ago and in the current timeline, and we just didn’t see the events 30 years ago.

They decide to bring Dolores with them on their hunt and go to Lawrence’s hometown where they encounter someone who wants to bring Dolores back to Abernathy ranch, but William says she’s with him.

  • Again, we encounter a problem. This scene follows a scene where a female Westworld staffer tells Stubbs in the current time period (she references Ford’s new narrative) that Dolores is off her loop and it’s unclear if she’s with a guest, and Stubbs tells her to flag Dolores with Behavior and send someone to check it out. So it’s obvious to extrapolate that the scene in Lawrence’s hometown where someone comes to get her is a result of that scene. For the two time periods theory to be true, one of two things has to have happened: 1) The guy who grabs Dolores is just a host that randomly tries to bring Dolores back to where she belongs, but stops when she’s with a guest, or 2) Westworld sent someone 30 years ago to check up on Dolores just like they do in the current time period, which could be true because it’s probably normal protocol to check up on hosts that make big deviations (but it’s unclear why they didn’t know that she was with a guest 30 years ago?).

They find and capture Slim who tells them about “El Lazo” Lawrence in Pariah. They go to Pariah where they meet Lawrence, help him out with the nitro, lose Logan, and join Lawrence on the train to the Front.

They travel through Ghost Nation territory, William and Dolores sleep together, and the train is attacked by Confederados whom they escape from.

They arrive at a place that Dolores has drawn from her imagination (where the mountains meet the sea), they part ways with Lawrence, they come across a lake where Dolores feels she’s been before and they meet a young Confederado, and then they arrive in Nowhere Land (the place where the Town with the White Church used to be).

Dolores starts reliving past memories from the massacre, and William tells her that they have to get out of there because this place is not good for her. They run into Logan who had been looking for them and told them they are in trouble.

Dolores and William are taken to a camp of soldiers where Logan is now General. Logan tortures Dolores and wants William to come back to reality and realize it’s just a game.

Dolores manages to escape, and William tells her he’ll catch up. William pretends to make up with Logan, who drinks till he passes out. While Logan is passed out, William kills all the soldiers and finally understands how to play the game. He tells Logan that he’s going to find Dolores and that Logan is going to help him.

“Then, when are we? Is this now? Am I going mad? Are you real? I can’t tell anymore. It’s like I’m trapped in a dream or a memory from a life long ago. One minute, I’m here with you, and the next… This is what Arnold wants. He wants me to remember” (Dolores, episode 8).

There are a couple of things that we have to keep in mind as viewers when watching Dolores’ story with William that seems to have scenes that contradict the two time periods theory.

  • The show’s creators want us to be confused. They want it to be intentionally ambiguous. If the theory is indeed correct, they don’t want you to be sure of it right away, but at the same time, they want you to be able to look back at it and see that they knew what they were doing. This requires some scenes that are vague.
  • We’re watching this from Dolores’ point-of-view. Not only is she discombobulated and doesn’t understand what’s going on, but she’s experiencing several time periods simultaneously (the massacre, the one with William, and the current one). Felix explains to us that the hosts recall memories perfectly and actually relive them (episode 8). This would make anyone’s perspective difficult to understand.

Maeve the Man in Black

Time Period 3: 1 Year Prior to Current Events

Maeve & the Man in Black (1 year ago)

“You’ve only been the madam at the Mariposa for the last year or so” (Felix, episode 6).

“Then, last year, my wife took the wrong pills. Fell asleep in the bath. Tragic accident” (The MiB, episode 8).

Despite believing that she’s been the madam at the Mariposa for the last decade, from a time unknown until roughly a year ago, Maeve was in a role as an ordinary homesteader living with her daughter. From her flashbacks, we see that part of her narrative includes her being attacked by Natives.

A year ago, the MiB’s wife died by drowning in the bathtub, something which he calls an accident, but which his daughter, Emily, calls suicide.

“Then, at the funeral, I tried to console my daughter. She pushed me away, told me that my wife’s death was no accident… that she killed herself because of me. Emily said that every day with me had been sheer terror. At any point, I could blow up or collapse like some dark star. (…) She said if I stacked up all my good deeds, it was just an elegant wall I built to hide what’s inside from everyone, and from myself. I had to prove her wrong, so I came back here” (The Mib, episode 8).

“But that time, I didn’t join one of Ford’s stories, I created my own. A test. A very simple one. I found a woman, an ordinary homesteader and her daughter. I wanted to see if I had it in me to do something truly evil. To see what I was really made of. I killed her and her daughter just to see what I felt. I felt nothing. Then, just when I thought it was done… the woman refused to die. And then something miraculous happened. In all my years coming here, I had never seen anything like it. She was alive, truly alive, if only for a moment. And that was when the maze revealed itself to me. The maze” (The MiB, episode 8).

This is the first time in his 30 years of coming to the park that the Maze has revealed itself to him and that he has experienced a host being truly alive. This was the incident that started his quest in the current time period to find the center of the Maze.

Maeve, meanwhile, is emotionally destroyed by the death of her child and has to be brought into Westworld offices for diagnostics.

Westworld tech: “Sir, she won’t respond to verbal commands. We can’t shut her down”

Bernard: “I don’t understand. She’s not responding to anything. Her cognition’s fragmented”

Ford (plays Reveries song): “There. That’s better. An old trick from an old friend. You need not suffer, Maeve. I’ll take it from you. Give yourself now to a deep, dreamless slumber. Perhaps a fresh start, a new role for you. And tomorrow, this will be simply a distant dream” (episode 8).

When her memory wipe is complete, Maeve takes a knife to her own throat. The next time we meet her, she’s the madam at the Mariposa in the current timeline.

After Maeve has killed herself, Bernard questions Ford about what just happened. He doesn’t understand how she could commit suicide over a memory that was just erased. It causes Bernard to crash.

“But how could she destroy herself over a memory that you just erased from her mind?”

“Creatures often go to extremes to protect themselves from pain”

“Living beings. Not hosts. It would signal a change, a level of empathic response outside what she’s programmed to exhibit. Something like… like…” (Bernard and Ford, episode 9)

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