It turned out to be a lot more work than I expected, but I managed to take and write up notes for all ten episodes of Westworld, season one. And I’m really glad I did. Paying that much attention really cleared things up for me; I actually think I understand most of what happened. (Or, at least, I have an understanding! Might not actually jibe with Nolan & Joy.)
And these notes make a nice reference that I may tweak if I find errors or vagueness. Bonus, the notes generated a look into the script Dolores follows and also let me write the Westworld chronological timeline, so I don’t begrudge the work at all.
But now I have questions. As always: Serious Series Spoilers! You’ve been warned! (Repeatedly.)
I have big general questions, like how do the host minds work, but I also have smaller questions, like who is Dolores’ mom, and many questions in between. One hard part is figuring out how to categorize or list them. This could get messy…
[June 26: Updating with answers obtained in season two!]
As of season two, we know Westworld is on an island off the coast of China. It’s not in a dome (under the sea, on the moon, whatever), so does it have weather control? Yes! It seems impossible they’d have day/night control with an outside park, but I’ve always thought the day/night cycle seemed weirdly abrupt at times (apparently not a thing).
As of season two, we know there are (at least) six parks on the island. The Delos Destinations website only lists six (four of which are unknown). It appears Shōgunworld is Park 2 (and Westworld is Park 1), so the Park 6 the tiger came from is something to do with India or Nepal (The Raj!).
Why are the old labs 80 floors down in the Mesa? Were they originally at ground level and the Mesa was built up around them? (By the way, we know where the Mesa is: on the east edge of the park, about 4:00 on the circle map.)
Does the Mesa serve multiple parks? Based on its position on the edge of Westworld, it could serve (as we’ve seen) Shōgunworld as well. It might even serve three, but seems unlikely to be convenient for more. Based on how Maeve and company escape, I’d be willing to bet the Mesa serves only Park 1 and Park 2.
Was it always on that island, or did it get moved at some point? Were Robert and Arnold and their business partners able to score an island 35 years ago? Seems more reasonable to believe it was moved at some point. (But were the old labs moved complete with all those hosts laying about?)
What is the lower infrastructure like? Horizontal transportation to move around under the park and elevators to get to the surface? We’ve seen a number of the elevators, and they always move vertically, yet let people out at widely different places in the park. So it’s like Disneyland. A whole thing beneath the thing.
None of the questions in the four paragraphs above have any resolution.
How do their minds work? I want details. Serious details.
[See: How Host Brains Work for my own guesses based on what we’ve seen.]
Who is a host? The Workers? The Techs? Security? The greeters (like Angela) are, so why wouldn’t they use hosts all over the place? Better security, better economics, no need for food or sleep.
Specifically: Was Theresa a host? Apparently not. Is Charlotte a host? She wasn’t; now she is! How about Stubbs? Yep! Elsie seems human (because she took a piss) (yep, and now she’s dead).
What host was Ford making in his secret lab? Unknown. Some think it was a modern version of mini-Ford (apparently not; when the MiB shot mini-Ford, it was clearly the old-style host; maybe it was an Emily host!).
What is host “breaching” understood to be by Ford and others? Never mentioned in season two. Apparently most hosts who breach go insane, usually instantly. Apparently only a small number breach.
What does decommissioning do? It’s compared to a lobotomy, and it looks physically extreme with that spinning thing. Yet Clementine, and the army of hosts, seem to be functioning, so what’s the deal? No information on that, either. Bernard was able to make Clementine function to hold a gun on Ford.
What’s the deal with that Wolf? It has to be a host (because only the flies are real). Why do we only see it at massacres? Is it Arnold?
That damn wolf is still a mystery, and now the MiB has seen it, too.
Is there a story about Bernard and Maeve? It’s hard to tell from their dialog, but it’s possible (nothing emerged).
How do the guns work? They can do major damage to physical objects as well as hosts. We’ve seen them knock down and bruise William, but we’ve also seen the MiB ignore being hit. Yet multiple rounds from Teddy seemed to knock him down and briefly out.
[See: How the Guns Work for my own guesses.]
For that matter, what’s the deal with “pyrotechnics” in the park? We see the Mesa Control Room approve the MiB’s use of two small charges, so it appears explosions are allowed, but tightly controlled, in the park (Ford must have enabled all known explosives, including the nitro, but we’re never told explicitly).
What about knives? We’ve seen Teddy protect Ford from a perceived knife threat (from the MiB), and this seems to be a Samaritan reflex programmed into the hosts to protect guests from other guests. (Which is probably especially intense when it comes to Ford.) On the other hand, the MiB threatens to slit a guest’s throat at one point. Idle threat?
(Covered in How the Guns Work, but the answer to that last question is “almost certainly” so long as any hosts were around.)
Why do we never see Dolores’ mom? She does exist, because we’ve seen her dead, face-down, body (no clue).
What exactly was the maze game Arnold created for Dolores? It appears to be a series of clues that lead her to the church in Escalante and the grave marked with her name.
[See: The Maze for more rumination about this.]
What’s the deal with the maze appearing at the death of Maeve and her daughter? Surely it’s entirely symbolic? Nope! Akecheta made it; it was real! Maeve has no knowledge of the maze (as far as we know; Dolores did from Arnold). And that big maze pattern can’t have just appeared in the dirt. Does the MiB know about the maze at this point? Clearly. It’s not clear why the MiB would have a vision of the maze in the dirt, though.
What’s with the actual physical maze clues? Are they Arnold’s?
- It’s on Kissy’s scalp! Due to Akecheta!
- On back of Tarot cards in Pariah.
- On the coffin(s) on the train.
- Ford sees one on a Las Mudas table top.
- Soldiers try to brand Teddy with one.
Theory: Arnold’s clues. Soldiers mark their coffins with the brand. The table top in Las Mudas is a recycled coffin lid. (Or someone used the brand.) The little girl might draw the maze because she saw it on the table top (these seem possible; no info from season two, though).
It seems unlikely they are Ford’s clues for the MiB as a distraction. They definitely were not! When Ford sees the maze in Las Mudas, he seems not to recognize it, certainly not as his own work.
But what’s the deal with the maze on the scalp? We see it again on a Ghost Nation host’s scalp, so either it’s on all scalps, or it’s on Native host scalps. Apparently on Ghost Nation skulls due to Akecheta. Teddy reports it as a legend, so maybe it’s a native thing? Or maybe it’s on everyone, but the Ghost Nation hosts know about it because they scalp.
Presumably it was all intended to lead Dolores to the church. But what was Dolores supposed to do upon finding the buried maze? What did Arnold expect? Apparently she was following a voice that usually was Arnold’s (per the bicameral theory, the voice of her god).
Does Dolores ever really succeed until the very end?
How many times did Dolores try to follow the maze? Has she been doing it for over 33 years?
Does Ford bury Escalante (and the church) to prevent Dolores finding it? It does seem to upset her when she finds only sand (and a steeple) when she’s with William.
None of this is answered in season two, and it appears most of this is now just dropped as we move on to new things.
Did the photo really survive outside for 30 years? That seems absurd, so who found it, and why did they keep it?
Does Juliet figure into what’s to come? Not in any significant way. Did Peter Abernathy know her? No clue. Is that part of his problem? He recognizes the person but not the context?
Who planted the photo for Peter to find (there’s no way it just happened)?
Is the photo used as the trigger to make things look like an accident? To disguise Ford’s plan?
Interesting plan: A mysterious photo infects Peter Abernathy, who uses a magical Shakespearean code phrase to infect his daughter, Dolores. And she goes on to use the same phrase to infect Maeve. Thus two key players begin a new script. What role does Peter have?
Likewise, none of this is answered in season two. We have no idea.
How did William and Logan get on the train? There was definitely something weird about that (it just works that way apparently; works in reverse when Bernard and Elsie return to the Mesa via the train tunnel).
Was Dolores, as Logan suggests, deliberately sent out to William’s campsite?
Why did Dolores see herself face-down dead in the water? Is it meant to connect with season two and all the drowned hosts?
How did the gun get into Dolores’ hand when she killed Rebus? Did she move it from her drawer to the barn and hide it in the hay?
What’s the deal with the thread (or whatever) Dolores pulls from her arm during her vision in Pariah? Just symbolize that she’s unraveling (as her vision says)?
Also, what’s the deal with the parade? Is that part of the maze? Why does it look like Dolores 1 is the one who passes out in the parade?
How much do the guests know about the park? The two women on the train seemed to know about Teddy, but William and Logan don’t appear able to tell guests from hosts. So there’s no obvious way, is the point.
Yet Logan recognized the El Lazo storyline, and we’ve seen Westworld scenes on the display in Guest Arrivals. Can we assume the Delos Destinations website does tell the guests about the park? It might even have FAQs and tutorials.
No answers to any of this in season two.
Is there any visual style difference between scenes with William on his own versus when he’s with Dolores (and we might be seeing through her memories)?
Are there visual style differences between the timelines?
What should we look for in Evan Rachel Wood’s performance to help see the different timelines and personalities?
What should we look for in Jeffrey Wright’s performance to help see when he’s Arnold versus Bernard?
There are indications there are things to spot, and some of it comes out in interviews, but I don’t have much info that answers the above particularly well. One can apparently spot differences in Charlotte Hale once she’s actually Dolores.
Charlotte Hale: Is she Arnold’s daughter? No! Is she a host? Was human; now she’s not.
Bernard: Does Charlotte know he’s a host? No. Does Delos? No. Is the two-week-later Bernard the same host as the one right after the gala? Yes.
Stubbs: Where did he come from? Ghost Nation had him and released him.
Elsie: Where is she? In a cave. Found by Bernard.
Peter Abernathy: Did Delos end up receiving their package? Nope! Given how the whole thing started with him and the picture, how important is he? Very. He had the key that allowed access to the Forge.
Maeve, Hector, Lee: How does Maeve end up in Shōgunworld? Captured by Musashi. What happened to Armistice? She escaped and fixed her arm; we don’t know how.
Dolores, Teddy, Angela: What did Angela find? (An entrance to the facilities or a lab, one guesses. Yep.) What does Dolores mean about seeing the future? Not clear. What does she remember from the past? Everything! What’s that thing on Angela’s head? A crown of finger bones of her victims.
What’s the deal with those modern city scenes? They seem connected with William and Logan. And Logan’s dad, Mr. Delos. Yep. The real world ~35 years ago.
What happened in the two weeks? (Dumb question, since the answer might well be: Season Two. Indeed it was!)