Spoilers ahead for Westworld!
Westworld has emerged as a breakout hit for HBO this year, thanks in large part to its clever narrative tricks. And it’s developed a rabid fan base, who are happy to spend the time in between episodes theorizing about the series’ more intricate layers. So far, they’ve argued that it’s playing with a non-linear narrative, and that many of the characters we’ve come to love now may end up being villains later on in the story. These theories focus on one character in particular — the Man in Black. The antagonist, played with a menacing glare by veteran actor Ed Harris, has spent most of his time during Westworld‘s first season enlisting the park’s host (and occasionally its creator) to help him find the center of the maze.
We know little about the Man, other than that he seems to think this quest will help him reach the end of the theme park’s “story.” Since we haven’t even been told his name, fans are prone to speculate that he’s actually an older incarnation of another character within the Westworld universe. While this theory may not turn out to be true, there is plenty of evidence that it could be a few different players. Here are four characters that could turn out to be the Man in Black.
He came to Westworld reluctantly with his soon-to-be brother-in-law, but soon found himself bewitched by the primal pull of the theme park. William (Jimmi Simpson) has emerged as one of the most fascinating characters in the series’ first season. He’s not one to shoot and kill, or take advantage of the hosts for fun, but he — almost more than any other guest we’ve encountered — seems uniquely in tune with the way that the park can awaken a person’s true nature.
But could he play more of a role in Westworld‘s larger narrative than we might initially suspect? Many of the series’ most ardent fans have come up with a pretty plausible theory that William’s storyline is actually occurring 30 or more years before the Man in Black’s — and that the once white-hatted, straight-laced park guest will actually evolve into the man that will one day stop at nothing to unravel the park’s biggest mysteries.
There’s plenty of evidence to support this theory: The Man in Black says early in the first episode that he’s been visiting Westworld for 30 years. He displays a recognition and sort-of sinister affection for Dolores, who we know William is drawn to in his initial visit. William has already started to take on some more violent attributes since his time in the park began. Harris and Simpson bear a passable resemblance — especially since they both have strikingly blue eyes. And given William’s growing attachment to the park and its wiles, it’s easy to see how a vacation gone horribly wrong could create a profound change in him. If William is the Man in Black, the question remains though, what exactly is going to be the event that will break him?
Thus far, Logan has been more of a supporting player in the Westworld story. But he’s still performed an essential role, acting as a pitch-perfect example of the hedonistic guests that the park tends to attract. He’s already a seasoned veteran when he introduces William to Westworld in the series’ second episode — he knows the hosts, the storylines, and exactly what to do to get the most out of the experience.
From engaging in group sex to impulsively attacking hosts that annoy him, he’s shown that he has both a dark and a wild side. But he also displayed a deeper desire to explore the park’s less-trodden corners. All of these characteristics match that of the Man in Black — who recently revealed that those very parts of his personality led him to his fascination with the maze. Given this revelation, it’s becoming easier to argue — as some fans do — that it’s Logan, and not William, who will one day become the Man.
3. Arnold [Updated 11/28/16]
Arnold has been one of Westworld‘s most important characters from the get go — and in more ways than we originally realized. Dr. Robert Ford’s former partner and the park’s co-creator was already disillusioned by his vision before he was murdered by Dolores. But his ghost, it seems, haunts the park in many ways — his voice is inside the hosts’ heads, seemingly telling them to break their loops and seek out more information about their true nature. And his dream for the park clearly still weighs on Robert’s mind — after all, he kept many of Arnold’s original creations hidden within the park for years.
Given the Man in Black’s unique fascination with Westworld, and his desire to understand the inner workings of both the hosts and the park itself, the series’ creators could be hinting that he and Arnold are one and the same. Of course, that theory is a little harder to prove — after all, we recently learned that Bernard was actually created in Arnold’s image, and we have to admit that Jeffrey Wright and Ed Harris, while both great actors, probably couldn’t pass for the same character. But given the series’ penchant for throwing us off the scent of its biggest reveals thus far, it still isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility that the Man is in some way connected to Arnold — perhaps another host imbued with his essence, if not his original appearance.
4. A Delos board member
We know that when a guest enters Westworld, their every move is monitored by the park’s staff. So it’s pretty incredible that the Man in Black has been able to scalp a host, kidnap another, and take yet another off his loop, all in the quest to find something that no guest should ever get close to. Fans have wondered why he’s been allowed so much flexibility. The series has even addressed his unique reign in the park, when Stubbs said that the Man “gets whatever he wants.” But it seems unlikely that any regular guest could just wander around the park with abandon — unless he’s especially powerful.
The Man in Black has hinted that he’s extremely successful, but is it possible that he’s actually a part of Westworld’s leadership team? If he is, say, a Delos board member, it seems plausible that he could be given a bit of extra wiggle room. And given the strange goings-on in the park — data extraction and host malfunctioning — he would be uniquely positioned to be the source of the internal mayhem.
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