‘Westworld’: 5 Theories About the “Man in Black”

Westworld - HBO

Westworld | HBO

No matter what you do, you cannot stop fans — specifically those of genre fare involving comic books, science fiction, or fantasy — from developing theories about the mysteries behind their favorite tales. Case in point, there are still those who insist that Stan Lee’s cameo rampage throughout the big-screen Marvel releases are all connected. Of course, fan theories are only an indication of how much passion an audience has for a specific property. When something captures one’s imagination to such a significant degree that it dominates one’s thoughts, it’s only natural for ideas and hopes for what may come next to spring up. Usually though, it takes a bit longer for such fervent passion to develop for a new property. No so with Westworld.

The new HBO series — based on the 1973 film and book, both of which were created by writer, director, and author, Michael Crichton — only recently began its run, and yet, it already seems poised to assume the post of HBO’s flagship series once Game of Thrones ends in a couple years. The show is set in the titular technologically advanced, Western theme park, wherein guests pay to visit a world inhabited by androids known as “hosts,” to whom they may do whatever they choose. This premise allows the show to explore a wide variety of themes involving cloning, human morality, and the dangerous prospects of developing technology.

Though there’s innumerable places the story could go in the future, one mystery that has already fascinated viewers is the truth behind Ed Harris’s mysterious “Man in Black.” The character bears some resemblance to the one played by Yul Brynner in the film version, though it’s clear that the TV Westworld is unafraid to take liberties with the source material to service the story that creators, Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy are trying to tell. Here are some of the most popular theories about what may be going on with the “Man in Black.”

1. He’s a human

Ed Harris in Westworld

Ed Harris in Westworld | HBO

Thus far, it appears that the Man in Black may be human, though Westworld fans are fast realizing that not everything may be as it seems on the series. Specifically, the Man in Black’s mention that he paid money to enter Westworld initially indicates he might be someone who simply got caught up in the game. Since this answer is the least surprising, we’re betting that Nolan and Joy have something else in store for the Man in Black.

2. He’s a secret hero

Ed Harris in Westworld

Ed Harris in Westworld | HBO

Despite his black hat, the Man in Black seems so intent on finding out what’s happening in Westworld that we can’t help but think that he may be a heroic figure in disguise. After all, since he is apparently an expert on the game itself, it’s logical to think that he’d know that the best way to hide his intentions would be to dress the part he’s trying to play. If the Man in Black is on his own crusade, there’s no better way to slip through Westworld with no thought of his own heroic ambition than to don a black hat. Moreover, the twist would subvert the straightforward hero/villain depiction most Westerns are known for.

3. He’s a Gunslinger

Ed Harris in Westworld

Ed Harris in Westworld | HBO

In the film, Yul Brynner played The Gunslinger, a robot who is an attraction at the park that allows guests to simulate the experience of engaging in a quick-draw competition with an opponent. Of course, Brynner’s character was also a rogue host determined to kill all the park’s guests. Harris’s Man in Black appears to be drawing on the template of that earlier character and perhaps he is or once fulfilled, a similar role in the park and simply had enough, gained consciousness, and vowed to discover the truth behind his own existence.

4. He’s a self-aware host

Ed Harris in Westworld

Ed Harris in Westworld | HBO

The Man in Black could easily be a host who has somehow become self-aware. Note that he doesn’t hurt any of the humans in the game in the pilot. It’s very possible that he is among the first hosts to gain consciousness and is on a mission to change the way Westworld operates. This revelation would also ring somewhat true with the film version, but would still give the show leeway to put its own spin on the character.

5. He’s the man with all the answers

Ed Harris in Westworld

Ed Harris in Westworld | HBO

So it’s clear from the Man in Black’s apparent skill in navigating Westworld that he’s either been in this world for a long while as a human or was programmed to fill the role of the mysterious blackhat that terrorizes Westworld. In either case, we’re betting that he knows more about the inner workings of the park than he’s letting on. He could very well hold the key not only to the plot but the true depth of the show’s ambitious themes.

Follow Robert Yaniz Jr. on Twitter @CrookedTable

Check out Entertainment Cheat Sheet on Facebook!

More Articles About: