Warning: There are spoilers ahead for “Westworld.”
The premiere of HBO’s new series “Westworld” began with a clever twist. The audience was led to believe James Marsden’s character Teddy Flood was a human up against an evil robot gunslinger dressed in all black (Ed Harris). But lo and behold, it turns out Teddy was a robot “host” all along, and the Man in Black was actually the human guest.
At least, that’s what the show was trying to tell viewers at home. In the few days since the show’s October 2 premiere, fan theories about “Westworld” are already cropping up. A common theory (or straight-up assumption), is that the Man in Black is simply another host.
@MattQuicks I think the twist might be that real life Ed Harris is an actual robot though
That little shootout scene was the best part
— Matt Miller (@Millllllllller) October 4, 2016
The “Westworld” subreddit was also immediately bogged with discussions about which characters may or may not be robots, and Ed Harris’ Man in Black was a popular guess for “definitely android.”
But co-creator Jonathan Nolan explicitly calls the Man in Black a human in a behind-the-scenes video.
“He’s a human guest who has taken the fantasy to its utmost extreme,” Nolan says. “He wants to play the villain, he wants to be the bad guy, omnipotent, manipulative, and evil.”
Nolan also explains why the set up of Teddy versus the Man in Black was so important for the premiere.
“That first confrontation between Teddy and the Man in Black suggests the difference between the virtuous, noble, handsome, courageous robot, and that’s contrasted with Ed Harris’ character, the Man in Black, who represents everything human in the park,” he said.
Though Nolan theoretically could be lying in an attempt to misdirect the viewers (as one Redditor pointed out), we doubt this is the case. The Man in Black being human, while Teddy and the other host “victims” are machines, is one of the central ideas Nolan and his co-creator Lisa Joy are trying to explore.
Before the premiere aired, Nolan spoke with Entertainment Weekly about their chosen starting point for the series:
When it comes to the question of consciousness, we always start with ourselves as the answer. As the be-all-end-all. It’s understandable — we’re the only consciousness we’re familiar with. But we wanted to challenge that assumption. The ‘hosts’ are discovering that they have been created in our image, but beginning to question if ‘humanness’ is really what they want to aspire to.
The Man in Black is a frighteningly cold-hearted human for a reason — the audience is meant to question whether or not humans have reached a level of moral consciousness worth replicating. We are meant to empathise instead with the hosts the Man in Black is terrorizing. This line of thinking would go out the window if he is revealed to be a bot after all, which is why we believe Nolan.
There is still the possibility of other characters in the show being androids when we’ve been led to believe otherwise, but we’ll leave that theorizing for another day.
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