Warning: There are spoilers ahead for “Westworld,” including speculation of future events.
“Westworld” fan theories are a dime a dozen, but none is more controversial than the idea that we’re watching a two timelines play out onscreen. Some people fervently believe that William and the Man in Black are the same person, and we are seeing Dolores interact with each of them in two timeframes taking place approximately 30 years apart.
Others loathe the idea, and cannot understand why people are so thoroughly convinced.
The fascinating thing about this theory is that each big piece of evidence (which we listed out after episode four aired) can be used as fodder for both believers and non-believers. To explain how this is happening, let’s look at episode five, “Contrapasso.”
William, the Man in Black, and Arnold
In the pilot, the Man in Black says he has been coming to Westworld for 30 years. We also know that Arnold, Dr. Ford’s former partner, killed himself approximately 34 years ago.
In one of the earlier scenes of episode five, Logan tells William about how the park is currently running low on cash and their company wants to buy it out.
“Some of the park feels like it was designed by a committee and market tested, but everything out here is more raw,” Logan told William. But — it doesn’t come cheap. Rumour is they are haemorrhaging cash. We’re considering buying them out.”
Then came the real kicker. Logan tells William about one of the partners committing suicide — but he’s painfully vague about the timing.
“Supposedly this place was all started by a partnership and then right before the park opened, one of the partners killed himself,” Logan said. “Sent the park into a free fall. I mean I don’t know any of the details — I don’t even know his name.”
If you’re a believer in the double timeline theory, you can interpret Logan’s words to mean that the park only opened about three or four years ago. This leaves the Man in Black’s timeframe open to happening in the “present,” a few decades later.
If you don’t buy the theory, Logan’s words could just be referencing Arnold’s death as happening 30+ years ago, and Logan was giving William a brief rundown of Westworld’s tumultuous history. That would mean William and the Man in Black exist in the same timeframe, since they are both aware of Arnold’s death happening over three decades ago.
El Lazo, Lawrence, and Westworld narratives
The real mind-bender of episode five came when the host known as Lawrence — who has been travelling with the Man in Black — was revealed to be El Lazo.
The Man in Black referenced knowing Lawrence for some time in episode two, though the exact details of their prior meeting was vague.
In episode five, the Man in Black kills Lawrence in order to use his blood to revive Teddy. He leaves Lawrence strung up in a tree.
Meanwhile Dolores, William and Logan spend the night in Pariah. They are told they must wait until the morning to meet the mysterious El Lazo. The next day they are introduced to El Lazo, and he’s the exact same host we’ve known as Lawrence — right down to his maroon shirt and brown vest.
Once again, there is an explanation for this series of events depending on which side of the theory you land on.
In the two timeline world, this is proof that William and the Man in Black are the same person, meeting Lawrence at two different times and in two different narratives.
But there are ways to explain the hosts’ appearance. First — the show clearly allowed for an interpretation that says a night passed between the time when the Man in Black killed Lawrence and William met El Lazo.
We have no idea how long it normally takes the Westworld employees to retrieve a host, repair them, and set them back into a loop.
Theoretically, it’s plausible that Lawrence was patched up and sent into Pariah to play El Lazo. We know the headquarters are near Pariah, and we heard technicians talk about speeding up Maeve’s repair in the episode when a bullet was left in her.
Westworld’s staff may have known that El Lazo was needed ASAP in Pariah, and fast-tracked his repair. We also don’t know if there are multiple copies of hosts in the park, which would explain the sudden re-appearance of “Lawrence.”
We do know that El Lazo and Lawrence are the same character — not two different narratives. At the end of episode five, “El Lazo” tells William and Dolores that they can call him Lawrence. And back in episode four, when Lawrence and the Man in Black were arrested, the sheriff calls Lawrence one of the most wanted men around. This matches up with his criminal network run under the name El Lazo.
Dolores’ role in the theory
One thing we can’t explain, however, is how or why Lawrence and William vanished from the final scene with Dolores in the train compartment. They should have still been seated in the background, but Dolores was suddenly shown alone:
Dolores’ warped sense of reality is the reason this theory has taken off so fast. We know that Dolores is one of the main protagonists of the show — the pilot opened and closed with her scenes and many episodes center around her developing sense of consciousness. But as a main character, her “narration” is completely unreliable.
She is a programmed robot who is going through an existential crisis helped along by a voice in her head. And not just a voice — but a voice capable of triggering “memories” or “flashbacks” or totally made up visions that she’s never even physically experienced.
We watched as Ford uploaded the memory of Wyatt into Teddy’s narrative. As far as we know, the host playing Teddy didn’t physically do any of those things, but he’s currently remembering the scenes as if they are real. The same can be said for Dolores’ “visions.”
For all we know, William is a faked narrative planted in her head. Or the scene with her alone in the train compartment is another false memory, a way of helping her find the maze.
We simply do not know (yet) what is happening to Dolores, or why.
And in this realm of not-knowing, people are filling in the blanks with assumptions about William and the characters around her. So far, there is no piece of evidence signalling two timelines that cannot be explained away by other functions in the park.
William could be the Man in Black thirty years ago, or they could both be key players in Dolores’ quest to find the maze. In the meantime, we’re staying tuned for more infuriatingly vague clues.
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