Warning: Spoilers ahead for “Westworld.”
From what “Westworld” fans have gathered from the series’ first season so far, one of the main stages for each character’s storyline is the mysterious maze.
The Man in Black wants to find it, Dolores is being summoned to it, and the park’s now-dead cofounder Arnold probably built it. We’ve seen the maze design imprinted in numerous unexpected places throughout the show. But what exactly is the maze? Where is it? Who was it created for?
We’re here to unpack everything the show has told us so far about the maze.
The Man in Black and the maze
We first heard about the maze in episode one when the Man in Black tortured a host named Kissy. He believes the maze is the final level of the “game” design in Westworld.
“You know about games, don’t you Kissy?” the Man in Black said. “Well this is a complicated one. There’s a deeper level to this game, and you’re gonna show me how to get there.”
Though we don’t see exactly what happened next, the audience assumes that Kissy told the Man in Black the next clue for finding the maze. We next see the Man in Black with Kissy’s scalp (which has the maze design printed on the inside) while rescuing Lawrence.
The Man in Black gave Lawrence the scalp, saying: “Your pal Kissy sent me your way — sends his regards.”
When Lawrence doesn’t seem to understand what the scalp means, the Man in Black explains.
“You know exactly what it is — it’s the maze. The deepest level of this game, and you’re gonna help me find the entrance.”
But even though the Man in Black views the maze as a game, he seems to believe the maze involves a direct risk to his life and appears intent on seeing it through. In episode two, Lawrence tells the Man in Black to “go home” after he gets what he wants.
“You don’t understand Lawrence,” the Man in Black replied. “This time, I’m never going back.”
Is the maze a suicide mission?
When the Man in Black tells Armistice about his maze mission, this possibility is brought up again.
“You ever heard of a man named Arnold?” The Man in Black asked. “You could say he was the original settler of these parts. He created a world where you could do anything you want, except one thing. You can’t die. Which means no matter how real this world seems, it’s still just a game. But then Arnold went and broke his own rule. He died right here in the park. Except I believe he had one story left to tell. A story with real stakes, real violence. You could say I’m here to honour his legacy, and I think your tattoo is the next piece of the puzzle.”
This brings us to Arnold.
Who created the maze, and why?
So far the information we have indicates that Arnold — Dr. Ford’s former partner — was the creator of the maze. The Man in Black believes this to be true, and we’ve seen Dolores hear a voice that seems to be guiding her towards the maze.
This voice is likely Arnold. His consciousness was preserved in the host’s coding somehow. In episode six, Elsie revealed that Arnold might be contacting the old hosts somehow.
“Theresa was using the old bicameral control system to reprogram the woodcutter, but she’s not the only one,” Elsie told Bernard over the phone. “Someone else has been using the system for weeks to retask hosts. Several of them. It had to have been the older models — the newer ones don’t have receivers.
Elsie specifically says that the changes included shifting narrative loops or breaking them altogether (which is what Dolores has done).
When Bernard asks who was doing this, Elsie said: “I don’t know. Best I could tell … Arnold.”
Bernard pointed out that Arnold is dead.
“Yeah well he’s a pretty f—ing prolific coder for a dead guy,” Elsie said. “Whatever argument he was having with Ford it doesn’t seem like he was done making his point.”
It appears as if Arnold might be leading Dolores to the maze through a coded version of his consciousness, or he might not be dead after all.
The voice Dolores hears has been telling her things like “find me.” It seems to be leading Dolores towards not just the maze, but a person. Is it possible that Arnold is still alive somehow? Or is the use of “find me” just a misdirection?
This possibility was complicated by Teddy’s explanation of the maze to the Man in Black in episode six.
“The maze is an old native myth,” Teddy said. “The maze itself is the sum of a man’s life. The choices he makes, the dreams he hangs onto. And there at the center there’s a legendary man who’d been killed over and over again countless times. He always clawed his way back to life. The man returned for the last time and vanquished all his oppressors in a tireless fury. Built a house, and around that house he built a maze so complicated only he could navigate through it. I reckon he’d seen enough of fighting.”
Teddy’s description of a man killed over and over again sounds similar to the experience of a host — a robot created for the purpose of dying again and again inside Westworld. Maybe there is no person at the center of the maze, but instead hosts can gain true human consciousness by navigating through it.
The maze and “freedom”
This idea of the maze being a mechanism for achieving consciousness comes from the rhetoric used to describe it by both Bernard and the Man in Black.
In episode three, Bernard told Dolores about the maze.
“There’s something I’d like you to try,” he said. “It’s a game, a secret. It’s called the maze. It’s a very special kind of game, Dolores. The goal is to find the center of it. If you can do that, then maybe you can be free.”
How does Bernard know about the maze? Is Bernard tied to Arnold somehow? Does he know more than he’s letting on?
Bernard’s language used to describe the maze is also echoed in episode four when the Man in Black is talking to Lawrence on their way to jail.
“Choices Lawrence. You tell yourself you’ve been at the mercy of mine because it spares you consideration of your own,” the Man in Black said. “Because if you did consider your choices you’d be confronted with a truth you could not comprehend: That no choice you ever made was your own. You have always been a prisoner. What if I told you I’m here to set you free?“
So not only does the maze possibly equal some kind of potential suicide mission for the Man in Black, but he believes that by completing the maze he might help set the hosts free.
“Freedom” to the hosts probably means achieving full consciousness and breaking out of their programming. If the maze is designed to offer freedom to the hosts, this would explain why Lawrence’s robot daughter told the Man in Black that the maze wasn’t for him.
At the end of episode five, the Man in Black and Dr. Ford have a very interesting conversation about the maze. The Man in Black asks Ford how he’s doing, implying that he knows Ford has likely been tracking his movements and setting up the possibility that he’s attempted this maze quest before.
The Man in Black mentions Wyatt — the bad guy host starring in Ford’s new narrative. “Is he just another stooge for the tourists to mount on their wall at home or have you finally made a worthy adversary?” the Man in Black asked Ford. “Someone to stop me from finding the center of the maze?”
The use of “finally” in this remark makes us think that Ford has foiled the Man in Black’s attempts at finding the maze before. This conversation also lets the audience know that Ford is aware of the maze.
The fifth episode was titled “The Adversary,” leading us to believe that Ford has indeed created an agent to try and prevent the Man in Black from achieving his goal. But who is it?
The adversary could be Dolores, since she’s already on the path to finding the maze and is becoming more and more violent as she gets closer. But Dolores seems to be acting on Arnold’s orders — not Ford’s.
Another possibility is Teddy. Though the Man in Black believes Teddy is helping him find the next clue to the maze (through Wyatt), it’s possible that Ford reprogrammed Teddy to mislead the Man in Black. Teddy’s personality has changed ever since Ford met up with him and the Man in Black at the end of episode five, and this shift toward recklessness and violence could mean trouble for the Man in Black.
Mystery after mystery and no answers — yet
Hopefully by the end of season one we’ll have some answers about the maze. So far we don’t even have confirmation that it’s a physical place and not just a metaphor for the complicated path towards consciousness. But that’s a discussion for another time.
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