Warning: There are spoilers ahead for “Westworld” season one, episode eight.
The Man in Black is one of the most mysterious characters on HBO’s “Westworld.” How did he find out about the maze? Why does he know about Arnold? And who actually is this guy outside of the park?
So fans were delighted when parts of his backstory were finally revealed to Teddy in an epic monologue to end episode eight of the first season, “Trace Decay.” The monologue also really leaned into a divisive multiple timeline theory that suggests William is a younger Man in Black in a different era.
It all started around the campfire where Teddy is punishing the Man in Black for what he did to Dolores in the first episode. The Man in Black seems surprised that Teddy is remembering things, but tells him he’s not concerned that Teddy will hurt him.
“You speak like you own this world,” Teddy tells him. “Not just this one,” the Man in Black responds. And then he gets to the good stuff:
MAN IN BLACK (MIB): You want to know who I am? Who I really am? I’m a god. Titan of industry. Philanthropist. Family man. Married to a beautiful woman. Father to a beautiful daughter. I’m the good guy, Teddy. Then, last year my wife took the wrong pills, fell asleep in the bath. Tragic accident. 30 years of marriage, vanished. How do you say it, like a deep and distant dream. Then at the funeral, I tried to console my daughter. She pushed me away. Told me that my wife’s death was no accident, that she killed herself because of me. And she said that every day with me had been sheer terror. Any point I could blow up or collapse, like some dark star.
TEDDY: Did you hurt them, too?
MIB: Never. They never saw anything like the man I am in here. But she knew anyway. She said if I stacked up all my good deeds it was just an elegant wall I built to hide what was inside from everyone. And from myself. I had to prove her wrong, so I came back here, because that’s what this place does, right? It reveals your true self. At that time, I didn’t join one of Ford’s stories, I created my own, a test. A very simple one: I found a woman, an ordinary homesteader and her daughter. I wanted to see if I had it in me to do something truly evil. To see what I was truly made of. I killed her and her daughter, just to see what I felt. Then, just when I thought it was done, the woman refused to die.
TEDDY: You’re a f—ing animal.
MIB: Well, an animal would have felt something. I felt nothing. And then something miraculous happened. In all my years coming here, I’d never seen anything like it. She was alive, truly alive, if only for a moment. And that was when the maze revealed itself to me.
TEDDY: The maze. What’s that damn pattern have to do with this?
MIB: Everything. In Ford’s game, even if I go to the outer edges you can’t kill me. You can’t even leave a lasting mark. But there’s a deeper game here, Teddy: Arnold’s game, and that game cuts deep.
Now let’s break down why all this matters to the two timeline theory.
The Man in Black’s storyline and William’s storyline seem to match up: Both men went to the park for the first time around the same time as when they got married. We know that William is currently engaged to Logan’s sister and he told Dolores he’s marrying her when he returns from the park. And since the Man in Black has said that he’s been “coming here for 30 years” and was married for 30 years before his wife killed herself, we can assume he also got married around the same time as when he first started coming to the the park.
We also now know that the Man in Black is the reason Maeve was moved from being a “homesteader” to becoming the madame of the Mariposa about a year ago.
When William first arrives at the park, he doesn’t see Maeve at the Mariposa — he sees a different madame. Perhaps Maeve was at headquarters being fixed, or perhaps he’s in the past and she hasn’t changed her narrative yet because the Man in Black (aka William himself!) hasn’t tried to kill her and her daughter yet.
Yeah, my brain hurts, too.
Even more convincingly, the Man in Black also says a line that we’ve heard William use before: “It reveals your true self.” He means the park and its narratives bring out who you truly are on the inside since it allows you to be free of the consequences and laws of the real world.
William says the same thing to Dolores after the two have sex for the first time in episode seven, “Tromp L’Oeil.”
“Now I understand: it doesn’t cater to your lowest self, it reveals your deepest self,” William says about Westworld.
Though this is still not a slam-dunk confirmation that the Man in Black is William, we’re sure fans will be delving deep into this backstory as we move forward to finish off the season. Hold on tight — judging from the trailer for the next episode, it’s going to get even crazier.
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