White hat vs. black hat: This choice between being good or evil has been solidified as the basic ethos of HBO’s “Westworld.” While we’ve spent a lot of time working out which way we’d go if we had a chance to visit the park, the concept has also framed how we’ve been viewing some of the show’s main characters.
Previously, we called out Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) as the show’s villain — and our prediction seems to be coming true, so far. But if Ford is the real bad guy of “Westworld,” could this mean we’ve been viewing the Man in Black (Ed Harris) through the wrong lens?
In last Sunday’s (Oct. 23) episode, “Dissonance Theory,” the character is briefly recognized by two fellow guests. It’s a quick moment that gives very little insight into his life outside of the park. But from that exchange, we know the Man in Black owns a foundation of some sort that helped save this other man’s sister. Of course, Ed Harris’ version of Michael Crichton’s gunslinger is quick to threaten the man with violence because… Well, he’s on vacation.
But it’s possible this slight peek into the Man in Black’s real life could inform the bigger picture here entirely. As we see Dr. Ford constructing the maze — against the wishes of Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babbett Knudsen) and the rest of Delos’ board members — one has to wonder what Ford’s real motivations here are.
Subsequently, in the fifth episode of the season, titled “Contrapasso,” we are treated to an unexpected meeting between the two men. And as we quickly saw, not only do Dr. Ford and the Man in Black know each other, their relationship — whatever it may be — is mired in some bad blood. Admitting he was there to play the bad guy role in the game, Ed Harris’ gunslinger admitted to Ford’s face that he was there to destroy the whole thing.
Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) planted the mission to find this elusive maze into Dolores’s (Evan Rachel Wood) head in last week’s episode — which comes with the promise of freedom — and maybe the Man in Black’s hunt for this part of the park comes with a similar payoff.
This is where we put our speculation hats on, because, the next part of this theory involves some imagination.
What if the Man in Black is the owner of some sort of foundation rooted in finding a cure for an array of neurological disorders — or even the very worst kinds of substance addictions — and his hunt for this maze is his attempt at curing the ultimate disease: Westworld itself?
When we look at the image of the maze he is carrying around — imprinted on the inside of a man’s scalp — it’s hard for us not to view it and think of the shape and incongruities of the human brain. Like we said, this may be a bit far-fetched, but it seems that the Man in Black is on a mission to break the system. But, why?
This brings us back around to the color of his hat (and outfit). No one ever said you couldn’t go black hat for good reasons. If Dr. Ford’s intentions are truly evil, and the Man in Black is in on his plan, then maybe all this robot murder is for the greater good. After all, as we saw in their exchange that, for whatever purpose these hosts hold, deep down they are an extension of Dr. Ford himself.
Let’s not forget how the gunslinger knew some intricate details about Dr. Ford’s old partner, Arnold — whose death was referenced by Logan (Ben Barnes) to William (Jimmi Simpson) early on in Episode 5, possibly reinforcing the theory that William is the Man in Black — which already puts him on a completely different level than most of the park’s other guests.
This leads us to some intriguing questions: Could the Man in Black be related to Arnold in some way? Was Dr. Ford the one behind his mysterious death? What’s the ultimate goal of the maze? Was the Man in Black a part of the “critical failure” the park endured 30 years ago ? If so, has he returned to finish the job?
Whatever the case, the mere fact that he has such intricate knowledge got us realizing the Man in Black’s connection to Westworld goes even deeper than we previously thought.
“Westworld” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.