In its first season, Westworld seemed like a standard story about the moral pitfalls of creating and using an artificial consciousness for human pleasure, but around the ending, a few hitherto unobserved details began to emerge. First, audiences learned that The Man in Black and William were the same person, except separated by thirty years in real-time.
After this point, the timelines start blending into each other, especially considering that Host memories are broken across several temporal dimensions, ranging a span of several decades. Hence, the narrative of Westworld is not really simple to follow, even for the most absorbed viewers.
Updated July 20th, 2022 by George Chrysostomou: Westworld is back for its fourth season and the timeline might just become a little more confusing. There are a number of areas where more clarification could be useful for viewers, and perhaps this latest outing to the robotic park can provide some.
The State Of The Parks And Their Closure
The history of the parks is definitely a confusing one. Viewers have been shown Westworld, Shogunworld, and even a Nazi, World War II iteration of the park. There are plenty of other themed lands out there, but when were they all created, and are they even open in the modern age?
The incident in Westworld should have surely put the other areas on high alert, but there does appear to be a continuation of operation, at least for the time being. Westworld itself surely closes down eventually, but when does that happen and what does it take to cause its closure forever?
Maeve And Her Daughter
Maeve has been searching for her daughter seemingly for decades. There was once a time when she was actually united with the young girl, but where in the timeline were the duo paired together in their stories, to begin with, and when were they reunited?
Maeve’s timeline is even more confused than most and it’s plausible that the character has actually served in more parks than just Westworld. It’s still one of Maeve’s main goals to reunite with her daughter and make the world a better place. But has that actually happened already by the furthest point in the future?
Maeve’s Trapped Consciousness
Maeve is one of the strongest hosts on the show and her mental capabilities demonstrate that. She’s committed to her mission and cannot be swayed by any situation, even when being blackmailed and manipulated. Her time spent in a comatose-like state is an example of that.
It’s unclear how long Maeve was placed in this virtual world, where she had to try and survive and escape. It could have been decades and Maeve clearly exits that state completely changed. Was this period of time far longer than fans realize, and has this actually happened already? How much of Maeve’s life is actually in her head?
The Five Pearls Of Dolores
Dolores leaves the park in a Charlotte Hale body, taking with her five pearls that most fans assumed were other Hosts (Ford, Maeve, and so on). It turns out that she has basically replicated her consciousness because she is loyal to nobody but herself, which in the end makes complete sense given her experience of Westworld.
However, it isn’t stated when she creates the bodies for them — Musashi, Martin Connells, Bernard, and herself — because they are introduced randomly to provide a shock effect. Unfortunately, it’s more perplexing than surprising.
Solomon & Rehoboam
Engerrand Serac and his brother build the super-quantum mega-computer known as Solomon, which is claimed to have been based on Jean Mi. The AI is rejected for being “too unpredictable”, and work on its successor, Rehoboam, commences shortly after.
When is shortly after, though? How long did they experiment with/on Solomon? The man who finances the project, Liam Dempsey, Sr., is young-ish when this occurs, so was it before, after, or during the formation of Westworld itself?
Whenever Akecheta Is From
Arguably the most important host is Akecheta, since he’s the first one to realize the false nature of his reality, putting in efforts to spread this knowledge to the rest of the park by means of maze symbols.
This act was performed in order to introduce the “unconscious” Hosts to the same epiphany that he had had all those years ago, which was when, exactly? Ford meets Akecheta and gently informs him about the coming of their savior (Dolores as Wyatt), and he looks as old as he does when he is killed. Does this mean that all of this took place recently?
The Building Of The Forge
William, after inheriting Delos, Inc., orders the construction of the massive server farm known as the Forge, which is intended to store, analyze and duplicate the neural data obtained from all the Guests passing through Westworld. However, the exact time of this venture is left hanging.
Does it materialize after the physical death of James Delos, or was the old man involved in the planning process? When is it actually completed and brought to its peak working efficiency? How many personalities are preserved in the Forge’s hard drives?
William’s Research On His “Father-In-Law”
James Delos, like many people who are rich enough to believe that they deserve the gift of immortality, is resurrected as a Host by his son-in-law. This certainly happens around the time of his death; but because over eighteen million variants of him were produced, and because William grows older and wrinklier with each visit, it looks like the process continues for a few decades.
So a creepy, extremely unethical experiment has been going on directly under the noses of Robert Ford? When precisely does William decide to abandon the task?
Ford’s Child Version
Robert Ford is probably one of the most annoying characters in Westworld: he brings many extra layers of intricacy to the already convoluted plot. For instance, he programs his memories into a number of servers, even placing himself in the body of his ten-year-old self.
However, and here is where it gets weird, the so-called “Little Boy” had already been manufactured by Arnold Weber, a Host that only possessed memories of Ford’s childhood. It is said that he’s an early example of the Westworld concept, and yet, there is nearly nothing known about his origins, activities, or intentions.
All Of Bernard’s Splintered Memories
Most of the episodes in Season 2 are expressed from Bernard’s perspective and happen in a strangely non-linear flow that leaves him more confused than anyone else. Later, it is revealed that he intentionally “scrambles” his thoughts in order to protect certain sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands, whether it’s Delos or Incite.
That’s all well and good, but the procedure of unpacking his memories is just as incomprehensible — perhaps as a reference to Memento (2000), also written by Jonathan Nolan? Anyway, it takes more time to figure the narrative out than it takes to watch the entire season.
When The Man In Black Wakes Up In The Future (?)
In the post-credits of “The Passenger”, the Man in Black is shown to have survived his tryst with Dolores, and he lumbers into the Forge to finish her off. To his utter astonishment, he discovers that the world now resembles a post-apocalyptic scenario, with the building waterlogged after suffering apparent centuries of disrepair.
Here, he finds his “daughter”, Emily: she tells him that “this isn’t a simulation,” while simultaneously taking him to a glass room identical to the one in which he had once played with the James Delos Host. What on earth is going on?!
Caleb And Dolores’ Original Meeting
In a flashback sequence, Dolores explains that they had first met when he was training as a soldier, during a mission involving protecting hostages and killing enemy combatants.
Caleb is stunned to learn that she had been among the group of Hosts that his squad members considered raping and that she still remembers his kindness when he prevents them from doing so. Of course, there is no clue as to what time period this could have occurred; maybe during the three decades it took for William to turn into the Man in Black?
Bernard Coated With Dust
In the indecipherable Season 3 finale, Bernard realizes that he’s the key to the Valley Beyond that Serac had been looking for all this while, so his first decision is to go into that reality so as to investigate it. He informs a seriously injured Stubbs of his plan and mentally disappears into the Host paradise.
When he returns, though, his body has been nearly drowned in dust, not to mention the entire room. Ignoring the fact that the motel management never once thought to check on their guests for so many years, how much time has passed, really?
Swapping Out Park Staff
Over the course of Westworld staff at the park have been swapped out for hosts. Ashley Stubbs is one such example, but how long was he a host, or was he always that way? Were there other members of the staff who have been robots all along, and when did the shift start happening.
When looking at scenes from throughout the timeline, it’s hard to tell when the shift began. It’s obvious that Ford felt more comfortable with the success of his story if he controlled all the players involved. At what stage did he make this decision and thus, which staff members are hosts at which points? Audiences will likely never know.