Westworld Recap: Did We Just Learn Who the Man In Black Really Is?

Westworld Recap Season 1 Episode 8

Need to catch up? Check out last week’s Westworld recap here.

Did Westworld just all but say it flat-out? Do we have confirmation that William and the Man in Black are the same person shown at two different points in his life?

The long-held fan theory certainly seemed to edge closer to canon in this week’s episode, “Trace Decay,” when Ed Harris’ grizzled Man in Black recognized a blond female host left at the scene of an attack by Wyatt’s men. And savvy viewers also should have recognized the woman… as the same one who greeted William when he first arrived at the park.

“It’s you,” MIB says to the host, who has traded her sleek white minidress for Western garb. “I figured they retired you. I guess Ford never likes to waste a pretty face.”

That’s the most we get, and I’ll be the first to admit that it’s possible the sci-fi drama — which can be twistier than that other outlaw lady’s snake tattoo — is coaxing us into believing one thing so it can suckerpunch us with another. But given the other stuff MIB says about his life, it’s not that tough to imagine idealistic and hopeful young Billy morphing into this empty, evil individual… is it?

Read on for some more highlights from the episode.

OH NO, ELSIE! | Ford has Bernard wipe all evidence of what he did to Theresa; in exchange, the park’s creator promises to wipe the host’s memories of killing his lover. In fact, he’ll wipe any memory that they hooked up at all. “When you look back, you will remember Theresa with the fondness of a respected colleague,” Ford promises. “And you will be at peace.” (Though, given the way the old man casually mentions how Arnold “couldn’t stop me,” you’ll forgive me if I can’t take much comfort from his words.)

Later, when all of the dirty work is cleaned up, Bernard questions what makes his pain over his son’s death (which isn’t real but feels that way) any different from any true human’s suffering (given that pain really only exists in the mind, anyway). That very question drove Arnold mad, Ford says casually before dismissing it: “We can’t define consciousness, because consciousness does not exist.” Just before he’s rebooted, Bernard wants to know whether his creator has asked him to kill before. “No, Bernard, of course not,” Ford calmly replies… as Bernard has a flash of choking Elsie. (Oh boo. I loved her.)

Oh, and Ford totally knows that Charlotte was behind both Theresa’s data piracy and Clementine’s hulking out, and Charlotte totally knows that Theresa didn’t just slip and fall to her death in the park. So the board member dumps 35 years of “vitally important data” into the decommissioned Abernathy and then recruits Lee to give him enough of a personality so he can pass as human and leave the park.

MAEVE KNOWS ALL | Speaking of leaving the park, Maeve knows that she’s got an explosive charge in her spine that’ll detonate as soon as she leaves Westworld’s perimeter — all the hosts do — but she moves forward with getting administrative control of her fellow androids, thanks to Felix. Sylvester intends to “brick” the beautiful ‘bot as soon as she’s turned off for the upgrade, but Maeve knows that. So as soon as she’s souped up, she grabs a scalpel and slits his throat a little… then demands that Felix use a cauterizing tool to save his co-worker’s life. Because she’s got an army to build.

WILLIAM, WHAT HAPPENED? | But back to that first thing we were talking about: Teddy starts to have flashes of the Man in Black dragging Dolores away in her parents’ front yard, like we saw in the pilot. So he decks the older man, telling him that he wants to kill him. This puts MIB into a contemplative mood, so he winds up spilling a lot of his backstory.” Do you want to know who I am? Who I really am?” I’m a god, a titan of industry. A philanthropist, family man. I’m married to a beautiful woman, father of a beautiful daughter. I’m a good guy, Teddy.” He goes on to say that his wife committed suicide partly because she knew he had a darkness inside that he was hiding, even from himself, and he came back to the park to have his true nature revealed to him.

Enter Maeve in her previous build as a homesteader with a daughter, aka those terrifying and beautifully sunlit slow-mo shots we’ve seen throughout the series. MIB stabbed her in the abdomen and shot her daughter dead, because “I wanted to see if I had it in me to do something truly evil. To see what I was really made of.” (P.S. He felt nothing.)

IN WHICH MAEVE IS (MORE OF) A BADASS | BUT, Maeve fought back — hard — cutting him at the neck and carrying her daughter out into the field, where they died at the center of a maze that had been pressed into the ground. “She was alive, truly alive, if only for a moment. And that was when the maze revealed itself to me,” he recalls with wonder. “There’s a deeper game here, Teddy. Arnold’s game. And that game cuts deep.” Oh, and Wyatt — who reappears at the end of the episode after the blonde stabs Teddy with an arrow — appears to be the key.

In flashbacks, we watch Maeve freaking out at the Westworld labs because her daughter has been killed. She’s not responding to verbal commands, and she only calms a bit when Ford issues a directive. Still, as he goes to wipe her memory, she begs him not to; like Bernard said in an earlier episode, the pain “is all I have left” f her daughter, she protests. But he does it anyway. And then she stands up, lifts a scalpel off a nearby tray and plunges it into her own neck.

In the present, or whenever the heck we’ve been, Maeve realizes she can control other hosts by giving them commands in the third person. So she does. She causes more chaos than usual during the regular Sweetwater shootout, slices the Clementine replacement right across her Adam’s apple when she tries to stop the madam from leaving the saloon, then runs as park employees come looking for her.

GHOST IN THE MACHINE | William and Dolores, who’s still having strange flashes in which she often ends up dead, reach the spot she feels she’s been called to. As she walks into the town, we see her back in her blue gown; it seems like maybe it’s in the very early days of the park, because a group of hosts (including Maeve) are learning to dance in the town square, and a labcoat-wearing park staff member is overseeing the whole thing. Bu then everything shifts, and someone is firing upon everyone in the town. With horror, Dolores realizes it’s her… and just as pants-wearing Dolores lifts a gun to her own head, William finds her and snaps her back to reality.

“When are we? Is this now? Am I going mad? Are you real?” she cries. As the camera angle turns, we see that the church in Dolores’ vision is really the buried church that we’ve seen before — and which is not a few feet from where she and William stand. “I can’t tell anymore.” Billy wants to get her out of there, but she’s resolute that “This is what Arnold wants. He wants me to remember.” And when a group of men on horseback ride up with Logan at the head, they’ve got more immediate problems. “Man, are you two f—ked,” he says with glee.

Now it’s your turn. Are you now convinced that William and the Man in Black are one and the same? Sound off in the comments!

Ready for the next episode? Read the Westworld Season 1, Episode 9 recap here!

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