The 'Westworld' Maze May Hold The Key to Freedom

After just three episodes, it's clear that HBO's latest phenomenon Westworld has already packed a major punch amongst critics and viewers alike. (Look out, Game of Thrones — you officially have some major competition in the Emmy drama category.) Thanks to its complicated, unique plot and multiple mysteries, armchair detectives are hard at work theorizing about nearly every aspect of the show. Is there some sort of time warp we aren't aware of? What's the deal with Arnold? Is William the Man in Black? If you have about 20 hours to spare, Reddit and Tumblr are readily available to offer countless theories about our many questions. Based on its trailer, the Oct. 23 episode "Dissonance" will place a strong focus on the maze in Westworld — another topic that has left viewers clamoring for answers.

The Man in Black is as mysterious as they come, but there's one thing we know for sure about him — he's dead set on finding the center of the maze in question, although his reason remains unclear. And, he's not the only one who's in search of the center. In the promo for "Dissonance," Bernard tells Dolores if she reaches the center of the maze, she'll be "truly free." His words are extremely telling — as far as Bernard knows, the key to freedom can only be found when the center of the maze is successfully reached. Of course, the definition of freedom varies wildly depending on the character and it's safe to assume that once we're given one answer about the maze, about 15 new ones will crop up in its place.

But, let's take this one step at a time. We know that Bernard has taken a special interest in Dolores' cognition and he (seemingly) wants to help her break out of her loops. When he encourages her to head for the center of the maze for the sake of freedom, he could mean that it will free her from the A.I. programming and give her the opportunity to be her own person again.

In short, this would mean that the center of the maze holds the key to consciousness. Reddit user damnyouARCgis has some serious theories and interesting insights when it comes to the maze. He or she points out that the maze depicted in Kissy's skull indicates that Westworld's maze is 3D. Its location is underground, around the perimeter where the staff monitors the park. The episode 2 quote from a nameless little girl, “Follow the Blood Arroyo to where the snake lays its eggs," may also shed some light on the maze — "arroyo" is the Spanish word for stream, so she's presumably referring to the muddy stream alongside the park.

The same Reddit user goes on to speculate that the snake reference is directly related to the northern constellation serpens, which is a symbol of rebirth. If only we could impart this knowledge to Dolores, she'd know her best bet would be to follow that muddy creek until she's directly underneath the snake's tail — then she'd have a good chance at reaching the center. We also know that Arnold's program was designed to "whisper thoughts" into the hosts' heads. There's one runaway host — and, since he or she successfully escaped, they likely have knowledge of the maze's constellations and therefore possess its coveted secrets.

The consensus is that the maze itself is a game within the park — only this game is a challenge for the hosts. If they pass the test and find the center, they'll finally gain real consciousness. This explains why Bernard is hopeful that Dolores will find the maze's center — but why is the Man in Black so invested in the challenge? It's a stretch, but some viewers have speculated that, not only is Arnold very much alive, but he's actually the Man in Black. If this is the case, he may be desperately seeking a way to reprogram the maze in a manner that will prevent hosts from regaining their consciousness, regardless of whether or not they successfully reach the center.

These theories have definitely left my head spinning — and I'm willing to venture a guess that after "Dissonance" airs, we'll have more questions about the maze than we do already. Working out this mystery is certainly frustrating, but at least we're not the ones who have to spend hours navigating a maze that may lead to a dead end. Hey, I'm just trying to look on the bright side for the confused armchair detectives among us.

Images: John P. Johnson/HBO (2)