The question that Westworld fans have been asking for weeks may have finally been answered in the Nov. 27 episode. So is William the Man in Black on Westworld? While the HBO series hasn't gone as far as hoisting up a neon sign declaring "YES," viewers definitely got their strongest hints yet in Season 1's penultimate episode, "The Well-Tempered Clavier."
William has been on a downward spiral ever since he entered the park with the walking bad influence known as Logan. For a while, it seemed like his devotion to his unseen fiancée and his care for the artificial host known as Dolores were going to help the naïve businessman to hold onto his humanity. But as he has ventured further and further towards the fringes of the park, Westworld has been bringing out a dark side in William that lends more and more credence to the idea that he will eventually become the villain we know as the Man In Black.
In fact, it was William's growing infatuation with Dolores that may have finally sent "Billy" over the edge — to the dark side — this week. After Logan captured both him and Dolores at the end of last week's episode, the black hat cut open the farmer's daughter to show William that the woman he was becoming infatuated with was really just a machine on the inside. (It's also important to note that the fact that Dolores is mechanical rather than flesh-and-blood not only confirms that she's the oldest host in the park, but also supports the theory that her storyline is taking place in an earlier time period than the rest of the show.)
Following her brutal disembowelment, William helped Dolores escape from Logan's encampment… and then proceeded to (pretend to) make nice with his boss and future brother-in-law. But when Logan awoke the next morning, he found that every single host in the camp was dead; and not just dead, but brutally murdered and graphically dismembered. This wasn't the villain Wyatt's doing or the Ghost Nation's or any other fictionally-conceived villain; William himself had slaughtered every single member of Logan's robotic army — and the knife he used to do it looked extremely familiar.
On one level, this action served to show Logan that William was finally taking him at his word, and that their entire experience within Westworld was nothing but an elaborate game. But on another level, it was a great big red flag that indicated to viewers that William had taken another giant step down the path towards becoming the homicidal Man In Black that we all know and loathe.
In fact, at the end of the episode, after Dolores stumbled out of the white church, reeling from the revelation that Bernard is Arnold and that she was responsible for Arnold's death, she saw the silhouette of a figure standing in the doorway. From the look on her face — initially hopeful — it was clear that she was expecting to encounter William. But when the man stepped out of the blinding light, Dolores' expression turned to horror as she instead recognized the Man In Black; the man who had dragged her into the barn way back in the series premiere.
Dolores may not remember the fact that William and the Man In Black are in fact one and the same. But it's become clearer to the audience ever week that the innocent man Dolores used to rely on was irrevocably changed by his experiences inside Westworld… and eventually became the grizzled old gun-toting maze-seeker. But perhaps the Man In Black's motives aren't as nefarious as we originally assumed. We learned last week that he was motivated to find the center of the maze after witnessing Maeve's humanity. Perhaps all the atrocities he has committed have been in service of the one thing that has always been William's goal: "saving" Dolores.
With only one episode to go in Westworld's freshman season, any lingering questions that viewers may have about the connection between William and the Man In Black will hopefully be answered soon.
Images: John P. Johnson/HBO (3)