Twitter, the internet, and the human race are collectively melting down over Westworld's twisty Season 2 finale. While every other minute of the finale, titled "The Passenger," had another twist or turn, there was one part in particular that fans couldn't seem to wrap their heads around: the pivotal post-credits scene with the Man in Black. Is he real? Is he a host? Is the scene set in the future? Will we see more? Creators Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan have given their two cents post-finale, and they sort of, kind of explain what was actually going on there. Spoilers for Westworld's Season 2 finale ahead.
In short scene, the Man in Black (Ed Harris) emerges into an abandoned Forge — where copies of guests' consciousness are stored — only to be tested for "fidelity" by his daughter Emily (or a host who looks like her). The scene mirrors the testing William performed on the host version of his father-in-law Delos and that Dolores performed on Bernard. But this is after we see him lying injured on a cot to be brought to the mainland in the current timeline, when he's human (or when he thinks he is).
First thing's first: Both creators have confirmed that the scene is long after the host revolution. As Lisa Joy explained to The Wrap, Season 2 consisted of two timelines throughout the uprising of the hosts, and the post-credits scene is a look into the future, apart from both timelines. "We threw in that last bit just to tease some other sh*t that’s gonna happen. It's really just a tease of what’s to come," Joy told The Wrap. "But he’s in a very different timeline. The whole place looks destroyed, and then [Emily] explains that all of that stuff happened long ago."
What made the scene so confusing was how William's emergence into The Forge played out simultaneously with Dolores and Bernard's pivotal moment down there, even though the two events actually happened at very different times. As explained by Joy, fans think William is going to run into Bernard in the elevator, as he heads down and Bernard goes up. But when Bernard enters an empty elevator, Joy says that's the hint that "something is not what we thought... there is something else happening here." In the present timeline, Joy said, William is left with his arm blown off (after Dolores rigged his gun) and is later "alive, and he’s real, and he’s going out into the real world." That William, the one who just got his arm blown off, is not the one seen in the post-credits scene.
But how far into the future is the post-credits scene? When speaking to EW, Jonathan Nolan teased the future timeline with William, but didn't say how far ahead it was exactly. "They do explicitly say they’re not in the system. And we do see the ruins of it. So that does suggest in that scene we are further in the future," he said. (Joy, meanwhile, described it to The Wrap as the "far-flung future.")
Nolan further explained that "the beginning, middle, and the end" of A.I. life on Earth was always taken into consideration while making the show, and William is a huge factor in that. While both have confirmed we will see more of the post-credits setting, Nolan says audiences may "not necessarily" spend lots of time there either. "We just love the ability to play in perceptual terms with the hosts being immortal," he said.
Now that fans kind of know when this happens, more pressing questions include: who? how? why? As explained by Joy, "That was real. But now something has happened and the Man is now the subject — or some iteration of the Man is now the subject — of testing. The roles have become completely reversed." When he enters The Forge, he sees "Emily," and asks, "Am I in the thing?" "The thing" being the system.
"He's still confused... and psychologically spun out by his own sins, his own constant transgressions and living in this virtual reality," Joy explained to The Wrap. "He’s in a prison of his own sins and that prison is now his own damn mind." (And Joy confirmed that yes, Emily in the future is a "host version" of her and that William did kill his actual daughter.) Based on Joy's statements, the post-credits scene appears to encapsulate the saying that's haunted viewers since day one: "These violent delights have violent ends." William's violent delights of all the manipulation, destruction, and harm he caused in and out of the park seems to end in a perpetual purgatory-like state of his own torture.
While Nolan and Joy helped clear up some confusion regarding the mind-blowing scene, there are still plenty of questions lingering. Does the real William know he's been copied into a host in the future? Who creates his and Emily's host bodies and why? It wouldn't be a season of Westworld if it didn't leave viewers with more questions than it gave answers.