Every week, I swing for the fences with one massive theory about the future of Westworld. Am I wrong? Am I right? We probably won’t know for sure for years, so why not enjoy the present?
As we hit the midpoint of Westworld’s first season, it’s worth acknowledging just how far the show has expanded beyond its pilot. In that first episode, we were introduced to a theme park in which human guests can participate in dozens of adventures with lifelike robots — and all of philosophical baggage that comes with it. Now, Westworld includes a maze that leads to existential meaning, a vague sense that the humans may not be so human, and likely two timelines separated by decades, though their narratological purpose remains unclear to say the least.
Westworld lathers on puzzles at such a decadent rate, it’s hard to imagine the season won’t answer, or at least retcon, half of its biggest questions, lest it collapse under its own weight.
Of all the questions, though, there’s one I want answered most: is Dolores’ story detached from time?
Dolores’ story, as we perceive it, is actually the composite of countless loops and memories that, cumulatively, will help Dolores — in the distant future — solve the maze at the center of the park and the show.
In the past couple episodes, we’ve seen Dolores have many flashbacks, or possibly flashforwards. Sometimes these flashes are rapid-fire montages from Dolores’ mental point of view. Other times, the flashes are dreamy and transportive, showing Dolores from the third-person within her setting.
The latter moments, at first, seemed to be déjà vu. But now I wonder if these flashes aren’t mental quirks, but memories of moments that actually happened. If that’s the case, it’s unclear which of her scenes take place in the past, present, or future.
All of which to say, I believe that Dolores has planted signposts for herself for decades, and we’re following her at different stages of this process. This week’s episode hinted that the majority of Dolores’ experiences are in the past, including her adventure with William.
First, Dolores spotted a version of herself while visiting the border town of Pariah with William. This “alternate” Dolores sat across from the “real” Dolores at a table, and presented tarot cards, including a card with the maze icon. Like the tattoos of Memento, it’s possible that Dolores has left clues throughout her loops, guiding her closer and closer to the center. This tarot reader isn’t Dolores from the future, rather a prompt left by Dolores in the past.
So, by that logic, it would seem like we’re following Dolores and William on the most present timeline. But another moment, near the end of the episode, hints at her adventure with William being just one of the many loops that will gradually lead her to the center of the maze.
When Dolores sees the maze icon on the coffins, she says “I’m coming” to herself. And the camera pulls back to reveal William and the smuggler, who were just with her on the train, have disappeared.
Why are they gone? Because this moment takes place on a loop long after William’s initial visit. The real “present” timeline of Dolores is long after the events of the show, her own lonely path to self-discovery.
20:1. I am convinced that Dolores’ story spans multiple loops, but where the final loop fits into the timeline is tough to predict. And how all of this fits into the show’s other time puzzles, well, we’ll leave that for another week.