There are no spoilers for Westworld, not really.
The show has no true source material. It was based on Michael Crichton’s original idea, sure, but the final product shares practically nothing in common with its ancestor other than the core concept of “Western robot theme park goes wrong.” This isn’t Game of Thrones pulling from books or The Walking Dead following a comic blueprint. This show, and its mysteries, are all its own.
And yet, over the course of this season, I’ve spoiled the show for myself anyway. Not through advance knowledge of leaked scripts, but by being unable to restrain myself and hunting through mountains of fan theories, the most prominent of which are all turning out to be true.
Last night, my Facebook feed was erupting with the likes of updates like “WTF WESTWORLD OMGGGG” as my friends watched the rather masterful episode unfold, revealing pieces of Dolores’ past, effortlessly woven together with Bernard’s realization that he is an android built by Ford in the image of his old partner, Arnold.
In the same episode, it was outright proven that the William/Logan timeline is happening, way, way in the past, as we see Dolores’ mechanical guts (which are no longer in hosts in present day) and also the long-buried photo found in the first episode is a picture of William’s fiancée/Logan’s sister. And after William’s killing spree of confederate mercenaries, it seems more likely than ever we are about to learn he’s a younger version of The Man in Black.
These are all great twists, but ones that have had almost all their impact sapped for me because of how deep down the rabbit hole I’ve gone hunting down Westworld fan theories. Across hundreds of reddit threads and articles like this one, literally all of these plot points have been predicted for weeks now.
Bernard being a host was one of the first theories of the show, and as the weeks went on and Arnold was never shown, fans came to the conclusion that yes, he was a host fashioned in the image of the original creator himself.
Similarly, the William-as-Man-in-Black theory was born practically from the moment he showed up, with little clues that the timelines were wrong appearing right away, but many you would only notice if you were crawling through these sorts of threads and hearing them read out loud. Hell, fans even predicted the damn photo buried in the dirt was William’s fiancée. It’s uncanny.
Of course there are many theories that don’t pan out (“Ford is an android!”) or mysteries yet to be solved (“What are Ford/Delos’ master plans?”), but so, so many of the major twists of this season have been called out by the collective intelligence of fans for weeks now, and I regret immersing myself this deeply in theories that did, in fact, turn out to be spoilers.
This is finally, finally a show that doesn’t have source material, so book fans or comic readers can’t go around outright spoiling everything. And yet, I feel like all this out-of-show research really gutted Westworld for me. I don’t really know what I would have been able to figure out on my own because I never gave myself a chance.
Part of the reason I’ve been doing this is for work. As you can see, Westworld is one of the shows I cover on my pop culture beat, hence the article you’re reading right now. And I have written some of the very articles I’m talking about! I dedicated full pieces to both the Bernard is a host theory and William being the Man in Black. I do so because it’s fun to discuss and speculative discussion always attracts eyeballs for a show like this. But it’s really ruined the experience for me in season one, and I think I’m going to turn over a new leaf for season two.
It’s one thing discussing theories with friends. I’ve done this a lot with Westworld this season, and that’s been a good time, like it’s ten years ago and we’re watching Lost again. But I think there’s a limit, and pouring over every single detail onscreen and reading pages and pages of fan theories assembled from the knowledge and careful observations of thousands is going too far, in my estimation. That many monkeys on that many typewriters are eventually going to solve some pretty big mysteries, and we have seen that happen up and down this season. For those that haven’t followed all this, these big reveal moments land in a huge way. For me, it’s just back-patting that I was clever enough to listen to people who figured this out in week two. Which is of course, no accomplishment at all.
I want to see what happens when I no longer have ten million sign posts to point me at every single detail I’m missing, revealing these larger mysteries. I want to give that a try in season two, and that might actually negate me covering the show here. I don’t know if I’ll actually go through with it, as speculative articles might be too tempting, but man, I really wish I had been surprised this season during these big moments, and I’m not smart enough where I would have figured all this stuff out on my own, that much I know.
Maybe I’m alone in this experience, either in regretting seeking out answers, or in believing that it matters, but after last night, I feel like I simply did Westworld season 1 all wrong.
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