A full timeline from start to finish…
The Internet seemed to dismiss the two timelines theory, but it’s alive and well as of Episode 5. Below I’ll tell you the timeline of Westworld, from its initial critical failure up till now.
Warning: spoilers galore below. If you don’t want the truth, don’t enter the maze. Go back to Sweetwater with your parents.
Ok, here we go.
To understand the synopsis, you have to realize that Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy are continually messing with the timeline. So even though events happen sequentially in the show, they often happen 30 years apart.
Here it is: thirty-odd years ago, Arnold and Ford created Westworld. Arnold was actually one of the first advanced hosts Ford created. The man you know as Bernard in the present is actually the recreation of the original Arnold. The conversations between ‘Bernard’ and Dolores actually took place 30 years ago and were conversations between Arnold and Dolores. From talking to Dolores, Arnold realized that the hosts could achieve sentience and it was completely cruel to subject them to the repeated torments of the game. He wanted to stop it.
This terrified Ford. He knew the post-scarcity human society was, as he said ‘done’ and sentient machines would probably sweep humanity aside. Arnold tried to shut down Westworld, but Ford was having none of it. Arnold knew the only way he could stop this was to tear it all down. So he set Dolores on a path towards the ‘critical failure’ of the park. Ford deactivated Arnold, but not before Arnold could infect her with Arnold’s own voice and consciousness.
Enter William and Logan on the train into Westworld. Dolores finds a gun outside her house one night and runs away from home. (Dolores shooting Rebus’ gang happens 30 years later, but the directors trick you into thinking they’re sequential in time). Dolores is running through the dark and stumbles into William and Logan’s camp. As we see in episodes 4–5, Dolores starts becoming more sentient and more violent. William falls in love with her. The events of episodes 6–10 will increasingly mirror the original Westworld movie, where Dolores becomes the killing machine Arnold unleashed to destroy Westworld.
Dolores starts to have the ability to kill every host, and even guests (ie Logan). William is in love with Dolores but recognizes she has turned to the dark side. It rends his heart, but he is the one to finally put her down. William kills Dolores, order is restored to the park, and from William’s broken heart hatches the Man in Black.
Over the next thirty years, William, in the real world, takes Logan’s job and eventually winds up running the family company. He has VIP status — a thank you for killing Dolores. He frequently visits the park, working his way through all the narratives, and taking out his resentment and sorrow on the sorry hosts.
In the present, Ford is beginning to suspect that all is not well in the park. He worries that Arnold somehow planted an Easter Egg because the hosts are talking to themselves — talking to Arnold. The voice you hear in the beginning of episode 1 — Bernard’s voice — is actually Arnold’s voice, talking to Dolores inside her own head.
The MiB returning to the park is what pushes Dolores out of her loop again. The MiB knows that Arnold was up to something those thirty years ago, and he’s determined to figure out what it is. The hosts are never more human than when they are suffering and afraid. This is why he wanted Dolores terrified. He wanted her scared because it is the only way he can jolt her out of her loop and into sentience.
MiB didn’t rape Dolores when he took her into the barn, he used his knife to cut her open and show her that she was a robot. He then interrogated her about the maze she was searching for 30 years ago.
Maeve starts waking up and raising hell. Dolores has another awakening and starts having flashbacks to the massacre she committed in the past. All those dead bodies in the street? That’s her handiwork. She’s starting to remember. At night, she shoots the gang which raids her family’s house. The sequencing of the show makes it look like she runs away and winds up in William and Logan’s camp, but that happened 30 years ago.
In fact, she is wandering in the present (as Stubbs is informed in Episode 4) and winds up back in Las Mudas where Lawrence’s family lived. Dolores looks into the well and talks to Lawrence’s daughter. She starts having a flashback to 30 years prior. Dolores looks at the drawing of the maze in the ground and then we hard cut to the arrival of the sheriff 30 years prior. (You’ll notice the little girl from the present sitting on the well disappears when we cut to the past. Again, the directors are messing with your timeline.)
The last time we see Dolores (through Episode 5) is when Ford is interrogating her. He asks her if she remembers the man he used to be. She doesn’t remember and asks if they used to be friends. Ford thinks not.
As Dolores father, the host Abernathy said Ford is trapped inside a world of his own sins. He’s been tormenting the lesser folk for thirty years. There will be payback.
You can read part 2 of this post where I expand on these theories and discuss some crazy concepts for what the Westworld universe might be about.