Posted by Tom Chapman @tchapman
tweet: tomtomchap Warden of the North - bearded, tattooed and square eyed 'til the end
Tom Chapman

As we enter the second half of #HBO's #Westworld, the questions are ramping up towards a bloody finale as everyone searches for that mythical #maze. It means we still have some time to mull over what the hell is going down in the robo-rampage of the wild West. Spoilers to follow for Westworld, so last chance to turn

UPDATED: 10/08/16

Image: HBO
Image: HBO

This season has followed Ed Harris's #ManinBlack (MIB) and his scalp quest to find the entrance to the maze, and presumably the prize at its centre. Firstly he brought along the condemned Lawrence, but he was soon strung up in favor of James Marsden's Teddy Flood. Ever since we heard MIBs stirring speech, we knew there would be trouble:

“You know about games, don’t you Kissy? ... Well this is a complicated one. There’s a deeper level to this game, and you’re gonna show me how to get there.”

Quite literally at the center of the show is MIB's quest for this maze, and the whole story was kicked up a notch after a visit to Lawrence's hometown in Episode 2. We have had more shootouts than you could shake a rattlesnake at, and yes, James Marsden literally dies (almost) every week.

See also:

The Maze Isn't For You

Image: HBO
Image: HBO

As MIB quizzed Lawrence's robotic daughter, she warned him that the maze isn't for him — presumably meaning that it is only for hosts. Bernard's chats with Dolores further emphasize that the maze is some sort of tool, and the most popular theory is that the maze is some sort of way for hosts to break free. While it is a wonderful idea to shake off the shackles of oppression, it still has us questioning why MIB would want to go there.

Both Dolores and Teddy are clearly keys to the maze somehow, and while Sherlock Holmes is probably able to crack that one, it still has us more than stumped. So, let's look at what else is going on in the most complicated maze since The Shining.

A Snake In The Grass

Image: HBO
Image: HBO

Perhaps the biggest red herring was the (now forgotten) subplot of the gnarly tattooed bandit Armistice. The analogy of a snake signaling the entrance of the maze meant that Armistice's body art made her an early contender to unravelling the mystery. Now the plot has got bigger than ever with the inclusion of the character Wyatt, but I am also calling red herring on that too.

Image: HBO
Image: HBO

While we have tossed aside Armistice's quest to complete her snake tattoo, it looks like she may still have a role to play in the rest of this season. Looking like some sort of showdown in the labs, and given that Armistice is clearly harming a human, it is a good guess that this will come towards the end of the season, but this could of course become part of the cut material.

It's A-Maze-Ing

Image: HBO
Image: HBO

So, we know who is after the maze, what about the place itself? The picture of a man at the center of a maze looks like a rather familiar image from the park, and the symbolism matching the freshly dipped robots implies that whatever is at the center of the maze, it must have something to do with the park itself!

This is no side quest of a jittery old robot to find some long lost treasure. Remembering what the little girl said, notice that when Anthony Hopkins's Dr. Ford went on his desert vision quest he came across a rattlesnake. Ford then happened across a distinctive crucifix marker — more on that later, but in the meantime, here are the options for what that mythical maze actually is:

A Man In A House

Image: HBO
Image: HBO

Episode 6 offered perhaps the biggest clues at what the maze could contain. The episode took us deep into Sector 17 as Bernard Lowe found Dr. Ford playing happy families with the robotic versions of The Waltons. As well as meeting a young AI version of Ford, we also saw a robot of the man we thought was Arnold. Why this was so interesting in relation to the maze theory is Teddy's earlier conversation with MIB. According to history, the maze was a metaphor for a life, and at the centre was a legendary man who has been killed over and over again:

"The man returned for a last time to vanquish all his oppressors in a tireless fury. Built a house and around that house he built a maze so complicated only he could navigate through it. I reckon he’s seen enough fighting."

Clearly the Sector 17 house is not the one from the story, but it was too close to the analogy to not mean something. Expect the idea of this to be revisited in the shocking maze reveal.

The story of a resurrected man would imply that whoever is at the centre could be one of the hosts, but a more interesting option involved a theory about Jeffrey Wright's Bernard Lowe and the mysterious Arnold. Episode 6 swung the curveball that Arnold is not the man that we originally thought, and continued the theory that Bernard Lowe is actually a host version of Arnold *gasp*. Whatever or whoever the "real" Arnold is (still played by Jeffrey Wright), will he be the man sitting at the centre of the maze at the season's end?

Just A Metaphor

Image: HBO
Image: HBO

Moving off the physical plane, could the maze really could just be a religious symbol? Teddy's story may come from legend, but bear in mind that Ford's tinkering already altered Teddy's backstory — a "legend" in Westworld could actually be two seconds old. We have already seen the dolls of the doctors worshipped as a deity by the native American hosts, but that was probably part of Ford's update too. However, that maze symbol keeps popping up everywhere — the soldiers were going to use it to brand Teddy, Ford saw it engraved on a table, and it later popped up in his ledger. Given Ford's new narrative and scrawlings of Dolores, it looks like the idea of the maze is a relatively new concept that Ford himself has installed into the hosts. Ford may be double bluffing the MIB, but we hoe there is more to the story than an old wive's tale.

A Behind The Scenes Tour

Image: HBO
Image: HBO

Episode 2, "Chestnut" gave us a better understanding of the inner workings of Westworld. It was the first time we saw how the humans arrive, the medical bay, and even where they dress the hosts. We also saw Dr. Ford use some underground glass elevator trickery to plant himself in the outskirts of the park. So, one option is that the center of the maze is some sort of back-passage. For safety's sake there must be a network of emergency exits and passages beneath the surface of Westworld. So far it looks like a one way system, with the robots only allowed out when they are under maintenance, but if the center of the maze was an emergency exit, it would allow the robots to roam free outside the confines of their sectors. If MIB could gain access to the backdrop, the world of Westworld is his oyster.

An Evil Robot Cold Store

Image: HBO
Image: HBO

Back in the premiere episode, we were taken on an eerie voyage into the bowels of the facility. There we found Dr. Ford conversing with "Old Bill," and despite being a flooded mess plucked from a John Carpenter sci-fi, cold storage also served as the park's graveyard. That episode closed with the defective hosts, and Dolores's father (R.I.P.), packed away there. Episode 6 also showed us that they are storing Yul Brynner's original gunslinger on level 82, but why you would store a load of rogue robots is beyond me. What if the man at the center was not one man, but a whole horde of men? Giving MIB access to the army of evil robots in cold storage is one way to ensure mayhem on the prairies.

The Matrix

While most viewers are searching for a physical maze (it may well exist), it is also probable that the maze is more of a Matrix entity. Through millions of lines of data, the center holds the source code for the entire park. The maze itself is the key to controlling the robots, but also what restricts them from harming human life. It has already been alluded to that someone has been tampering with the hosts somehow, and I think I know who it is. This brings us nicely onto...

Ford's Upgrade

Image: HBO
Image: HBO

Then there is also whatever Ford has been toying with to consider: Him and Lowe heading out into the desert, plus his latest narrative, point to work outside the wishes of the Delos Corporation. We have already seen what happened when Ford tried to introduce something as subtle as a finger change, but he doesn't seem like a man to abandon his quest for perfection so easily. Episode 6 also showed Ford's mysterious ledger, which contained drawings of the church, Dolores, and you guessed it — the maze!

Does the mysterious church steeple in the desert mark the entrance to the fabled maze? Again, not a physical maze, but a terminal/lab where he tinkers on the creations. If so, that would make Ford the man at the center of the maze, but what is he doing in there.

Dr. Ford rightly scolded Lee Sizemore's narrative, saying the guests don't come back for the "garish parlor tricks," they come back for the subtleties of the park..."something they fall in love with."

Consider Ford an industrialist, he knows that the park has to evolve, a'la Jurassic World, and with pressure from the board, he has to adapt. There is no real threat to humans from the hosts, and at the end of the day everyone goes home jolly from their vacation. We have seen the engineers amp up traits like aggression, and Maeve demand her intelligence, but still the hosts don't fully have their own free will or memories — yet!

It Will All End In Tears

Image: HBO
Image: HBO

To truly entice the thrill seekers to Westworld there needs to be an element of danger. If the maze does hold the source code to the hosts, then could Ford's idea be to introduce (just a little) autonomy to the park? Just as Jurassic World introduced the Indominus Rex to please corporate, Westworld needs to introduce its own threat. Dr. Ford is playing God, and will likely be destroyed at the hands of his own creations in the end.

The issue is, what happens if the Man in Black makes it to the maze and uses Ford's power for evil? With a legion of robots at his disposal, the loss of human life is certain. So far we may only have seen robotic massacres, but that is all about to change depending who make it to the centre of the maze.

Voila — now it's time to take off the tinfoil hats go back to enjoying the show!

Check out the promo for Episode 7, and don't forget the poll below!

Poll

What do you think is inside the Westworld maze?