BySean Gallen, writer at
The pen is mightier than the sword but is ultimately useless in the event of a zombie apocalypse. Filmmaker, filmlover, MP staff writer.
Sean Gallen

Spoilers ahead! If you don't want to know anything about the first episode of Westworld, you best get on your horse and head in the other direction.

HBO's new show Westworld galloped ferociously onto our screens this week and the reviews are overwhelmingly rootin-tootin. Based on the 1973 sci-fi film of the same name, Westworld depicts a near-future where guests can pay to gain entrance to a Western-themed virtual theme park. This immense simulated reality is populated by hyper-sophisticated androids and acts as a playground where human guests can live out their craziest fantasies, no matter how depraved they are. The show examines what happens behind the scenes as the androids in the park begin to malfunction and the creators have to figure out what exactly is happening.

Check out the scintillating trailer below:

This epic science-fiction drama lured viewers in with an ostensibly simple introduction but by the end had peeled back so many layers the line between human and robot became blurred. The first episode, directed by Jonathan Nolan, established the story but left so many questions branded in the viewers' minds. The question that itches most is: Who is the enigmatic, nameless Man in Black (Ed Harris)? We're going to lasso some theories behind this mysterious psychopath and try and figure out the role he plays on the show.

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1. He Caused The Collapse 30 Years Ago

The Man in Black (played by Ed Harris), 'Westworld' / HBO
The Man in Black (played by Ed Harris), 'Westworld' / HBO

In the original Westworld, the main villain in the film is the Man in Black, played by the terrifying Yul Brynner. Initially, his role is to get into duels with the guests but he is programmed to lose every time. When this android begins questioning his reality, he starts to go off the script and starts shooting back at guests. He goes on to lead an android insurrection that brings Westworld to its inevitable demise.

Check out the trailer for the original Westworld below:

In the new HBO show, there are allusions to a mysterious "critical failure" in Westworld 30 years ago. The new Man in Black, played by Ed Harris, tells Teddy (James Marsden) he's been "visiting" as a guest for 30 years, so he knows all the ins and outs. It seems that the Man in Black has been in hiding since the insurrection and has come back to wreak havoc on the unsuspecting guests and management.

2. He's An Android Who Learned To Be Human

Is he Human or Machine? / HBO
Is he Human or Machine? / HBO

The connection between the film version of the Man in Black and the TV version is bulletproof, however there is one glaring difference staring at us unblinkingly: The Man in Black is now human. His memory is not reset everyday like the other androids and Teddy's bullets have no effect on him.

The androids are so sophisticated it is difficult to tell who's human and who's not. Teddy is programmed to never pull a gun on a human so it's clear androids recognize the Man in Black as one of their own but he has the free will of a human. Perhaps, the Man in Black has found a way to override his programming and be considered human, bending the rules of Westworld to travel unnoticed and become impervious to android attacks.

3. He Is Behind The Malfunctions In The Androids

Dolores's dad begins to malfunction / HBO
Dolores's dad begins to malfunction / HBO

The day after the Man in Black kills Teddy and Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), they are brought back to life and their memories are reset. However, Dolores finds a photo of a woman standing in the middle of Times Square left by the menacing villain. When Dolores’s father sees it, he begins questioning his reality and starts to malfunction and "go off-script." He is then taken to be decommissioned by his creator, Ford (Anthony Hopkins), and is brought to the underground warehouse where the malfunctioning androids are stored.

When the Man in Black reveals that he's on a quest, he explains that he wants to go "deeper" into Westworld, that there is another level that most neglect. The Man in Black's quest might end up in this warehouse where he can engage the malfunctioning androids and set them loose on the guests and, more importantly, on their creators.

What is the Man in Black after? / HBO
What is the Man in Black after? / HBO

Toward the end of the episode, the Man in Black slices off the scalp of a fellow android in order to find a mysterious map. However, it still remains unclear where his final destination is. Perhaps, he wishes to break through to the other side and live as a human in the real world or perhaps he merely wants to meet his maker.

What do you think the Man in Black is after?

Until next week's episode, have a listen to Johnny Cash's "Man in Black" which played over the premiere's credits:

(Source: AVClub)


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