On the surface, Westworld's violent delight-filled finale was an embarrassing 93 minutes for the Man in Black. After receiving an ass-beating from Dolores, getting "shot" by Teddy, and spending way too long bewildered by a toy for tots, the man we now officially, 100%, no-joke know is William ended the episode by getting blasted in the arm with a NSFW (not safe for Westworld) bullet fired by a roving gang of pissed-off robots. Rough day at the office.
So why was he smiling? After all, when he was introduced in the pilot, Ed Harris' swaggering, doom-soaked cowboy was like a mythic figure from a Johnny Cash song; now, he's a humiliated LARP-loving geezer. Yet the Man in Black is thrilled because he is about to get what he's been searching for all season: an all-out war between androids and humans waged in an enormous theme park.
Assuming the Man in Black takes care of that gunshot wound, hasn't suffered permanent damage to his other arm after Dolores wrenched it violently, and doesn't spend Season 2 being systematically tortured by enlightened robots, things are going to get wild. Like, "young Ed Harris with a mustache" wild. (No offense, Jimmi Simpson.) I expect we'll see the Man in Black step out of the darkness in his heart, all because he's finally going to get to experience what he's been seeking for 30 years. Here's why that's a good thing for viewers:
He won't be searching for the maze anymore
Let's get this out of the way: The big "reveal" about the maze was a little dumb. The final maze-twist was always going to be silly because the maze itself was silly, a vague and confusing plot device elevated by co-creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy's gift for expository mumbo-jumbo. Of the show's many tantalizing mysteries, philosophical conundrums, and potential plotlines, the idea that one of America's finest grizzled actors was going to spend valuable screen time wandering around a corn maze or something always felt ridiculous. "What is this shit?" said Harris when asked about the maze reveal in a new Entertainment Weekly interview. Indeed: What was that shit?
Ed Harris was in The Right Stuff, The Abyss, Apollo 13, Glengarry Glen Ross, and The fucking Firm. Despite how much menace and actor-ly spin he can put on a line like "unlock the maze," he really shouldn't have to do this. Harris seems like a guy who puts out dangerous brush fires in his free time and chops wood for fun. To put him in a plotline where he's basically trying to solve an immersive Sudoku puzzle is a disservice to his gravitas, his magnetism, and his ability to yell for long stretches of time on the set of The Rock. Let Ed Harris cook -- don't trap him in a plotline about a maze.
There's nothing left for him in the real world
Now is not the time to buy stock in Delos. If you're living in the William and Logan timeline at the moment, then OK, maybe purchase a few shares to diversify your portfolio. But if you're living in whatever present (maybe 2052?) that Westworld takes place in, don't even think about investing in this toxic asset. This is a particularly bad time to be on the board of Delos -- and we now know the Man in Black is a majority shareholder of Delos stock. From a purely CNBC perspective, the dude is in trouble.
What else do we know about the Man in Black? He's filthy Elon Musk rich, minorly famous, loves taking vacations, lost his wife, and doesn't sound like he'd be interested in the day-to-day grind of running Westworld, either. I'm going to guess he probably has a golden parachute ready to go in case of a financial disaster -- or even a Producers-style insurance scheme where if the park ends in a violent massacre, he still gets a fat check. In the worst-case scenario, the government will bail out Westworld and he'll spend the rest of his life giving TED Talks about how his biggest failure was actually a secret success.
No matter how poorly his professional life self-destructs, the Man in Black will always win. Why? All he has cared about is this game. Like a surly teen with a new Xbox, he just wants to be left alone to find the next level and play through the game. Some old guys take up golf. William murders robots and inadvertently helps them achieve consciousness.
He's finally got some worthy opponents
If there's one thing the internet has consistently told us about the Man in Black, it's that he loves gaming. All season, critics and fans have framed his single-minded pursuit of the maze in the lingua franca of nerdom -- he's a "bad gamer" or like "Mario hopping over a wall." But even if he had old copies of Nintendo Power under his bed, the Man in Black was also clearly frustrated by the game he was bankrolling.
Now, with the hosts upgraded from docile targets to bloodthirsty revolutionaries, he's finally got himself the battle with "real" stakes that he's been yearning for. There are new players to compete against. He can embrace Ford's final narrative: chaos.
Some of the finale's most prescient dialogue actually came from the show's most loathsome character: Logan. Before he rode off, naked and holding a feather, into the great beyond, the show's resident snarling dude-bro spoke at length about the young MIB's obsession with Dolores, telling him, "You never really gave a shit about the girl. She was just the excuse. This is the story you wanted."
It's hard to disagree. The look in the MIB's eyes as the wave of robots emerged from the shadow in the woods was not one of terror. He looked excited and amused -- even after getting a chunk of flesh blown off. This was the twisted, violent future he'd been waiting for all along. He finally found the "deeper game" -- and now he'll be gunning for the high score.
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