Don't Give Up on That 'Westworld' Theory About William and the Man in Black

jimmi simpson, william, westworld
John P. Johnson/HBO
John P. Johnson/HBO

This article contains major spoilers up through "The Stray," the third episode of Westworld. To read more about the mind-bending HBO series, head over to Westworld World, the home for all of our Westworld recaps, interviews, and theories.

At the end of Westworld's third episode, "The Stray," there appears to be a big reveal that, to use the parlance of the park, would decommission a very sexy theory about the Man in Black. Dolores runs away from her messed-up narrative and falls right into the arms of White Hat William, indicating to many viewers that William must exist in the same timeline as the Man in Black.

But don't start printing your "White Hats Can't Jump (Time Sequences)" T-shirts quite yet. The William-is-the-Man-in-Black theory still works, friends. And you, too, will be even more sure the fresh-faced William is the mysterious Man in Black after you sift through the evidence:

dolores, westworld

Something is wrong with Dolores' memory 

Ever since Creepy Bernard started a secret two-person book club with Dolores in an unknown basement themed around the idea of "change," her reveries have turned into something else. In this episode, she finds herself in the night version of her narrative: she sees her dead dad and gets pulled into the barn. That's when things really take a turn. Not only does she miraculously find a gun in the hay, she's able to pull the trigger -- unlike earlier, when Teddy tried to teach her to shoot -- and she manages to send a bullet through the neck of milk-fiend robo-rapist Rebus.

But each of Dolores' real-time actions seems to be informed by a memory of her in a similar situation. So when she finds her father dead, it's first the new version of Peter Abernathy, the guy with the mustache, as well as the old one who'd found the photo and glitched out. And when she aims the gun in the barn, she does so at both Rebus and the Man in Black. When she rushes back outside, her newly bubbling up memories aid her by reminding her she'd been shot in that scenario before and guide her to get out of there. It’s a little like when you’ve finally played a video game enough that you know all the pitfalls as they come, and you adapt your gameplay to beat them. Dolores' memory is her Game Genie. 

Which brings us to White Hat William. When she runs into him and passes out in his arms in that final scene, that's almost definitely her memory playing tricks on her from a previous narrative.

william, westworld

There are two completely different Westworld logos    

My colleague and terrifyingly extensive Westworld expert John Sellers breaks this down rather nicely in his recap of the third episode, but the main point is this: you can see the old Westworld logo when William arrives at the park in Episode 2 and on worker uniforms in Episode 2's Arnold flashback, while all scenes during the right-now timeline have a different, more modern logo. And we all know that if the logo doesn't fit, you must... wait, sorry, wrong show.

william, logan, westworld
John P. Johnson/HBO

Sweetwater is different

You know when you go back to the town you grew up in after a 10-year absence and, on a whole, it feels the same, but in reality everything is slightly different (and your high school girlfriend is now married to a banker)? Well, the same sort of thing is happening in Sweetwater, the dusty town that serves as the guests' hitching post. 

In William's timeline, Maeve doesn't appear to be the brothel owner (Maeve hasn't appeared in any of those scenes yet); that job seems to belong to Clementine (which might be what a QA specialist was alluding to when Maeve was having reverie problems). Plus, the other ladies of the night and day standing with Clementine in front of the brothel when Logan and William arrive haven't been seen in other Sweetwater scenes. And the bounty hunter role, which usually belongs to our frequently killed boy Teddy, is being played in William's timeline by a man who's like a Cro-Magnon version of Teddy (Teddy 1.0?).

On top of that, the narratives when Teddy arrives to Sweetwater in Episode 1 and when Logan and William stroll through town in Episode 2 are completely different. In William's timeline, the US Army is recruiting passers-by; in the current-day version, the sheriff wants you, yes, you, to join his posse. Even the Wanted posters don't match up. The newer versions have some fancy red ink for the "dead or alive" section and are offering $500 for Hector Escaton, while the ones William looks at in Episode 3 only use black ink and involve hunting for baddies named Jasper Hewitt and the "conman and crime boss" Scott Jones, "alias Jonesy," for a measly $100. Inflation!!!

william, dolores, lawrence, westworld


Remember Lawrence? That sweet villain captured by the Man in Black and taken back to his family so MiB could move to the next level? Do you remember how the MiB told him that he'd known him for years and never knew he had a family? Well, the look-ahead trailer released after Episode 2 (from which the screengrab above is taken) shows Lawrence -- dressed in the same outfit as in the MiB scenes, only his clothes and face seem freshly washed -- kicking back with William and Dolores, building a friendship, taking aim at someone, possibly from a train car, but still definitely not talking about his family. Can they be from the same timeline? Maybe. But also maybe not.

westworld, hbo

The woman in the photo found by Peter Abernathy

One of the show's biggest mysteries through three episodes is what's going on in that photograph dug up by the Louis Herthum version of Dolores' dad, Peter. It doesn't look like anything to Dolores, of course, but a Reddit user going by the name croweschmo may have hit upon the best theory yet about who's depicted in the picture: "The photo Peter Abernathy dug up in episode 1 is William's. We will see William pull the photo out of his jacket and leave it behind at the Abernathy ranch at some point this season. The woman in the photo is his fiancèe and Logan's sister." Insert your favorite mind-blown GIF here.

Still don't believe me? GOOD, I DON'T CARE WHAT YOU THINK. Just kidding, let me know your own theories in the comments. But be gentle: there aren't two versions of me; there's only one.

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Kevin Alexander is Thrillist's national writer-at-large and now kind of thinks he's just a cripplingly self-aware robot. Beep bop beep boop @KAlexander03