Westworld: The Man in Black's Backstory Revealed

One of the main "mysteries" of Westworld is the enigmatic Man in Black, a stone cold gunslinger played by Ed Harris. The Man in Black knows a lot about the park's inner workings, and is searching for "the Maze", an almost secret storyline that he believes could show the "truth" behind the fiction.

Because of his ties and knowledge of the park, fans of Westworld have come up with a ton of innovative theories as to who the Man in Black is. Some speculated that he was Arnold, the supposedly deceased co-founder of Westworld. Others thought that an older version of William and that the show was actually secretly using flashbacks to show William's first and last trips to the park.

However, this week's episode proves that all of those theories are false. During an excursion to rescue the bandit Hector from a heavily armed prison, two guests approach the Man in Black after recognizing him from the outside world. One of the guests says he's a huge admirer and say that the Man in Black's foundation saved his sister's life. The Man in Black curtly cuts the two men off and then warns them that he's on vacation and that he'll slit their throats if they keep talking to him.

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Since the guests recognize him, it's pretty clear that the Man in Black isn't a virus, a sentient host, or a secretly alive Arnold. As Westworld staff flags the Man in Black at the same time they flag Dolores, it's also pretty clear that he's also not William in the future either. It seems that the Man in Black is just very rich and spends his vacations exploring every inch of Westworld.

Although people might be disappointed that the Man in Black is just a super-rich guest and not a sentient host or a secret founder of Westworld, there is still some mystery behind the character. The Man in Black knows about Arnold and is convinced that Arnold secretly hid a "final story" for him to find. It's very possible that the Man in Black has some tie to Arnold, given that the Man in Black said that he was "born" at the park 30 years ago. Our best guess is that the Man in Black met Arnold at Westworld right before he died and took Arnold's ideas about the host to heart.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Westworld producer Lisa Joy admitted the Man in Black's backstory was supposed to play on our preconceptions of the character. "Our sympathies are so aligned with the hosts, it’s easy to think of the Man in Black as absolute black evil with a wry smile," Joy said. "For him, he’s looking at this as just a game and he’s an expert-level gamer. Just like a life-saving doctor can play Grand Theft Auto really violently doesn’t mean he can’t be a wonderful doctor and parent outside that world."

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Since Westworld is seemingly a commentary about how people consume entertainment and media, maybe the faux-mystery behind the Man in Black is the point of the character. Maybe Westworld wanted to spark its viewers' imagination and tantalize them with the hidden secrets before revealing the mundane truth. Perhaps the Man in Black was intended as a false flag, a red herring to distract viewers from picking up on other mysteries and clues in the episode.

The Man in Black looks to have a role in next week's episode, so maybe we'll learn more about his past and IF he has any connection to the park next week.