The pace is picking up as Westworld season 2 (opens in new tab) reaches its inevitable climax, and the big question on everyone’s lips at the end of episode 9 (opens in new tab) is this: is the Man in Black really human? Or has he been a Host all along? Check out our discussion video above for our full thoughts. My inclination is that: no, he probably isn’t a Host. Here’s why. And spoilers follow, obviously...
William spends the whole episode musing about the darkness inside himself, and the tragic events of his past that lead him to be where he is now. While it seems he truly did care for his wife and daughter, his spouse’s death was a direct result of her finding out what kind of a man he is while inside Westworld. His daughter knows this too, as we find out that her mother left William’s Westworld profile to her, minutes before the suicide. It’s what she was reaching for when daddy shot her down in a fit of paranoia that she was ‘just another trick in Ford’s game’.
The Man in Black constantly scratches at his arm, where the Host interface socket is located, and at the end of the episode we see him cutting into his own flesh to find out whether or not he’s a Host. There is compelling evidence for William being a Host, aside from the arm scratching. While he’s unlikely to have been a Host originally, when he and Logan first entered the park and discovered Dolores, it’s very possible he did managed to perfect the technology for transplanting human consciousness into a Host body and, instead of giving immortality to James Delos, the ambitious William simply did it for himself.
It does seem extraordinary how much punishment the Man in Black has taken during this season, and the fact he’s still able to get up and walk away from it all does suggest that he’s more easily ‘fixed’ than a regular human. He miraculously survived the slaughter at the end of season 1 (opens in new tab). He shook off several non-fatal wounds at the start of the season. He took a bullet to the gut in episode 7 (opens in new tab), but a few hours later was able to gun down a whole security team single-handedly? That hardly seems right, for a regular person. But then again, he has reached an aid station with his daughter, and we can assume that there is powerful medical tech hidden away within the park to patch up any serious accidents that befall high-paying guests. So it could all be down to the wonders of futuristic medicine.
If you wanted to go REALLY deep into the rabbit hole, you could speculate that William is just one of Ford’s little experiments, and part of a meta-narrative that has been going on for decades. Did Ford design William and place him inside DELOS to infiltrate the company from within? We know William came from humble backgrounds (which essentially means he was an outsider when joining DELOS), so it’s possible he could be a plant, but that doesn’t explain how he aged and became the Man in Black, unless he was regularly updated to ‘blend in’ with the rest of the humans. It’s far fetched, but that would be a spectacular twist.
I’m not buying any of it, though. The Man in Black is, I think, showing signs of extreme paranoia - you only need to look at his dead daughter for that - and it’s taking a toll on him, mentally. He thinks Ford is everywhere, and he’s spent so long in the park that the line between the real world and his park life is blurring. It’s most likely that his memories are tainted by his current obsession with Westworld, and he’s remembering a paranoia that simply didn’t exist like he thinks it did. William is unravelling in Westworld - especially after the trauma of killing his daughter - and the most obvious manifestation of that is to wonder whether or not he’s a Host.
On top of all that… the whole ‘X is a Host’ twist feels quite played out in Westworld now. Yes, Bernard was a Host, and now Ford is kind of a Host, but we simply don’t need another plot revelation about a central character not being human. This feels like a massive piece of misdirection from the showrunners, to make people look the wrong way before the finale hits us all with an unseen knock-out punch. At the very least, it gives us all something to talk about until next week’s final - likely dazzling - final episode.
Do you think the Man in Black is really a Host? Let us know in the comments below.