There are so many intricacies to Westworld and its convoluted time line (or timelines), that you could spend hours dissecting the smallest detail in any episode. One of the few arcs that ties all of the different characters and their narratives together in some fashion is the quest for the Maze.
Warning: Although what follows is speculation about where the show is headed, there are details about what's happened in Westworld thus far. If you're trying to avoid spoilers, turn back now.
The Maze is an aspect of the show that gets teased more and more with each episode. Although the first and second episodes provide the smallest of glimpses for the audience as to what secrets and answers the Maze holds, by the time the third one rolls around, the clues begin to come together.
In Barnard’s secret conversation with Dolores at the beginning of the third episode, the host admits that she believes she’ll be free once she discovers who she is. In the fourth episode, Barnard mentions the Maze and tells Dolores she should check it out and would discover her freedom at the center of it. At this point, Dolores doesn’t know much about the Maze but has a feeling that she’ll find the answers to her questions about her identity there.
We know a little bit more about the Maze, however, thanks to a conversation between the Man in Black and Lawrence’s daughter from the second episode. We know that the Man in Black has come back to the theme park searching for it, but it’s through his brief conversation with Lawrence’s daughter that it’s revealed the Maze "isn’t for him." If that's the case, has the Maze in question been designed for the hosts instead of the visitors?
If the Maze in question is a final destination for the hosts, what will happen once they reach the center? If Dolores does find her way through the Maze’s path, what will she discover? More importantly, what will that set in motion? There are a couple of theories circling the internet about what this could all mean for the future of Westworld.
One of the most popular theories leads all the way back to the leader of this entire operation: Dr. Ford. He’s the one man that every since visitor and host has in common. He designs the park, the narrative, and we now know after the most recent episode that he knows everything that happens both in the manufacturing center and the theme park.
During his conversation with Theresa Cullin, the park's head of operations and the person in charge of making sure Westworld doesn't descend into chaos by standing in the way of his next narrative innovation, Ford says that nothing goes unnoticed by him. He’s aware of all the secrets that people are trying to hide, like her relationship with Barnard, and the events that are transpiring within Westworld itself. Although he doesn’t say it, he hints that he’s aware of what’s happening with the hosts’ newfound awakening and self-realization about what they are. As such, Ford would be the one telling Barnard to instruct Dolores to go and find the Maze. He would be the one that has the narrative of what happens next written out and ready to be explored. It would all be his doing.
The only question about this theory is what it implies about the Man in Black? He’s known about the Maze for a long time and is on the hunt for it, but as a visitor, Ford doesn’t have the same control over him as he does the hosts. Still, the Man in Black knows something about the Maze that the others don’t. In the fourth episode, he said that one of the reasons he wanted to find the Maze was that it contained an experience with consequences.
There are a couple of things that we can take away from that. The first, and the biggest, is that the Man in Black has somehow come into specific information about what the Maze consists of. If we’re to take Ford at his word and he does have intimate knowledge about everything that happens in the park and everything related to it, then we have to acknowledge that the chances of the Man in Black having discovered the Maze on his own without Ford being the person behind it or at least aware of it is slim to none.
So if Ford wants the hosts to awaken, and he wants the Man in Black to discover the center of the Maze as well, the next question is what does he have planned? Does he want there to be an fight with consequences, where people can’t just reset the day and begin again? Or, as other Reddit theorists have suggested, is Ford treating the entire thing like a twisted psychology experiment, pushing people to their extremes just to see how they react?
The evidence supporting Ford's god-like control over the hosts and visitors to his theme park appears again when an image of the Maze is shown via severed heads and tree logs. Some on Reddit have pointed out that the image is an homage to the O'odham myth focusing on a "Man in the Maze." This image, which Lawrence’s daughter seems to know something about, pops up again and again. In fact, in one of the shots from the show, Ford can be seen with a massive collection of Hopi kachina dolls; the same doll that a child drops in the fourth episode and that helps Maeve figure out what’s happening. All signs point to Ford orchestrating the upcoming chaos happening in his theme park.
We saw just how much control Ford has over the hosts and the world that he's in charge of during his conversation with Cullin. Instead of saying anything to the hosts, he showcases that he can control them with just the quickest and smallest lift of his finger. He's the one who designed the Westworld that people know today and he's the one that wants to push the theme park's narrative into the future. Everything points back to Ford being the mastermind behind the experiment, but of course, anything can happen between now and the end of the first season.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, executive producer Jonathan Nolan said they were keeping things as ambiguous as possible for a reason, comparing his approach to how he and brother Christopher Nolan helmed Memento. Like with that film, we can expect a few unforeseen twists ahead of this season’s finale in a couple of months’ time, but that theory seems to be the most popular.
Westworld has become one of the internet’s newest obsessions, with people across different forums posting different theories about the Maze, timelines, the question over who Arnold is and characters’ relationships with each other. The only thing we know for sure, thanks to comments from Nolan, is that the show won’t end the same way as the original film will.
Westworld airs Sundays at 10 p.m. ET.