[WARNING: The following contains spoilers for everything that has happened this season, and theories about what that means for the future of the show’s characters.]
Westworld fans have suspected for quite some time that the show exists in multiple timelines. It was essentially confirmed last week in a conversation between Dolores and William.
"But when am I?" Dolores asks William, after having vivid flashbacks of her past.
That seemed to be all the information we were privy to at the time, but last night’s big revelation introduced a whole new theory: what if there are more than two alternate timelines? Specifically, it appeared that last night’s episode confirmed three timelines at the very least.
The Dolores Theory
Westworld is a show that forces you to pay attention to the smallest details. Turn away for a second, and you could miss an important clue to figuring out the mystery. This is exactly what transpired last night with Dolores and her subtle costume changes. Not only did her different appearances all but confirm there are at least three different concurrent timelines that exist, but they opened up the door for more observation.
There are three different moments featuring Dolores that we should be paying attention to: her confrontation with Logan at the camp, her sprint toward Arnold after she gets away and the scene where she happens upon the church. There are significant changes in her appearance in all three scenes, which would suggest that they occurred in different timelines.
In the first scene, Dolores is wearing a white shirt and khakis. While William watched helplessly Logan stabs her in the stomach. Her shirt is ruined, soaked through with blood, but Dolores manages to get away and runs toward Arnold. This brings us to her next scene, where she’s trekking through Westworld to find him, and we get another close-up of her outfit. Although she’s wearing the shirt and trouser combo again, it’s no longer drenched in blood. She doesn’t have a wound and she’s not in any pain. This would suggest that her mission to find Arnold is happening at a different moment than what we first imagined.
The last scene in this progression is when Dolores comes across the church. When she enters the town, she’s wearing her modern outfit, but as she’s walking through the church, we see her sporting the classic blue dress that we were first introduced to her in. We see the same hosts freaking out that we’ve seen in her past recollections, and just as she’s figuring out that she’s crossing through different timelines, we’re seeing them play out before us.
It doesn’t just begin and end with her clothes, either. After Dolores gets to the church, she enters an elevator disguised as a confessional booth. We see both versions of the character being lowered into a lab, and follow both versions as she walks through the halls. In one scenario, there are bodies strewn across a hallway; the facility has clearly fallen into disrepair. In an alternate timeline, the place is in good shape and we see a younger version of Dr. Ford — perhaps in his 30s — run by her.
All of this leads up to the episode's big revelation: that Bernard is indeed Arnold. But even that revelation is a window into understanding the timeline theory a little better. The conversations that take place between Arnold and Dolores, as opposed to Bernard and Dolores, can be determined if you examine the clothes they’re wearing and the environment they’re in. It seems that the key to figuring out different timelines, to a certain extent, is by studying their clothes in each scene.
One fan even theorized that if you look at William’s hat in each episode, it appears to be getting darker instead of just dirtier. We know that he’s a white hat-type character in the story. If the theories about William turning into the Man in Black are true, than watching his hat become darker would be an interesting and subtle telltale sign. While the symbolism would be a little too on the nose — a white hat character becomes a black hat — the actual use of a hat changing color is a pretty unique way of going about it.
The most important aspect to the different timelines is, that the hosts are becoming more aware of them. We’ve seen them slowly start to awaken and become alive. We’ve seen Maeve orchestrate her own rebellion. We’ve seen Dolores begin to piece the puzzle together. We’ve seen Bernard struggle with the different worlds that he realizes he’s a part of. The timelines are beginning to merge into one, and the question that still remains is, what does this all mean? Not philosophically either, but quite literally. What is this all building up to? Is the final revelation going to be that William is the Man in Black? Maybe Dolores doesn’t exist at all and everything about her is a collective memory.
We don’t know everything about the alternate timelines; arguably, we know very little. But the theories that have been going around online are beginning to come true, and that alone warrants a little more faith in the Westworld community.
Westworld’s season finale will air on Dec. 4 at 9 p.m. ET on HBO.