The last episode of Westworld, “The Riddle of the Sphinx,” was the best the show has been this season, so far anyway. It left an impression on me, rattled around in my brain long enough for a fan theory to form – I think I might know the true objective of William’s mysterious quest.
Apologies if this turns out to be a spoiler. And apologies if somebody already thought of this, in the vast, fan-theory rendering farm of the World Wide Web. But I probably thought of it first.
During the last episode, we see William undergoing a dramatic transformation, as his character tends to do. His initial enthusiasm in his cloning technique is eroded away by a major obstacle – the fact that Delos’ mind is unable to accept his “rebirth.”
William eventually loses faith in the endeavor completely, and figures that Delos isn’t really worth all this trouble, seeing as he’s kind of an asshole. But William’s demeanor and attitude seem dramatically at odds with his younger self; it’s as though he’s just gone through an epiphany of some kind.
In the same episode, Bernard makes a significant confession – he hints that there’s another host clone out there, another attempt at immortality. What if the other host clone is William?
After all, he’s invested all this effort into the cloning process, and has eagerly embraced every aspect of the park, no matter how unsavory and immoral. Why would he hold back on cloning himself?
As William was watching poor old Delos go through his torturous cycle of rebirth year after year, maybe he was watching his own clone host go through the exact same thing. Perhaps this is what really killed his enthusiasm for the immortality project.
It can’t be easy watching a clone of yourself die repeatedly, and William may have eventually come to the conclusion that, like Delos, he’s kind of an asshole anyway. When he states “No man should live forever,” I think he was really referring to himself.
And I believe that’s what old William is searching for, his mysterious “greatest mistake” that he admitted to Lawrence in episode two of this season. It would fit perfectly with what Ford is telling William, that the game they are playing does not lead to the future. He is stating, in no uncertain terms, that William must confront his past.
So maybe William is traveling to another secret lab, where a younger William, a host clone, is waiting, trapped inside an artificial prison just like Delos. That would give a pretty fantastic opportunity for William to face his past, in a very literal way.
Jimmi Simpson and Ed Harris are two of the finest actors on the show, and it’s a tragedy that they will never share screen time. That is, unless this exact theory turns out to be true. Imagine a confrontation between old and young William; it would a fantastically meta narrative, where two timelines seemingly merge into one trippy, violent delight. In short, it would be very Westworld.
I think what Ford’s narrative is trying to tell William, is that he can ride into the sunset all he likes, rebrand himself as a knight in shining armor, but the corrupt character who helped build the park and turned it into a spying network, host-rights violation, and immortality experiment, is never going to go away.
To truly atone for his past, to find the peace and meaning he so craves, William will have to kill his past self, and make an extremely literal analogy for his psychological journey of rebirth.