WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 3, Episode 4 of Westworld, “The Mother of Exiles,” which aired Sunday on HBO.
When Westworld originally premiered back in 2016, the show touted it’s major casting coups as Sir Anthony Hopkins and actor Ed Harris, two big-screen actors who regularly found themselves nominated for Oscars. Hopkins’ character, Robert Ford, was killed at the end of Season 1, but still hung around, like a ghost throughout Season 2. Harris’ character William, known as The Man In Black, has thus far survived, but like Hopkins, he spent most of the first half of Season 3 suspiciously out of the action.
Fans assume Ford will not be back this season, as his hosts are now roaming free in the real world. But William finally turned up in Episode 4, The Mother of Exiles,” and his mental status was definitely “Not Good.” From the opening moments of the episode, as William smashed mirror after mirror in his house, screaming, “I know what’s real,” it was apparent the Man In Black was no longer in control.
William does deserve a measure of pity in his madness. Over the last year or so, he has undergone unspeakable trauma. His wife committed suicide in the bath, causing him to retreat to the Delos park, and act out his most heinous self. Then, just as he was pulling out of it, Ford set off a host revolution led by Dolores, the character in the park whose gentle innocence once won his heart. In his fight to find his way to the all-important Sector 16 data, he found himself bedeviled by a host trying to manipulate him into revealing its whereabouts, disguised as his daughter Emily.
Or so he thought. It was only after he shot Emily dead that he realized she wasn’t after his information or a host at all. It was his real daughter, trying to take him home.
One can understand why, in his wild grief, William now has waking dreams of drowning in a tub, or vision of his daughter screaming as she bleeds out in front of him. His failure to separate fact from fantasy, and his horrible behavior in the park, drove his wife to kill herself and caused him to murder his own child.
In the park, it was Dolores who found him questioning the nature of his reality after Emily’s death. So perhaps it was only right that it was Dolores, in the guise of Charlotte Hale, who found him doing the same at home. But to a distracted William, Hale’s visit seems straightforward. Serac has been secretly buying Delos out from under them. She’s here to force William to pull himself together. They will head to the emergency board meeting and persuade the investors to vote to go private together. Otherwise, Incite will own Delos in a matter of days.
Perhaps if William had been in control, he would have noticed Hale’s surprising talent in shaving men with a straight razor. Maybe he might have put together she is Serac’s “mole.” (As it is, he nearly does anyway.) But no, it’s not until she has him outside that she reveals his delusions of what’s real are closer to the truth than he knows. The next thing fans know, the Man in Black is being dragged away to a Mental Hospital, screaming Hale isn’t real, and neither is this world.
But Dolores says a curious thing to William just before he’s dragged away: “It’s amusing you think you chose to kill your own daughter. You don’t even have a choice in your own grief.” William doesn’t understand what she means, even though he’s been arguing with the ghost of Emily whether killing her was proof he was a helpless victim of fate or a monster who chose to shoot his own child.
But for those who have been paying attention, there’s a third explanation he and Emily never considered. There is an outside force manipulating William’s circumstances to lead to this outcome, where he is declared mentally incompetent.
Viewers already saw in Episode 3 that Rehoboam manipulates every person in the world to stay on the predesignated loops its algorithms determine to be their most likely life path. Someone as insignificant as Caleb is kept from promotion and lasting relationships to keep him on a track towards suicide. The program’s entire point is to keep evil chaos agents out of positions where they could disrupt the world. In Rehoboam’s view, the Man In Black and his Sector 16 project to clone human minds to place in hosts so they can live forever is what it was designed to negate.
Besides, Serac’s main goal right now is to take over Delos, and William is the central figure standing in his way. Orchestrating a breakdown to remove him is just common sense.
KEEP READING: Westworld: Serac’s Connection to Delos, Explained
The Man In Black finally turns up four episodes in, but he is no longer in control of his own life.