WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Season 3, Episode 7, of Westworld, “Passed Pawn,” which aired Sunday on HBO.
In the very first episode of Westworld when the show debuted in 2016, audiences were introduced to Ed Harris’ character, known only as “The Man In Black.” He was a bad guy from the first, a “black hat” in the park, murdering Teddy, raping Dolores, acting out an ugly violent fantasy that established him as a villain. The reveal The Man in Black was an older version of the nice guy William, who showed up in Episode 2 and spent the first season falling in love with Dolores, didn’t change that view. All it did was confirm William was a villain as well.
That’s why William’s change to “The Man In White” in Season 3, Episode 6, was such a hard u-turn. After three seasons where this character has been portrayed as a villain — driving his wife to suicide, killing his only daughter by shooting her at point-blank range — fans weren’t sure they were ready for “Good Guy William.” Heck, even Ed Harris wasn’t sure he was prepared for it either. But despite the murderous way he achieved it, the time in AR therapy seemed to changed William’s outlook. It was time to be a hero.
But what exactly does being a hero mean to William? In Season 3’s penultimate episode, viewers discovered that his idea of being a “Good Guy” wasn’t siding with the show’s protagonists.
Westworld has always angled the story to sympathize with the hosts in the park. The series opening episode begins with Teddy’s daily arrival at the park as he begins his regularly scheduled loop, the story is told through his and Dolores’ eyes, as they discover the world around them. Even protagonists like Bernard and Stubbs, though initially presented as human, turn out to be hosts as well. The rareness of a human good guy is such that when they do occur (like Caleb), fans are immediately suspicious.
So when William declares he has realized he can be the hero of his own story, it seems like he is about to have a change of heart. After all, he’s spent two seasons treating hosts like disposable garbage, especially Dolores. With Serac as the antagonist hell-bent on destroying the hosts and Delos’ decades of work and intellectual property, it seems like William is about to side with the man-made angels.
The series seems to solidify William’s choice of siding with the hosts by having a pair of them rescue him, with Bernard and Stubbs pulling him out of the asylum where he’s been left to rot. On the one hand, this is an excellent mix-and-match pairing for the show to play with, as William only met Bernard at the end of Season 2 and has no idea Stubbs is even a host. A team-up with these three seemed like a fun time.
But the moment Williams learns Stubbs is a host, his language, using the word “infested,” tells viewers the truth about his revelation, even before he spells it out. William has not become the “Man in White.” He’s gone entirely in the other direction. William has decided he made one mistake in life: Creating the hosts in the first place. Serac won’t have to destroy them. William’s going to do it first.
For those who never bought into William’s turn to the light, this is more proof that people don’t change. Once a bad guy who treats hosts in a dehumanizing way, always a bad guy who treats them that way. That Bernard and Stubbs don’t tie up William or protect themselves from him at all speaks volumes of how much they’ve been internally trained to trust the heads of Delos. When William comes out with a gun ready to blow them sky-high, it’s a sign neither may make it out of this season alive.
But despite William’s ego and foolish ideas, there’s still something that might keep Bernard and Stubbs safe: Dolores. She’s said repeatedly this season that Bernard is the only one who can’t be replaced. One has to assume she rebuilt him with protections in mind. Let’s hope so because these are two hosts we want to survive for Season 4.
Airing Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on HBO, Westworld stars returning cast members Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, Ed Harris, Jeffrey Wright, Tessa Thompson, Luke Hemsworth, Simon Quarterman and Rodrigo Santoro, joined by series newcomers Aaron Paul, Vincent Cassel, Lena Waithe, Scott Mescudi, Marshawn Lynch, John Gallagher Jr., Michael Ealy and Tommy Flanagan.
KEEP READING: Westworld: Dolores’ Host Helpers Are Finally Revealed
William finally reveals what his time in AR therapy taught him about his biggest mistakes in life, and it's not good news for Westworld's hosts.