Viewers have been wondering what the mysterious Man in Black has been up to in the first handful of episodes of HBO’s Westworld, or whether he’s truly the bad guy he makes himself out to be. According to series co-creator Lia Joy, the ruthless outlaw is merely playing a game, fashioning himself as a gunslinger when he might actually be a pretty nice guy in the outside world.
In “Dissonance Theory,” the Man in Black joins up with Armistice’s gang to spring bandit host Hector Escaton out of a prison. While they’re camped out, two other guests work up the courage to talk to the Man in Black, who is apparently some kind of a celebrity in the park because of who he is in the outside world.
“Just talk to him,” one reluctant guest says to the other. “Excuse me, sir. I just wanted to say I’m such an admirer of yours. Your foundation literally saved my sister’s life,” says the other.
“One more word and I’ll cut your throat. Do you understand?” says the Man in Black. “This is my fucking vacation.”
This is the first explicit reference to who the Man in Black is outside world. From the sound of it, he appears to be some kind of CEO whose company helps deathly ill people get well. He’s a different kind of god than, say, the increasingly insane Robert Ford. But this also means that his overwrought villain persona in the park might all be fake.
Joy seemed to back this idea up with some video game allusions.
“Our sympathies are so aligned with the hosts it’s easy to think of the Man in Black as absolute black evil with a wry smile. For him, he’s looking at this as just a game, and he’s an expert-level gamer,” she told Entertainment Weekly “Just like a life-saving doctor can play Grand Theft Auto really violently doesn’t mean he can’t be a wonderful doctor and parent outside that world. So that’s what we’re approaching here, is a shift in perspective that might allow us to imagine a different side of his character that he shows the outside world.”
So the Man in Black is actually someone we’d want to be friends with, in the outside world that is. In the meantime he’s still trying to outsmart the system to beat the game that is Westworld. But what happens when an expert gamer like him finds the Maze and ends the game? We’ll have to wait to find out.