HBO’s newest show Westworld is full of mysteries, but there’s only one mystery, the park’s origin, that might untangle everything else. For now the show remains mum on what exactly happened in the park three decades ago. The park’s creator, Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), and the head of programming, Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright), have alluded to an incident involving Ford’s partner Arnold before the park opened for business that could have ruined the entire venture once it was up and running. But what could have saved Westworld from catastrophe? Based on what William and Logan say, it’s Logan’s family’s company that came to the rescue.
To understand their company — which may or may not be Delos — we must understand the rough timeline of Westworld, especially considering it is becoming abundantly clear that the scenes involving William and Logan take place earlier in time than the scenes involving the Man in Black regardless of whether you think he and William are the same person.
During Ford’s flashback scene in “The Stray,” he mentions that he and Arnold, along with a team of engineers, began their experiments creating hosts three years before the park opened. During this time — 34 years, 42 days, 7 hours ago per her dialogue in Contrapasso” — was Dolores’s alleged last interaction with Arnold. Roughly three years later the park opens and operates for an indeterminate amount of time before Arnold’s death, the major incident alluded to by Bernard who mentions in “The Original” that “the park hasn’t had a critical failure in over 30 years.” It’s during that three-year grace period the Man in Black first visited the park. In “The Original” he tells Dolores, “I’ve been coming here for 30 years, but you still don’t remember me, do you?”
This early period in the Westworld timeline was obviously tumultuous. It was stormy enough that some huge corporation might’ve needed to come in and save Ford’s glorious experiment for what would ostensibly be for the better. He even tells Theresa Cullen in “Dissonance Theory” that Arnold “begged me to not let you people in, the moneymen. Delos,” and that “it’s not a business venture, not a theme park, but an entire world.”
As evidenced in “Contrapasso,” it turns out William works for Logan and his fiancée’s family’s company as a newly appointed Executive Vice President. The pair ostensibly venture to the park on a kind of bachelor party outing to sow some wild oats since William is engaged to Logan’s sister. “It’s not like my sister didn’t ride her fair share of cowboys when she was here,” Logan tells William as they arrive at the park in “Chestnut.” But we also find out that they’re there on a corporate takeover mission. “I thought you didn’t want to talk about work here,” William tells Logan in the same episode. “Who says this trip isn’t work?” Logan says back.
It’s also in the fifth episode where we get even further details about their presence in the park and when it could take place during the Westworld timeline. “Some of the park feels like it was designed by committee or market-tested, but everything out here is more raw, but it doesn’t come cheap,” Logan says as he, William, Dolores, and Slim saunter into the outlaw settlement called Pariah. “Rumor is they are hemorrhaging cash. We’re considering buying them out.”
This seems to suggest that Logan’s family’s company is going to save Westworld following the undisclosed catastrophic incident that happened early in the park’s history. Nothing in the contemporary scenes involving Bernard or Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen) suggest the park is in any sort of financial trouble. Per Logan in “Contrapasso”: “Supposedly, this place was all started by a partnership,” he says referring to Ford and Arnold. “And then right before the park opened, one of the partners killed himself. Sent the park into a freefall.”
In that episode Logan also seems to suggest that the pre-corporate park owners know the reason that he and William are there, suggesting that they’re VIPs, much like another black-clad desperado that gets special treatment in the park (i.e., the Man in Black). “You really think it’s a coincidence that the only thing that you even smiled at back in Sweetwater just happened to drop into your lap?” Logan says to William about Dolores following them. “This is why the company needs to bump our stake in this place.”
“You said the trip was about welcoming me to the family,” a dejected William confronts Logan later on. “This is business,” Logan responds. “With our family, William, everything is business.”
It makes sense that following Arnold’s suicide the park opened as normal, but a few years later its financial viability was thrown into disarray. Then Logan’s family’s company — again, possibly Delos — was there with cash in-hand to get it back on track and reined in Ford’s loftier ideas following his close partner’s death. But before they signed on the dotted line, the board of the company sent a family representative (Logan) and a top executive (William, who also happens to be an eventual member of the family) to the park to assess the practicality of the company takeover.
But why would the company want to take over a crumbling park filled with humanoid robots that will eventually gain consciousness and turn against humans? “They can even give you a sense of purpose,” Logan tells William in “Dissonance Theory.” With five remaining episodes we’ll have to wait and see if that purpose was worth it.