One of the most pervasive fan theories concerning HBO’s Westworld is that the show seems to be portraying two or more different timelines at once without indicating to the audience that it’s operating under such a time split. Considering that one of the creators behind the show is Jonathan Nolan, screenwriter of time-twisting films like Memento and The Prestige, it certainly makes sense that something is wonky in regards to spatiotemporal trickery. And now, after six episodes, it’s very clear that the calendar in Westworld is indeed all sorts of confusing.
Pinpointing the setting via the age of the characters would be the obvious first step, but determining who is real and who is a programmed is a problem that could complicate that route. Instead, eagle-eyed fans could guess the time difference from something obvious right there in the show’s opening credits: the Westworld logo.
Throughout the first six episodes, there have been two different park logos, a retro one that looks straight out of the 1970s and another sleek Apple-like design from the present day.
If the official Westworld social media accounts say the logos are important, here’s why.
The first peek at old school Westworld iconography is when Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) follows Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) and his security dude crew down to the cold storage facility on Level B83, which, judging by the nifty gold globe decked out with a Delos logo, seems to have been abandoned after that undisclosed incident from 30 years ago. This means any scene featuring Bernard or Stubbs is ostensibly in the present day of the show’s timeline.
The logo as seen in the episode is out of focus and unimportant for the time being, but judging by what happens in Episode 2, the timeline argument begins to fall into place.
Early on, we’re introduced to William and Logan who, for all intents and purposes, are newly arrived guests to the park in the present day timeline as well. But the slow push in of the camera during William’s arrival gazes for a suspiciously long time at the Westworld logo before he’s whisked away to become a white hat.
We were not yet aware of it when it aired, but this is the biggest clue that the timelines are different. Usually the show is purposefully (and frustratingly) convoluted, but this is probably the only time the show has gone out of its way to be obvious to the viewer. It’s as if the show is telling us we need to remember what this logo looks like.
And just as a reminder if you missed it the first time, the retro wedge design pops up again in the background as William is getting suited up for his arrival in the actual park.
Weirdly enough, the episode icon to watch “Chestnut” on HBO GO features a still from this scene, but instead of the wedge logo seen in the actual episode, it has the updated sleek design behind William and host Angela. Things aren’t always as they seem in and out of the show as well.
Bookending the retro logo from William’s arrival is the only solid evidence of the sleek present day logo in the actual series thus far. When Sizemore gathers the Westworld employees towards the end of the episode to show them all his new narrative, “Odyssey on Red River,” which promptly gets shut down by Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), we see a glimpse of the new logo from the present day timeline. This can’t be a coincidence.
In this episode we get a spatiotemporal a bombshell. Though a flashback montage, Ford explains to Bernard about the genesis of the park and his mysterious partner Arnold.
“Those early years were glorious.” Ford tells Bernard. “No guests, no board meetings, just pure creation,” and in the middle of the information dump we not only see a young Ford, but engineers sporting lab coats with the old Westworld logo design.
At this point, the link between the logo and the “early days,” as Ford puts it, is established, seemingly confirming the dual timeline theory. Based on the obvious logo placement in “Chestnut” this means William and Logan’s timeline takes place at some point in the early days as well.
Then there was this past Sunday’s episode. Elsie determines that someone has been mining data from the hosts for what she calls “industrial espionage,” so they need to find a way to pinpoint who was transmitting the illegal host data from the Woodcutter from “The Stray.” This, despite the fact that its GPS metadata was wiped clean.
Here’s where it gets interesting.
Bernard explains to Elsie (Shannon Woodward), “Our friend was an early model. The old hosts used a legacy geo-positioning system,” and continues by saying, “The information’s still there, but the newer system can’t read it.”
The only way for him to get it? “I’m going to need to go downstairs,” he says before heading to Floor B82, one level above the host cold storage on B83 first seen in “The Original.”
This is Bernard confirming the old-versus-new OS functionality of some of the hosts in the park, as well as the fact that the abandoned portions of the park introduced in “The Original” are the same sections from the “early days” Ford mentions in “The Stray.”
Whether it’s the flickering light fixtures, deserted offices, outdated schematics, and abandoned robotic host frames, it’s obvious that these levels are from the original park 30 years ago, which is confirmed when Bernard logs into the old computers on that level. The old OS features the old logo, which gives us a clear understanding of the now-versus-then timeline.