For nearly all of Westworld Season 3, the series has been promising it won't play its oldest and dirtiest trick on us. In Season 1, the entire story revolved around two competing timelines, which we initially thought were happening at the same time but were instead the past and present versions of William. In Season 2, a similar non-linear twist asserted itself, this time focused on Bernard's scrambled Host memory. We thought Westworld Season 3 was operating without this kind of twist. Until now.
With Caleb's backstory explained, it feels like the Westworld Season 3 finale will end in the revelation that the Man in Black is on a different and slightly screwier timeline than all the other characters. And it could have everything to do with a subtle connection between William and Caleb in the latest episode of Westworld.
Spoilers ahead for Westworld, Season 3, Episode 7, "Passed Pawn."
Since the very first episode of Westworld Season 3, we've been pretty confused about what Caleb is actually going to do, and more importantly, we've been confused about what he did in the past. Thanks to some good-old-fashion memory erasure sci-fi, we have our answer: After his time in the U.S. Army, Caleb was reconditioned with something called "AR Therapy," which manipulated his memories and emotions to make him believe certain events occurred differently than they did.
We also learned that the precursor to the super-computer, Rehoboam was another "insane A.I." called Solomon. On top of that, it turns out Serac and his brother created the crime app RICO to regulate criminality in order to use repaired "outliers" like Caleb to kidnap other "outliers" and either rehabilitate them or lock them away in a comatose state.
In essence, Caleb doesn't fit the masterplan for the human race as outlined by controlling hivemind computers, so he was turned into an unwitting assassin to capture other people like himself. By the end of the episode, it's made clear that as part of Caleb's reconditioning (which must have happened more than once) something called AR therapy was used, and as a direct result of that Caleb has "dissociative memories." This is big.
Caleb and the Man in Black are the only two characters we've seen get AR Therapy — While being held in a specific facility, we see flashbacks of Caleb wearing some trippy goggles and getting something called "AR therapy." This is the exact same thing given to the Man in Black once he was taken to, what we think, is the same facility. When Bernard and Stubbs found the Man in Black in Episode 6, "Decoherence," Bernard noted that William had been hooked up to the goggles for a while, seemingly left behind by the people who were supposed to be watching him in the facility.
"Passed Pawn," tells us that this therapy gave Caleb dissociative memories, so what about the Man in Black?
Why Dolores and Caleb didn't cross paths with the Man in Black — If Solomon is located in the same facility where Caleb was given AR therapy, is it also the same place the Man in Black was given the therapy? We're meant to think so.
In Caleb's flashback, there are mentions of people being sent to New Mexico. In the previous episode, the Man in Black was identified by Charlotte's tracker as being in New Mexico. If the facility that the Man in Black was sent to is the same one Caleb was sent to (and that he and Dolores have returned to) then it's fairly confusing as to why everybody didn't meet up in this episode.
Unless it's not confusing at all. Maybe the reason why the Man in Black didn't meet Dolores and Caleb at the facility in this episode is that he's not "there" at the same time they are. We're just meant to think he is.
The latest episode of Westworld Season 3 makes it clear that Caleb has dissociative memories because of his AR therapy, which means the Man in Black probably does too. The presence of Bernard and Stubbs are made to make us think this is the "present," but since they're both hosts it doesn't really prove anything.
The Man in Black could be anywhere at any time. Like Caleb's flashbacks earlier in Season 3, William is no longer a reliable narrator. Where in the timeline he "really" is relative to Dolores and Caleb is unclear, but it's a good bet that the finale will explain it.
The final nail in the Man in Black's coffin — Assuming that the Man in Black is having dissociative memories and this accounts for a slightly different timeline for him right now, there's one last clue worth noting. Bernard says he's already dead. On some level, you could read this as a clerical thing — the powers that be at the facility planned for him to die, so he's classified as dead — but there could be one other explanation.
Maybe the Man in Black is really dead, and the person we're seeing now is a Host version of him. Thanks to a flashforward at the end of Westworld Season 2, we know that in the far-future of Westworld, the Man in Black does "become" a Host. In this episode, he's emphatic that he's the only real human hanging around with Bernard and Stubbs, but it also seems like Bernard isn't totally buying that.
Am I reading too much into a look from Jeffrey Wright? Or when the Man in Black says this, doesn't it seem like Bernard is like a second away from saying, "No, you're actually not human, buddy." Right?
If the Man in Black is on another timeline and also already in a Host body, that means the Westworld Season 3 finale will conclude in the most Westworld-y way possible. Why settle for a last-minute robot reveal or a second timeline twist when you can have both?
The Westworld Season 3 finale airs next Sunday on HBO.