At the risk of stating the obvious: Westworld, heading into its first season finale this week, is building up to something. The show is full of great pulpy thrills—finally, Old West shoot-outs and evil robots can coexist on the same show!—but it pulls its viewers along not through shock but its deceptively propulsive story. Deceptive, that is to say, because throughout the season it has been carefully employing filmmaking conventions to ease us into thinking of the show as a normal, linear narrative while simultaneously suggesting multiple timelines.
There have been murmurs for a while that one major character’s story is in actuality an origin story for another character, but the situation is a good bit more involved than that. Fortunately, an article on Vulture—pulling from scholarship on Vanity Fair and Reddit—lays out the timelines with shocking clarity. (Hypothetical spoilers follow.) The skeleton key is Evan Rachel Wood’s character Dolores, who, in the earliest timeline, is being intellectually probed by Arnold. The second timeline is Dolores’ journey with William (Jimmi Simpson), alongside William’s shit-heel brother-in-law. The third timeline—and also the one in which Maeve is fomenting robot rebellion—is the one following Dolores and the Man In Black to the “center of the maze.” The show interweaves these timelines seamlessly, using a handful of cues, including the park’s logo, that the Vulture article picks into a lot more.
It’s well worth reading, because this weekend the shit is absolutely going to hit the fan, presumably tying off many of this season’s lingering storylines while cracking open a whole new mystery box full of them. Better to be jaw agape with disappointment or delight than scratching your head, wondering which timeline you’re in and whether or not Adama’s actually a Cylon.
Watch the trailer for the finale below, and read the whole article, which is less spoiler than explainer, here.