The hints started all the way back in the premiere.
Full spoilers for Westworld continue below. Read on at your own risk.
The Man in Black was always going to be a key player in Westworld, but the Season 1 finale, confirmed he’s actually two key players when we learned definitively William and the Man in Black are the same person. Westworld had been foreshadowing the reveal since the beginning, and the clues were there for those willing to look.
They started in the premiere, though we didn’t know it at the time. The Man in Black has a history with Dolores, and when we meet William in episode 2, he and Dolores have the same meet-cute that the Man in Black had with her in the premiere. That’s when viewers started picking up on the parallels and questioning whether these storylines were actually taking place at the same time.
William’s decision to go white hat was another major hat tip to him becoming the Man in Black. Season 1 in many ways was the Man in Black’s origin story — something that was repeatedly foreshadowed, from the Man in Black saying, “In a sense, I was born” in Westworld to William telling Dolores she “unlocked something” inside of him that revealed his true self.
Each new reveal about the Man in Black’s backstory and the reason William and Logan were at the park further hinted that the two characters were one and the same. William was engaged to Logan’s sister, which aligned with the story the Man in Black told about his wife. Logan ran a major corporation that William also worked for that wanted to buy out the failing Westworld, and we later learn the Man in Black is the primary shareholder in Delos and owns this park.
The first Host William met was the same host the Man in Black said had been around for a long time, implying he’d known her before. The clincher was when William started using the same knife that the Man in Black had been carrying around all season. No wonder Lawrence was such an important player in the Man in Black’s journey.
As the Man in Black told Teddy, “I’m the good guy,” hinting back to his white hat days. In retrospect, we see that the Man in Black forcing Teddy to try to shoot him first was something he started doing to Hosts back after Logan attacked Dolores, and culminating in him stabbing Dolores when she too wasn’t able to pull the trigger on him. The Man in Black also told Teddy he once opened a Host up in the early days of the park and saw “a million little perfect pieces,” which seems to be the scene we witness unfold at the end of episode 9.
The decision to open episode 2 with William and Logan entering the park confuses some of the multiple time-frame explanations. At first it seemed like the William storyline was happening concurrent with the rest of the present day events, and later we realize much of what we saw with William was Dolores reliving her memories of their time together. Still, understanding Logan and Williams’ relationship was key to understanding where these events fell on the timeline, with Logan talking about the park’s impending failure after Arnold’s death setting up the Man in Black’s later comments to Ford about how he rescued the park.
The biggest hint was the Man in Black’s obsession with the maze. Why did he care so much? What was he hoping to find? Knowing William joined Dolores on her quest to find what Arnold had planned for her at the center of the maze — and then knowing she never got there during her trip with William — was a huge clue as to why the Man in Black was so fascinated all along.
His disillusionment with thinking she was special only to find out she was as bound to the narrative as all the other Hosts was a huge reason for his descent into darkness. Though for a while it seemed like his motivation to help the Hosts achieve consciousness was more sentimental and a way to bring back the Dolores he loved, we found out in the finale that he actually was more interested in just having the park experience be more real for the guests — namely, himself.
So where does that lead us going forward? William’s main goal was to unlock the consciousnesses of the Hosts so that there could be real consequences for guests, and that’s exactly what Ford delivered in his new narrative. With the guests now able to be hurt, will William immediately be blown to pieces by the impending Host army? Will we ever see Jimmi Simpson’s younger version of the character again? At least Ed Harris has confirmed he’ll be back for Season 2, so one way or another the Man in Black will return.
For more on Westworld as we wait for Season 2’s 2018 premiere, keep it here at IGN.
Terri Schwartz is Entertainment Editor at IGN. Talk to her on Twitter at @Terri_Schwartz.