HBO’s Westworld is one of the best new shows of the fall and while much of its early success can be attributed to its thought-provoking premise, it’s arguably the large cast of colorful, interesting characters that have been Westworld’s biggest strength so far in its early going. By far the most mysterious and fascinating of the bunch is Ed Harris’ Man in Black, a badass gunslinger who has seemingly mastered Westworld in a way no other character has.
A charismatic cowboy on a mission, the Man in Black has captivated viewers primarily because he is the show’s biggest wild card, which is saying something when it feels like most of the other characters fit that description in some way. Now four episodes into its first season, we don’t actually know all that much about Westworld’s best character but what we do know he feels important nonetheless. Here’s every detail worth knowing about the Man in Black that has been revealed so far.
He’s Based On The Gunslinger From The Original Westworld
Fans of Michael Crichton’s original 1973 movie, on which Westworld the TV series is based, probably noticed the similarities between the Man in Black and Yul Brynner’s Gunslinger character right away. They both wear dark clothing meant to represent their darker personalities, they’re both antagonists, and they’re both played by super talented actors. Of course, there are quite a few differences, most notably that one is a machine and the other is a human (or is he? You can never be quite sure on this show.) The Gunslinger is also portrayed as a Terminator-esque machine of death and while the Man in Black is certainly capable of doling out his own brand of death and destruction, there appears to be a much deeper meaning to his actions.
He’s Basically A Pro Gamer
Arguably the best analogy for the Man in Black that has been made so far is that he is essentially a pro gamer; in this case, he’s an expert on everything Westworld and has the skills to back it up. He’s a ridiculously good shot, routinely taking out multiple targets with skill and precision in the blink of an eye and also understands how everything works so well that he’s able to game the system, so to speak.
We’ve seen him use specialized bullets to blow a hole through rock and an explosive cigar to break someone out of prison (although that last one is due to him having a connection on the inside, which I’ll get to in a bit). Even showrunners Jonathan and Lisa Joy Nolan support the idea of the Man in Black being a pro gamer: “He’s like somebody who plays Grand Theft Auto all the time and can solve a thing in 30 minutes. He’s fantastic at this. He’s a pro.”
He’s Been Coming To Westworld For 30 Years
Much of the reason for the Man in Black’s adept skill at pretty much everything related to Westworld is that he’s been visiting the park regularly for 30 years at the time we meet him, so this is definitely not his first rodeo. While we’ve only scratched the surface of everything the Man in Black has learned over that lengthy period of time, we have seen that he seems to know the place better than anyone, besides Anthony Hopkins’ Dr. Ford and perhaps Jeffrey Wright’s Bernard. It’s also important to note that Westworld’s last critical failure happened 30 years prior to the present we see on the show, and while nothing has been confirmed as of yet, it’s pretty clear that the Man in Black had some involvement with whatever went down.
Westworld IS His Home
While we know that the Man in Black has a life and identity outside of Westworld (although we’ve only been given the briefest of glimpses into what they may be), he has made it clear on more than one occasion that he views Westworld as his real home and where he is his true self. It also sounds like he wants to make this latest trip permanent, as he tells his unfortunate captive Lawrence at one point that “this time, I’m never going back.” With all the money the Man in Black seemingly has, you would think that he would have long ago decided to hunker down and stay put, but the Delos Corporation’s terms of service limit visitors to a maximum 28 day stay and require a “cooling off” period before allowing a guest to return. One assumes that by solving the maze, the Man in Black believes he’ll be able to bypass these rules and finally set up permanent residence.
He Has At Least One Friend On The Inside
During the second episode of Westworld, Ashley Stubbs, the park’s head of security (played by Chris and Liam Hemsworth’s brother Luke) tells his co-workers, “that man gets whatever he wants,” in reference to the Man in Black, who is shown on a monitor. Additionally, we see Stubbs approve the Man’s request for a “pyrotechnic effect,” by turning his cigars into bombs. As good as the Man in Black is at manipulating the systems and playing the game of Westworld, it would appear that he does need to rely on his inside sources from time-to-time.
What’s interesting about this situation is that, so far, Stubbs appears to be the only one in the Man’s pocket, so to speak, which suggests that they have a prior relationship and also hints that the park’s head of security may be bending the rules by honoring his patron’s requests. It will be interesting to note whether the man interacts with anyone else who works for the park in the coming weeks to see if he truly is a man who “gets whatever he wants” or only does when Stubbs is around.
He’s Famous And (Most Likely) Rich
It’s been pretty clear from the outset that visiting Westworld does not come cheap and this was confirmed by Logan (Ben Barnes) in episode three when he mentioned that park admission is $40,000 a day. Given that the Man in Black has spent the last 30 years learning the ins and outs of the park, it’s obvious that he has a lot of money and this was confirmed in episode four when another park patron recognized him and came over to thank the Man for his “foundation” and how it helped save his sister.
What’s even more interesting is the Man’s reaction to the starstruck fan, as he tells him in no uncertain terms that he is on vacation and that he will kill him if he brings it up again. The Man in Black strikes a clear dividing line between his “real” life and the one he leads in Westworld, and takes his role as a devil-may-care gunslinger very seriously. I can’t wait to see the show pull back the layers on the Man’s non-Westworld life and see what he’s like when he isn’t playing cowboy.
He May Or May Not Be An Older Version Of William
Now we come to the one unconfirmed bit of Man in Black knowledge on this list, but even though it’s just a theory at this point, it remains the show’s most compelling so far and needs to be addressed. Basically, some fans have theorized that William (Jimmi Simpson), the friendly, white hat-wearing fellow accompanied by the black-hatted Logan, is really a younger version of the Man in Black before he became a hardcore, remorseless Westworld gamer.
We have yet to see William and the Man in the same scene, so the theory is definitely still open for interpretation at this point, and the fact that William and Logan argue about their powerful “family business” in the same episode that we find out the Man in Black has some sort of foundation seems like it could be more than coincidental. At any rate, Logan and William are two characters worth watching closely in the coming weeks to see if their story lines up with anything we know about the Man in Black.
He Wants To Find Westworld’s True Story
As mentioned previously, the Man in Black wants to make Westworld his true home, but not as it exists right now. While the Man clearly loves the park, he has exhausted everything there is to do within its artificial confines and that is at the heart of the reason why he is determined to find the maze. As he explains in episode four, his quest to find the maze is tied up in his desire to find the true meaning of Westworld, which in this case is Arnold’s final, fateful story.
“A man named Arnold was the original settler of these parts. He created a world where you can do anything you want, but you can’t die. No matter how real this world seems it’s still just a game. But then Arnold broke his own rule. He died right here in the park, except I believe he had one story left to tell. A story with real stakes, real violence. You could say I’m here to honor his legacy.” The Man sees Westworld as his reality but at its heart, it’s still an artificial one without consequences. By discovering the maze, the Man hopes to turn Westworld on its head and make it become more than a game.
Something tells me this isn’t going to turn out well …