Narrative structure of Westworld

akritenbrinkakritenbrink Lynnwood, WA (Seattle area)
edited November 2016 in Westworld

OK, so I am probably not the first person to say this, and I haven't read all the hundreds of forum comments yet, but all this talk about alternate timelines has compelled me to present an alternate argument. :) this is one of the more interesting aspects of Westworld to me intellectually, or from a sort of "literary analysis" perspective, and I think all this tinfoil about multiple timelines gets it kind of wrong. 


OK, so Westworld the show has a really unique narrative structure. I think people are just using their bicameral minds (joke, I know I am not using this properly) to interpret this as multiple timelines, but I don't think there's any evidence of "multiple timelines" in terms of calendar or clock time, and here is why.

1) We have alternate narratives in Westworld that are playing out in the same (probably) physical space: The narratives of hosts and the narratives of guests.  

Hosts are robots that are programmed to perform a loop. We have seen evidence that the hosts' loops can span a day, a week, or a longer period of time. We have seen that hosts reset and play out the same loop over and over (Delores waking up and greeting her father in the morning, Teddy riding the train). We see that events in the park can interrupt their loops and even change their course. The hosts are not supposed to be aware of their loops, and at the beginning of the show the main hosts we see do not seem to be aware of their loops or that they are on a loop. But their narrative timeline is not the same as a human lifespan. It's this day, week, month or whatever loop. They were never babies. They will never get old and die of old age (unless someone writes that into their storyline). Even death doesn't stop the loop. They die and their loop just starts over. 

Guests are human and when they are in real life (not Westworld) they are just following a normal human timeline in terms of time and space.They were born as babies and will die at some point; maybe they will die of old age, maybe they will commit suicide, maybe they will have a bus accident, or maybe they will have a tumbleweed accident in Westworld, haha. When they are in the park, they actually do have their timelines somewhat interrupted because they are aware that they can jump in and out of these loops the hosts are on. But it's not that they are on completely artificial timelines - The sun still rises and sets and conceivably they still have to go home someday. 

So, point 1, the hosts and guests are already operating on different timelines although they are occupying the same space physically. Hosts have artificial engineered timelines that repeat on various length loops and guests have mainly human timelines that are somewhat disrupted by the nature of the park and the meta-awareness of narrative loops they can jump in and out of. And then we as viewers are presented with narrative challenges we don't see in many shows, like characters dying and then appearing again in another scene as the same or a different character. And we see narratives playing out differently in different iterations because of the impact the wild cards, the guests, have on the park. So there's some cognitive dissonance built into narrative timeline, but it's not because the show is presenting two timelines in two different decades or something.

The rest is in the next comment.
Garrison66
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Comments

  • akritenbrinkakritenbrink Lynnwood, WA (Seattle area)
    edited November 2016
    2) The hosts' perception is an engineered thing created by the employees of the park (or "someone" yet undetermined). Even though the show keeps teasing us that they might be becoming sentient, there is evidence in each case that shows someone is controlling them. For example, Abernathy seemed to go bananas and wanting to go after his creator (Ford) but it just turned out to be a garbled script. The guy who bashed himself with a rock, turns out had some kind of remote control device in him. Delores seems to be following some kind of independent path, but it turns out to be a voice in her head that could be Bernard, Arnold or someone else. The mystery of what's going on with Maeve has not yet been solved, but we already know that Arnold purposely tried to create sentient hosts and what? Failed? Was stymied by Ford or someone else? The code is there. Every mystery in terms of their cognition or behavior so far has been explained by technology. 

    The larger point I am making is that when we see robots as characters with POV, the POV we are seeing is engineered. Even if you think the robots are becoming "sentient" and they are having cognition that their creators didn't intend, they aren't human. They are technology gone awry in that case (or not, if it's Arnold's code or someone with Arnold's views controlling them now). So if the POV is engineered, couldn't the POV be manipulated? Or malfunctioning? We already know from when Abernathy saw the photo of the woman he found on the ground, that Delores said "it doesn't look like anything" but we don't know what she saw or what she's engineered to see or what she's engineered to react to. If someone's controlling her actively they could easily manipulate her to see herself when she's not there. If someone's code went awry it could be that when we see things from her POV we are not seeing the whole of the scene in front of her.

    2-a - We know there are several characters who are park employees at different levels who like to tinker with things against their boss's wishes, which is only normal and natural for people who are engineers of different stripes working in an isolated area with nothing to do with their free time and working on this unique technology. 

    3) brings 1 and 2 together- The concept of memory was recently introduced into the hosts' code and caused a bug. The park thinks it recalled the affected hosts and wiped the bad code, but anyone who knows anything about software knows that when you write some sophisticated code and cause a bug to happen, it sometimes happens that you don't understand where the bug was and it can be harder than you might think to roll it back. 

    So the concept of memory has already wreaked havoc on the park in terms of: The Milk Bandit who killed everyone who killed him in previous loops. Abernathy who appeared to go bonkers when he was just jumbling up his lines from an old script into his current storyline. Maeve remembering an old storyline with a lot of death and destruction on a ranch. The intent, as I understand it, was to only let them have a tiny emotional hint of these memories to spice up their emotional affect, but what happened was it was way too intense and so their emotional affect went bananas. 

    We also see the hosts can be implanted with artificial memories, like when Ford implants Teddy with the memory that he was a soldier who served under Wyatt until Wyatt went nuts. The show presents this narrative as a flashback, but we know it's not because we know Ford just recently implanted it in Teddy to spice up his narrative. 

    Conclusion: Unique Narrative Structure, not Multiple Timelines

    So the stuff that happens with Delores (and other characters, but I am just going with Delores as an example) where she pops in and out of scenes with others, where she sees things that aren't there a second later, sees copies of herself, and can do things she's not programmed to do, could be a mashup of memories of former storylines, code that was written by Arnold, we know Bernard messes with her too, we don't know what else has been done with her by other tinkerers on the staff, and we don't know who might be manipulating her now or if she's being manipulated by someone who is stealing the park's data (like is she one of the ones with the device in her arm?). This, to me, is the central mystery of the show, that I'm waiting or not waiting to find out depending on how much I decide I care. But I think this unique narrative structure and multiple layers of "reality" that's been sliced and diced in different ways has created this idea of "multiple timelines" that I think is sort of beside the point. There are obviously multiple timelines in terms of narrative and perception but they aren't " different guys in different decades" IMO.
    phoenyx1023Garrison66
    Be a human, not a machine.

    Angie Kritenbrink
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  • I think they are prety clearly showing us events that didn't happen in the same time period as the preceding scene.  So we're seeing memories or flashbacks.  For instance, as they mentioned on the podcast, I don't think Ford plucked Dolores out of that Day of the Dead procession the time she was there with William and Logan.  That was an episode from a different time period that is being shown to us.  

    Are Maeve, the MiB, the stray with Elsie and Stubbs, Teddy and the Wyatt story and William and Logan and Dolores all taking place around the same time though, with just flashbacks peppering in from past loops the hosts have been on?  I don't think so.  I think they've been strongly hinting that stuff with William and Logan at the very least are out of sequence with the rest of the show.  For instance, if you go back and look at episodes 1 and 2, the modern train/tube station that William and Logan initially arrive at to be welcomed to Westworld looks awfully, awfully similar (check out the escalators) to the broken down cold storage unit that we find Ford talking to Old Bill in.
    Elisa
  • akritenbrinkakritenbrink Lynnwood, WA (Seattle area)
    I'm not arguing against flashbacks, but flashbacks or memories are not "multiple timelines." 
    phoenyx1023
    Be a human, not a machine.

    Angie Kritenbrink
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  • But William and Logan are probably an extended flashback then.
  • AjasAjas Seattle, WA
    edited November 2016
    If William/Logan are on a way earlier timeline I will be so disappointed with this show and its writers.

    Simple reason why : Teddy tries to teach Dolores how to shoot. Same scene, he gets wrangled away to hunt Wyatt. Next scene Dolores returns to her home and using MiB vision, shoots her assailant and rides off........

    ..... Later MiB finds Teddy strung up, confirming it is a continuation of hunting Wyatt (since old Ford introduced Wyatt as a backstory to Teddy, and MiB recounts to Ford he only now first heard of Wyatt...).

    To Then see Dolores stumble into William's camp horse-in-hand, in the same editing sequence ... In an earlier timeline!!!... is to be so deceiving as to be uninteresting.

    It's honestly such a stupid concept that I can only continue watching the show assuming they've had a more intelligent plan all along.

    The idea of Dolores retracing her steps in brief flashbacks is way cooler, because it's honest with the logic of the story and the editing of the show.
    akritenbrinkphoenyx1023
  • AjasAjas Seattle, WA
    But narratively, it is crucial that since only guests have actual aging, non-looping timelines, you can't have many on-screen at once. That way everything is just timeline hearsay.

    The real noodle-bender is, having cured all the other ills... why haven't they cured wrinkliness?

    Or have they? Raised eyebrow face.
  • I really hope William and MIB meet soon so the dual timeline theory can be killed. In an earlier thread I predicted that William and MIB would both end up racing each other to find the maze, and that they might both have host allies helping them. A classic battle of good versus evil. I have not seen any convincing evidence that this is not what is happening. Flashbacks, hallucinations and dream sequences are well-established story-telling devices in television. I don't understand why people recently have started interpreting these devices as literal time-travel, or some kind of convoluted conspiracy, or started believing that multiple characters are the same character. This series is not being directed by David Lynch or Sam Esmail. We have been given no reason to assume that the creators of this show are doing anything tricky or ignoring the well-established conventions of story-telling.
    akritenbrinkphoenyx1023Dee
  • akritenbrinkakritenbrink Lynnwood, WA (Seattle area)
    Yeah. And we have evidence that for the hosts the "memories" could be real "memories" of previous loops (Abernathy-wanting to meet his maker) and engineered "memories" (Teddy-Wyatt). So it's a new kind of flashback, within a new kind of narrative structure.

    This concept of memory has slightly different but related meanings within technology which I think is one of the concepts the show is playing with. Since @Jim and @A_Ron_Hubbard are tech guys I think it would be interesting to hear them talk about this. HINT. HINT. Ha
    Be a human, not a machine.

    Angie Kritenbrink
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  • akritenbrinkakritenbrink Lynnwood, WA (Seattle area)
    Ajas said:

    But narratively, it is crucial that since only guests have actual aging, non-looping timelines, you can't have many on-screen at once. That way everything is just timeline hearsay.

    This is a really good point!
    Be a human, not a machine.

    Angie Kritenbrink
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  • I'm not arguing against flashbacks, but flashbacks or memories are not "multiple timelines." 

    It's just the terminology being used that is poor. Many (who are familiar) with Time Travel consider multiple timelines "deviations" from an original "point" in time. When folks talk about it for this show, they are usually referring to points along the same timeline (memories/flashbacks) not deviations that lead to different points. I've said it a few times, but have given up and it's taken off and gone too far to go back now ;) so when people say "multiple timelines" I know they are not talking deviations, but rather different "points" within the same timeline.
    akritenbrink
  • I really hope William and MIB meet soon so the dual timeline theory can be killed.

    Me to the tv Gods at the start of every ep now.

    Flashbacks, hallucinations and dream sequences are well-established story-telling devices in television. I don't understand why people recently have started interpreting these devices as literal time-travel, or some kind of convoluted conspiracy, or started believing that multiple characters are the same character. This series is not being directed by David Lynch or Sam Esmail. We have been given no reason to assume that the creators of this show are doing anything tricky or ignoring the well-established conventions of story-telling.

    Louder for the people in the back please!

  • akritenbrinkakritenbrink Lynnwood, WA (Seattle area)
    KingKobra said:

    I'm not arguing against flashbacks, but flashbacks or memories are not "multiple timelines." 

    It's just the terminology being used that is poor. Many (who are familiar) with Time Travel consider multiple timelines "deviations" from an original "point" in time. When folks talk about it for this show, they are usually referring to points along the same timeline (memories/flashbacks) not deviations that lead to different points. I've said it a few times, but have given up and it's taken off and gone too far to go back now ;) so when people say "multiple timelines" I know they are not talking deviations, but rather different "points" within the same timeline.
    There are lots of people who literally think the storylines involving William/Logan and MiB are in two different decades. That's what I was thinking about when I mentioned "multiple timelines."
    Be a human, not a machine.

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  • akritenbrinkakritenbrink Lynnwood, WA (Seattle area)

    Flashbacks, hallucinations and dream sequences are well-established story-telling devices in television. I don't understand why people recently have started interpreting these devices as literal time-travel, or some kind of convoluted conspiracy, or started believing that multiple characters are the same character.

    I agree, but with a caveat...

    We have been given no reason to assume that the creators of this show are doing anything tricky or ignoring the well-established conventions of story-telling.

    The caveat: IMO, they are doing something new, tricky, or different (however you want to describe it) with this narrative structure as I outlined above. It's just not calendar or clock trickery. 

    When you mention "the well-established conventions of storytelling," I don't watch enough scifi to know whether this stuff has been done before, but narration wise, the show is quite complex due to the difference in nature and experience with the hosts and the guests, and the fact that a host can be a POV character but their POV is engineered, and only recently had memory introduced.
    Be a human, not a machine.

    Angie Kritenbrink
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  • akritenbrinkakritenbrink Lynnwood, WA (Seattle area)
    edited November 2016
    Something to add to this... Contains Westworld film spoilers.

    The Westworld film touched more heavily on something that I'm not sure has been addressed in the show by anyone other than MiB, which is that the storylines repeat and the guests can have different experiences with the same hosts. The main thrust of the movie's plot is this host called the Gunslinger who is a constant foil to the two main characters named John and Peter (think Logan and William 1970s style, John=Logan and was played by James Brolin and Peter was more of a white hat guy). The world in the film is less complex and the storyline is as well. So they keep encountering this Gunslinger character (who is glitching out) and kill him multiple times. At first it's fun, the stakes are raised the next time, etc. until it gets to the point where they encounter him in the street in a kind of "high noon" moment and they are basically like "I'm over this and need a nap" because they've been passed out in the brothel after a night of shenanigans. Then "shit gets real" as the kids say. The Gunslinger kills John and Peter gets away, leading him on a big chase through the park that kind of tears down the meta level of everything and becomes a sort of bare bones man vs man (except one man is a piece of tech) climax between Peter and the Gunslinger.

    So- There are repeating timelines with different outcomes even for the guests, and fucking with this narrative structure in terms of the Gunslinger suddenly becoming aware of his vendetta against these two guests is a driving force in the plot of the film. In that sense he escapes his loop and is able to carry on a more human style narrative. (Until he dies and we see a face full of wires and metal and he's still a robot but that's a topic for another conversation)

    I just think this show has so many interesting things going on with narrative structure that to focus so much on "two timelines" and look for evidence to prove or disprove it is very much  beside the point.
    Be a human, not a machine.

    Angie Kritenbrink
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  • Ajas said:

     To Then see Dolores stumble into William's camp horse-in-hand, in the same editing sequence ... In an earlier timeline!!!... is to be so deceiving as to be uninteresting.


    Yep. Initially I just assumed that this was natural storytelling. But there's more reasons to think that William/Logan are from 30 years past, meaning that the editing has been intentionally deceiving. We're 6 episodes in and still have not seen definitive evidence to disprove while we continue to see things like the old/new logo, maeve in only the modern storyline / only clementine in the old.
    Elisa
  • akritenbrinkakritenbrink Lynnwood, WA (Seattle area)
    I guess I just wish I saw more discussion around the real stuff we are surely seeing like the points I made above rather than discussion on "dual storyline theory" which I guess could be true but seems beside the point. 
    Be a human, not a machine.

    Angie Kritenbrink
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  • No one has mentioned this (that I have seen) but the Westworld Twitter account tweeted "even the logos have deeper meaning" which really invites people to look at the different logos and come to the conclusion there is 2 or more timelines.
    No Half Measures....
  • akritenbrinkakritenbrink Lynnwood, WA (Seattle area)
    Hatorian said:

    No one has mentioned this (that I have seen) but the Westworld Twitter account tweeted "even the logos have deeper meaning" which really invites people to look at the different logos and come to the conclusion there is 2 or more timelines.

    I can't remember if i mentioned this before, but I work for a major university and we have two sets of logos and branding, one for more traditional academic stuff and one for athletics. IDK if this is normal in the corporate world, but two logos to me doesn't necessarily say two timelines.
    Be a human, not a machine.

    Angie Kritenbrink
    akritenbrink on most social media

  • Yea my point was the official Westworld Twitter specifically called out the logos as having a deeper meaning. Why say that if the logos are just different versions.
    akritenbrink
    No Half Measures....
  • Some more evidence on two timelines.

    1. William and MIB are shot differently. Has bullet technology changed in 30 years?

    2. William and MIB great Delores at the dropped can in the same exact way.

    Good article below.

    http://www.vanityfair.com/hollywood/2016/11/westworld-theories-multiple-timelines-who-is-the-man-in-black-who-is-arnold-who-is-wyatt?
    No Half Measures....
  • Do we think the MiB is implanting satellite trackers?

    I don't think he's necessarily raping Dolores and Maeve when he approaches them with the knife in their flashbacks, and opening up the arm is certainly something he could be doing.
    HatorianElisa
  • akritenbrinkakritenbrink Lynnwood, WA (Seattle area)

    Do we think the MiB is implanting satellite trackers?


    I don't think he's necessarily raping Dolores and Maeve when he approaches them with the knife in their flashbacks, and opening up the arm is certainly something he could be doing.
    I go back and forth on whether MiB is involved in some bigger picture plot regarding the park, corporate espionage or whatever, or whether he's just an extreme gamer type who wants to solve the toughest puzzle in the park.

    I do think he's probably some kind of tech or biotech billionaire though because he seems to have a lot of remarks on the tech of the park and he got that compliment from that other guest about his foundation saving his sister's life. It seems possible to me that a tech or biotech billionaire could start a livesaving foundation with his billions while still being misanthropist enough to enjoy going to a park and killing and hunting "people." 
    Be a human, not a machine.

    Angie Kritenbrink
    akritenbrink on most social media

  • I wonder how long MIB has been working on solving the game, because that Maeve flashback is over a year old, at least.
    akritenbrink
  • akritenbrinkakritenbrink Lynnwood, WA (Seattle area)

    I wonder how long MIB has been working on solving the game, because that Maeve flashback is over a year old, at least.

    Either that or he's imposing himself on their perception somehow? Like when Delores was in the barn with that other guy it was kind of flashing back and forth from him to MiB, wasn't it? I think we have to kind of keep in mind that the scenes from hosts' POV could be manipulated and might not just be straightforward flashbacks (as per my points 2 and 2-a above, haha)
    Doctor_Nick
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  • that joanna robinson vf article on the multiple time periods is pretty compelling.
    HatorianElisa
  • voodoorat said:

    that joanna robinson vf article on the multiple time periods is pretty compelling.

    Yep. I was already on board but after reading it I can't imagine how there's any other way it's going to go.
    Elisa
    No Half Measures....
  • edited November 2016

    I wonder how long MIB has been working on solving the game, because that Maeve flashback is over a year old, at least.

    He's been going to the park for 30 years. We know from last episode that her current role/narrative has only been "active" for about a year. So, it's been more than a year the since MIB saw her in her previous role.

    As far as MIB implanting, no that doesn't fit at all. It would need to be someone with access to the tools needed to "heal" the skin and implant the devices. That points directly to an inside job. MIB isn't on the "inside" otherwise he would be able to "cheat" the system and be much more direct with his journey.
  • I believe in the 3 time period thing too. I am keeping an open mind to it not being true though. If you totally believe in a theory and it turns out not to be true it could ruin the show.
    CoryElisa
  • CoryCory New Scotland

    I believe in the 3 time period thing too. I am keeping an open mind to it not being true though. If you totally believe in a theory and it turns out not to be true it could ruin the show.

    I believe I was the first person to bring up the dual time period theory on this board, and like the three time period theory, but I'm not that invested in it.  I enjoy the "ambiguous editing and narratives" and how they could go either way and don't really prove anything (much like Kevin Garvey's madness), but I'm not basing my enjoyment on whether it's true, or not.
    Elisa
    That'll put marzipan in your pie plate, bingo!
  • akritenbrinkakritenbrink Lynnwood, WA (Seattle area)
    So ... the stuff I was talking about came up in this episode with the Bernard reveal. It was revealed to us not only that Bernard is an android, but some more subtle stuff too, like that sometimes the show gives us an android's perspective, or in other words, as I said under Point 2 above "The larger point I am making is that when we see robots as characters with POV, the POV we are seeing is engineered.

    In the Bernard scene with Teresa in the cottage, we see the room from Bernard's POV with no door, then suddenly we see from Teresa's POV (or a third person POV) with a door. Then suddenly Bernard is able to go through the door even though a second ago he couldn't see it, and presumably he is programmed not to walk into walls. There's no good explanation given for why that happened - is it because he could see Teresa going through the door suddenly? Or is it because Ford was manipulating him in real time? 

    This is kind of odd because even when we see it with no door we aren't seeing from Bernard's eyes or anything, but nevertheless, the show is showing that to us. 

    So I think that could possibly answer the questions people have about why Delores's perception seems to shift back and forth from "old timeline" to "new timeline." She could be in the same "timeline" but we as the viewer could be seeing different perspectives depending on whose POV we are seeing. Maybe for whatever reason, Delores only sees guests some of the time. Or maybe someone, possibly Ford, is screwing with her POV in real time. 
    Doctor_NickChiefPizza
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