Westworld’s first two seasons cleverly showcased a large passage of time, in an intentionally confusing way. The first twenty episodes of the show are filled with misdirects, red herrings, and repeated scenes designed to throw off both the more casual and dedicated viewer. Different actors portrayed the same characters, there are host copies, host clones, different versions of the same host, and one host hiding inside another’s body, so understanding Westworld’s timeline isn’t exactly simple. In Westworld’s Timeline explained we’re taking a look at everything from the park’s creation to Dolores many misadventures, and the eventual host rebellion.
Starting with a definitive timeframe, in S1E5 one of Westworld’s co-creators Dr. Robert Ford asks Dolores when she last contacted Arnold (his now-deceased partner). Her reply is “thirty-four years, fourty two days, and seven hours ago”. Over the course of the first season viewers discover that Dolores was the one to kill Arnold, and so form that information a few more events, namely the things we know happened before and after Arnold’s death, fall into place.
It is worth noting that the Discover Westworld website showed some security camera footage of Maeve’s breakout in Season 1 (around the time of the finale’s airdate), with a timestamp of ‘2052’, but considering no real dates have been given within the show itself, it’s unclear if we can rely on this as confirmation of when Westworld is taking place.
No Guests, No Board Meetings, Just Pure Creation (37 Years Ago)
According to Ford, he and Arnold worked on the Hosts for around three years before the park opened. “For three years, we lived here in the park, refining the hosts before a single guest set foot inside” (Ford in S1E3). And so combining that fact with Arnold’s death, (which happened before the park opened) the duo began work on the hosts at the park at least thirty seven years before the shows present.
When the Westworld project needed further investment Ford and Arnold organised a meeting with Logan Delos, whilst working under the name ‘the Argos Initiative’. Before the meeting, Arnold told Ford that Dolores “isn’t ready” (presumably for the pitch meeting with Logan).
The hosts which are later known as Angela and Akecheta’s seduce Logan, and in turn reveal how advanced they are, thus ensuring his investment (as seen in S2E2). And so, although not outright confirmed, it seems likely Arnold was still alive when Logan decided to invest in the park. Immediately before Angela and Akecheta arrive Logan is with William (in his first chronological appearance). Logan mentions that his sister Juliet and William had just started dating.
Welcome to Westworld (34 Years Ago)
In the years that followed, as Ford and Arnold closed in on opening the park, Arnold’s son Charlie died. Following Charlie’s death his already very parental relationship with Dolores (the original host), became even more intense. He spent years trying to help Dolores towards a truly self-aware consciousness, via ‘the maze’ – something he designed to lead her there.
Although the hosts weren’t fully self-aware by this point, Dolores’ progress led Bernard to believe that the hosts are at least capable of sentience. He pleads with Ford to not open the park, but Ford refuses, simply wanting to tell his stories. Arnold then decides to kill himself and all (or most of) the hosts. Arnold’s plan involved combining Dolores personality with a character called ‘Wyatt’ (a new villainous character Bernard and Ford had been working on). Whilst on the Wyatt narrative Dolores is forced to kill Arnold as well as all of the other hosts, or at least all of those in Escalante (S1E10).
Overhearing the gunshots, Akecheta, a member of the parks native American tribe, discovers the massacre, and for the first time sees the maze (S2E8), which sets him on the path to self-aware conciousness.
Following Arnold’s death, Ford does a total overhaul of the park and it’s narratives, literally burying the town of Escalante (where Arnold and the Hosts were killed) and switching out a number of Host storylines. Akecheta who was once a humble member of the native tribe became the aggressive leader of the outcast group known as Ghost Nation. After the alterations, Ford opened the park.
If You Can’t Tell, Does it Matter? (30 Years Ago)
A few years after the park opened William and Logan Delos go to the park in celebration of William and Juliet’s engagement. This is William’s first visit to Westworld, whereas Logan was a more regular visitor. Logan points out that even he didn’t know anything about Arnold, with Ford mysteriously erasing all information about him (S1E2). As the older William tells Dolores, that he has been coming to the park for thirty years (S1E1), this means he and Logan first visited within the parks first few years.
Once in the park William meets Dolores and picks up her milk can (an interaction usually fulfilled with Teddy). Dolores and William share a meaningful glance. Clementine is visible at the Mariposa (Sweetwater’s whore house), but Maeve is still in at the homestead narrative with her daughter.
William struggles to see the hosts as robots (in the way that Logan does) feeling sorry for their pain, and engaging with them just like he would a human, this culminates in him falling in love with Dolores. Throughout the first season, as she follows the maze, Dolores has trouble remembering where and when she is, confusing her past and present.
Eventually Logan finds William and Dolores again (after they left him to get beaten up by some Confederados, ignoring his plea for help), and tortures Dolores, showing her robot insides, in an attempt to bring William back to reality. Logan gives William a photograph of Juliet, but Dolores manages to escape (S1E9).
Whilst trying to track down Dolores, William’s dark side began to show and he becomes more murderous and violent. William eventually agreed with Logan on the park, and that it shows a person who they really are. He proves this by tying Logan to his horse with no weapons or clothes, leaving him for dead, he then drops the photo of Juliet inside the park.
William made his way back to Sweetwater as he continues his search for Dolores, and finds her there. But she was back on her original loop with no memory of him at all. As William watches Dolores drops her milk can and it is picked up by someone else, implying she could have a very similar experience to what she had with him with someone else. This breaks William and he sees the park for what it really is. He replaces his white hat for a black one, and truly becomes ‘The Man in Black’ (S1).
Shortly after this ‘rebirth’ William meets with James Delos (Logan and Juliet’s father) and tells him what he believes to be the true potential of Westworld; seeing people for who they really are, and later the possibility of immortality, by putting human brains into host bodies. Soon, after convincing James Delos to invest further in the park (something Logan couldn’t do) William begins work on ‘The Forge’, showing it to Dolores, who he appears to meet with, use, and talk to regularly, now seeing her as nothing more than an object (S2E2).
Simultaneously Akecheta, who had been struggling with the returning memories of his original life (after seeing the maze), finds the naked Logan, and learns of “the real world”. Akecheta’s journey had seen him encounter the Forge being built and he sees “the door” for the first time (S2E8), being perhaps the only truly free hosts who roams the park at his own will.
William Takes Control (25 Years Ago)
Within five years after first entering the park, William and Juliet get married and have a daughter called Emily. William was poised to take over the company when James Delos retires. Delos himself had some kind of incurable illness and makes it clear that he intended to benefit from William’s human/host immortality project, but William makes it clear that progress had been slow (S2E2).
William had Dolores play the piano at James Delos’ retirement party, which is where she first met his daughter Emily. There are no clear indications as to when this scene takes place, but both William and Logan look a little older, and Emily is at least five years old, placing it roughly twenty-five years before the shows present timeline.
Shortly after the party James Delos heads to an observation facility in California and dies shortly afterwards. William visits a copy of James Delos who has been placed inside a Host body in a secret part of the park. William ran a ‘fidelity test’ to see whether the Delos clone could pass for the real thing, it fails and is destroyed (S2E4).
A Door to a New World (21 Years Ago)
Once Akecheta’s memories start to return, he remembers his love Kohana. He makes her remember their past life as well, and the two left the tribe for “the door”. Once there however they find nothing but sand (as Akecheta didn’t realise that the Forge facility was now hidden underground). Soon after Kohana is recovered by some Westworld techs and Akecheta spends nearly a decade searching the ark for her.
Eventually, he realises the only place he hasn’t looked for her is on “the other side of death” and so allows himself to be killed so that he can search the Westworld facility. Whilst working on repairing him the techs notice that he hasn’t been updated since the park opened. One of them points out that it’s been nearly a decade. This places Akecheta intentionally dying around nine years after the park opened (and so twenty-one years prior to the ‘present’ timeline).
Whilst Akecheta is updated he wakes and searches the facility, he eventually findd Kohana in Cold Storage (the subbasement of Westworld where disused hosts are placed). He understands that she is just an empty body, but decides that because of all of the other host bodies in Cold Storage there are others who have lost just as much as him. He returns the park having actively changed his core drive to enlighten other hosts, show them the maze, and eventually lead them to the door (S2E8), and ultimately freedom.
Bernard’s Beginning (20 Years Ago)
Around a decade after the park’s opening (so somewhat near Akecheta changing his core drive), Ford begins to create a new host in Arnold’s image, calling him ‘Bernard Lowe’, an anagram of ‘Arnold Weber’. He replicates Arnold’s personality through his own memories and those of Dolores. With Dolores’ perfect recall, and with the huge amount of time she spent with Arnold, she was eventually able to recreate him perfectly.
It’s unclear exactly how long it took to create Bernard, Ford simply describes it as taking ‘years’, but in the scene where Ford brings Bernard online for the first time, it’s fair to say he looks around ten years younger than he did in the ‘present’ timeline. In S2E10 it is revealed that Dolores decided a perfect replica of Arnold wasn’t good enough (as he was imperfect), and so she decided to change him in a number of subtle ways. She describes the successful attempt as ‘trail eleven thousand, nine hundred, and twenty-seven, eventually creating Bernard.
Aiming to Cheat the Devil (18 Years Ago)
In the continued effort to perfect transferring human consciousness into a host body, William repeatedly visited each version of the James Delos Host/Clone to perform a fidelity test. William becomes less enthusiastic with the project as time passes, and explains that it has been seven years since he really died (S2E4), placing these events around eighteen years before the present timeline.
I Don’t Belong to You, or This World… (1 Year Ago)
Roughly a year before the events of the show Ford gives William a copy of his own psychological profile (made up from the data the park has on him). The file is named ‘Subject 002’ (presumably second to James Delos). The profile explained William to be a “Category 47B” which is “rare”, and states that he is defined by his persecutory complex, is delusional, and paranoid. The profile also shows footage of a number of his more sinister deeds whilst in the park (S2E9).
William’s wife Juliet, now an alcoholic, having struggled to deal with William being emotionally shut off for decades and seemingly sensing the monster he is underneath, finds the copy of his profile and watches it, having it confirm everything she has suspected for years she overdoses and kills herself (S2E9). William mentions that Juliet died a year ago in S1E8, placing her discovering the truth (or at least having it confirmed) around a year before the show.
As a part of a continued quest to bring enlightenment to as many hosts as possible, Akecheta, showed Maeve’s daughter (Maeve still being in her homestead narrative) the Maze. He also draws it in the sand outside of Maeve’s house, so that Maeve eventually sees it as well (S2E8).
In an attempt to see if he can feel anything following Juliet’s death, William enters the park and kills Maeve’s daughter (S1E2), he sees the emotion Maeve feels as well as the maze outside their house and decides to follow the maze himself. Maeve malfunctions at the loss of her daughter and is reassigned to the Mariposa and the madam. Felix explains Maeve was reassigned there around a year ago (S1E6), bringing her new role, Juilett’s suicide, and William’s murder of her daughter in line.
A Flower Growing in the Darkness (Just Before Season 1)
Somewhat ambiguously placed, but in between the ‘1 Year Ago’ time period and the start of Season 1, Ford and Akecheta meet. Akecheta explains his new (self-programmed) drive is to lead his people to “the door” (presumably where Ford gets the idea for naming his final game for William), and learns of Akecheta believing the door will also be the key to him finding Kohana again.
Ford then explains that the ‘deathbringer’ (Dolores) will soon be coming for him, and that when she does, Akecheta is to lead his people to their salvation. This confirms Ford’s plan had been in the works for a long time, that he (like Arnold) fully intended for Dolores to kill him, and that he wanted Akecheta to save the hosts (S2E8).
William then visits the 149th version of the James Delos clone, having completely given up on the project, and no longer believing humans deserve to live forever (following Juliets death). He explains to Delos that Logan overdosed years ago, and Juliet killed herself, the Delos clone malfunctions and William tells the tech to leave it rather than destroy it immediately as the data could be useful. When Elsie and Bernard visit the James Delos testing facility (S2E4) a console says that the Delos clone is “fourteen days past recommended termination”, placing the final meeting between William and Delos around two weeks before the ‘present’ timeline of Season’s 1 and 2.
The Maze (Season 1)
As Dolores and Teddy go about their regular loop, the now much older William who Dolores doesn’t recognise arrives, kills Teddy, and takes Dolores into the barn (S1E1).
At a similar time Ford, who is now fully at odds with the corporate machine of Delos interfering with his park and stories, updates a number of hosts with the ‘reveries’, something designed to help them become sentient. At some point thirty-five years between the present and Arnold’s death, Ford came around to seeing Arnold was right about the Hosts.
Dolores’ father, Peter Abernathy, finds the photo of Juliet that William dropped thirty years earlier, but instead of seeing nothing, as Hosts are programmed to when they see something from the outside world. Abernathy takes it back to his ranch and stares at it for hours.
Eventually it causes him to malfunction, and he starts alternating between his previous personality builds. Abernathy says “these violent delights have violent ends” (a Shakespeare quote from his old Professor character) to Dolores. The quote seems to activate something inside her, and Dolores begins to remember her past lives, primarily her adventure with William thirty in the past, and her many conversations with Arnold. Dolores then follows the maze once again, unable to distinguish between her past attempts and this latest one (S1E1).
Bernard (who no one currently working at the park, other than Ford, knows is a copy of Arnold) is in charge of Host behaviour, and becomes intrigued with the link between Abernathy’s malfunction and the reveries update. After Dolores repeats “these violent delights have violent ends” to Maeve, she too starts to wake up, remembering her past life at the homestead with her daughter (S1E2).
Ford tampers with Maeve’s code (as she is his favourite Host). This helps her gain consciousness, and culminates in her waking up whilst the techs, Felix and Sylvester, are repairing her. Maeve manages to blackmail the two into increasing her intelligence, persuasiveness, apperception and other attributes, and even make her a new body without the explosive neck implant that prevents Hosts leaving the park.
Behind the scenes the park’s Quality Assurance Manager, Theresa Cullen, works with board member Charlotte Hale on secretly smuggling all of the data Delos has collected on the guests over the years out of the park. They describe it as being the real reason the park exists, but Ford has Bernard kill Theresa as she was getting too close to his plans. With Theresa gone Hale recruits narrative writer Lee Sizemore to upload the information, she needs inside a host so that it can be smuggled out covertly. They use the now-retired Peter Abernathy.
William eventually reunites with Dolores in the newly rebuilt town of Escalante, revealing himself to be the older version of the man she thought was still coming to help her. Dolores reveals the maze isn’t for William, and that it was instead meant to awaken consciousness inside the hosts. Ford starts his new narrative “Journey Into Night” promising it to be a whole new type of story, his big reveal ends with Dolores shooting him in the head and the Hosts turning on the human guests (with a number of the Delos board present at the gala).
At the same time (which we later find out was all part of Ford’s plan, so that Maeve could escape), Maeve works her way through the Westworld facility coming across Bernard, who shot himself after a conversation with Ford about who he really is, and with the help of Felix patches up Bernard to a workable, but not fully fixed state (Bernard then heads to the Gala). Eventually Maeve is about to board the train and escape the park for good, but the memories of her daughter prove too powerful, and she decides to go back and find her.
The Door (Season 2)
With Dolores now ‘awake,’ she decides to avenge her fellow hosts, aiming to destroy Westworld, and then the human world as well. Bernard escapes the gala massacre with Charlotte Hale, but he is still leaking Cortical Fluid (from his patch-up repair) and his memories, time perception, and general functionality start to fail (mirroring Dolores’ struggles in the first season). Hale explains to Bernard that she needs to find Abernathy before Delos will send a rescue team for them (or any of the guests), as the information he has is their top priority.
William, now excited to be playing a game with real stakes (as the hosts are now able to kill humans), gets a message from a Host version of young Ford, explaining that where ‘the Maze’ wasn’t for him, the new game he calls “the Door”, definitely is. William makes it clear that he is now out to destroy the Forge, calling it his “greatest mistake”.
Maeve searches for her daughter, with the help of Sizemore, Sylvester, Hector, and Armistice, even going into the Edo period Japan-themed park Shogun World, where the host rebellion has also started to have an effect. Maeve eventually finds her daughter at the homestead (with a new mother) but is forced to run as Akecheta and Ghost Nation arrive. Maeve escapes only to meet up with William (who recently left his own daughter behind). She takes control of the surrounding hosts and nearly kills William (shooting him, a lot) but is shot herself by park security and taken back to the Mesa.
After losing Hale, and getting captured Bernard is taken to Fort Folorn Hope where Dolores has made a deal with the Confederados to take on the Delos security forces. Dolores is reunited with her father, but his personalities are malfunctioning and even Bernard can’t fix him. Hale manages to get Abernathy, and take him back to the Mesa while Bernard is knocked out and taken to a cave (by Clementine), whereas Dolores betrays the Confederados.
Bernard finds Elsie (his second in command from the first season, who he mysteriously knocked out and captured) at the cave, and the two find a secret facility there. Bernard’s memories telling him where to go. Once inside they find the James Delos host/clone (this is where the monitor says “fourteen days past recommended termination”) who has gone mad. Bernard remembers taking another control unit for a copy of a human brain from the facility last time he was there.
Bernard and Elsie then head to “the Cradle” the simulated backup of all of the hosts’s personalities. Bernard enters, and finds out that the other control unit was a copy of Ford’s brain. Ford has been living inside the cradle and is responsible for Delos not being able to regain control of the parks systems. He tells Bernard there is still a lot of his plan left to act out and transfers himself into Bernard’s head (as more of a passenger, who can occasionally take over the wheel.
In Dolores’ continued quest to get her father back, she alters Teddy’s personality (to be much more aggressive), infiltrates the Mesa, and finds Abernathy who beyond help and she is forced to kill him. She removes his control unit so that Delos can’t get the information stored there. Unable to live with being the violent lap dog Dolores has turned him into part of the old Teddy returns and explains that although he could never hurt Dolores, he can hurt himself. He shoots himself in the head.
William then reunites with Emily who at first claimed to be there to repair their relationship, but now admits she only wants to make him suffer for what he put her mother Juliet through. William decides she can’t be his real daughter as no one else knew about his profile, and shoots her, only to find she does have the profile and it was most likely his real daughter (although that can’t be one hundred per cent confirmed yet).
Soon everyone converges on the Forge, a bigger badder version of the Cradle that stores all of the guest brain scans. William and Dolores travel there together under a temporary alliance, Bernard leaves Elsie and heads there, Maeve escapes being killed by the Westworld tech and takes her gang there, and Akecheta leads a number of Hosts to what he believes will be “the door”.
Dolores and Bernard make their way inside whilst Maeve helps Akecheta get the hosts through the door, which turns out to be real, and a gateway to the digital utopia where the host’s brains can escape to.
Dolores claims this to simply be another fake world, and is intent on destroying it as well as the Forge’s data on human hosts (which is key to humans gaining immortality in host bodies). To stop her destroying either, Bernard claims that because the hosts are choosing to enter this digital world it counts as true freedom, Bernard shoots Dolores in the head.
He then goes back to the Mesa with Elsie, who is shot by Hale. Bernard realises that Delos is evil and that Dolores was at least partially right. He brings Dolores back inside a Charlotte Hale host body replica. This ‘Halores’ then kills and replaces the real Charlotte Hale, whilst Bernard wipes his memory and heads to the beach.
Around two weeks after the gala massacre, Stubbs and Strand find Bernard on the beach and take him back to what is left of the Westworld facility. There they meet Halores (who everyone, including Bernard thanks to his wiped memory, think is the real Hale), and head to the secret bunker where Ford made Bernard kill Theresa. Bernard’s memories confuse him, and Halores, Stubbs, and Strand find a number of other Bernard bodies there, realising that he is a host.
They torture him so that they can learn the location of Abernathy (believing he still has the control unit with all of the guest information). He eventually leads them back to the Forge, where Halores reveals herself, kills Strand and Bernard. Once there she proves she’s had a change of heart and sends the hosts new digital safe haven to an unknown and apparently safe location (she also puts Teddy in there as well).
Halores then leaves the park with five control units (one of whom is Bernard), aided by Stubbs who seemingly reveals himself as a host. Dolores heads to Arnold’s old house, where Ford has left a Host making machine. Dolores puts herself into a new body (that actually looks like Dolores), and seemingly places one of the unknown control units inside Hale’s body. She then creates a new Bernard body and puts his control unit in, waking him and explaining that although they will likely be enemies their differing approaches may be the key to the survival of the Hosts.
The (Very) Far Future
The Season 2 post-credits scene is somewhat ambiguous to definitively place, but a few hints (and confirmation from show creator Lisa Joy) indicate the scene is taking place in the very fare future.
The scene begins with what looks to be William in an elevator headed down to the Forge. Once the doors open, William stumbles out (still dealing with his blown up hand from the backfiring gun Dolores rigged), and as he turns the corner a woman dressed in white heads out to greet him. Before we see who she is the camera angle establishes that this is definitely the Forge but it’s been totally drained and looks like to have been rotting for decades (seemingly placing these events years after the present timeline).
We then see that the woman is Emily, and William states “I’m already in the thing aren’t I”, realising that he must already be in either the Forge or in a new host body. As the scene plays out we find out that this has happened plenty of times before, with William eventually asking what Emily was testing him for, her answer is “Fidelity”. Check out our full breakdown, and what it could mean for the future of Westworld Here.
Westworld is definitely one of the more complex shows out there, and piecing together all of the parts, in the right order, is no simple task. How this confusing timeline will play out in Season 3, which looks to be a lot more linear and traditional is still unclear. But if it’s anything like the first two seasons there will be plenty more switching between past and present, lots of trying to work out who is who, when everything is taking place, and what it all means. Check out Westworld Season 3’s Trailer HERE