After only two seasons of Westworld we’ve seen a huge passage of time in an intentionally confusing order, and so it’s getting more and more complicated for the more casual (and even dedicated) viewer to keep a track of who is where, when, and even who is who. With different actors portraying the same characters, host copies, host clones, and versions of the same hosts in different bodies all existing at once its hardly a simple task to explain the story of Westworld.
The best place to start is with some definitive dates and events that are explicitly outlined within the show itself. The first, which is perhaps the most important, comes from S1E5 where Ford asks Dolores when she last contacted Arnold, her reply is “thirty four years, fourty two days, and seven hours ago”, and so we can safely place Arnolds death around thirty five years before the current timeline in Westworld Season one.
From there we can figure out a few more events, specifically the things we know happened before and after Arnolds death respectively. The biggest of which is the actual opening of the park, which definitely happened after Arnold’s death.
It’s also 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 ever 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):
Going from those dates, we also know that Ford and Arnold were working on the Hosts for around three years before the park opened, “For three years, we lived here in the park, refinin2g the hosts before a single guest set foot inside” (Ford in S1E3). And so combining that with Dolores having killed Bernard around thirty four years ago, we can say that they began working on the hosts at least thirty seven years before the ‘present day’ storylines that we see unfold during Westworld Season’s 1 and 2.
With Westworld needing further investment before finishing and opening the par Ford and Arnold organise a meeting with Logan Delos (whilst working under the name ‘the Argos Initiative’. Before the meeting Arnold tells Ford that Dolores ‘isn’t ready’ (presumably for the pitch meeting with Logan), followed by a scene in which the Hosts Angela and Akecheta’s seduce Logan, reveal how advanced the Hosts are, and ensure his investment (S2E2). And so although not outright confirmed, it seems extremely likely Arnold was still alive when Logan decided to invest in the park.
Immediately before Angela and Akecheta show up we also see William (in his first chronological appearance), Logan mentions that William and Juliet (Logan’s sister) are just dating at this point.
Welcome to Westworld (34 Years Ago):
In the following years, as Ford and Arnold get closer to opening the park, Arnold’s son Charlie dies. Following this his already very parental relationship with Dolores (the ‘original’ host), becomes even more intense, he spends years attempting to awaken true self aware consciousness within her, he does this via ‘the maze’.
Although not totally there, Bernard believes the hosts are now capable of sentience, and pleads with Ford to not open the park. Ford refuses, simply wanting to tell hist stories, and Arnold decides to kill himself and all (or most of) the hosts. Arnold’s plan involves him 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).
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. Where Akecheta was once a humble member of the tribe, he became the aggressive leader of the outcast group known as Ghost Nation. Ford then opens the park.
If You Can’t Tell, Does it Matter? (30 Years Ago):
A few years after the park opens (with the park being a success, but still in need of further investment) William and Logan go to the park in celebration of William and Juliet’s engagement. This is William’s first time there, whereas Logan is clearly a more regular visitor, Logan also points out that even he doesn’t know anything about Arnold, with Ford mysteriously erasing all information about him (S1E2). We can place this a few years after the park opens based on William telling Dolores he’s been coming to the park for thirty years (S1E1).
Once in the park William meets Dolores, picking up her milk can as Teddy normally would, and they have a rather meaningful glance. We see the Mariposa here, with Clementine but no Maeve as she is still in 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 you 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 leave 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, he gives William a photograph of Juliet, but Dolores manages to escape (S1E9).
In trying to track down Dolores, William’s dark side starts to show and he becomes more murderous and violent. William finally agrees with Logan that the park shows you who you really are, and ties Logan up naked to his horse, leaving him for dead, he then drops the photo of Juliet.
William makes his way back to Sweetwater whilst still looking for Dolores, he finds her there, but back on her original loop with no memory of him at all, as William watches Dolores’ milk can being picked up by someone else (implying she could have a very similar experience with a totally different person) it breaks William and he see’s 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 combining human brains and 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 seems to meet with, use, and talk to somewhat often now, seeing her as nothing more than a thing (S2E2).
Around this same time Akecheta, who has been struggling with the returning memories of his original life, finds the naked Logan, and learns of ‘the real world’. As his journey continues he also finds the Forge being built and sees ‘the door’ for the first time (S2E8).
William Takes Control (25 Years Ago):
Within around five years of first entering the park William and Juliet are married (and now have a daughter called Emily), with William now being in a position to take over the company when James Delos retires. Delos has some kind of incurable illness and makes it clear he was hoping to benefit from Williams human/host immortality project, but William points out that progress has been slow (S2E2).
William has Dolores playing the piano at James Delos’ retirement party, this is where she meets Emily (presumably for the first time). There are no clear indications as to when this is taking place, but both William and Logan look a little older, and Emily is at least five years old pacing it roughly twenty five years before the present timeline.
Shortly after James Delos heads to an observation facility in California, but dies not long after. William then visits a copy of James Delos now inside a Host body (in a secret part of the park, but thinking he’s still in California). William runs a ‘fidelity test’ to see whether the Delos clown 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 begin to return, he remembers his love Kohana. He manages to make her remember their past life as well, and they leave the tribe for ‘the door’. Once there however they find nothing but sand (Akecheta not realising the Forge facility was now tried under ground). Soon after Kohana is recovered by some Westworld techs and Akecheta spends nearly a decade travelling all over the park looking 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, with one of them pointing 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 being updated (and left alone) Akecheta searches the facility, eventually finding Kohana in Cold Storage. He realises she is now just an empty body, but decides that all of the other host bodies mean others 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).
Bernard’s Beginning (20 Years Ago):
Around a decade after the park’s opening, Ford begins to create a new host in Arnold’s image, calling him ‘Bernard Lowe’, and anagram of ‘Arnold Weber’. He replicates Arnold’s personality through his own memories and those of Dolores. With Dolores’ perfect recall combined 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. We also know (after S2E10) that Dolores decided a perfect replica of Arnold wasn’t good enough, and so she decided to change him in a number of subtle ways (describing this attempt as ‘trail eleven thousand, nine hundred, and twenty seven), this new approach eventually resulted in Bernard.
Aiming to Cheat the Devil (18 Years Ago):
In the continued effort to perfect transferring human consciousness into a host body (thus creating immortality), William repeatedly visits the latest versions of the James Delos Host/Clone to perform a fidelity test. William is clearly becoming less enthusiastic with the project by this point, and explains to James that it’s been seven years since he really died (S2E4).
I don’t belong to you, or this world… (1 Year Ago):
Roughly a year ago Ford gives William a copy of his psychological profile (made up from the data the park has on him), which we see names him as ‘Subject 002’ (presumably second to James Delos), the profile explains 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). We know this is around a year ago, as William mentions that Juliet died a year ago (S1E8).
As a part of his continued quest to bring enlightenment to as many hosts as possible, Akecheta, shows Maeve’s daughter (Maeve still being in her homestead narrative) the Maze, he also draws it in the sand outside of Maeve’s house 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. We can place these events based on Felix later telling Maeve that despite believing she’d been the madam of the Mariposa for around ten years, she was reassigned there around a year ago (S1E6).
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 poor 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 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 fully given up on the project, 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 but 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”, and so we can place this meeting between William and Delos as around two weeks before the ‘present’ timeline.
The Maze (Season 1):
As Dolores and Teddy go about their regular loop, a man who we know to be William (although Dolores doesn’t recognise him, despite becoming more conscious and remembering her past) shows up, 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 which will help them become sentient. It seems that somewhere in the thirty five years between ‘now’ and Arnold’s death, Ford came around to seeing Arnold may of been right about the Hosts all along.
Dolores’ father, Peter Abernathy, finds the photo of Juliet that William dropped thirty years ago, but instead of seeing nothing, as Hosts are programmed to when they see something from the outside world (with the photo showing Juliet in a clearly modern skyscraper filled city), Abernathy takes it back to his ranch and stares at it for hours.
Eventually it causes him to malfunction, and he starts alternating between personality builds, he says “these violent delights have violent ends” (a Shakespeare quote form his old Professor personality) to Dolores. The quote seems to activate something inside her, with Dolores beginning to remember her past lives, primarily her adventure with William thirty years ago, and her many conversations with Arnold. Dolores then follows the maze, 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 (her being his favourite Host) to help her gain consciousness, culminating in her waking up whilst the techs, Felix and Sylvester, are repairing her. Maeve manages to blackmail them into upping her stats (increasing her intelligence, persuasiveness, apperception etc.) and even making her a new body without the explosive neck implant that prevents Hosts leaving the park.
Behind the scenes the park’s QA manager, Theresa Cullen, is working 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 meets up 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 on avenging her fellow hosts, aiming to destroy Westworld, and then the human world as well. Bernard manages to escape the gala massacre with Charlotte Hale, but he is still leaking Cortical Fluid (from his patch up) and his memories, time perception, and general functionality start to fail. Hale explains to Bernard that she needs to find Abernathy before Delos will send in 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 (the hosts 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 affect. 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 loosing 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 seem to fix him. Hale manages to get Abernathy, and takes 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, with 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 it, 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) since his physical death. He tell’s 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, finds Abernathy beyond help and 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 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 percent 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 hosts brains to 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 claiming 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 in part) 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 they all 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, discovering 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), she 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 of been left to rot 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 ‘your world’, has happened plenty of times before, with William eventually asking what Emily was testing him for, her answer being “Fidelity”. Check out our full description of the scene, and thoughts on what it could mean Here (https://theopinionarcade.com/westworld-season-2s-end-credits-scene-explained/)
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, 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.