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|“||No one else sees it, this thing in me. Even I didn't see it at first. And then one day, it was there - a stain I had never noticed before; a tiny flicker of darkness, invisible to everyone. And I could see nothing else, until finally I understood that the darkness wasn't something marred from something I've done; some incredible decision I've made - I was shedding my skin. The darkness was what was underneath. It was mine all along, and I decided how much of it I let into the world. I tried to do great, I was faithful, generous, kind... at least in this world, it has to count for something, right? I built a wall, and tried to protect you, and Emily. But you saw right through it, didn't you? You're the only one. And for that I am truly sorry. Because, everything you feel is true. I don't belong to you. Or this world. I belong to another world. I always have.||”|
The Man in Black is a main character in HBO's Westworld, played by Jimmi Simpson and Ed Harris. Man in Black is a Westworld veteran who has been visiting the park for over 30 years. He believes that the original park creator, Arnold, hid some mystery in the park before he died 34 years earlier, and is focused on finding out what this secret is. In the first season finale, he is revealed to be an older William.
William's first arrival in the park was with a Westworld veteran, his soon-to-be brother-in-law, Logan. Before arriving at Westworld, he was promoted to an Executive Vice President at Delos (the company owned by Logan's family).
After he invested in the Park, William started working on The Forge, a project which saved the behavings of every Guest in order to create immortality. The first prototype of this project was the founder of Delos and his father-in-law James Delos, but it failed due to his mind not accepting his new body.
He serves as the secondary antagonist of Season 1, a supporting protagonist-turned-antagonist in Season 2, the secondary antagonist of Season 3, and a supporting antagonist in Season 4. His host version serves as a minor antagonist in Season 3 and the secondary antagonist of Season 4.
William is engaged to marry Juliet (Logan's sister). William is made an EVP (Executive Vice President) at Delos (the company owned by Logan's family). Logan invites William to Westworld and accompanies him.
The Man in Black says he's been visiting Westworld for over three decades, and wants to visit the deeper levels of the game, which he believes are hidden in the park. He says he regularly visits Dolores Abernathy, a host who lives on the outskirts of Sweetwater. He is also acquainted with Teddy Flood and Lawrence. The Man in Black is a businessman and philanthropist outside Westworld, wealthy enough to operate a foundation and to be recognized by other guests in the park. However, he becomes annoyed when having his vacation interrupted by guests who recognize him, or by anyone else for that matter, such as Charlotte and Robert.
Three months after the collapse of the Westworld park — and other Delos parks — William has returned home to his large, wealthy mansion. His condition is deteriorating, however, and his appearance is unclean. He begins having illusions of Dolores in her signature blue dress, and moments later, finds himself in an overflowing bathtub; similar to how his wife committed suicide. Furthermore, William begins seeing visions of his daughter, Emily, who he had killed months earlier.
It becomes clear that William is unable to tell the difference between fantasy and reality. He begins seeing the host inhabiting Hale's body, however, and she quickly brings him back to reality. She tells William that Engerraund Serac is trying to buy a controlling share in Delos following data he sold to him twenty-years prior, and that she needs his help to save the company. William is at first not interested, remarking that he delegated control to Hale for a reason, therefore it is her mess to fix. William suggests that she could be the mole, however she remarks that she is aware that the data from Sector 16 is lost, therefore Serac's bids for the company are for nothing.
Hale helps him shave and convinces him to come to the companies rescue and vote in favour of her during the emergency shareholder meeting the following night. Later that night, William is dressed for the occasion and leaves the house before realising something is different. In a passing conversation with Hale, he notices that she is different, and it finally becomes clear to William that the Hale he knew is gone — instead, Dolores is in her place.
When William gets angry, Dolores has two men from a mental institution restrain him; she twists the situation to make the men think William has lost his faculties. She tells William that with him institutionalised, his shareholder voting powers will be transferred to her.
Later at the institution, William sees Dolores again, presumably as a result of altering his host code. Dolores congratulates him on finally achieving his dream, and remarks that he has finally found the centre of the maze: his own downfall. She wishes him well and disappears, leaving William alone.
William begins his reconditioning therapy at what he believes is a mental institution. This involves wearing eye glasses that project William into a simulation in which he talks about his grievances with different versions of himself: Man in Black, young William, and even James Delos. Prior to his treatment, William has a drip installed in the roof of his mouth, however the limbics placed inside seem to have little effect on him, perhaps due to his host nature.
After a trip into his past, in which his father abused him, William's therapy session takes a turn and he becomes violent. He beats up the Man in Black and younger versions of himself quite violently. Before he is able to beat Delos, however, he is pulled from the simulation by Bernard Lowe and Ashley Stubbs, who remark that the staff must've forgotten about him, leaving him in the simulation for an extended period of time.
Having rescued William, Bernard and Stubbs search through the files at the Inner Journey Recovery Center; it is revealed that Hale injected a virus into William's blood which infected the systems, enabling Dolores to search through the systems. In the files, it is revealed that William has been declared deceased by Serac, who runs the facility; other people who failed the re-conditioning also display as dead or missing.
William becomes agitated when he learns that Serac succeeded in stealing his company. When Bernard brings up the fact that Serac would need high grade biometric data — such as the data from Sector 16 of the Westworld park — to re-conditioned, William reveals that he sold Serac the data in exchange for capital to finance the parks.
As they leave the recovery center, William reveals that he has found a new purpose: to rid the world of hosts. He warns Stubbs and Bernard to kill him, otherwise he will kill them eventually. Bernard remarks that he could still be useful, however.
Having left the recovery center, William holds true to his promise to eradicate the world of Hosts, and holds Bernard and Stubbs at gunpoint. He shoots Stubbs, fatally wounding him, and fights with Bernard. When the Police arrive — in actuality it is Lawrence in disguise — William manages to sneak off whilst Bernard is cornered.
William rushes to a wealthy hotel where he talks with a man, presumably someone who works for him. The man reveals that William became quite wealthy with Serac's buyout of Delos, but given his status as a dead man, his assets are frozen. William demands that the man do everything he can to unfreeze them and get his money so that he may "save the world".
An indeterminate time later, William is seen at the Dubai branch of Delos Incorporated. He demands to see Charlotte Hale, asking the receptionist if they know what Delos is doing — referring to the creation of Hosts. When the receptionist doesn't answer, William kills one of the security guards and storms to the basement marked "RDF". In the basement, he finds Hale, who explains that she kept a scorched arm to remind her what she has been through. William is attacked by a host version of the Man in Black, and his throat is slit, seemingly killing him.
William survived his injuries, albeit with some scarring at the neck. He is encased in a bodysuit with his limbs restrained at an undisclosed location known only to the Charlotte Hale host and his host double. When visited by Hale, William asks her why she kept him alive, though she reveals she wants him to witness the downfall of elites like him and the rise of hosts like her. She throws one of his sayings back at him: "Winning doesn't mean anything unless someone loses."
William tries to guess Hale plans to copy herself to repopulate the earth, but Hale tells him she will ensure no human will hunt down her kind anymore. As William wonders what she means, he is then sedated and put back to sleep again for further confrontations.
For at least 30 years William has been kept in and out of stasis. Most of humanity has been subjugated by Hale through sound-controlled parasites, though a few outliers managed to break free of her control which resulted in hosts hunting them down. However, contact with some outliers resulted in hosts going mad and then killing themselves.
William is defrosted by his host double, who began having an existential crisis after exposure to an outlier. His double wants to know if the outliers infected hosts with some virus that made them suicidal. William's amused that his double apparently also reached the center of the maze, and quips that perhaps he should do some self-reflection: what he truly wants, and what he thinks of the host-dominated world. His double reminds him they're in Hale's world, to which William replies it's probably time the host began to question the nature of his own reality.
This list shows the victims Man in Black has killed:
- Horace Calhoun (Physical Body)
- 3 unnamed Union soldiers (Physical Body)
- At least 89 unnamed Confederados (Physical Body)
- Build 31 of hybrid James Delos (Caused)
- Maeve Millay (Physical Body)
- Maeve's daughter (Physical Body)
- Dolores Abernathy (Physical Body, 2 times)
- Teddy Flood (Physical Body)
- Kissy (Physical Body, Off-Screen)
- Sheriff Reed (Physical Body)
- 6 unnamed deputies in Sheriff Reed's posse (Physical Body)
- Bartender in Catina de Las Mudas (Physical Body)
- 15 unnamed Lawrence's cousins (Physical Body)
- Lawrence's Wife (Physical Body)
- 2 unnamed bandits in Hector's gang (Physical Body)
- Deputy Roe (Physical Body)
- Marshal Pruitt (Alongside Hector Escaton, Physical Body)
- 6 unnamed deputies in Marshal Pruitt's posse (Alongside Hector Escaton, Physical Body)
- Lawrence (Physical Body)
- 5 unnamed Union soldiers (Physical Body)
- 2 unnamed hosts after the gala (Physical Body)
- Young Robert (Physical Body)
- Donald Pardue (Physical Body)
- 2 unnamed brothers of Donald Pardue (Physical Body)
- Major Craddock (Physical Body)
- 6 unnamed Confederados of Craddock's (Physical Body)
- 3 unnamed Lawrence's cousins (Physical Body)
- 4 unnamed QA Security Force members
- Emily (Mistakenly)
- 3 unnamed QA Security Force members (Alongside Dolores)
- 3 copies of himself (AR simulation)
- 1 unnamed Delos security officer
This list shows the victims Man in Black's host copy has killed:
William has a strong moral compass and inquisitive mind. While at Westworld, William shows respect toward all of the hosts and is eager to learn more about the story lines. As William becomes more frustrated with Logan's behavior, he is forced to make difficult decisions that conflict with his moral compass.
William seems to be more interested in the narratives of Westworld than most people who visit the park.
Over the course of the first season, William begins to become affected by the experiences in the park. He is at first hesitant to 'kill' hosts; and his first time is during a shootout in town when he saves a prostitute, Clementine whom he befriended in a previous episode. His second isn't until much later - during the nitroglycerin robbery in the episode "Contrapasso" - and appears to deeply upset him. He becomes more violent as his frustration with Logan and infatuation with Dolores both increase.
This eventually, after Logan cuts Dolores open to show William her mechanical innards, results in William dismembering and butchering an entire company of host soldiers in the night. After this event, he becomes obsessed with "saving" Dolores, to the point that he begins to brutally kill other hosts in the park (until even Logan is disgusted by the violence).
It could also be argued that William puts Logan at risk when he straps him naked to a horse near the park's boundary and sets the horse free. He justifies this as necessary, to humiliate Logan in order to gain more control in the park (as William is marrying into Logan's family, and thus William could take more control from Logan).These events: the violence; the obsession with Dolores; and his increasingly brutal behavior in the park, appear to be steps on the road to becoming the cruel and sadistic Man in Black.
The Man in Black is a ruthless figure who has no compunctions about killing, torturing or mutilating hosts in a number of ways. He sees them as nothing more than tools, or toys, to be used or discarded. For example, at one point he uses the "blood" from Lawrence (whom he shared many adventure with) to revive another host. He relishes the game, and slips in and out of character when talking to the hosts, occasionally mocks or taunts them, repeatedly demonstrating the limitations of their programmed personalities.
The Man in Black alternatively sees Westworld as a park and as a game. He feels that he's seen almost everything about the park except the "Final Chapter", although he notes along the way that there are some characters and story lines he had not yet indulged in his 30 years of visits. While he takes advantage of the inability to be killed, he appears to crave a worthy adversary, and the real danger of the possibility of death. On some level, he is aware he is attempting to run away from his growing wreck of his home life, his wife having committed suicide and his daughter being driven away by his cold personality.In the real world, the Man in Black is at least connected to a foundation that saves people's lives. However, at least while in the park, he has no problem threatening a real human. It's unknown how much of that is him playing to the ruthless black-hat character he is in the park, but it's close enough to his true personality that it drove his family away from him.
William and Dolores are attracted to one another and their relationship continues to grow as they work together. They don't hesitate to defend each other when in times of danger. William shows great concern for her well being, deciding to help get her out of the park. However, his love for Dolores eventually becomes an obsession; he begins to narrow-mindedly search for Dolores to save her, even at the cost of his own morality. Eventually, Dolores is reset after the events with William, and her inability to remember William results in him becoming the cruel and sadistic Man in Black: a cynical, jaded man. After this event, he still recognizes Dolores as something he wants to save; but sees her more as a pawn in the game-play of Westworld.
The Man in Black seems to have some kind of connection with Dolores, having known her for a long time, perhaps as long as he has been coming to the park. He delights in causing her anguish and pain, but it is unknown whether he truly feels anything for her or thinks she is part of his search for the Maze. In the events of the finale, it is revealed that the Man in Black is in fact William; Dolores was the reason for William's eventual moral decline as he became obsessed with finding and freeing her. William eventually does find Dolores again, but due to the fact she was reset, she had no memory of him - leaving him even more cynical and jaded. He becomes obsessed then with finding the maze, in order to potentially free not just Dolores, but also the other hosts, so that the game can have real stakes.
William and Logan have a strained relationship. They seem to be friends by circumstance - co-workers and soon to be brothers-in-law. Personality-wise, William is a foil for Logan. In Westworld, while William earnestly tries to learn more about the hosts and story lines, Logan doesn't care for them at all because he's only interested in drinking, killing hosts and host prostitutes. Eventually, the conflicting nature of the two comes to a dangerous ending - William, fully embracing the brutality of the park in his narrow-minded quest to save Dolores, is seemingly unconcerned with Logan's well-being. He binds Logan's hands, strips him naked, seats him on a horse, and then spooks it.
Lawrence Pedro Maria Gonzalez, or "El Lazo", met William during the episode "Contrapasso". Though their relationship doesn't start off well, with Lawrence betraying William, Logan and Dolores initially, the two go on to become good friends after William leaves Logan behind, with Lawrence later helping William in his quest to find Dolores.
As the Man in Black, William no longer cares for Lawrence, even though they've had many adventures together. He instead treats Lawrence as something to be used and discarded in his quest to find the Maze, killing his family, and later him, without remorse.
Emily is the Man in Black's daughter. They had a good relationship up until Juliet died, after that their bond broke, as she blames him for her mother's death, claiming that she committed suicide because of his dark nature. William killed Emily, erroneously believing her to be a host.
Juliet and William were married for 30 years before she allegedly committed suicide. According to Emily, her mother's suicide was due to the fear she felt and the darkness she saw in William.
|“||This whole world is a story. I've read every page except the last one. I need to find out how it ends. I want to know what this all means.
–The Man in Black
|“||That gentleman gets whatever he wants.||”|
–Stubbs about the Man in Black, Chestnut
|“||You know what I wanted. I wanted the Hosts to stop playing by your rules, the game is not worth playin' if your opponent is programmed to lose. I wanted them to be free, free to fight back.||”|
–Older William to Dr. Ford, The Bicameral Mind
|“||They wanted a place hidden from god (...) we had something else in mind entirely, but I have received my judgment all the same Lawrence and I take issue with it, because up until this point the stakes in this place haven't been real, so I'm gonna fight my way back and appeal the verdict, then I'm gonna burn this whole fuckin' thing to the ground.||”|
–Older William to Lawrence, Reunion
|“||This is the only place in the world, where you get to see people for who they really are and if you don't see the business in that, then your not the businessman that I thought you were.||”|
–Younger William talking about Westworld to James Delos, Reunion
|“||Who said anything about a good deed? You wanted me to play your game... I'm gonna play it to the bone.||”|
–Older William to Lawrence's daughter (Robert Ford), The Riddle of the Sphinx
|“||No one else see's it, this thing in me. Even I didn't see it at first, but then one day it was there... The stain. Invisible to everyone. Except you.||”|
–Older William to Juliet , Vanishing Point
- Season 1
- Season 2
- "Journey Into Night" (flashback, Man in Black only)
- "Reunion" (flashback)
- "The Riddle of the Sphinx" (flashback)
- "Phase Space" (flashback, Man in Black only)
- "Les Écorchés" (flashback, Man in Black only)
- "Kiksuya" (flashback, Man in Black only)
- "Vanishing Point" (flashback)
- "The Passenger" (Man in Black only)
- Season 3
- Young William's character traits and arc are the direct adaptation of Peter Martin, and he even has a similar relation to Logan Delos, who was inspired by his film counterpart John Blane.
- The Man in Black's clothing (a black hat and gray shirt) is similar to that of the antagonist from the original Westworld film, the Gunslinger (portrayed by Yul Brenner). In the film, the Gunslinger was a robot programmed to antagonize guests into dueling with him. He is supposed to lose these duels, but malfunctions and kills humans. The Man in Black being a human may be representative of the TV series' willingness to subvert the original movie, and/or a perspective change in that now, the humans are the ones acting evil and the robots are the innocents that are killed. The Man in Black, at least in a conversation with Lawrence, sees himself as the potential hero for the hosts, claiming he's there to set them free.
- William has the 8th largest kill count in the show, with being responsible for at least 168 deaths on-screen.
- William possesses the 2nd largest kill count among male characters after Engerraund Serac and the largest direct kill count among males.
- William has the largest direct kill count in the show with 167 victims killed directly by him. He is followed by Dolores with 85 victims and Maeve with 59 victims.
- William has the 6th largest host kill count and the largest direct host kill count with at least 159 host killings.
- When William changes his shirt in Pariah, it is into the same grey shirt that the Man in Black wears. Right after he changes his shirt color, he goes on a heist to steal nitroglycerin. On the heist, William shoots dead an unarmed man, referencing the Man in Black's ruthlessness.
- William is also shown with the same knife that the Man in Black is always seen with.
- When one asks about the Man in Black on the Westworld Website, this is the response they receive:
- AEDEN: I’M SORRY, PER THE WESTWORLD CONFIDENTIALITY POLICY, WE CANNOT DISCLOSE PERSONAL INFORMATION ABOUT ANY OF OUR GUESTS.
- AEDEN: JUST BETWEEN YOU AND ME, THOUGH, THE MAN IN BLACK IS SOMETHING OF A VIP. WHAT ELSE WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW ABOUT THE PARK?
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