Let’s get this out of the way: Despite charming us initially with his aw-shucks attitude and the contrast to asshole and proud of it, Logan, Westworld’s William is a massively entitled dick who apparently only pretended to be a good person for a while, because he was too much of a coward to do otherwise. The evidence was building all season, and the finale confirmed it. You might not like it, I don’t like it, my mom’s gonna yell at me for being mean to Jimmi Simpson, who she adores, but it’s true. I’m sorry. Let’s look at the evidence.
(Should go without saying that there are massive spoilers ahead for the whole season of Westworld. But I’m saying it anyway just in case.)
The first thing we should realize is that the maximum length of stay in Westworld, according to their website, is a month. Four weeks. If someone told you that they got engaged to someone they were dating for a month, you’d tell them they were crazy. But it’s long enough for William to upend his entire life. That means that whatever our first impression of him, William came into the park with such a tenuous grasp on himself and what he wanted in his life that a few weeks in a theme park were enough to completely upend it. And we know they spent at least a few days hanging around Sweetwater, so not even a full month. This is not a man who was honest and comfortable in his skin, is what I’m saying. He might not have been acting like a sociopath, but the potential was always there.
The really interesting thing I noticed rewatching the early episodes is that William doesn’t even approach Dolores in Sweetwater. He doesn’t actually interact with her at all until she literally falls into his arms. He gets the ego boost of turning down Clementine, the host who actually comes onto him, with the “hero” feeling of the happenstance of Dolores stumbling onto his and Logan’s camp. Sure, we can think “oh, he steps up when a damsel is in distress”, but everything he does with Dolores after she stumbles into that camp is more about what he wants than what’s best for her. He wants to be a hero, he wants an adoring companion, he wants to feel useful and special. So Dolores gets dragged further and further away from her safe zone and deeper into her memories.
Toward the end of his journey, he begins to figure out that there is something REALLY wrong with her. And his solution is; “I will take this badly malfunctioning robot home with me so I can continue to have sex with her.” Think about that. THINK ABOUT IT. This isn’t even what Dolores wants, and she says so. This is about William’s gratification. And for all his talk about how unfair it is for the hosts, the only host he ever sees as worthy of his help happens to be the same one he’s boned. He has no problem slaughtering legions of other hosts once he loses her, and then fucking over his only friend and future brother-in-law in a situation where he knows he won’t suffer any consequences for it. William was never a nice guy. William was only ever pretending to be a nice guy, because he didn’t want to face the consequences. As soon as Westworld gave him that other option, a world without consequences, he bought in HARD.
And what does he demand when he comes back as a captain of industry, who’s made a stunning success of his personal life? The Maze. “Arnold’s game.” Literally the ONLY THING IN THE PARK THAT WAS NOT FOR HIM AND OF COURSE IT’S ALL HE WANTED. He can kill hosts with impunity, fuck them for days, join any story he wants to and ruin it or go along with it. He can spend his time getting drunk and picking off hosts in Sweetwater or ride around the full rim of the park taking on all the dangerous hosts he can find. He even threatens another guest with death, and no one blinks. But a metaphor designed to help bring the hosts to consciousness? NO, IT MUST ALSO BE FOR HIM. THE WHOLE PARK WAS MADE FOR HIM. BY THAT GUY WHO DIED BEFORE WILLIAM EVEN VISITED, BUT FUCK IT, IT’S HIS RIGHT AND HE WILL HAVE IT.
The most frustrating thing, though, is that this is not a new story. This is a story we’ve seen many times before. A sensitive, timid man is thrown into peril, or ADJACENT to peril, and finds an inner strength that strips him of his empathy, which allows him to become a “badass.” A selfish, violent person, who acts without consideration to those around him, and treats his romantic partners or other companions in a proprietary manner, which results in his personal and professional success. And maybe that’s why so many young men are seduced by a line of thinking that tells them that they are ALL secret badasses, and that there are villains of feminism and “social justice” holding them back. That they can FIGHT without actually having to put themselves in physical risk, and that their reward for their feats are imminent and will come in the form of flawlessly beautiful women and great financial success. While Westworld never positioned the Man in Black as a hero, it definitely positioned William as one. White hat and all. The “happy ending” to William’s story was ending up a cool, confident, wealthy villain. Late in the season, we get some shading to indicate that his life is not as good as it seems, but for most of the time? He’s a badass. And just like we’ve rethought stories for girls, where the happy ending was becoming a wife, maybe we should rethink stories for boys, where the happy ending is becoming a badass.