In Westworld‘s Season 2 premiere, Bernard revealed that Delos has been storing records of park guests’ experiences, along with their DNA. In Season 2, Episode 2, “Reunion,” we learned why: because William, AKA the Man in Black, has been running Westworld like it’s Facebook.
In case you need a refresher: Jimmi Simpson’s character, William, is actually Ed Harris’s character, the Man in Black, in the past. That was a neat little mystery in Westworld Season 1, but now that it’s out in the open, Westworld Season 2 is continuing to use both actors and showing scenes both in the present and in the past. One of those flashbacks in Episode 2 showed William trying to convince his father-in-law, Jim Delos, to fully invest in Westworld, after William’s journey through the park in the first season.
Papa Delos remains unmoved, but William has a convincing argument. “You’re right. This place is a fantasy. Nothing here is real, except one thing: the guests,” William says. “Half of your marketing budget goes to trying to figure out what people want, because they don’t know. But here, they’re free. Nobody’s watching. Nobody’s judging. At least, that’s what we tell them. 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 you’re not the businessman that I thought you were.”
In other words, it’s easier to discover what people truly want, deep down–the holy grail of commerce–if your customers find themselves in an environment where they feel safe and secure enough to reveal that information willingly. That’s Facebook’s exact business model; Facebook users provide their personal data, demographics, interests, and more to Facebook, and Facebook uses that information to make money. And like the park guests who trust that “nobody’s watching” and “nobody’s judging,” Facebook users–the “dumb f***s,” as Zuck called them in those infamous early 00s messages–trust the company and its CEO to not exploit their private information.
Facebook has been extremely clear in saying that they don’t sell your data to advertisers. But Facebook does act as middleman, leveraging your private data to sell advertisers on the idea of serving ads directly to the people who might be most interested in their products.
As Zuckerberg told Senator John Cornyn during testimony earlier this month, “So, if an advertiser comes to us and says, ‘Alright, I’m a ski shop and I want to sell skis to women,’ then we might have some sense because people shared skiing related content or said they were interested in that. They shared whether they’re a woman. And then we can show the ads to the right people without that data ever changing hands and going to the advertiser.”
In both Westworld and Facebook, information about the guests/users is actually the greatest commodity. The big question that raises on the show, however, is exactly how guests’ data is being used.
Tessa Thompson’s character Charlotte Hale, a Delos executive, seems to know more than she’s let on so far. Bernard may be on his way to learning more, although we didn’t see him at all in Episode 2. Jim Delos no doubt knows, but he’s likely dead by the present day. Logan probably is too, based on his ominous descent into drug use glimpsed in this episode. But Logan may also know something we don’t; “That, darling, is the sound of fools fiddling while the whole f***ing species starts to burn,” he tells Dolores. “And the funniest f***ing part is they lit the match.”
What could Bill and Jim be doing with Westworld that’s caused Logan to wax so severely apocalyptic? William’s own words in that scene with Papa Delos might be a clue: “I think in 20 years, this will be the only reality that matters.” Or in his villainous monologue to Dolores later: “Turns out you’re not even a thing. You’re a reflection. You know who loves staring at their own reflection? Everybody.” He’s going to use Dolores and the other hosts to give Westworld’s guests a tiny slice of the self-discovery he experienced there.
“But there is something else; There’s something beyond that,” William says. “I think that there is an answer here to a question no one’s ever even dreamed of asking. Do you want to see?”
And there’s one other person who has the answer: Dolores, who revealed this week that she knows “the real purpose of this place.” What a mystery Westworld Season 2 is already shaping up to be.