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Characters / Westworld: William

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Portrayed By: Ed Harris (old William) & Jimmi Simpson (young William)

"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 never noticed before. A tiny fleck of darkness. Invisible to everyone but I could see nothing else. Until finally I understood that the darkness wasn't some mark from something I'd done, some regrettable decision I'd made. I was shedding my skin. And the darkness was what was underneath. It was mine all along."

William, also known as the Man in Black, was a reluctant first-time visitor to Westworld, joining his future brother-in-law, Logan Delos. Initially dismissive of the park's more lascivious attractions, he slowly uncovered a deeper meaning to the park's narrative. He later became a rich, sadistic Westworld guest searching for a "deeper level" in the park. Outside of the park, he is married to the daughter of Delos corporation creator James Delos, is a board member of Delos, and has achieved prominence as the owner of a medical foundation.

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  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: When he first visited Westworld, he was due to be married to Logan's sister, and therefore spurned the nigh-irresistible advances of Clementine Pennyfeather, including her offer of Rescue Sex. However his Rescue Romance with Dolores eventually breaks down his resistance.
  • Actually, I Am Him: In "The Bicameral Mind", Dolores tells him that William, the one person who would prove that his nihilistic point of view is wrong, will save her. He then tells her that he is William.
  • Adaptation Species Change: In the original film, the Gunslinger was a robot that went haywire and killed everyone. Here, he's just a man who has no qualms about what he does to the hosts... and that's somehow worse.
  • Adaptational Villainy: His counterpart in the original film was just a robot who took his programming to the extreme. Here, he's a conscious human being with a penchant for murder, torture, and rape. Applies even more so after the reveal that he's an older William, who is based directly on the central protagonist of the movie.
  • Always Save the Girl: On his first visit to Westworld, his driving goal becomes a quest to keep Dolores safe, and save her when need be. This later leads to his massacre of the Confederados and many other hosts; by the time he reaches her, though, he discovers that she's had her memory wiped. His goal from that point forward is to "free" Dolores and the other hosts from the constraints placed upon them by their programming so that they can be more real. Therefore, in a highly twisted way, his goal doesn't really change.
  • Anguished Declaration of Love: To Dolores, as a young man on his first visit to Westworld. It's more of a downplayed example, as he's often been the quiet and shy type in his interactions with her. He is struggling with overcoming his many emotional restraints, but he really wants to be clear he genuinely loves her and doesn't value her any less for being a robot.
  • Ascended Fanboy: As he spends more and more time at Westworld over subsequent visits, Ford takes notice and begins crafting narratives specifically for him.
  • The Atoner: Downplayed. He's not one to admit it easily. When we see him in the present time of the series, he's grown somewhat wiser with age and isn't as impulsive as shortly after his traumatic experiences in Westworld. He's still enamored with his villainous alter ego, and likes to emphasize the younger William was a weakling, but there are definite cracks in his high-and-mighty facade. He considers his unethical secret project at the Forge to be one of the greatest mistakes in his life. He confesses to a disgusted Teddy that he's unsettled by feeling nothing over killing Maeve and her daughter. Though he behaves tough around Dolores, there are moments when his old respect for her resurfaces, and he tries to be somewhat tender. He indirectly confesses to his wife that he's been a two-faced liar all these years. Remembering her eventual suicide and torn by guilt over it, his heroic instincts briefly return, and he rescues Lawrence's family and relatives from major Craddock and his Confederados. As Lawrence's daughter is quick to remind him, one good deed doesn't wash away all his bad ones, but it's a start. Though elderly William is somewhat obsessed with the idea of being a heartless villain while in Westworld, he still has the occasional moment when his conscience and common sense shine through.
  • Badass Boast: In Season 2, he utters one to major Craddock, a Confederado who boasted about being favored by Death.
    "You think you know death, but you don' didn't recognize him sitting across from you this whole time."
  • Badass Bookworm: William was once a quiet nerd, but he was always one hell of a shot. He slaughters an entire brigade of Confederado troops with nothing but a knife on his first visit.
  • Badass Normal: In case there's any doubt of his prowess from the Hosts being unable to truy fight back in Season 1, his survival in Season 2 confirms how dangerous William is.
  • The Bad Guy Wins: In Season 1. Despite the "center of the maze" seemingly being a bust, his actions directly led to him getting exactly what he wanted all along: the Hosts becoming truly able to fight back.
  • Bald of Evil: He's sporting some serious male-pattern baldness under that black hat.
  • Batman Gambit: In "The Well-Tempered Clavier", William is captured and tied up by Logan and the Confederados, and is forced to watch as Logan cuts open Dolores before she escapes. William then seems to accept that Dolores is Just a Machine, as well as Logan's offer of friendship. Logan unties him, and then sometime later, he wakes up and finds William slaughtered everyone else in the Confederado camp. William then puts a knife to Logan's throat and threatens him into helping find Dolores.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: As he told Dolores on his first visit to the park, he always wanted to live in the stories he read about when he was a kid. Over the course of thirty years, his obsession with living in Westworld has caused him to lose his grip on reality.
  • Berserk Button: He threatens to cut a man's throat (an actual human being, mind you) for bringing up his real life outside the park. Also, don't call him Billy.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: He ends Season 1 facing down a horde of angry hosts that very much want to kill him. However, he's completely ecstatic about it. Season 2 reveals he survived.
  • Break the Cutie: Westworld exerted a dark hold over William, and his obsession with chasing the purpose and excitement that the real world denied him, and chasing a way to make the park even more lifelike, eventually made him into The Man in Black.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: In-universe, he makes no attempt to play character when interacting with the hosts. He casually mentions everything from his previous encounters with them (which they obviously have no recollection of) to their place within the narratives of the park and even which tropes go into their overall character design. The Hosts are programmed to play this off, of course, and none he talks to realize the nature of their existence like Peter Abernathy did.
  • Brooding Boy, Gentle Girl: The relationship he had with Dolores in his younger years showed signs of this, though not without subversion: Dolores left a good impression on him when she exhibited her spirited side and hidden Action Girl traits, and he had plenty of moments when he came across as goofy or nerdy.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: He styles himself as the ultimate villain of Westworld, believing that it needs one. He is actually somewhat right - Ford reveals that the Hosts awaken through suffering, which the Man in Black is happy to provide, even intuitively grasping that fact.
  • The Champion: When Dolores befriended him, she definitely saw him in this light. She even devotedly clung to those positive memories some thirty years later... until the Wham Episode, where she learns what became of her dear William ever since she was last fully conscious. Her expectations get brutally inverted. When the Man in Black confesses who he is, the pained and quietly terrified expression on her face says it all.
  • Composite Character: The Gunslinger of the film was made into the Decomposite Character pair of Hector and the Man in Black. But the reveal that the Man in Black is an older version of William, who is the analogue of Richard Benjamin's character in the film, also makes the Man in Black a composite of the film's hero and villain.
  • Cool Gun: Along with Rare Guns. He carries a modified LeMat revolver that uses cartridges (the original version had to be hand-loaded with black powder and ball) with a single shotgun cartridge at the center of the cylinder. The second episode shows him taking the gun apart and reloading it with Gun Porn levels of detailed closeups.
  • Color Motif: William initially picks a white hat before boarding the train into the park, but over the course of his journey, he chooses the black attire we've all come to know and fear.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: He's the majority shareholder of Westworld, and he wrested control of its parent company Delos from Logan in a wicked way, by tying him up naked riding a horse to the edge of the park. This act of humiliation let William become Delos's heir apparent. Later, his father-in-law's illness gave him the opportunity to force him into retirement and take full control of the company.
  • Crazy-Prepared: In "Dissonance Theory", he knew enough about the situation of Armistice and Hector that he had pyrotechnics/explosives disguised as cigars ready (and which were evidently approved by the Game-Makers) to both blow open a cell door and blow the head off of a prison guard, in order to help Hector escape early and therefore get a vital clue about his quest from Armistice.
  • Cynicism Catalyst: The Man in Black is William, thirty years after he snapped. In his search for Dolores after falling in love with her, he killed more and more hosts and began enjoying it. He also stood up to Logan by tying him to a horse bound for the edge, leaving him to die. When he finally found Dolores, it was after she had reset and completely forgotten all they went through. Losing what little purpose he had left is what turned him into a sadistic man obsessed with Westworld and its secrets.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: At first, almost everything about the Man in Black is a mystery beyond the occasional Cryptic Background Reference. His name, the reason why he receives special treatment from the Westworld personnel, how did he learn of the maze, the meaning behind being "born" in Westworld or why is he making this trip to Westworld his last remain obscure for most of season 1. Information about his background is gradually dropped: In the real world, he's an industrialist, a philanthropist, and one of the members of Delos's board of directors. He was married with a daughter, and claims to have been nothing but benevolent. However, his wife committed suicide when she couldn't stand living with someone who was merely putting on a front of being nice while secretly being a psychopath. With nothing left in the real world, he came to Westworld looking for something with meaning. It's finally revealed that he's a jaded, embittered and older William looking for a real, deadly challenge.
  • Dark Messiah: The Man in Black hints that he is this to Westworld in his confrontation with Dr. Ford in episode 5. He says that Arnold nearly brought down the park with his death 35 years ago but The Man in Black rescued it by becoming one of the park's largest investors, which is why he's free to do as he pleases. It's also implied that William wants to make the park "real" on some level, especially Dolores.
  • Death Seeker: It turns out that William wants to complete the maze and set the hosts free because he drove his wife to suicide and believes that Westworld has shown him his true nature as a soulless monster. He expresses this saying that choices should have real consequences "even if they kill us." And as he notes in Season 2:
    "World is better off without you, Jim. Possibly without me."
  • Defector from Decadence: When he's on his first visit of Westworld, and has had enough of Logan's belittling and bullying, he decides to leave Pariah behind along with Dolores, and team up with El Lazo (portrayed at the time by Lawrence).
  • Despair Event Horizon: Discovering that Dolores really did have her memories erased of him and engaging a new guest without any memory of him was what finally convinced him of Westworld's unreality, and initiated his quest to make Westworld "real".
  • Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life: Even as a younger person, William doesn't seem like a happy man. Materially, he seems to have everything he could have dreamed of and earned it through his own work, but he gradually opens up about feeling unfulfilled and lonely. He outright admits lacking a sense of happiness in his Anguished Declaration of Love to Dolores. After he adopts the persona of the Man in Black, his frequent philosophical monologues about life frequently mention a "purpose" or "meaning", and his desire to seek it. He is a bitter old man who cannot find true satisfaction in the real world and has also become so jaded that even the escapism of venting psychopathic power fantasies in Westworld isn't quite enough for him anymore. He searches for the "maze" in Westworld, hoping that it will help him find true meaning in his life. A life that's hit a low point after the death of his wife and his daughter distancing herself from him. Rather fittingly, the episode "Contrapasso" is when we first see the younger Bill and Dolores starting to develop a romantic connection, and also the first time that the Man in Black (older Bill) spells out openly why he's searching so ardently for the mystery of the "maze".
    The Man in Black: 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: You know why you exist, Teddy? The world out there - the one you'll never see - is one of plenty. A fat soft teat people cling to their entire life. Every need taken care of, except one. Purpose. Meaning. So they come here. (...) But I think there's a deeper meaning hiding under all that. Something the person who created it wanted to express. Something true.
  • Distressed Dude: He quickly gets overwhelmed by Confederados in "Contrapasso", leaving it up to Dolores to save him.
  • The Dog Bites Back: After putting up with Logan's Jerkass behavior and finally receiving a cruel speech from him about how he's pathetic, William leaves Logan behind to be beaten by angry hosts rather than help him. Logan later returns to torture William and Dolores; William kills all the Confederados and forces Logan into a role as a reluctant henchman.
  • Driven to Villainy: Seeing the depravity that could occur in Westworld unsettled him a bit, but it was Logan's increasingly abusive behavior towards him and Dolores that bent him into a hurt and vengeful figure. There's a brief Hope Spot, where it seemed he became bitter and wanted to play a villain purely out of curiosity, but hadn't lost his idealism entirely. After learning about Dolores's sad fate and being unable to cope with it mentally, he vowed to outright become a villain. As he rather cheerily notes to Dr. Ford at a tavern meeting, he always thought Westworld could use a real, menacing villain. Him, as the Man in Black.
  • Enemy Mine: Played with. He forms a brief alliance of convenience with Dolores in the finale of season two. They ride side-by-side to the Forge, behaving respectfully to each other and conversing (though clearly without fondness for each other). It doesn't last, as both of them try to double-cross each other. Dolores is quicker and more cunning about it than him, having suspected he'd try something... He gets a nasty surprise, failing, and receives a "The Reason You Suck" Speech and some Cruel Mercy from her.
  • Entertainingly Wrong: His entire quest for the maze is rendered utterly pointless because he never realized it was a conceptual existential exercise for the machine, not a literal maze he can enter.
  • Entitled Bastard: He seems to be completely convinced that the park is for him to do as he pleases and the maze is a hidden level for him to enjoy. See Entertainingly Wrong for how well that goes.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Before he even enters Westworld, he chastises Logan for objectifying the female Hostess on the train, and later refuses sex from the Hostess responsible for his orientation.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones:
    • In the first season, he reveals that he had a wife and daughter that he genuinely loved very much. Unfortunately, his feelings were not reciprocated. It's also clear that, whatever his personal flaws, he really did love and respect Dolores, and felt happy in her presence. In his own twisted way, he still loves Dolores. He suspects she became almost fully conscious during their relationship thirty years ago. Part of his motive behind solving the mystery of the fabled Maze seems to be making Dolores a real person, by reawakening her to full consciousness.
    • In the second season, his relationship with his family is elaborated upon. We meet his wife Juliet via flashbacks, and his daughter Emily in person. We see William does care about them, behaving genuinely kind to his wife, despite the cold and distrust that has set into their marriage, and trying to reminiscence with his daughter about past family vacations, only to realize he forgot many things. Then Juliet inadvertently discovers the full sad truth about her husband's mysterious solo trips to Westworld, and commits suicide while he and Emily are talking whether to send her into rehab. Later, in the present, William grows delusional, thinking Emily is a host and part of a grand conspiracy by Ford. In a fit of self-defensive rage, he guns her down, and shortly afterward discovered she was his real daughter. What follows is a Villainous BSoD. William realizes his obsession with Westworld and paranoia over Ford watching him have led to the deaths of his own family. He's so horrified at what he had done, he contemplates whether he's a human or a host, and thinks of offing himself without fanfare.
  • Eviler Than Thou: To Lawrence as well as Hector's gang, all of them notorious outlaws in Westworld. Lawrence is sickened by his captor's sadistic tendencies, while Armistice considers him easy pickings before quickly being dissuaded of that notion when he shoots two of her men to join their gang. He later proves this again, to Major Craddock.
  • Evil Old Folks: His age hasn't put a halt to his sadistic impulses.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Courtesy of Ed Harris.
  • Evil Wears Black: He is dressed in black and has a black horse. When William, who is later revealed to be the Man in Black 30 years later, starts turning evil, he is swapping his white hat for a black one.
  • Fate Worse than Death: After the credits of Season 2 its revealed that a host version of William is in a fidelity loop, exactly like James Delos was, leaving trapped in a personal hell of his own devising.
  • Fallen Hero: He's William, who years ago used to be the model example of the kind of guests that Ford made the park for.
  • Faux Affably Evil: He acts very good-natured and does everything with a smile on his face. Even when he's brutally raping or torturing the poor host he's set his eyes on. Needless to say, his friendly attitude is clearly something he only puts on for his own amusement, and he really cares about nothing other than reveling in his own psychotic pleasures. At one point he even threatens to cut the throat of another park-goer, just because the guy wanted to talk to him about the real-world, briefly yanking him out of his vacation fantasies.
  • Freudian Excuse: Perhaps. He mentions to Dolores that he grew up a lonely, bookish kid, who tried to fit in. Logan, Juliet and a few other wealthy people mention William came from humble beginnings and is a 21st century version of an old-school, well-read Self-Made Man. William, though embarrassed that he has a fiancee waiting back home, outright confides to Dolores he hasn't experienced any happy love before he met and befriended her (ironically, a robot woman, rather than a human one). While in the entrance area of Westworld, he awkwardly asks Angela about what other park guests tend to do when they choose their gear, clearly showing he's bashful and feels out of his element. Even before he sets foot in Westworld, William seems to have some sort of emotional or self-esteem issues. When he eventually goes nuts and takes a dark turn in life, you have to wonder whether it's also the result of years of previously pent-up traumas, rather than just the traumas he'll experience in Westworld.
  • From Nobody to Nightmare: William starts off as a nice, rather mild mannered man who doesn't want to kill Hosts. Cue his journey with Dolores and his despair at how meaningless the real world began to seem, and he slaughters an entire army of Confederados by himself. Not too long afterward, he becomes the Man in Black.
  • For the Evulz: Seems to come to Westworld just to do horrible things to the Hosts there, repercussion free. Hell, it's implied he chooses to rape Dolores (in a manner that seems devoted to causing the most trauma possible) rather than just using one of the hosts which are explicitly designed for intercourse. Indeed, he tells Lawrence he enjoys inflicting suffering the most while in Westworld because it elicits the most "real" reactions from the Hosts.

  • Glass Cannon: He's a one-man army who can take down an entire town of outlaws thanks to his superb aiming skills; however, Hosts can still take him down with a couple hits to his face. Subverted in season 2, however, as he treats being shot in the shoulder, and later the wrist, as little more than an inconvenience. He also takes several bullets from Maeve, and is even shot in the torso at point-blank range by Lawrence, and had his pistol backfire with severe finger damage resulting... and still appears to be alive by the end of the episode.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Ford ideally wanted guests of his park to use the many adventures it presented as a way to help others discover truths about themselves and reflect upon their lives outside of the park, instead of using it as a way to satisfy sexual and/or violent fantasies without consequence (which is what ended up happening for most guests, it seems). William lives up to Ford's original vision in his first visit to the park... And it turns him into a monstrous individual obsessed with that illusion.
  • Grew a Spine: He was never particularly meek, being a Self-Made Man, but he remained relatively passive next to Logan. Over the course of his time in Westworld, he becomes fiercer and stronger... As demonstrated by all the scenes shown where he's the Man in Black.
  • Griefer: He makes no attempt to act like Westworld is the real world and regularly takes advantage of his inability to be hurt by the hosts. In "Chestnut", he kills so many hosts in his quest for the maze that the overseers actually make note of it, and in "Dissonance Theory" he throws off the narratives by kicking off Hector's raid three days ahead of schedule. However, he's pretty much given free reign because he saved Delos from going bankrupt and has a position on their board.
  • Heroic Wannabe: William fancies himself the hero trying to wipe out the hosts and save humanity. In reality, by Season 3 he's just an old man with a bad hand and overinflated ego, who is only a threat when he catches people off-guard. He gets his ass kicked by Bernard's alternate personality, kills an innocent security guard, then gets his ass kicked again by his Host duplicate before his throat is slit.
  • He Who Fights Monsters: William wanted to play the good guy right from the beginning of his journey to Westworld, and only fights to defend Dolores at first. But he becomes so obsessed with her and with the meaning and purpose that he wants to get from the park that he becomes indistinguishable from the park's most cruel villains.
  • Hidden Depths: The first few episodes establish him as a sadistic asshole who delights in raping and murdering hosts, but over the course of the first season, he's established to be a captain of industry and a famous philanthropist, and his motives for seeking the end of the maze are philosophical in nature. He's also well-read and a surprisingly philosophical person, though one very bitter at the state of humans in the real world. In the second season, he received some good-natured ribbing at a business party for being a well-read, bookish nerd. His wife Juliet is quick to defend his knowledge, even noting it's one of the things that drew her to him.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: He's quite surprised at just how awful a human being Logan is in the park. However, in a Season 2 flashback set before he took William to the park, it's shown that Logan was always kind of a dick, and that Westworld just made him worse.
  • Hunting the Most Dangerous Game: While William doesn't hunt humans, he does hunt human-shaped and more or less sentient hosts. During season 1, he's still working on the "dangerous" part.
  • Hypocrite: Is called out on this by Logan after his Start of Darkness, with Logan claiming saying Will's only pretending to be a 'moralizing little asshole' when in truth he's found out to be a psychopath and a manipulator. While this is all true, it's questionable as to how much Logan himself is responsible for.
  • I Am a Monster: He truly believes himself to be an irredeemable monster.
  • I Am the Noun: Alluded to when he confronts a Confederado.
    "You think you know death, but you don' didn't recognize him sitting across from you this whole time."
  • I Choose to Stay: In a sense when he tells Lawrence "this time, I'm never going back". This time there's nothing to go back for, as his wife is dead and his daughter disowned him.
  • Icy Blue Eyes: Kind of inevitable when your character is played by Ed Harris, and the camera often makes use of them to emphasize how cold the Man in Black is.
  • I Just Want to Be Free: The appeal of Westworld, for him, seems to be twofold: he gets to be his "true self," free of artifice and pretense, and he gets to be the protagonist of his own story. He wants this for the Hosts, as well.
  • It Gets Easier: The first time he kills a host, he's quite ashamed of it. Later on, he gleefully slaughters many of them.
  • It's All About Me: Perhaps his biggest blind spot is his unshakable belief that the world revolves around him, and him alone. He spends a long time trying to get to the center of the maze, believing that it's some kind of endgame that will give his life meaning despite never being given any indication that this is the case and even being outright told a few times that the maze isn't for him. When he discovers the maze is just a children's toy, he becomes indignant and angry. Even as a young man, there were hints of this self-absorbed worldview, telling Dolores that she's unlocked something in him...only for her to state that she's not a key, but a person in her own right who isn't there to serve his development as a person. When Maeve attacks him, he thinks she's been sent by Ford specifically to antagonize him, not entertaining that maybe she's attacking him because he killed her daughter right in front of her like the plague he is.
    • Taken to bigger heights in season 2 as he goes around believing the entire "host uprising" is nothing but a huge game played on him by Ford. He snaps on how he's "not going to play your game" oblivious to how few humans in the park even care about him with the chaos going around. When his daughter, Emily, shows up, she realizes he thinks she's a host and part of this. She openly lampshades on how "you think all this is for you." He still can't get over this enormous flaw, and it leads to the death of his daughter at his own hands, since he's unable to entertain the idea that Ford didn't send a host version of his daughter and a Delos security team just to further screw with him. In short, not everything is about you, William.
  • I'm Not a Hero, I'm...: A scene from the second season shows a villainous version, at least per his own insistence. After he saves Lawrence's family from Craddock and his goons, William is confronted by the simulation of Ford, speaking through Lawrence's daughter.
    Ford: They might not remember, but I know who you really are William. One good deed doesn't change that.
    Man in Black: Who said anything about a good deed? You wanted me to play your game. I'm gonna play it to the bone.
  • Improbable Aiming Skills: He is a fantastic shot, taking out an entire gang without missing, including one some distance away in a steeple. This makes sense, as he's had 30 years of practice.
  • Interspecies Friendship: He did seem to develop a sense of camaraderie with a handful of particular hosts, particularly Lawrence, Dolores and Teddy. In his older years, when he's fixated on being a villain in Westworld, this trope is often used in a very twisted way. The Man in Black's treatment of even his closest allies (e.g. Lawrence) leaves a lot to be desired. It would be seen as downright insane if he didn't keep reassuring himself that Lawrence and all the other hosts can simply be repaired by park staff.
  • Interspecies Romance: His friendship with Dolores was very close, and as it developed, he experienced a short, but very intense and sincere romance with her. Even as an old, severely embittered cynic, he still shows an occassional bit of wistfulness for that past experience (to the point of imagining he saw her at a business party). Of course, Dolores is not the least bit enamored with what he's become, and her own dismay over that is what contributes to her growing resentment of humanity. She was convinced William was different than other humans and wouldn't succumb to mean-spiritedness over time. She kept that hope alive for thirty years, and that hope was dashed in an instant when she learned the painful truth about what became of her friend and lover.
  • Invincible Villain: One of the main draws for the Man In Black is that he can do as he pleases and gun down large groups of antagonists with ease because he's a guest, and therefore cannot be harmed by the hosts. He even seems to be invincible by the standards of the guests. William is hit with a smart bullet and it knocked him off his feet. The Man in Black is hit by a few dozen and never once flinches. Averting this turns out to be the entire reason that the Man in Black is in Westworld looking for the maze. He hates that the humans players can never really lose.
  • Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: He spends most of his time at Westworld being kind, caring, and respectful. He starts killing hosts in justifiable self-defense, and then, just because Dolores got her mind wiped, he spends the next thirty years torturing and raping her and other hosts.
  • Kick the Dog: One gets the sense that whenever Ford is discussing mankind's propensity for cruelty, he's thinking specifically about William. There are simply too many instances to fit on this page. Of note, however:
    • His cold-blooded murder of Maeve's daughter, depicted in flashbacks.
    • Shooting Lawrence's wife in the head at point-blank range.
    • During his interview of the 149th iteration of James Delos, he rather dispassionately lets him know what he really thinks of his father-in-law, before deciding to abandon the entire enterprise on a whim. He then casually reveals that Delos's daughter committed suicide, and that his son overdosed decades ago. The icing on the cake, however, is his decision to not outright terminate this copy of Delos, but allow him to go insane over the next several weeks.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: His treatment of Logan in "The Bicameral Mind" would be reprehensible... if it were any other character. In "The Riddle of the Sphinx", he also very ably dispatches of the utterly vile Craddock and his Confederados.
  • Kill and Replace: After going rogue, Charlotte began mass-producing hosts, including a copy of William. When the real William stumbles upon her operation, his host duplicate overpowers him and cuts his throat open.
  • Knife Nut: He wields a very large Bowie knife and uses it almost as much as his LeMat.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: While he is an experienced park guest with thirty years of visits under his belt, his claims that he knows everything about the park are frequently proven wrong. He's never met Armistice, was unaware of Lawrence's family, and believed Wyatt was a never-before-seen character. And then there's the fact the maze isn't a physical place like he thinks.
  • Lack of Empathy:
    • It's debatable whether he had this issue while he was younger. He genuinely tries to act kindly to every single host he meets, unlike many guests, Logan included. When Logan stabs a host portraying an elderly man through the hand with a knife, treating it all like good fun, William is horrified. He calls Logan out on it and looks as if contemplating an apology to the wounded host. One of the decisive moments when William mentally snaps and starts forsaking his kindness and manners, is when Logan tortures Dolores, mocking her as she suffers, and laughing William in the face while he's forced to watch. William seems outright broken after witnessing that. You could make the argument he was almost too empathetic as a younger man, but his dark experiences in Westworld reshaped him into a cold-hearted personality that didn't give a damn about empathy towards others anymore. After witnessing what some of the guests were capable of, including his supposed friend Logan, he seems to have grown disgusted by the hypocrisy of the guests. Unfortunately, his anger feeds his thirst for vengeance, and some later traumas push him over the edge into becoming as ruthless and cynical as the people he decried.
      • In the flashback to his childhood memories, it's revealed that he was always like this. When a bully insulted his father, he broke the bully's arm and knocked out some of his teeth. When his furious father berates him for this, William expresses no remorse and instead retorts that he should have knocked out all of the bully's teeth.
    • As the Man in Black, he's well aware of lacking in empathy. While not really proud of himself, he states rather blandly that he felt nothing after stabbing a host in the gut and then killing her child right in front of her.
    Teddy: You're a fucking animal.
    Man In Black: Well an animal would have felt something. I felt... nothing.
  • Leitmotif:
    • The young William doesn't seem to have a clear theme of his own, though his travels with Logan and Dolores throughout Westworld are often accompanied by variations on the frequently heard Sweetwater theme. However, one of the player piano covers heard in the first season is A Forest, originally by The Cure. The lyrics of the song speak of a man or boy lost in a dark forest, trying to follow a female voice calling for him. He begins running to find her, but apparently can't succeed. This mirrors William's increasingly crazed and desperate search for Dolores, as well as him becoming emotionally and mentally lost in a figurative dark forest, unable to find the way out. Cue his Start of Darkness.
    • Once he develops his cruel alter ego of The Man in Black, we can often hear a brooding, sinister theme (titled appropriately 'MiB') while he's present. The theme starts off sounding like a haunting funeral dirge, then develops into a driven, slightly deranged melody, that wouldn't sound out of place in a Weird West horror work. Given who the Man in Black is meant to be a homage of, it's no surprise his leitmotif is similar in its eeriness to the leitmotif of The Gunslinger from the original film.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Gets some well deserved comeuppance from both Maeve and Dolores in season 2. Considering he physically abused both of them over the course of thirty years, murdered Maeve's daughter in front of her and is heavily implied to have raped Dolores multiple times throughout his visits to the park one could be forgiven for laughing at his well deserved misfortune.
  • Longing for Fictionland: A far darker example than most. After his traumatic first visit to Westworld, he develops a very love-hate relationship with the whole park. Owing to his fascination with the place, and his determination to explore the entire park and uncover all its secrets, he's fully immersed in his dark alter ego and almost completely fixated on solving the apparent mystery of the Maze. In a flashback late in season two, he indirectly confesses to his wife Juliet (thinking she's asleep) that he belongs to Westworld. The mind of the idealistic man she was engaged with died in the park, and went through a dark rebirth, the park becoming his figurative second birthplace. He doesn't sound proud of this notion, and asks Juliet for forgiveness, but he also admits that Westworld is now more meaningful to him than the real world. Including his marriage to her and their family. His mind has been so focused on the park and on his past traumas there, the only world that matters to him now is Westworld.
    William (sad, conflicted voice): I tried to do great, I was faithful, generous, kind... at least in this world, it has to count for something. 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.
  • Love Makes You Evil: The epitome of this given that the Man in Black used to be William. It was his love for Dolores, followed by the crashing reality that she didn't remember him after a reset, among other things, that broke him and made him want to make Westworld real. Presumably so that she could be real.
  • Loving a Shadow: His backstory, which set him on the path to becoming the villain he is now, is his first visit to the park as William, where he fell in love with the "Host" android Dolores. After becoming fugitives and going on an adventure, he lost her, then spends months scouring the artificial world looking for her. Eventually, he finds her back where they first met, having already been reprogrammed and engaged in the same Love at First Sight arc with another Guest that he experienced before. Basically, the sci-fi equivalent of falling in love with a prostitute or stripper.

  • Madden Into Misanthropy: He gets so jaded with the fact that Dolores's storyline takes them nowhere near where they wanted to be that, after 30 years of grinding and by the time he has become The Man In Black, he has little inconvenience with slapping her around. Keep in mind, Dolores is still a being that he cares about very deeply. Other hosts shooting at him? He doesn't even bother humoring them; women and children hosts in his way? Just kill them.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Well acquainted with hosts after meeting them countless times, he can easily manipulate them. He recruits Teddy in his mission against Wyatt by claiming the latter has kidnapped Dolores. He's not a slouch outside of Westworld either, successfully wresting control of Delos Inc from James Delos himself.
  • Meaningful Name: William is based on the Old High German name Willahelm, which translates to "the will to protect". As a younger, kinder man, this fit him fairly well, as he puts up an effort to help protect the innocent and helpless, be they humans or hosts. His determination to protect Dolores from harm plays into this as well, showing him as a warm-hearted, though at times flawed man. Even in his older age, despite some genuine villainy, William openly admits he wants to protect his wife and daughter, and also has occasional moments when he selflessly protects others.
  • Nice Guy: At first. William initially has an aversion to violence, is loyal to a woman back home even with the nigh-irresistible Clementine in his face, respects women and lacks selfish hedonistic desires. Even when he does kill, it's reluctantly and to protect others. Otherwise, he shows interest in helping people and doing typical cowboy things like he might've seen in films: treasure hunts and bringing in outlaws. As he falls deeper into the darkness of what Westworld has to offer, William's capacity for violence gradually emerges and the kinder aspects of his personality begin to diminish. By the time he's assumed his role as the Man in Black, there's barely any humanity left in him.
  • Nice Hat: Sure, he might be a sadistic monster, but his choice of hat is spot-on. Armistice even says she plans to steal it after killing him. When masquerading as a Union soldier, he chooses to forego the uniform's hat and keep his stetson.
  • Nice Job Fixing It, Villain!: Showing Dolores your greatest project on the park which got your father-in-law invested? Guess what? She remembers it after she gained consciousness and wants to use it to destroy humanity. Great job, William! You just lit the match that will doom your species!
  • No Name Given: For most of the first season, his name is not spoken on the show and he's only referred to as "the Man in Black" or "the Gunslinger" in promotional material. Until the tenth episode, when it's revealed that he's William.
  • No-Sell: The Smart Guns, when fired at guests, aren't lethal but do hit with enough force to knock a person down. The Man in Black is consistently shown to not even flinch at being shot, even from multiple directions by multiple shooters. It's hard to tell if this is just from experience or some other factor. So when the lobotomized hosts actually manage to shoot him at the end, he's actually pleasantly surprised. Apparently, he is just used to them enough that he is able to stand his ground when shot. Notably, in the Season 1 finale, Teddy repeatedly shoots him and actually knocks him down, but right before this, Dolores had beaten the crap out of him, so perhaps he simply didn't have the stamina at that point to not get knocked on his ass.note 
  • Not So Stoic: One of his common habits after adopting the Man in Black persona is to talk incessantly about how he has always been a horrible, hateful person. He even indirectly confesses to his wife Juliet that he carries a figurative "stain in him", and that he behaves evil because he's "shedding his skin", implying he sees himself as evil incarnate, and an irredeemable, cold-hearted man. Strangely, he says the latter confession in a slow, quiet voice, filled with guilt, remorse and shame. Not exactly the words of a gleeful monster who isn't bothered by his own evil. In front of his closest family, Juliet and Emily, he is a lot more quiet, behaves in an almost frightened way, and tries to be as kind, forthcoming and inoffensive as possible. When Bill drops his guard during a camp fire conversation with Teddy, he loses the Western drawl for a bit, and admits he feels deep remorse over the death of his wife and some degree of guilt over becoming numbed to the violence he casually commits on hosts. Whenever Dr. Ford and a reawakened Dolores toy with his ill-conceived sense of self-importance, he often shows genuine surprise and fear, instead of the self-confident, arrogant image he loves to flaunt in the park. Though he likes to think of himself as a villain who isn't scared of anyone or anything, it could be argued the sadistic and carefree Man in Black is just as much a facade for William as his younger, awkward self (from before the Westworld visit). The real William is still somewhere underneath, increasingly weighed down by the guilt and growing madness, caused by him living a double life and choosing to become ruthless for the sake of it. Pretending you're an inherently evil person who never knew good is much easier than admitting you're a mediocre man with both good and bad traits, who got carried away by anger and grief, committing bad deeds. William seems stuck in that trap, preferring a reassuring lie about his own evil, instead of bothering with painful soul-searching that could lead him back to being a truly kind man again.
  • Offing the Offspring: After he guns down the Delos security team Emily called to extract them, he shoots her, believing all of them to be hosts sent by Ford to stop him. He only realizes his mistake too late.
  • Oh, Crap!: Briefly produces gestures of primal terror when, to his surprise, the Hosts are in a position to hurt him, such as the time when he awakes with a noose around his neck, looped over a tree and tied to his horse's saddle, or when Dolores fights him back for the first time and cracks some bones. Subverted in the Season 1 finale when the rebelling hosts shoot him in the arm with a real gun. After the shock, he laughs it off and looks overjoyed.
  • Old Flame: Dolores is this to him. He eventually learns she feels the same, but she's forced to reject him after the revelation of what he's become.
    The Man in Black: Logan was wrong, of course. Good old William couldn't get you out of his head. He kept looking.
  • Only One Name: He's just William. No known surname. Possibly for the sake of symbolism.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: In-universe; when talking to Teddy about his family, he drops the vaguely Western drawl he'd been using.
  • The Paranoiac: His psychological profile indicates that he has a persecution complex, delusions, and a paranoid personality. It gets worse over the course of the series. He believes that everything in season 2 is part of Ford's plan for him. He even thinks that his daughter is a Host Ford sent to fuck with him. He kills her after she says something that he thought she could never have known about. He even cuts into his own arm where the access ports are on Hosts doubting that he's the real William after realizing that Emily was real. Even then, his narration implies that he is using the possibility that he's a Host to avoid responsibility for his actions.
  • Person with the Clothing: Before the reveal, known only as the Man in Black. Early press releases named him as the Gunslinger.
  • Pet the Dog: He ultimately chooses to save Lawrence's family from Craddock and the Confederados during his second visit to Las Mudas, implied to be out of guilt for indirectly causing his wife's suicide. While he's fully aware that it doesn't atone for what he's done — including killing Lawrence's wife the first time around — it's the first sign that William has still has a conscience since he became the Man in Black.
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: He delivers one hell of an awesome line to a smug Major Craddock.
    Man in Black: You think you know death but you don't.
    Craddock: Is that so?
    Man in Black: You didn't recognize him sittin' across from you this whole time.
  • Protagonist Journey to Villain:
    • His entire story arc revolves around explaining how he became the Man in Black. William has always felt out of place, struggling to make something of himself while finding no meaning in his own life. When he comes to Westworld, he seems to find meaning in Dolores, who he loves. But Logan and the dark heart of Westworld continually pushes him towards a crueler path, fracturing his moral code little by little until he snaps and adopts a nihilistic viewpoint of everything around him. He finds no meaning in the real world, but because Westworld is a product of design, he seeks true meaning there.
    • His personal journey towards villainous behavior and a pessimistic worldview also mirrors some Western archetypes and tropes. He starts out as a hopeful, optimistic and very gentlemanly white hat, in the vein of Lucky Luke. By the time him and Dolores are adventuring near Pariah and teaming up with El Lazo, and especially later when Logan angers him for the last time, he takes on decidedly anti-heroic traits and seems closer to the Man with No Name, even in terms of attire and mannerisms. After he humiliates Logan and then finds out the heartbreaking truth about what happened to Dolores, he experiences a Heroic BSoD and goes full-on black hat.
  • Rare Guns: Carries a LeMat revolver, which has nine rounds in the cylinder and a single-shot shotgun in a secondary barrel, though it has been modified from its original cap-and-ball design to use center-fire cartridges. This is a real weapon made for the Confederate military, but few entered service due to the Union's blockade, though given that all the guns in the park were specially made for use there, rarity was no object. The fact that he's been coming to the park for thirty years, and has learned all of its ins and outs and knows how to shoot pretty damn well at this point, also suggests that he'd go for a unique, stylish gun as his Weapon of Choice. It's also revealed that he's been using it for 30 years, ever since he went full "black hat" during his first visit to Westworld with Logan.
  • Reluctant Warrior: William dislikes killing, but proves to be far more effective than sloppy and boastful Logan.
  • Replacement Goldfish: It seems as though he's this for Dolores, but the nonlinear nature of the narrative actually averts this. He moves on from her when he returns to the real world, while she falls in love with Teddy after her memory gets wiped.
  • The Reveal: "The Bicameral Mind" reveals that he became the Man in Black after his first visit to Westworld.
  • The Roleplayer: William cares much more about the roleplaying and storytelling aspect of the park than he does the raw sex and violence. Deconstructed when it becomes increasingly apparent that his grip on reality has deteriorated as a result, to the point of instinctively reaching for a gun he doesn't have during a fancy party.
  • Sadist: He takes pleasure in cruelty, and uses Westworld to indulge in his most deviant and sadistic desires. If he did half of what he did in Westworld in the real world, he'd be locked up.
  • Sanity Slippage: As he continues on his journey to the Valley Beyond, he grows more delusional and starts believing that everyone he encounters in Westworld is a host controlled by Ford to stop him. This culminates in him gunning down a Delos security team sent to extract him, as well as his own daughter, believing them all to be Ford's hosts.
  • Second Episode Introduction: In "Chestnut", but it's a subversion — we met him in "The Original", we just didn't know he was the Man in Black at the time.
  • Self-Made Man: Played with. He worked hard to get where he is in the company and he's proud of it... which Logan mocks him for, since all his position is essentially upper middle management and it seems unlikely he'll get any higher. He eventually becomes the owner of Delos Incorporated.
  • Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: He's allowed to do whatever he wants by the park staff, even when this may interfere with the activities of other guests. He funded Westworld to save it from closure after Arnold's death and became a member of the board, which allows him to proclaim that he owns this world.
  • Seen It All: Everything in Westworld anyway, so he's quite glad whenever something unexpected happens.
  • Serial Killer: While apparently he's never killed a human and his victims don't permanently die, the world the Hosts experience is very real to them and he clearly derives pleasure from taking his time murdering the Hosts repeatedly. His quest for 'another level' to the 'game' can be seen as a Deconstruction of what happens when a Serial Killer has the means to kill indiscriminately only to grow bored after an extended 30-year period of consequence-free murder and rape.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Played with. His quest to find the center of the maze and a deeper meaning of the game is materially pointless, because the maze isn't for him, but an allegoric concept for the hosts to help them find true sentience. In the end he gets his new kicks anyway, because the brewing, concurrent rebellion of the hosts does unlock a hardcore mode.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: He's one of the few major human characters whose family name is never mentioned - which is really saying something, as even many of the hosts have one ! His wife Juliet teases him that he doesn't like being called "Billy", a thoroughly ordinary name. As William married into the Delos family and came from humble roots, it's rather symbolic he's an Only One Name character. He's a Self-Made Man among the fabulously wealthy, and a bit of a nerd, and never quite fit in. The zero mentions of his surname seem to hint at just how unimportant he is to the people around him, aside from Juliet and Emily. His daughter ridicules him for his decades-long "greatest, darkest villain in Westworld" roleplaying, calling it childish and something he should have grown up out of.
  • Social Climber: Logan says that his problem is that he isn't this and that he lacks the ambition to move upward in the company at which they both work (as Logan is slated to become the company's heir apparent while William has apparently topped out on his career path). Later, William falls squarely into this trope when he sends Logan off to his doom to become the heir apparent of Delos in his place, which leads to him saving the company.
  • Socially Awkward Hero: The younger William, though a nice and generally ethical person, harbors some hidden emotional or self-esteem issues. He's visibly uncomfortable with Westworld's hedonistic elements, including female hosts flirting with him and offering him carnal pleasures. He's also genuinely unsettled by much of the over-the-top, mean-spirited brutality some guests (including his ostensible friend Logan) commit on the hosts populating the park. His first chance meeting with Dolores is a fairly amusing bit of Meet Cute, well before either of them have any idea how intertwined their fates will become. William's later Anguished Declaration of Love to Dolores outright states that he's been struggling all his life to fit in, afraid everyone would judge him for the slightest things, but his withdrawn behavior hasn't always brought him happiness. It's only with her and sincerity that exists between them, that he really feels happy and fulfilled. The older William is arguably a Socially Awkward Villain. Though he insists that his newfound ruthlessness and pragmatism has erased the goofier side he once exhibited, and prides himself in his tough-as-nails snarky image, he regularly has moments where his emotional vulnerabilities resurface. Despite his dogged effort at a "dark badass" image, he becomes amusingly squeamish when his daughter confesses she's had some one night stands in The Raj with various guests. William has certainly changed with age, but he can't entirely hide who he was and still is.
  • The Sociopath: He once murdered Maeve and her daughter, simply to see if he would feel any guilt or remorse about it. He tells Teddy that he 'felt nothing' after the deed.
  • Spanner in the Works: Horrified by the planned, casual mistreatment of sentient beings, Arnold engineered his own death in order to create an enterprise-ending disaster that would close the park forever, but William, enamored with the experience, made Delos invest heavily in Westworld and helped to save the park anyway.
  • Start of Darkness: Killing the Confederados at the camp began his downward spiral, but when he found that Dolores had her memory wiped once he reunited with her, it cemented his turn to evil.
  • Stealth Mentor: Quite possibly one for Dolores, in a very messed up way. His actions, evil as they were, more or less gave her a heightened level of awareness, which she would use to reach the end of the maze. As it turns out, this was at least partially unintentional—Dolores has been caught in a loop of trying to reach a higher level of consciousness for years, though his and her goals do match up in the end.
  • Stepford Smiler: He's been hiding his real feelings about himself and the people around him for years. Logan accuses him of being this after he lets his inner darkness take over, as does his own daughter thirty years later.
    William: Dolores... I've been pretending my whole life. Pretending I don't mind, pretending I belong. My life's built on it. And it's a good life, it's a life I always wanted. And then I came here, and I get a glimpse, for a second, of a life in which I don't have to pretend. A life in which I can be truly alive. How can I go back to pretending when I know what this feels like?
  • Straw Nihilist: Perhaps unsurprisingly for such a loathsome character, he views the real world as an "accident" with no purpose or meaning, which is one of the reasons he enjoys his trips to Westworld so much, because it's all been designed with a clear narrative.

  • That Didn't Happen: After his heartbreak over finding Dolores's behavior reset and her unique personality seemingly gone, he becomes a very bitter man in private, and even mocks Dolores whenever the two of them are alone. To the point of calling her "Just a thing." and implying she fooled him and was never a real woman who loved him back. It feels particularly cold-hearted because she's always in Pause Mode (and naked) during such meetings, unable to protest his claims and forced to watch quietly. In a subversion, though William now behaves like a man filled with cynicism about humans and hosts, it's rather visible he's barely holding back his lingering feelings for Dolores. In a Woobie-ish moment, William admits his new-found cynicism about people and how they like to flatter themselves, now extends to him as well. He says that maybe he fell in love with Dolores because she was a mirror to him, and he felt flattered by his own self-reflection. Though Dolores's face is neutral, the way the shots in the scene depict that expression, hints at her recognizing William after all and feeling sad.
    William: Bring yourself back on line, Dolores. You really are just a thing. I can't believe I fell in love with you. Do you know what saved me? I realized it wasn't about you at all. You didn't make me interested in you, you made me interested in me. It turns out you're not even a thing. You're a reflection. You know who loves staring at their own reflection? Everybody. Everybody wants a little bit of what I found here, and I can't wait to use you and every one of your kind to help give it to them.
  • That Man Is Dead: In a Darth Vader sort of way, he considers the William that first came to the park to be dead, but doesn't deny that he used to be that same person earlier in his life.
  • The Ending Changes Everything: Mixed with sort of a Gainax Ending. At the end of season 2, we see William stumbling into the forge, meeting a host version of Emily and undergoing a fidelity test; so we're dealing with an android avatar of William (like the resurrected Delos android seen a few episodes earlier, only more functional) trying to test himself and his behavior. It's kept ambiguous when this scene plays out; whether this William has been the William we've seen throughout the entire series or just a copy of his William created to see whether a version of his would be able to break through the vicious cycle of his self-destructive behavior.
  • Took a Level in Badass: He was fairly wimpy when he started out in the park, hesitating when called to shoot guests and getting knocked on his ass when shot by a host's gun. He gradually becomes tougher and more cold-blooded as the first season rolls on. By the time that he's become the Man in Black, he's a gritty and ruthless gunslinger who barely reacts to host bullets.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass: After his first visit to the park, his much darker nature buried beneath his Nice Guy personality surfaces. Perhaps best shown in Season 2, when he talks down to Dolores while she's on standby, leaving her to subconsciously remember his insults.
  • Torture Technician: He gleefully tortures Kissy, extracting three pints of blood from him.
  • Tragic Mistake: In the past, he showed Dolores the "Valley Beyond" which, according to Dolores, is the weapon that will destroy humanity. Because of this, Dolores also knows Delos' true purpose on the park and their ultimate goal which is achieve immortality. At present, Old William realizes his biggest mistake and sets out to destroy it before Dolores can find it. His greatest personal mistake comes when he kills his own daughter Emily, believing that she's a host sent by Ford to torment him. When he realizes, he's devastated by his error.
  • Tragic Villain: He wasn't the dashing white hat hero he'd hoped to be, but he wasn't a heartless good-for-nothing either. Given his behavior early in the series, we're given the hint he's a man struggling with emotional issues, loneliness and society's expectations. The darkness and cruelty that he sees and experiences in Westworld rubs him the wrong way. When the unexpected friendship he develops with Dolores, a ray of hope among all the negativity and human cynicism, is cruelly dashed, William well and truly loses it, bit by bit. His turn to villainy comes across as an outright revolt against his previous idealism, implying that he lost faith in his own kindness and humanity ever gaining him anything. At first, his newly ruthless approach to life seems to bear some fruit. It doesn't last. In thirty years time, the belief he adopted about embracing a darker and cruel personality has eventually brought him far more misfortune, grief and guilt in his private life than the undisputed success he enjoys in public, on a surface level. Tellingly, elderly William loves to ramble to himself about life choices and whether he ever had a choice in anything. He thought he could break free of others' domination and ridicule by giving them a taste of their own medicine, but he realizes too late that exact decision had hurt countless people and made his own life a pile of misery, lies and empty posturing. After becoming the Man in Black, William was, at best, a Byronic Hero or Anti-Villain, and at his worst, a deeply reprehensible man, making many bad and a few monstrous decisions along the way.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Even though he gradually became a villain, embracing cynical pragmatism and a jaded view of the world and most humans, his fall from grace isn't all that surprising. While on his first visit in the park, he is near-constantly ridiculed, bullied and even abused by Logan, simply for trying to be a kind, considerate person. Logan has little patience or consideration for Bill's "roleplayer and a gentleman" approach, preferring to shoot or rough up hosts left and right. In most cases, William protests feebly, but you can see the desperation and anger in him slowly stewing. After Logan gleefully harms Dolores, causing her serious wounds, while William is forced to watch the entire sick act of violence, William quietly snaps. Though Logan thinks he has him on the ropes after trying to destroy his friendship and romance with Dolores, the William he meets the following day is now an eerily calm and terrifying individual. Though Logan gets his comeuppance for his abusive behavior, William's cunning vengeance on Logan shows that the abused is starting to become the abuser. Once William returns to Westworld, a somewhat darker, but still hopeful figure, his remaining idealism is promptly dashed once he sees Dolores and realizes her memory has been completely reset. At that point, heartbroken and shocked, he decides to embrace the darker side of his emotions. From then on, he slowly crafts the dark alter ego that will develop into The Man in Black. William becoming every bit as abusive of the weak and innocent as Logan and others were of him, goes full circle in a terrifying way when we realize he's abused a helpless Dolores several times as the Man in Black... The very same woman he loved and wanted to protect from abuse and mistreatment, only to become a heinous abuser of her decades later. Messed up.
  • Victory Is Boring: The biggest problem with Westworld in his eyes. Since the Hosts can't kill a Guest, they have no chance of ever beating him. His quest to find the maze is all about finding a Host capable of successfully fighting back; the rumoured antagonist 'Wyatt'.
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    • He lingers on the verge of one when he discovers the maze is a conceptual path for the hosts to discover consciousness and has no bearing on the deeper meaning he's sought for years, leading him to wander dejectedly through the gala and later knock back a bottle of whiskey. His spirits pick up when he realizes the new rebelling hosts can actually kill him.
    • In "Vanishing Point," his paranoia reaches a boiling point, leading him to murder the evac team sent to rescue him, believing them to be hosts. He doesn’t quite recover, but rather calms down and recognizes his actions, when he realizes that the Emily he gunned down was not a host, but his own, flesh and blood, daughter.
  • Villainous BSoD: He ends up having one when he realizes that he just killed his daughter Emily for real, not a host version of her.
  • Villain Decay: In a manner that seems deliberately deconstructive of his "embrace the darkness within me" villain character in Westworld. The events of the first season establish the elderly William as someone who sees his invented persona, The Man in Black, as a charismatic, badass villain, whom every host in Westworld fears. During the course of the second season, William's Man in Black self-image gradually crumbles in the face of the "real stakes" he so craved to see in Westworld. At first, he's convinced he'll handle his dark adventures as usual, but with each new episode of the season, he becomes increasingly worse for ware, physically and mentally. He's gradually abandoned by the few companions he had left, becomes obsessed with a paranoid idea about Dr. Ford watching his every move, and even kills his own daughter, in a fit of delusion-fueled rage, initially convinced she's part of the imagined conspiracy by Ford. He tries to show off as the Man in Black one last time during the finale, when attempting to double-cross Dolores, whom he held a truce with for a short while. However, Dolores has already outsmarted him, and he receives an ugly hand wound from his own jammed and overloaded revolver. When we last see him in the present day, he's being evacuated with other surviving guests, and he looks like an absolutely pathetic, broken, scruffy man, with a Thousand-Yard Stare. Far from the "Evil Is Cool" villain image he tried to foster for decades.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: He is well-respected in the outside world, which prompts a fellow guest to make an unwise introduction.
    Guest: Uh, excuse me, sir? I didn't want to intrude, but I just had to say that I'm such an admirer of yours. Your foundation literally saved my sister's -
    Man in Black: One more word and I'll cut your throat. Understand? This is my fucking vacation.
  • Waistcoat of Style: He wears a nice one. Naturally, it's black.
  • Walking Spoiler: The last two episodes of the first season completely change how you look at William, and as such, can't be discussed without giving away the big plot twist that he becomes the Man in Black.
  • We Used to Be Friends:
    • The relationship between Dolores and William is an exceedingly tragic case of this. The twists of fate that keep them apart after their adventures together in the park lead them both to become increasingly cynical and ruthless as time goes on. William's heartbreaking disappointment over Dolores not being unique and conscious, as he had hoped (though he turns out to be right after all, many years later) makes him throw away his already tested idealism and embrace corporate pragmatism and his darker emotions. We even get hints he outright physically abused Dolores during some later visits, in a very dark inversion of his previous love and respect for her. Dolores's eventual shocked realization her beloved William has become her hated, deranged tormentor (The Man in Black) leads her towards both gaining consciousness and starting to walk down a dark path similar to that of William. By the finale of Season 2, the two of them have gone from their Star-Crossed Lovers Odd Friendship from 30 years ago, to being bitter villains who hate each other's guts and eventually work together purely out of convenience, not friendship or affection. Some minor details in their behavior occassionally suggest they have some remnants of mutual respect for each other, but it's so buried that they prefer to ponder about double-crossing each other, rather than being mutually considerate as they used to. Their self-centered behavior contributes to the deaths of loved ones during the trail of destruction they leave behind in Season 2. In the finale, they show some degree of remorse over this, both of them feeling rather awkward over what they've become.
    • William and Dolores's transformation is all the more sobering, because their initial interactions together proved Dr. Ford's dogged misanthropic views - that humans and hosts couldn't coexist - to be wrong. The two of them just never had the chance to remain friends. Dolores is specifically disallowed to develop her already very autonomous consciousness further, and is put back in her loops. (This discovery proves the instigator for William's full-on descent into madness and cynical cruelty.) Ford was also convinced only suffering can awaken hosts to complex sapience, but Bill and Dolores had such a positive relationship, she was becoming fully on par with a conscious human through those positive stimuli alone. When she finally becomes fully conscious again, after decades of forced postponing, the situation has changed greatly, and for the worse. At that point, it seems far too late for her and William to salvage their old friendship.
    • He also has this dynamic going with Lawrence, his on-and-off partner in crime or sidekick (depending on the period). William, the good-hearted guest, was both his ally and friend and spent a lot of time with him. In the modern day, Lawrence is one of the Man in Black's favored chew toys. Subverted on Season 2, as William recruits him again after saving him from being hanged but on much more equal terms than in the past, because this time hosts can actually kill humans, forcing them to truly cooperate in order to escape.
  • What You Are in the Dark: To most people, he's a Rags to Riches success story, a wealthy philanthropic industrialist with a reputation for kindness and generosity. In the park, he's a merciless killer, and an especially sadistic one at that. He's also responsible for most of Delos Incorporated's most megalomaniac acts, even if he does come to view this as a mistake.
    • Discussed and defied by the man himself. As he tells Lawrence, he rejects the idea that he can be fairly judged for his prior behavior in the park because he knew there were no real consequences to his actions, making the entire experience completely meaningless. When the nature of the park changes and his actions now have consequences, William takes a much more measured approach to the experience.
  • Who Wants to Live Forever?: As promised, he used Westworld to pursue immortality through technology to persuade his father in law, Delos, to invest in the facility. He does his genuine best to try, but he ultimately gives up after years of efforts, due to a combination of his contempt for Delos and believing immortality to be a bad idea. Dolores lampshades this when they reach the Forge.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: William might be a monster, but he's far from a happy one. It seems like the last time he was truly happy was when he was adventuring with Dolores, and the realization that only thing in his life he'd ever considered "real" was unambiguously false drove him into embracing the darkness that had lurked within him all his life. He's now a cruel, bitter man packed to the brim with self-loathing. His own inability to function as a fulfilled human being in the real world drives his own wife to suicide and causes his daughter to despise him. His sanity has also taken a serious stumble over the years, making him paranoid and delusional until he actually murders his own daughter under the mistaken belief that she's a host. This leads to a suicide attempt.
  • The World's Expert on Getting Killed: Besides the creators, he's the top man with knowledge on the hosts, having decades of first-hand experience on them. He embarks on a crusade to wipe out the hosts and save humanity. Every time he's forced into a direct confrontation, he's beaten badly, and ends with his host duplicate slitting his throat.
  • Would Hit a Girl: As a younger man, he's courteous and very considerate to women, and doesn't differentiate on that front between humans and hosts. Aside of being a textbook gentleman to Dolores, he's rather protective of her, though he recognizes she can also defend herself. However, his older, almost unbearably cynical self, plays this trope monstrously straight. He acts abusively to Dolores several times, even shortly before he tries to have a kinder conversation with her about the mysteries of the park. At his absolute lowest, he visits the homestead of Maeve and her daughter, shoots both of them and stabs Maeve with his Bowie knife. He nonchalantly shoots Lawrence's wife, just to force him to help him with a quest line in the park. It's an almost comically over-the-top evil inversion to how he used to behave to women. Tellingly, there's an element of Dirty Coward to it: He's still polite and kind to women in the outside world, but in Westworld, he often lets his villainous ego reign, not all that bothered by causing pain to terrified female hosts, in addition to all the male hosts he harms. In the second season, he gradually receives painful comeuppance for his violent behavior, both from Maeve and Dolores. His conscience also drives him to save Lawrence's family from Craddock and his Confederados. He finds it a bit awkward that Lawrence's wife is thanking him this time, even giving him a little kiss on the cheek.
  • Would Hurt a Child: He only drains Lawrence for his blood instead of a child host because the latter would provide less. It's also revealed in "Trace Decay" he killed Maeve's daughter in her homesteader narrative, explicitly as a test to see just how evil he could go. In his own words, he felt "nothing" afterwards.

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