Obviously, major Westworld spoilers are discussed below…
I don’t believe any detail or plot point shown on Westworld is thoughtless or throw-away. Everything means something. It’s all designed to give you a clue as to place and time and what’s really happening, not just what appears to be happening.
For example, the scenes from early on where Delores is talking to who we now know is Arnold, not Bernard. The most significant clue that something was not as it seemed was that it wasn’t happening in the same glass-walled super-sleek surroundings as all the other human-host interactions. This was a little concrete room with a visible staircase in the back. That turned out to be a pretty significant clue since it was from a time in which those running the park were just below the surface. So close you could sit down in a confessional booth and, Maxwell Smart-style, enter the park’s “backstage” via a little elevator.
Another example is the naked hosts. In the later timeline (yeah, I think we’re watching multiple timelines), they’re all naked and Ford rules the roost. He actually berates an employee for covering one up as if it’s modest. But Arnold always leaves them clothed. We see that with Delores. The one time Ford interacts with her, she’s naked, but each time Arnold does, she’s clothed. In the ninth episode when Bernard has recruited poor Clementine to keep a gun trained on Ford, she’s covered. That had to be Bernard/Arnold since she was put down there as naked as the rest of them. In that way, you’re shown how Ford regards them as less than human while Arnold thinks of them as, minimally, nearly so.
Finally, we see in episode 9 when the MIB and Teddy are tied up by Wyatt’s henchmen that they’re cutting up and ripping into the dead hosts. They look very lifelike and human inside. But later, after William has flipped out and killed all the ex-Confederates, you see metal joints where knees should be. Showing those details in the same episode is, in my opinion, the clearest signal yet that the MIB and William are the same person (or, minimally, their stories are decades apart).
So anyway, time and again we’re led to believe that Westworld is very far away. Employees stay for months at a time and go home on leave for equally lengthy periods. Communication requires going to a special room where others are calling home at the same time. We’re told it’s hard to get a line out to the rest of the world. It’s so hard to get data out of the park, one needs to rig up weird satellite transmission schemes and hide them in hosts who then need to find a tall peak to transmit from. Even in this futuristic world, we’re to believe and think that Westworld is very much an island of a thing. Removed and remote.
But it’s in the future, right? And the one thing we know is, as time progresses, the world gets virtually smaller. It takes less time to get places and being removed from civilization gets harder and harder. Cell signals are in more and more places, GPS is everywhere, satellites are all overhead looking down at nearly every square inch of the planet. How can Westworld feel so far away in the distant future? Where on Earth could be so far away?
When Elsie and the Lesser Hemsworth are looking for the stray host (who was trying to transmit data), she notes that every blade of grass is designed and placed. It all looks like the American Southwest, but it’s absolutely not. It’s designed and built and fake, just like a real theme park. In a way, the park is like a host. It appears to be what it purports to be. Looks right and sounds right, but it’s all artificial. It’s a massive version of Disneyland’s Frontierland. So there’s no reason to think it’s where it looks to be. The show all but tells you it’s not.
And what’s supposed to happen when the hosts inevitably revolt or take over? If they’re simply on a very large plot of land in the Southwest, what’s to keep the army or Delos security or whatever from coming in and putting them down? What’s the point of telling the story as if the hosts can gain sentience and perhaps “freedom” if they’re essentially on very large Disneyland? Penned in like peacocks at the LA Arboretum?
It appears as though every time they need to add on to the backstage of Westworld, they dig down. The very early parts (like the ruined backstage installation they show at the end of the ninth episode) are directly under the surface, but by the time we’re in the MIB timeline, they’re like 80 levels down or more. Each successive version of the park is buried another layer down. Think of the cold storage room where they keep old hosts. It looks like a bombed out shopping mall and is level 83. Clearly, this was at one point a place guests would be, but not anymore. And the older parts of the backstage we see are apparently just left as they are when they’re done using them. The area Delores found under the church, the disused offices Bernard accessed when trying to find the GPS data from the old computer system. All that just left as-is. Why would they do that? Why not repurpose? And why go down?
Finally, I think there’s a clue right in the name of the show. Westworld.
I think Westworld is on Mars. The color of the landscape on the red planet would match the Southwest’s rusty mesas. Digging down under the park might make sense if the park itself has been terraformed under a big dome. It would make a robot uprising more tenable from a story perspective if it was happening off-planet. Harder to put them down. More plausible to think they could exist on their own. Even if there are other habitable areas on Mars, the difficulty getting from one to another on a planet without a breathable atmosphere makes the island feeling of the park more sensible.
This clicks for me because I recall reading an interview with the showrunners (which, of course, I cannot find now) in which they say they’ll explore host physiology more in the second season. Like, specifically, how they don’t actually need air to live.
So yeah, that’s my theory. Westworld is a literal word. A red one. It’s on Mars. But I’m probably wrong.