There's A Secret Meaning To Westworld's Famous Maze Game

Photo: Courtesy of John P. Johnson/HBO.
Although you can’t give non-sentient television shows personality tests, Westworld is a total Type-A. The HBO epic, returning for season 2 on Sunday, April 22, has an attention to detail unrivaled by nearly any other show on television. So, anything you see during an episode of the sci-fi drama Means Something, whether it’s a plot-driving statement, reference, Easter egg, or metaphorical suggestion. While rewatching the Westworld season 1 finale for this exhaustive recap, it became clear even a random piece of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it packaging receives the same amount of scrutiny as our first hint at the existence of Shogun World (along with, likely, many other Delos parks after that).
This Westworld truth revealed itself during the 15-ish seconds viewers are allowed to see the cover for the infamous maze game that haunts Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) and the Man In Black (Ed Harris), who is revealed to be the much older, darker version of nice guy William (Jimmi Simpson) in tenth episode “The Bicameral Mind.” That seemingly inconsequential item actually holds a lot of secret meaning, and might just be a major suggestion about what’s to come in season 2.
We have two chances in season 1 finale “Bicameral” to see the cover of the maze reads, “Pigs In Clover:” once at the beginning of the installment and once at the end. Clearly, the minds behind Westworld really want you to take notice of the object. That makes sense, since the old-timey idiom “pigs in a clover” feels like an apt metaphor for the human visitors of the park. Essentially, the phrase means to live as contentedly as possible thanks to an overabundance of what you desire. You know, like a pig in a clover field (pigs apparently love clover plants).
It’s easy to see how the visitors of Westworld, who can glut themselves on their wildest fantasies, are already living like happy pigs in this Delos park. The park-goers are surrounded by infinite outlets for whatever category their desires fall into, whether that’s sexual, violent, or merely debaucherous. The subjugated Westworld hosts, on the other hand, aren’t so lucky throughout season 1.
That is why the maze game’s cover also relates to the robots — whom the maze is “for,” as many people say throughout the series — in a totally different way. The “buy me!” advertising copy for the plaything seems like a direct tease of what is to come for the hosts in Westworld season 2, which picks up after Dolores kicks off the robot rebellion by shooting her co-creator Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) in the head.
The packaging says, “The pigs have run amok in a field of delicious clover. Herd them all back into their pen.” As we’ve seen in trailers for season 2, the hosts actually are running amok through the park, seemingly murdering humans and rough riding through the dessert. This is their bloody, bloody version of a clover field. The Delos employees, both human and robot, seem to be working hard throughout Westworld’s sophomore year to get the hosts back in their pens, both the mental and physical ones.
The only way this Pigs In Clover metaphor doesn’t track for the robots comes down to the difference between the maze as a metaphor for seeking consciousness and a metaphor for Delos trying to put the hosts back in their cages. In the former outlook, getting to the center of the maze means attaining sentience for a host. As Westworld co-creator Arnold (Jeffrey Wright) explains to Dolores 35 years before the events of Westworld, the toy maze represents the labyrinthine voyage to consciousness, which robots can gain by traveling inward, through memory, improvisation, and, eventually self-awareness.
“Every choice could bring you closer to the center, or send you spiraling to the edges — to madness,” a very grave Arnold tells to a not-quite-sentient Dolores. That means, metaphorically speaking, each host is their own maze, and their inner lives — mind? souls? — is the little ball inside that maze, attempting roll its way to the center. When the hosts finds the center, they'll also find themselves, and therefore self-awareness.
On the other hand, if the robots end up in the center of the Pigs In Clover game, through the lens of its rules, they would be trapped once more in their pens by Delos. So say goodbye to all of that clover, which, in this case, is a metaphor for all types of robot freedom: freedom not to get murdered or sexually assaulted or shot so many times milk springs out from your body.
But, just because these two Westworld metaphors don’t line up doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate them both. After all, there are countless competing layers to these hosts, the park, and Westworld itself. Maeve Millay (Thandie Newton) is both the badass insurgent murdering people in the Delos offices and that terrified frontierswoman mom protecting her child, whom we see in flashbacks. Dolores is both Dolores and Wyatt. There can be more than one meaning to Pigs In Clover.
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