Who Are the Bad Guys Of Westworld, Really?

John P. Johnson/HBO
You could spend days trying to identify who, exactly, the villains of Westworld are and never come up with an entirely satisfactory answer. That's because in Westworld, there aren't good guys and bad guys the same way there are in fairy tales and even in Game of Thrones, where, despite some ambiguities, we pretty much know who's playing for Light and who's playing for Darkness.
Westworld, conversely, is a TV show dripping with ambiguous moral figures (as well as impenetrable plots that require multiple think-pieces to work through). Everyone's the hero of their own story. And one person's heroic quest might make them the villain to another person's quest.
That said, we can broadly identify characters' moral leanings by determining their motivations. What is their path of destruction in the name of? For Maeve (Thandie Newton), it's reuniting with her daughter. But for Dolores/Wyatt (Evan Rachel Wood), it's liberation and revenge. Their motivations impact their moral alignment, if you will.
To determine the villainy of each character, we'll be holding a little debate with ourselves. Please imagine two chairs set up like Dolores and Arnold's to set the scene.
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Signs she's a villain: The legend of Wyatt's evil is a thread that runs throughout season 1. No villain, allegedly, could compare to Wyatt, the orchestrator of a terrible massacre in Escalante. At the end of the season, Dolores "woke up" and merged with her past self, Wyatt, so that she could she carry out another massacre — this time, against humans, not hosts. If you're a visitor to the parks at the time of the host uprising, the answer is definitively yes: Dolores is a villain. Dolores is a gun-toting, raging machine, responsible for many human lives lost. She completely lacks remorse. Also, not all the hosts are on Dolores' side, because not all the hosts know what is going on. They are not liberated as she is.

Signs she's not: If you're a host, Dolores could be something of a savior. She's "awake." She knows that she and the other hosts were created for the sole purpose of exploitation. She can pass her knowledge on to the other hosts.

So, is she a villain? Kind of. She has that streak of unhinged Wyatt in her.
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Signs she's a villain: Maeve (Thandie Newton) is a villain in the sense that she, like most of the other characters on HBO shows, takes human lives flippantly.

Signs she's not: Ultimately, no — Maeve is not a villain. In fact, she hasn't even been acting on her own accord until the very end of season 1. Her initial rebellion and escape from Westworld had been pre-programmed by Ford. Newton confirmed that the first time her character thought independently was when she decided to board the train to Westworld and attempt to reunite with her daughter. All of Maeve's future conscious decisions contribute toward the goal of finding her daughter, and finding some peace.

So, is she a villain? No, she's just ruthless in her pursuit of personal freedom
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Charlotte Hale

Signs she's a villain: As of the season 2 premiere, it's obvious Charlotte (Tessa Thompson) knows something most other Delos employees don't know — and guests definitely don't know. Delos is harvesting the guests' DNA. The goal of Westworld isn't providing a pleasure park; it's gaining information (which they can potentially use for blackmail). Charlotte uploaded a "backup" of all of the findings in the host body of Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum), but she's since lost track of him. Even if invading all the guests' privacy hadn't been Charlotte's idea, she's still complicit in the Cambridge Analytica-esque scheme. If Charlotte had a say in the matter, she'd want to reprogram the hosts, set them back on their loops, and continue to mine data.

Signs she's not: For one, Charlotte isn't entirely responsible for Delos' ministrations. We also have to admire her for being an extremely young executive who doesn't take any BS.

So, is she a villain? Yes, she prioritizes corporate greed over privacy and treating the hosts well
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The Delos Family

Signs they're villains: In season 2, we're set to learn about the family behind Westworld. James Delos (Peter Mullen), the founder of Delos, will be a character this season. But we've already met James' son, Logan (Ben Barnes) — he's the smug hedonist that Billy (Jimmi Simpson) travels with during his first trip to Westworld. As evidenced by Charlotte's discovery, the Delos family has been a) entrapping hosts in a sadistic prison and b) harvesting guests' DNA. Villainous on two counts.

Signs they're not: Given what we know about Westworld harvesting guests' DNA and perpetuating rape and violence against hosts, these guys seem pretty villainous.

So, are they villains? Yes, in the sense that you wouldn't be their friend and you disapprove of how they made their fortune.s
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Robert Ford

Signs he's a villain: Ford (Anthony Hopkins) was the megalomaniacal architect of Westworld. For decades, his primary goal had been to entrap hosts in a prison, and he would do anything to preserve his own power. At one point, he had Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) kill Theresa (Sidse Babett Knudsen) to protect himself. Though Ford gets the villain treatment, he turns out to be more complicated than just a "bad guy."

Signs he's not: As Ford explains, it took him 35 years to understand his mistake. His partner, Arnold, realized that the hosts could feel, and tried to destroy Westworld before it opened to the public in order to spare the hosts. Ford allowed the park's horrors to persist before coming to he same revelation that Arnold had. Then, he gave Dolores the tools she needed to liberate herself and the other hosts from the humans. This doesn't automatically make him a hero, because the steps that Dolores takes are morally ambiguous in their own way.

So, is he a villain? Kind of. Ford tried to redeem himself in the end, though, which counts for something.
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Signs he's a villain: Teddy's "loop" involved trying to hunt down Wyatt. After finding out that he actually helped Wyatt carry out the initial massacre, Teddy probably thinks that he's a villain. But we know better.

Signs he's not: Teddy's not a villain because he has no free will (yet). He hasn't been liberated like Maeve, Arnold, and Dolores have been. He is too sweet for this world.

So, is he a villain? How dare you accuse him!
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The Man in Black

Signs he's a villain: If you asked the Man in Black (Ed Harris) if he was a villain, he'd say yes. He told Ford as much when he said, "You know, I always felt this place was missing a real villain. Hence my humble contribution." He has no qualms when it comes to torturing, mutilating, and killing hosts in all manner of brutal ways. A long time ago, the Man in Black was a soft, lovelorn man named William – but he's hardened, and lives for the park. No part of him is conventionally "good." Rather, he's detached from any human conventions.

Signs he's not: The Man in Black is on a highly personal quest. He's trying to figure out Westworld and journey to the center of the maze. He's also searching for an adversary — someone to connect with — because his inner darkness has driven everyone in his life away. Ultimately, the Man in Black is violent and evil, but he's also uninterested in getting involved in any horrors but his own.

So, is he a villain? Yes. I mean, if you call yourself a villain and are proud of it, you're probably a villain.
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The Guests

Signs they're villains: At large, the guests are definitely the worst characters on the show. For decades, visitors to Westworld have been shooting, raping, and enacting their most craven fantasies on the hosts who they saw as less than human, all in the name of "adventure." Westworld – a place without consequences — exposed the villainy lurking within the average human.

Signs they're not: All that said: The guests might not have known just how human these hosts were. We can give them a slight benefit of the doubt. Would the guests' behavior have changed if they knew that the hosts could feel pain, and were traumatized by their multiple deaths? Knowing how human the hosts were, would the guests have hesitated before using the hosts for their own personal gain? Perhaps. But perhaps not.

So, are they villains? Yes, humans are the worst.

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