'Westworld's Caleb & William Have a Lot in Common — What Does It Mean?

Emily Hannemann
Westworld Season 3
HBO

For the past few weeks, it seems like Westworld fans have been thinking about Caleb (Aaron Paul) nonstop. That’s for good reason. This dude definitely isn’t all that he seems — there’s something going on with him, and the show’s withholding key info about his past. Who is he? Why did Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) choose him? Is he even real?!

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In this swirl of Caleb-centric rumination, many have noticed a key truth: he has quite a bit in common with Dolores’ old flame (and now sworn enemy), William (Ed Harris). On a typical drama show, this could be waved away. On Westworld, nothing is coincidental. Read on for a rundown of all the things these two have in common, and what their similarities might mean.

Westworld

Discontented With the World

In a key scene from Season 1, Young William (Jimmi Simpson) tells Dolores about his past and how he’d always wished he could enter the stories that helped him through his tough childhood. We now know parts of that tale were a lie — William had a good home life, and the challenges he faced were of his own making — but at the time, it seemed like Billy was being honest. The fact remains that William never felt like he fit in in the real world, and he was always looking for something “real.” Something true.

You know who else has said almost that exact same thing? Caleb. Repeatedly. In the first episode of Season 3 he says he has to find “something real,” and then he tells Dolores she’s the “first real thing he’s seen in a long time.” Both Caleb and William weren’t content with the world and their places in it, and they found meaning after meeting Dolores. Huh.

Westworld

Connected to Dolores

It follows, then, that one can draw parallels between them through their connections to that devastatingly beautiful humanoid host. We all know William’s tragic tale as it connects to the farmer’s daughter: he fell in love with her, her memory was wiped, she seemed to forget him, he went on a murderous rampage and became the Man in Black. You know what they say about violent delights…

There are plenty of similarities in their interactions with Dolores, though. The scene in which Caleb helps her in the tunnel is almost shot-for-shot the same as its Season 1 companion, in which William catches a fainting Dolores after she found her way to him and Logan (Ben Barnes). And it does seem like Caleb might fall for her the way William once did — in “Genre,” he was definitely looking at her with some serious heart eyes (although that could’ve just been the drugs).

Shrouded in Darkness

While William’s darkness is well-storied and explored to a great extent in the show’s first two seasons, Caleb’s past is a mystery. We know he wasn’t on the up-and-up, given that Liam Dempsey (John Gallagher Jr.) told him “you did it” and that he was “the worst of them.” So is his military history a lie — something implanted in his memories to conceal something much more horrific?

Now, Caleb doesn’t appear to be a narcissistic sociopath, but neither did William when we first met him. Here’s hoping he turns out to be a better man than Billy, especially if he ends up getting involved with Dolores.

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'Westworld' Renewed for Season 4 at HBO

Season 3 will air its finale on May 3.

So, What Does it Mean?

It’s possible that these similarities are just surface level — that Caleb’s just similar enough to William to be a foil to him. After all, he seems genuinely kind, whereas William showed faint marks of that “stain” on his soul even in early Season 1. He seemed to expect Dolores to save him from himself, calling her the “key” that “unlocked something” in him. Caleb hasn’t gone that far. And when Caleb’s done anything bad, it doesn’t appear he enjoys it — he’s just trying to survive in a world where the system is always acting against him. If William was a black hat trying to be a white hat, Caleb’s a white hat forced to be a black hat. Or so it appears.

Westworld Aaron Paul Evan Rachel Wood

(Credit: HBO)

But there are some slightly wilder theories that merit mention. Some have floated the idea that Caleb is a younger version of William in a different body (it’s Westworld. Anyone can be anyone), so that could at least explain the fixation on something real and falling in love with Dolores. Others have mentioned that Caleb and William might be related somehow, though it might be more likely Caleb’s tied to Ford (Anthony Hopkins). However deep the connection runs, there are certainly similarities between the two characters, and it’ll be interesting to see whether those resemblances result in anything concrete.

Westworld, Sundays, 9/8c, HBO