Ever since The Man in Black (accidentally) killed his daughter Emily, and was clinically quizzed by some form of her at the end of season 2, we’ve been wondering if he’s a host or not. He became so obsessed with the game, he forgot if he was human or not, to the point of digging into his own arm, trying to find some form of robotic in him.
Well, tonight we may have finally received some answers. After being thrown in an insane asylum by Halores (the place is so crazy, MIB’s therapist hangs herself soon after prescribing him to some fierce virtual reality therapy to confront his demons), we see a metal dental retainer screwed into the roof of his mouth similar to Caleb’s (who we’ve been assuming all season is a host). The computer screens analyzing MIB’s blood — which, by the way, are very similar to the ones that assess hosts in the park — read “Unknown protein detected”, concluding “Tracing Data Transmission Recipient Server Detected”. Some believe that “unknown protein” is the tracker planted in MIB’s neck by Halores before being shipped off. Still, if that digital onscreen analysis doesn’t sound like some host A.I. jargon, I don’t know what does.
MIB reaches a crescendo tonight Clockwork Orange-style when he squares off with his previous selves — the Tux clad professional, the park gunslinger, his sensitive younger self William (Jimmi Simpson), his child version and former boss James Delos (Peter Mullan) who all bicker over MIB’s peccadilloes and violent urges in the park. “Dig all you want, whatever mistakes you made, has nothing to do with us,” William tells the group therapy circle. Incarcerated MIB orders them to “Shut the f*** up”. The session ends with MIB kicking the crap out of himselves, with Delos egging him on.
MIB then has what is arguably a human breakthrough after all the emotional pain he’s been battling: “I’m free now. It doesn’t matter that I’ve been good or bad. Everything we’ve done has led to this, and I finally understand my purpose: I’m the good guy.”
MIB is pulled out of the virtual session by Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and Ashley Stubbs (Luke Hemsworth) who have tracked him down, in what is now an abandoned asylum; the world having largely fled after learning about their fates from supercomputer Rehoboam.
We also can’t forget about Halores tonight who put up a great gunfight against Serac’s henchmen after she stole the Delos data he was seeking. She, along with her son and ex-husband, are ultimately car-bombed by Serac, but she crawls from the wreck alive, but completely crisped. To be continued…
Another interesting takeaway about MIB tonight is his philosophy on humans which he expresses in his first group therapy circle: “I think humanity is a thin layer of bacteria in a ball of mud hurtling through the void. I think if there was a God, he’d given up on us a long time ago,” he opines.
Boy, if that attitude isn’t similar to Serac’s.
Below is our chat with the Man in Black himself, Ed Harris:
DEADLINE: So, by the end of tonight’s episode do we have any more clarity if the Man in Black is a host or not?
ED HARRIS: I don’t think the viewing public knows for sure, no. But by the end of the season, you know for sure.
DEADLINE: There’s also a theory out there that the real-life human version of him continues to reside in the park, and in the real world, he’s a host. What’s your take on that theory?
HARRIS: Well, it’s a new one for me. I can’t say that there’s, that I have any reason to feel that that’s a valid theory, but you know, I guess I’m not really supposed to answer for sure.
DEADLINE: You’ve played such a great canon of both cowboys and gritty multi-faceted characters, and Man in Black is another notch for you in showing all facets of a person’s pain. When it comes to the characters you’ve played, how does the Man in Black stack up? The torture he battles is reminiscent of when you played Jackson Pollock.
HARRIS: I would think maybe Pollock suffered a lot more than William has been suffering, in a way. But yeah, it’s a fascinating role because [there are] all kinds of things that are happening to him, and he’s trying to figure a lot of things out, along with everybody else. And so, as much as anguish, there’s a bit of confusion, and there’s a fervent attempt to kind of get to the bottom of what’s going on with himself at this point. It’s also just a very different working experience, as opposed to making a film, where you’re — especially when you’re the main character — working every day, and you have a concentrated period of time where you’re portraying this character. Whereas this, a season takes maybe six, seven months to shoot. So, it’s just a whole different kind of feeling about playing someone.
DEADLINE: Tonight’s scene where you have it out with all the different versions of yourself, was that by far the most challenging one in the series for you to shoot? I would imagine that took some time for you to jump around the room, playing yourself.
HARRIS: There was a lot of costume changes, that’s for sure. Yeah, it took a little time, and it was somewhat challenging. I think it was more challenging thinking about it than actually doing it, because as I’m playing each separate aspect of this man — let’s say he’s corporate William, and he’s sitting there in his tuxedo, that guy has got one headset, and so, you’re playing that. And then, okay, boom, now you’re the Man in Black over there in the other chair, and you know who that guy is, and you’re just kind of playing different aspects of this guy, but you’re not having to do it all at one time. So, it’s very separated, you’re just focused on one thing at a time. So, the actual doing of it wasn’t, although it was a little tedious and took time, it wasn’t extremely difficult acting-wise.
DEADLINE: Last season whenever a character, such as James Delos, went into a clinic Q&A session, they would get tripped up and caught in a loop. But tonight, much like how Man in Black excelled in the park’s game, it felt like you won and had some clarity.
HARRIS: Here’s this guy, first of all, he’s in this, whatever facility he’s in. He’s trapped. He’s in this white jumpsuit. He has no real power to get out of here and get out of this place, and in this, they put these glasses on his head, then he’s in this trippy loop or whatever it is, and yeah, he kind of eradicates all these aspects of himself, and feels like he has cleared that away, and that he’s free, and that he knows what his purpose is now.
DEADLINE: Before each season starts, do Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy provide details to you on your character’s entire arc?
DEADLINE: Is that for the sake of performance? So you can play the scene at hand without having deeper details about the character, which can impact the process?
HARRIS: I’ve said to Jonah and Lisa both, look, I’m used to doing theater. I just did 147 performances of To Kill a Mockingbird and I knew exactly what the arc of the character was every night, and it’s still, you know, brand-new every night because there’s a new audience out there, and you’re an actor and you know what you’re doing. My job is to create it, recreate it every night, and have it be alive and fresh and new, and not some kind of rote performance.
I would just as soon know the complete arc of my character season to season, but unfortunately, they don’t let, or either they don’t know exactly, or else they’re not willing to tell you. Some actors like that, you know? They like not to know what’s going to happen to them, but I mean, if there’s something that’s an aspect or part of your character that is…the fact that, like, his wife committed suicide, and you don’t know that, I don’t know that at the beginning of this whole thing. But then again, if I knew that, that would definitely inform who I was and why I was doing what I was doing.
DEADLINE: When it’s safe for production to resume post COVID-19 are you planning to direct a western film again, or are you prepping one now?
HARRIS: The film I’ve tried to make for the last three or four years isn’t exactly a western. It takes place in Montana, called The Ploughmen, which would star Robert Duvall, and Garrett Hedlund, and my wife Amy, and my daughter Lily, and I’ve just been trying to get the money together. We’re now trying to see if we could maybe shoot it, when things start back up, shoot it this summer sometime, but I’m not quite positive yet. It’s a question of budget and finance, and of course, the reality of COVID, and you know, how that will all play out. So, it’s something I really want to do.