Westworld has piled mystery upon mystery in its premiere season, and fans have developed several theories to explain what’s happening, which the show keeps proving to be true. But with yet another major revelation revealed in last night’s episode, there is also only one big thing left for Westworld to confirm... or deny.
Pretty much every Westworld theory has revolved around two things: Bernard being a host, and the two timeline theory. Once people started thinking that Bernard was a host, the next question became whether or not he was an android clone of Arnold. Bernard’s host status was confirmed a few weeks ago, while last night’s episode revealed he is indeed a replica of Ford’s former partner Arnold. So now all Westworld has to sort out are its timeline questions (even if that turns out to be the one theory that everyone’s got wrong).
We do finally have some answers, and it turns out that Bernard’s loop is the cruelest one of all. First of all, as guessed oh so long ago, the death of Bernard’s son was based on Arnold’s own tragic backstory. Bernard’s son isn’t real, of course, but Bernard’s whole personality was built around it. The idea mimics the way we all see our lives as being marked by milestones—and the bigger they are, the more we attribute to them. The hosts are given a backstory, with a “cornerstone memory” anchoring their fake lives. Bernard has to get past thinking of his son as being a defining part of his life in order to see who he is.
And he is Arnold. Either Ford is really co-dependent or Arnold made it near-impossible to keep Westworld up and running without him, because Ford clearly believes he needed to build Bernard. He seems to be right, since Ford says that Bernard has been the best jailer for the hosts, figuring out how to keep them in the park better than anyone else. Bernard was wholly built by Ford, and he’s Ford’s greatest creation: a host who upgrades himself.
Bernard: With due respect, sir, you broke into my mind.
Ford: I built your mind, Bernard. I have every right to wander through its rooms, and chambers, and halls and to change it if I choose, even to burn it down. After all this time, I know it almost as intimately as I know my own.
That’s a lie, of course. Bernard also helped build his mind. When Bernard says he looked at his own code and the most elegant bits are Arnold’s, he’s really saying that he, Bernard, wrote the best parts of his own code. His mind is actually his own, in a small way.
It’s not even Bernard finding out that he is Arnold that was the major shock of the episode. It was Ford revealing that Bernard always discovers this. That he’s done it many, many times. And that, each time, Ford just hits the host equivalent of system restore (or Time Machine, if the androids are Macs) to put Bernard back to when he didn’t know he was Arnold. All the other hosts we’ve seen recover memories are on some sort of new journey. Not Bernard—he can remember all he wants, but Ford is always a step ahead of him.
Which begs the question if Maeve, Dolores, and everyone else’s plans are just as doomed—if the hosts are on a cycle of discovery, rebellion, and being put down and it’s just a thing Ford has to do every so often. If Maeve’s army and Dolores’ maze journey are all doomed from the start.
Speaking of Maeve and Dolores, Maeve’s plan for setting the hosts free (so similar to what Bernard wants to do before Ford shuts him down, oh god) has the first step of getting host outlaw Hector on her side. Well, first she has to get out of Behavior and back into the park, which she does by getting Bernard to let her go and telling him to go get answers. Poor Bernard.
But once she’s back in the park, she meets with Hector and asks for him to join her on a quest. She tells him exactly how his story is programmed to play out—his crew kills each other and reveals that the safe he keeps trying to steal is empty—and then explains about her quest. She continually refers to the park administration as “hell,” and that they have to die so they can go there and then break out. (Her method of death is to set them both on fire, just in case the hell thing wasn’t clear.)
Also, having sex with Hector while there’s a knife between them triggers Hector’s memory of the last time that happened. Incidentally, that time also ended in her death and re-emergence in maintenance, starting her on the journey of self-discovery that got her to this point. Loops again. Everything in this show is a loop.
Maeve has the power of the programmers, but insists on convincing people to her side rather than commanding them makes her the perfect foil to Ford. Ford lets Bernard go through all his memories, even though he has a backdoor that he can use to make Bernard kill himself, because he wants Bernard on his side. Maeve actively campaigns for people and you even get the sense that she wouldn’t order anyone to kill themselves if they refused.
On the flip side of Maeve are Billy and Dolores, both of whom seem determined to conform to Ford’s view of the world. Dolores says, “If it’s such a wonderful place out there, why are you all clamoring to get in here?” and “There is beauty in this world, Arnold created it this way. But people like you keep spreading over it like a stain.”
That’s pretty similar to Ford saying that the hosts were meant to be better than humans, more perfect. Ford also says of humans, “When we eventually ran out of creatures to dominate, we built this beautiful place.” That’s really similar to Dolores’ words.
Ford later says, “Humans are alone in this world for a reason. We murdered and butchered anything that challenged our primacy. Do you know what happened to the Neanderthals, Bernard? We ate them.” That echoes the scene with Billy, who we last saw standing in among a pile of dead bodies with only Logan left alive. The dead hosts looked taken apart and eaten—so nothing good can come from that.
By the end of the episode, the version of Bernard we’ve spent the season with has shot himself (I was holding out hope that he’d fake it, but we hear the gun go off and see his body fall.) Dolores has remembered Arnold and remembered that she killed him. More importantly, it’s revealed all those conversations that Dolores had with Bernard this season? They’re actually ones she had with the real Arnold.
The center of the maze is revealed to be the church steeple, which is in the town where Teddy and Dolores killed people, and which we’ve seen buried all through this season and assumed Ford is excavating for his new narrative. The Man in Black figures out that’s the center after receiving a final clue from the host that captured him and Teddy (a reference to a city swallowed by sand), but as he enters the church, Dolores is there, walking out of the confessional which took her down to the underground lab where she used to talk with Arnold.
The fact that Dolores is wearing her pants get-up—and that she had previously in the episode run away from Billy after Logan stabbed her—hints that the Billy and the Man in Black storylines are taking place in the same time. But Billy and Dolores had recently seen the steeple when it was buried, and the Dolores who walks out of the confessional doesn’t appear to have that stab wound. But Dolores has been fading in and out of her memories constantly. There’s no telling what’s real with her, or when it’s happening. Although it’s sort of telling that when the Man in Black enters the church, Dolores, before she sees who it is, asks, “Billy?”
Given that Dolores is losing her mind, that’s not quite enough to confirm the two timeline theory. But it’s a start.
- The title of this episode is “The Well-Tempered Clavier,” a Bach composition for keyboard. We’ve seen music used by Arnold in the base code of the hosts before, remember? It was used to subdue Maeve after her daughter died. And there was a close-up on a hand-cranked phonograph during Teddy’s massacre flashback, where Teddy says he had no control over his actions. Plus, you know, the whole “player-piano” metaphor this whole show’s had going.
- I’m betting the host Ford was building two episodes back was a new Bernard. If Bernard keeps figuring all this out and needing to be retired, Ford’s got to keep a new Bernard body around.
- Which leads me to think that the next time we see Bernard, he’s going to be Arnold as Wyatt in the park.
- Wyatt has a posse of fully-aware hosts, apparently. Also, Teddy was the sheriff in that sand-swallowed town before he went nuts and killed a bunch of people, just like Dolores remembers doing.
- Nothing Ford has done has made me as angry and sad as what he does to Bernard. I think Bernard being stuck in the “human” world and tricked into keeping his own people enslaved is just an extra level of cruel, beyond what the hosts are usually subject to. And, again, there’s how good Jeffery Wright is at getting us on his side.
- Incidentally, Bernard seeing his ex-wife as not Gina Torres but Anthony Hopkins is also a tragedy.
- We know that the Man in Black is on the Delos board and that he kept the park going years ago. Remember that Logan said to Billy they were looking into buying the place, so who knows if that means anything. It’d be interesting if Billy was a giant red herring and Logan is really the Man in Black.
- Ford has a nasty habit of saying “we” when he means “I.” See: “We’ve had to make some uncomfortable decisions, Bernard.”
- Also, the “young Anthony Hopkins” effect is super-creepy.
- What on Earth is going on with Elsie’s phone and the abduction of the security guy?
- Billy is engaged to Logan’s sister, whose photo they show. It looks like it might be the photo that sent Dolores’ father around the bend in the premiere. Since anything in this show can be a clue, here it is to study:
Only one more episode to go. There is no way we’re going to actually learn everything we want to know, is there?