Let’s just immediately move the discussion of the latest hugely important episode of Westworld below the spoiler bar, shall we? Well. One major Westworld theory just got confirmed.
All images: John P. Johnson/HBO
While the question of whether the show is taking places in two different timelines remains unknown, the other big theory — that Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) was secretly a host — is now fact, just as many of us suspected from the beginning. And while the show finally confirming one of the biggest theories was important, it also means that we have to question everything we’ve seen from his point of view.
I think I’ve been remiss in the past few weeks for not calling out Jeffrey Wright’s acting. Anthony Hopkins as Ford, Thandie Newton as Maeve and Evan Rachel Wood as Dolores have been getting a lot of notice for their much flashier acting work. But Wright’s been a steady presence this whole time, with Bernard’s work acting as competence porn and the bits and pieces of his personal life giving everything he does a tinge sadness. Plus, he’s usually been the one receiving Hopkins’ big, weird speeches, and his incredulousness at them has been ours.
This week, Wright outdid himself. Rewatch that last scene again. In the background of Theresa (I’m going to miss you, Sidse Babett Knudsen!) and Ford’s confrontation, his movements are subtly glitching. The complete change in his body language when Ford has Bernard kill Theresa is the kind of silent acting that’s hard to pull off. He was really good in this episode.
I was upset to discover that Bernard was a host, and I don’t know why. The whole show has been built on making us sympathise with the hosts and be disgusted with the humans. So the fact that the “human” we most identified with turned out to be a host shouldn’t be surprising at all. And I shouldn’t be upset, because this show has continually proved that he’s still a person. But I was still really upset that Bernard wasn’t “real”. Even though he’s not! None of this is!
This is Westworld in a nutshell: It wants you to examine why you react to stories in the way you do. I think the reason it was upsetting was because, as much as the show has made the point that the hosts are real people, it’s also made clear that they are being taken advantage of. And we like Bernard, so we don’t want him that vulnerable.
Forget Billy (Jimmi Simpson), the obvious audience avatar for guests in the park; Bernard’s been our main point of view character for the last seven episodes. Most of the things we’ve learned about how the park works and how it was founded we learned through Bernard. We now know he can’t see the things that would hurt him, so now everything we saw from his perspective is actually in question. The big one, of course, being the photo Ford showed Bernard of a younger Ford and “Arnold” — which last week ended up looking a lot like Ford’s robofather.
So, we still don’t know if Ford lied about the photo because the real one would freak Bernard out, or if Bernard saw something that wasn’t there because of his programming, or if Ford lied about who the robot is (I think this is the least likely option, for what it’s worth), or if Arnold and Ford’s dad were actually the same person. We don’t know how much Bernard and Elsie actually found out or what happened to her — although there’s the horrific possibility that Bernard killed her and doesn’t remember it.
Bernard’s big reveal wasn’t the only thing to happen last night. As usual, most of the forward momentum happened in the corporate plot, which is by far the most the interesting one. Jumping back to the beginning of the episode, Charlotte Hale (Tessa Thompson) is there because the board wants Ford to be gently pushed out of Westworld, because he could destroy the park in anger if they tried to force him out. Oh, that’s what the transmitting data was, by the way — Ford’s made himself invaluable by refusing to let any of the data about the hosts and the park leave park grounds. At the behest of Delos, Theresa was sending it out to be stored.
Since the executives can’t blame Ford for the problems in the park, they’re blamed on Bernard instead and Theresa fires him — which the reveal makes absurd. He can’t leave! He literally can’t; the techs tell Maeve that hosts physically can’t leave the park in this episode. Plus, ironically, picking on Bernard forces Ford’s hand and that’s how things go wrong for Theresa.
It’s very bluntly stated this episode that Delos doesn’t care about the park — the park is just what they let Ford do in exchange for owning the code and the designs of the hosts, although we still don’t know exactly what Delos’ ambitions are. I’ve heard the theory that they want the hosts as a slave race — but robots who can think and feel are the opposite of what you’d want in that situation. They wouldn’t need to be this sophisticated for that. They could want to make duplicates of powerful people for decoy purposes or coup purposes (I could see a use for a version of someone rich and/or powerful who was totally under your command). Rich people putting their minds in unkillable bodies feels close to what’s going on, in my mind.
Part of the display that Theresa and Charlotte put on to fire Bernard involves Maeve’s prostitute friend (the only one we see her talk to for any length of time). Her name is Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) and she is put in a glass box and attacked by a host made to look like a tech (this part was not subtle foreshadowing). Then, they tried to wipe her memory. Apparently, the result of the last minute code from the premiere was that things couldn’t be wiped. And Clementine “remembered” the attack and trying to get revenge on the tech when she was restarted and saw him. Clementine is ordered retired, since her use as an example of the bug also meant she was useless as a host.
And, again, here’s where Bernard’s unreliability as a narrator comes in. He tells Theresa that what they said was happening wasn’t and he could tell they’d made up that code for the purposes of the demonstration. As part of their “sacrifice” of him and to give the board an explanation. I think he’s telling the truth that the whole thing was rigged, but only the writers know for sure.
That means poor Clementine is lobotomised in front of Maeve, who has used her new tech friends to try to find her. That inspires Maeve to try a gaolbreak. I would not bet against her. Maeve is the queen here.
Her gaolbreak and the Ford/Delos battle (plus the Arnold question) is the best part of this show. The park narratives, both the Man in Black and Billy and Dolores are tied for a distant third.
- Ford says he and the board have had these power struggles for years, so they have to have figured out that Ford’s second-in-command doesn’t age or die. Or does Ford hide him from them? Or is Bernard even more biological adapt than the usual hosts? Is he being put into new, technically older-looking bodies? This obviously can’t have been a secret. I kind of wonder if Charlotte knew and set Theresa up.
- According to the showrunners, Clementine was picked because she’s meant to look sweet and delicate, so that her sudden turn in the demo would prove to the people there how dangerous the hosts really are. That said, the violence against a woman isn’t nearly commented on in this episode as much as it usually is in Westworld. It was just shock value and I expect better.
- Similarly, the show has to do some work on its Native American hosts. I get that it’s the stereotype the rich white people in the park are want to and it’s part of their power fantasy, but the show hasn’t subverted it once. Hell, I’m pretty sure not a single Native American host — except Hector, who is supposed to be part Native American — has even talked.
- Until Billy and Dolores’ plot starts to have a more obvious connection to the larger forces at work, I’m not going to care. I will say that Billy’s description of what the park is for echoed Ford’s. And that I think we’re supposed to see Dolores choosing to have sex, rather than being raped as usual, as part of her journey to autonomy. I wished I cared about her nearly as much as I do about Maeve’s similar, but far more active, journey.
- Oh, I will also add that their destination being in Dolores’ dreams and being a huge installation on par with what Ford’s building might be a notch against the two timelines theory. This plays like Dolores and Billy playing out part of the final scenario Ford’s been building.
- Ford’s secret lab under the house in the park appears to be where Bernard and Dolores were having their conversations. I don’t know what that means other than Bernard was used to help Ford program what he wants into the old hosts.
- There was a new host being built in that secret lab. Who is it?