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Westworld Review: Ford confirms one of the show’s most enduring theories

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Spoilers ahead for the latest episode of Westworld, so if you aren’t caught up with “Trompe L’Oeil,” feel free to take care of that now. I’m fine waiting – I can use the time to take a relaxing stroll through Ghost Nation territory.

westworld-spoilers

After weeks of speculation, it’s official: Bernard Lowe is actually a host – one that possesses perhaps the deepest and most meaningful programming of any host in the park, due to his creation by, and unquestioning subservience to, Dr. Ford himself. We’ll dig into the possible far-reaching implications of this revelation in a minute, but for now, let’s just allow the raw emotion sink in that everything we’ve learned about Bernard, and everything Bernard knows about himself, is a lie. Like Dorothy peering behind the curtain and seeing Oz for what he really is, so too did Bernard learn the true nature of the man pulling the strings of Westworld. But unlike Dorothy, Bernard wasn’t set free by this discovery, but rather used as a tool by Ford to dispose of Teresa.

In perhaps the most dramatic scene involving a door this side of Game of Thrones (#hodorforever), we learn that Bernard, just like all other hosts, cannot see what he isn’t supposed to. That Ford would prevent him from seeing a door that leads to a room in which Ford’s greatest secrets are given the breath of life (including Bernard himself) comes as little surprise. It also explains how Ford magically appeared at Bernard’s side when Bernard was accosted by Ford’s father-host in last week’s episode; he didn’t appear out of thin air, but simply stepped through a door Bernard could not see.

Image: HBO

Image: HBO

In “Trompe L’Oiel,” Bernard was only able to see the door after Teresa opened it, which was our final clue as to Bernard’s true nature. When Teresa discovers the schematics for Bernard, she tries to show Bernard, but like the door, he cannot see the notes of his creation. “It doesn’t look like anything to me,” he says, a line we know all too well at this point. As soon as Ford appeared on the stairs, it was clear that Teresa’s fate was all but sealed, but the drama of the scene didn’t rest in the tension leading up to her death, but instead in Bernard’s heartbreaking refusal to accept that he is a host. He mentions his wife and son, arguing that their memories are proof of his humanness, but we know as well as he does that his argument is futile. It makes you wonder how many times Ford has used Bernard in the past to manipulate people and gain information; I highly doubt this is the first time Bernard has realized he’s a host, that his memories aren’t real.

I love the varied approach showrunners Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan take when exploring how hosts awaken to the understanding that their lives are not what they seem. In last week’s episode, we watched as Maeve toured the floors of Westworld’s labs, giving her a full view of the miracle and the travesty that is the creation of the hosts. Though it disturbed her, it was ultimately a moment of hopefulness for Maeve – if Westworld is an allegory of Plato’s Cave, then surely she has stepped into the light. With Bernard, it’s the exact opposite. Perhaps he will have his own triumphant moment in later episodes, but as it stands, we can only lament how clinically Bernard removed his tie before bashing Teresa’s brains in – he’s so deeply beholden to his programming that he doesn’t even flinch when he grabs her.

Image: HBO

Image: HBO

In spite of what we now know about Bernard, we still know precious little of what Ford’s true motivations are. We know he loves the park and the hosts inside it. We know he had a deep affection for Arnold, and misses his old partner. We know that he has some kind of understanding with at least some members of the board, but the specifics are still unclear. And we know that he and Dolores have a mysterious but storied history together. But for all we’ve heard from him, he’s still an enigma. But there was certainly enough revealed in tonight’s episode to allow for a bit of speculation.

In light of what we saw tonight, as well as in previous episodes, it seems that Ford is all but omnipotent, and one has to wonder if there are any real limits to his power inside the park. He sees and hears all, and can even stop time with the flick of a finger. When he uses Charlotte Hale’s “blood sacrifice” line on Teresa, we get a good sense of where his omnipotence comes from: he can tap into any host he wants to, and use them as a sort of mobile CCTV unit to spy. Hector may have been restrained and turned off as he sat on Hale’s bed, but that was obviously not enough to keep Ford out of the conversation.

Image: HBO

Image: HBO

It’s also worth speculating that the host being created in the remote diagnostic facility will turn out to be none other than Teresa Cullen herself, a controllable replacement for the traitorous head of Quality Control. This, combined with the revelation about Bernard, will certainly add another layer of mystery to the show, but it also begs the question: if Ford can replace anyone who resists him, then what’s to stop us from wondering who else is actually a host. Elsie? Stubbs? Sizemore? Charlotte Hale herself?

I’m hoping we’ll soon get a piece of information that allows us to rule out who’s a host and who isn’t, because the Bernard reveal might prove to be a distraction away from what appears to be the main thrust of the story: Dolores’ quest for sentience. Of course there’s plenty of important other things going on, but again, being caught up in guessing who’s a host and who isn’t doesn’t seem to be the point of this show. We’ll see.

Closing Thoughts

Image: HBO

Image: HBO

  • Good news: HBO just confirmed they will be moving forward with a second season of Westworld. Bad news: it likely won’t air until sometime in 2018.
  • When Maeve is walking from her house to the Mariposa, we see a gun duel in the street behind her. A host draws on a guest and then patiently waits as the guest fumbles his gun out of his holster and clumsily fires a few rounds into the host. It’s hilarious.
  • Can someone please tell me why the Westworld techs keep wearing those red and white hazmat suits into Sweetwater? I have no idea why they need to maintain a sterile environment when there’s tons of unprotected guests walking around, and it’s far less subtle than wearing a costume into the world, as Elsie did earlier in the season. I don’t get it.
  • Dolores and William are about to enter the Unclaimed Territories, which could very well be where the maze resides. Even as Dolores and William are falling in love, we’re beginning to see a sharp divide in their worldviews, their hopes and dreams. Dolores wants nothing more than to leave her old life behind and experience the world, while William feels he’s experienced enough of the real world, and wants to stay inside the structured, purposeful story of Westworld. Conflict on the horizon?
  • I’m a sucker for fast-thinking ingenuity, so it goes without saying that I was pretty impressed by the nitroglycerine corpse surrender bomb that Lawrence fashioned on the fly. I hope we see him again.

5/5 stars: Nitroglycerine corpse surrender bomb. Need I say more?

 

Seth's academic background is in cultural, literary, and film studies, and he loves applying it to popular culture to see what kind of crazy claims he can come up with.