The Latest 'Westworld' Twist Confirms a Crazy Character Theory
This post contains major spoilers for the ninth episode of Westworld, "The Well Tempered Clavier." Head to our Westworld World hub for more recaps, theories, interviews, and deep dives.
"Westworld is confusing," tweets the person who mistakenly picks up his or her phone during an episode of HBO's speculative sci-fi series. You'll find the complaint everywhere, and if you personally felt distracted for even a second during the show's penultimate hour, "The Well-Tempered Clavier," you may be heading down that rant rabbit hole yourself.
But for those of us following Westworld's maze, the episode served a massive payoff. Or two, if you want to get technical.
This is where you go back to Sweetwater, spoilerphobes, Or this is where your brain's about to glitch even harder, confounded-but-dedicated viewers.
After weeks of debate over the identity of Arnold, his connection to Bernard, and the revelation that Ford's number two was actually a host all along, creators Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy folded a twist on top of a twist by revealing that the Bernard Bot was not only an android, but one replicating the visage of the mysterious Arnold. Jeffrey Wright biting his tongue on that one may be his greatest acting performance yet.
Here's what happened: awakened by Maeve, rogue and ready to instigate, Bernard corners Ford in the cold-storage level of the mesa headquarters in hopes of regaining his memories -- whatever those may be. He knows there's a past hovering just out of grasp, and holding Ford at gunpoint, courtesy of a hacked Clementine, is the way to salvation. Ford obliges. In scattered montage, Bernard realizes he murdered both Theresa and Elsie, and that all memories of his boy Charlie are backstory fabrications. "I always thought you had my eyes," he tells to his robo-boy. "But you have no one's eyes."
Even further back, Bernard accesses his very first memory: opening his eyes to Ford, who has just successfully modeled the host after his deceased pal Arnold. The roboticist was in so deep into the translation process, he didn't even bother to come up with a name for his creation. He pulls "Bernard" out of thin air -- not quite the "Bernard" plus "Arnold" portmanteau fans hoped for, but hey, we got answers.
The implications of the "Bernarnold" theory paying off don't make themselves known in "The Well-Tempered Clavier," though the show revels in the idea. When Bernard first powers up, Ford walks him through the mannerisms of his late colleague. Arnold would clean his glasses in such a way that would give him an extra beat to think through a problem. Ford hoped Bernard could do the same. For a man who goes out of his way to remind his staff that the hosts are mechanical playthings, Bernard is creative kindling for the young Ford.
Ford first described Arnold as something of a lost soul. "His personal life was marked by tragedy," he described in the third episode, "The Stray." "He put all his hopes into his work. His search for consciousness consumed him totally. Barely spoke to anyone, except the hosts. In his alienation, he saw something in them. He saw something that... wasn't there." Arnold would try to lead "sentient" hosts like Dolores through his maze. Ford cut the dream short. Same goes for Bernard, who faced a grisly demise in this week's episode. "The piano doesn't murder the player if it doesn't like the music," Ford says, shortly before commanding his robotic friend to commit suicide.
Bernard didn't survive "The Well-Tempered Clavier," but his work -- or Arnold's -- did. In an adjacent reveal (a.k.a. "The Double Mind-Blower") Westworld 100% confirmed that certain events depicted throughout the series occur in separate timelines. We first see Dolores enter the white church town (Escalante?) in her modern garb. Flashbacks, as we soon realize, cross over to depict "classic blue dress Dolores" walking through a bustling version of the same location, complete with familiar droids wigging out in the pews. A secret elevator in the confessional takes both versions of the farmgirl down to a Delos laboratory, where gunned down bodies lay across a hall. In the "classic" timeline, we see the space freshened up. A de-aged Ford even runs by.
More cross-cutting intertwines Bernard/Arnold and Dolores's history. Those meetings we've seen between "Bernard" and the host? All in the past, conversations with Arnold that pushed her towards the maze. "I've been looking for you," he tells her. This was true in the past. In the present, she can't actually palaver with her creator. Because he's dead. And -- more twists! -- she killed him -- or at least thinks she did.
Will the Bernard-Arnold connection have a greater payoff in Westworld Season 1's final episode? Likely, but not literally. To the park's awoken hosts, Arnold is a ghost in the machine. Ford could re-create his physical avatar in Bernard, but the consciousness of the man persists through the bicameral minds of on-the-brink hosts. It's unclear if Ford knows of Maeve and Dolores's heightened states, or their ensuing mayhem; at the tail end of the episode, he rushes off to finish his personal narrative, a nod to Teddy's "Wyatt" arc that should incite its own bloodshed. But he'll inevitably cross paths with Arnold once more. And as Bernard reminded us in "The Well-Tempered Clavier," as Ford flooded his mind with memories, the converging of two halves of the artificial brain lead to insanity, chaos, and disruption. Arnold can still "free" the sentient hosts whether or not his life-after-death proxy walks the Earth, leaving room for one more appearance by Wright before the season's end. Enter: Dolores.
"Never place your trust in us," Ford tells Bernard. "We're only human." Judging from Dolores's look towards The Man in Black at the end of this episode, she won't be making that mistake any time soon. And if Bernard could hack Clementine to point a gun at Ford, imagine what he could do for Dolores, the prized possession of his mold, the man, the mystery, the legend, Arnold.
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