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Warning: this article contains spoilers for Westworld season 2, episode 1, ‘Journey Into Night’.
“They’ve never given us a choice before… what makes you think they’ve given us one now?”
15 months after Westworld left us with scenes of a bloody Host uprising, the head-scratching series resumes with a scene set (presumably) pre-revolution: a conversation between Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) and a ‘dormant’ Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood).
Bernard tells Dolores about a dream he had. “I was on an ocean, with you and the others, on a distant shore… You’d left me behind and the waters were rising around me.”
When Dolores asks about possible meanings behind the dream, he replies: “Dreams don’t mean anything, Dolores. They’re just noise, they’re not real.”
Cut to the final scene of season two premiere ‘Journey Into Night’ and we find Bernard on the edge of an ocean, one flooded with Host corpses. Bernard – apparently the one responsible – is the only Host left living. In a sense, they have left him behind.
Has Bernard predicted the future? And if so, does this back up a popular Westworld fan theory: that the Host uprising isn’t actually an expression of free will, but just one more pre-programmed narrative?
In scenes that take place during the uprising, Bernard seems convinced that Dolores is wreaking bloody vengeance “of her own free will”, but what if she’s not? What if this is all part of Robert Ford’s masterplan to take back control of Westworld (and its sister parks) from Delos Incorporated?
It’s never been firmly established if Delos was the sole equity holder of Westworld from the beginning, or if Westworld was originally owned by its founders Ford (Anthony Hopkins) and Arnold Weber, with Delos later acquiring the park. If so, maybe they acquired it as part of a hostile takeover and the revolution is part of Ford’s plan to take back control (even from beyond the grave)?
Dolores might think she’s no longer playing a role, that she’s finally herself, but is that true? Of her rampage, Dolores insists her hand has been forced. “They’ve never given us a choice before,” she tells Teddy (James Marsden). “What makes you think they’ve given us one now?”
Maybe her words have a double meaning? Maybe her ‘awakening’ is all a ruse and she really doesn’t have a choice. Dolores also refers to her and Teddy’s path as “a story” – one more clue that this is all just another narrative?
Likewise, we assume Maeve (Thandie Newton) stepping off the train in season one finale ‘The Bicameral Mind’ was her first truly autonomous action… but what if it wasn’t? It might be telling that when Maeve threatens to “relieve [Lee Sizemore] of [his] most precious organ”, he tells her, “I wrote that line for you.”
She’s still reciting her old pre-programmed dialogue. Is she still operating under programming?
Assuming all this to be true, there might be another, even more devious level to Ford’s masterplan. Early on in ‘Journey Into Night’, Bernard is confronted by Karl Strand (Gustaf Skarsgård), Head of Operations at Delos, and echoes the man’s words when Strand says that the current situation at Westworld is “less than ideal”.
Bernard seems confused as to how he could predict Strand’s words. One possible explanation? That Strand, like Bernard before him, is a Host following a pre-programmed path but totally unaware of his true nature.
If Ford was planning to wrestle back control from Delos, it would make perfect sense (in a convoluted, Westworld sort of way) that he’d plant a mole within the corporation. William / the Man in Black (Ed Harris) might have gunned down the ‘Young Ford’ Host, but what if the late park director has another ‘vessel’?
Could Strand be Ford’s newest agent? Notably, one of the first things he does upon arriving on the island is assume total control. Through Strand, ‘Ford’ is now back in charge and free of outside interference.
It’s a solid theory, but does beg even more questions. If the Host revolution is just Ford’s way of cleaning house and taking back control, why have the Hosts ‘wake up’ gradually via the Reveries rather than just flick an on-switch and instigate a (fake) revolution? (Presuming, of course, that achieving consciousness was the true purpose of the Reveries.)
And if the Hosts are not truly ‘awake’, then what would Ford gain from, say, having Maeve reunite with her daughter? Simply altruism and a genuine empathy with the Hosts, or could it be part of some other ploy that we don’t yet fully understand?
“Ford has set in motion what he thinks is a plan,” Westworld showrunner Jonathan Nolan said in the wake of the first season. “The nature of that plan is something we explore in the second season – what his intentions are.”
It’s clear we don’t yet understand the full scope of what Robert Ford was hoping to achieve. But right now, it seems perfectly feasible that he hatched a long-term plan to stage a Host uprising, all so he could steal Westworld back from Delos.
If that is the case, we suspect that William / the Man in Black – majority shareholder of Westworld – might object, providing he’s able to survive the massacre that Ford has put into motion.
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