‘Westworld’ Hits a Lowe Point: Breaking Down Tonight’s Shocking Ending
The following post contains SPOILERS for Episode 7 of Westworld.
Tonight’s Westworld, “Trompe L’Oeil,” concluded with maybe the show’s biggest bombshell to date: Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright), the head of programming Westworld’s artificial hosts and the right-hand man to its director and creator, Dr. Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins), is a robot. It calls into question just about everything Bernard’s said, done, or thought in the previous six episodes, along with some of the seeming truths about Westworld and its reality. So who exactly is Bernard Lowe and what does his true identity mean for the future of the show? Here are three different possibilities about his backstory:
OPTION #1: Bernard Lowe is, and always has been, a host of Westworld.
It’s possible the Bernard we saw in the final moments of “Trompe L’Oeil” never existed before Ford built him in his secret lab. All of his memories are inventions, just like the ones we saw Ford write into Teddy Flood’s memory as part of the new park storyline he’s still in the process of writing. He has no wife, he has no son, these are all fabrications. He only exists, and has only ever existed, to serve the whims of Ford.
OPTION #2: Bernard Lowe was a real person who was killed and replaced by a robot.
This would mean that at some point before the show began (or who knows, maybe at some as-yet unseen moment in the show’s chronology) the real, flesh-and-blood Lowe was killed by Ford and replaced by an exact duplicate in order to further his agenda and maintain his grip on Westworld. This would mean Lowe’s wife and son are real, or were real at some point, and that he is remembering things that really happened (or Ford’s artistic interpretation of what happened, if he was the one writing robotic Ford’s memories). It seems possible that the wife we saw Bernard talking to over a video phone in one episode may actually exist; it also seems possible she doesn’t know her husband has become a robot, which is a chilling thought.
This theory would seem even more likely when we find out what happens to Theresa Cullen (Sidse Babett Knudsen), who Robo-Bernard killed in this episode’s final moments. Does Ford just replace Theresa with a robot duplicate to cover up the crime? That would make me much more likely to think he did the same thing to the real Bernard at some point in the past.
OPTION #3: Bernard Lowe is a robot version of Arnold
This is a theory that I first saw floated a few weeks ago by Vanity Fair’s Joanna Robinson, and I think it’s a pretty interesting one: Bernard is a robot copy of a human being, but he’s not a robot of a guy named Bernard, he’s actually a robot of Arnold, Ford’s mysterious but frequently referenced partner in Westworld’s creation:
Ford said that Arnold was driven by personal tragedy — such as, perhaps, a dead son? And while the androids keep talking to an “Arnold” as they malfunction, we, the audience, hear Jeffrey Wright’s voice in Dolores’s head as she goes off programming. I confess, the old photo of Ford and Arnold is so fuzzy and sepia that I can’t even tell the race of the original co-founder. Bear in mind, though, Ford could have uploaded Arnold’s consciousness into any old robot body. We’ll have to stay tuned to find out.
My main problem with the Bernard-is-Arnold theory is the one Joanna addresses here; that photo of Ford and Arnold from the third episode of the season, “The Stray.” Here’s what it looked like.
In screen grab form, it is very clear: That man next to a young Anthony Hopkins is not a young Jeffrey Wright. Now we do know from other examples elsewhere in this series, including in different parts of tonight’s episodes, that when hosts see something that doesn’t jive with their view of their insular fantasy world, they can’t recognize it, and often say “It doesn’t look like anything to me.” That’s exactly what Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) said in the Westworld pilot, when shown a picture of a woman in Times Square by her father.
When Bernard is confronted by Theresa with the blueprints for his robotic body he says the same thing; “It doesn’t look like anything to me.” But he doesn’t say that when Ford shows him the picture of he and Arnold. Is it possible that the image above of Hopkins and “Arnold” is just what Bernard’s perspective and carefully programmed mind translates a picture of himself into? It’s possible, but in the example of Dolores and her father, we see precisely the image that they can’t. Which means either Bernard isn’t Arnold, or Westworld used a massive cheat to convince us he wasn’t.
Or... Ford tricked Bernard when he showed him that picture, which I suppose he could have had made for just such an occasion. Bernard says he never knew Ford had a partner in the park, something one would think the head of host programming would probably be at least vaguely familiar with. Logan tells William about Ford’s partner in their storyline; why would a guest know about Arnold and not a guy who works on his creations? It’s possible that the Logan/William storyline is taking place 30 years before the events with Ford/Bernard, which would explain how Arnold slipped into legend. But it’s also possible that Bernard doesn’t know about Arnold because Ford programmed him not to know about him because at one point he was Arnold.
Joanna Robinson, who is clearly a lot smarter than I am, also noted recently that the “Arnold” in the picture that Ford showed Bernard is the same host as the robotic clone of Ford’s father hidden away in the house that no one else in Westworld knows about. That does strengthen the possibility that Ford staged that photo. It’s also possible that Ford simply took a photo with the robot of his father as a perverse memento, and then grabbed it and showed it to Bernard when he needed to throw him off the scent just because he had it handy.
Or maybe there’s another explanation I’m not seeing? You tell me in the comments below. Whatever Bernard’s true past, I can’t wait to see its full details.