'Westworld' Answers a Shocking "Riddle" About the Series

"The Riddle of the Sphinx," directed by 'Westworld' co-creator Lisa Joy, contained several huge reveals about the park's true nature.
John P. Johnson/HBO

[This story contains spoilers for season two, episode four of HBO's Westworld, called "Riddle of the Sphinx."]

For a show that already trades in deeply dense story material, Westworld just managed to top itself.

The fourth episode of season two, directed by Lisa Joy from a script written by Gina Atwater and Jonathan Nolan, contained more twists and turns than many other shows would attempt in a single season, let alone a plus-sized episode. Want to know more about the Delos board's secret plans for the park's technology? Look no further than "Riddle of the Sphinx," which confirmed one of the wildest theories about the series: host technology is being used to explore the idea of human immortality, with mixed results thus far. 

Want to know who helped push that endeavor into existence? Look no further than William, played alternately by Jimmi Simpson and Ed Harris, who seems like he's since realized the error of those ways. 

Ever wonder about the Man in Black's daughter, Emily? Well, now you can put a face to the name: Katja Herbers' character "Grace," as she's been called in HBO's notes, is actually Emily, and she's fully reunited with her black-hat-wearing father by the end of the installment. 

None of which speaks to the return of Elsie (Shannon Woodward) for the first time since she vanished seven episodes ago, nor the fact that Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) was involved in a secret project that culminated in him murdering a room filled with scientists, nor the fact that Bernard was tasked with building a host body for another human being rather recently; very likely someone we already know, but unconfirmed in that regard for now. 

All of which is to say this: the wild west genre-mashup went in wild new directions this week, spawning a whole host of new reveals and theories worth chewing on. Here's how it all played out:

Play With Fire

The episode begins with a scene that evokes the season two premiere of ABC's Lost, when viewers first traveled into the hatch and met Desmond Hume. The first image: a record, slowly spinning, playing the Rolling Stones' "Play With Fire." A camera pans across a well decorated enclosed space filled with marble furniture, a fish tank, an exercise bike and a man: James Delos (Peter Mullan), repeating routines on a loop. He's visited by his son-in-law William (Simpson), carrying a bottle of whiskey. Delos pours them both a drink. William declines; it's a little early in the day for him.

"A little fucking late, you mean," says a grinning Delos, correcting his son-in-law. "Besides, if you aim to cheat the devil, you owe him an offering."

Over the course of a few scenes, it becomes apparent that William isn't meeting with his father-in-law after all — at least, not in the traditional sense. A second iteration of the same scene plays out midway through the episode, where it becomes clear that Delos isn't Delos at all, but a host version of the man, with his previous consciousness applied to the artificial body. Delos died seven years ago (his wife has since passed away as well), and he and William were setting out to use the park's technology to extend his life by mapping his consciousness onto an all-new body. 

It turns out, the process isn't going as swiftly as they had hoped. Delos tries to convince William that he's ready to be unleashed upon the outside world, but when he starts stumbling over simple words and showing signs of extreme agitation, it's clear that there's more work to be done. William has a lab technician incinerate Delos and the space he's been living in, only for them to try again another time.

Many years later, William returns again, this time as played by Ed Harris. Delos immediately suspects the situation given William's aged appearance, but otherwise they once again go through the motions. When Delos asks if it's time for his release, William reveals that this is the 149th time they've brought him back from the dead. "We're getting closer to working out the kinks, slowly but surely," William says, slowly sipping on his whiskey. "Another year or two and they might crack it and get a version of you that's viable long term… but the thing is? I'm not so sure anymore."

William proceeds to reveal his belief that "the whole enterprise was a mistake; people aren't meant to live forever." Delos is clearly agitated, believing William wants nothing more than to run the company and sleep with Delos' daughter. William reveals that she killed herself recently. Delos becomes even more upset, calling out for Logan (Ben Barnes), who apparently is dead as well, having overdosed many years earlier. 

"It took me a long time to learn this," William tells Delos as he leaves, "but some men are better off dead."

When William leaves Delos behind one last time, the attending lab technician asks if he wants to terminate the build once again. William declines. "Leave him," he snarls. "It might be useful to observe his degradation over the next few days."

More on that very bad decision to leave Delos alive later. First…

One Good Deed

William and Lawrence (Clifton Collins Jr.) continue their trek through Westworld, and their pursuit of Ford's game. They watch as several hosts lay railroad track on top of bound guests, driving spikes through their heads; a grisly sight indeed. The pair determines that their best path forward is to go through Lawrence's old hometown, which William takes as a sign of Ford "arranging a reunion."

When they arrive in Las Mudas, it almost feels as though history is about to repeat itself. Last time he was here, the Man in Black shot up the town with ruthless efficiency, even killing Lawrence's own wife right in front of him. This time, however, the tables are quickly turned as Major Craddock (Jonathan Tucker) and his gang of Confederados — the same ones liberated by Teddy (James Marsden) one week ago — have taken over the town. 

Craddock torments the inhabitants of Las Mudas, shooting their leader in cold blood and torturing the barkeep with nitroglycerin. Terrified that he's going to die in front of his wife and daughter, Lawrence pitches a plan to escape and dig up a stash of weapons buried in an unmarked grave. The Man in Black takes this information and offers it up to Craddock, offering to take him to his desired next destination — "Glory," as Craddock calls it — in exchange for his own survival.

As the day bleeds into night, Craddock and his men become more and more twisted toward Lawrence, Lawrence's family and everyone else in the town. Craddock claims he's aligned with death, having cheated it once before with help from Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood). The Man in Black, moved by the sight of Lawrence's wife and thinking back on his own late wife, takes matters into his own hands. 

"You think you know death? You don't," William growls at Craddock, before burying a broken bottle into his neck. "You didn't recognize him sitting across from you this whole time."

The Man in Black proceeds to shoot up Craddock and the rest of the Confederados, with much less ease than the last time he shot up Las Mudas; such is life when the stakes of the game are raised. He pours a shot of nitroglycerin down Craddock's throat, then allows Lawrence the honor of shooting the twisted host to smithereens.

The following morning, Lawrence reveals he and his cousins are going to soldier on with William. Lawrence's wife thanks William as well. But Lawrence's daughter — the same little girl who once told him that "the maze isn't meant for you" — whistles a different tune. She speaks with the words of Robert Ford, and warns William that one good deed won't change who he is.

"Who said anything about a good deed," William shoots back. "You wanted me to play the game. I'm going to play it to the bone."

"And you still don't understand the real game we're playing here," the Ford-fueled girl replies. "If you're looking forward, you're looking in the wrong direction."

With that cryptic clue, William and Lawrence's crew ride out into the sunset, where they meet up with a woman on horseback: Emily (Katja Herbers), fresh from surviving a night in the park with Ghost Nation. "Hi dad," she says, a revelatory line that ends the episode.

But more business still ahead in our recap! We haven't even touched upon…

In the Mouth of Madness

What did Clementine (Angela Sarafyan) want with Bernard? We're still not entirely sure, but at least we now know where she brought him: to a cave, where Elsie has been imprisoned ever since the first season. In her return, Elsie confirms it was Bernard who captured her in the first place, leaving her here with little more than power bars and a bucket. For his part, Bernard doesn't remember his role in capturing Elsie, those season one flashes notwithstanding; he swears that Ford (Anthony Hopkins) was behind it all. 

The power dynamics between the veritable warden and prisoner soon flip once Bernard frees Elsie and starts having another convulsion. Here, Elsie finally discovers the truth that Bernard is a host, and she reluctantly helps bring him back online. Once he wakes up, she starts to head out into the park, but Bernard changes her mind when he reveals the current state of the park and Delos' refusal to intercede until they apprehend Peter Abernathy (Louis Herthum).

From here, Bernard experiences another round of strange temporal flashes, watching a past version of himself in this very same cave. He remembers that the cave is actually a front for a secret outpost, and inside, they find chaos: tons of dead bodies, human and drone host alike. Bernard has memories of working here, which are briefly interrupted when a sole surviving drone host emerges; Elsie takes it upon herself to kill the thing, despite Bernard's protests. As Elsie infuses Bernard with the cortical fluid he so desperately needs, she openly questions whether or not he's still at Ford's mercy.

"Ford's dead," Bernard wearily replies, prompting an equally weary response from Elsie: "Fuck me."

Deeper in the lab, behind a door Bernard begs Elsie not to open, the pair find what remains of James Delos, still alive after William's aforementioned final visit. Delos has killed the attending lab tech, and Bernard and Elsie are forced to fight him off. The crazed Delos eventually relents, unable to surpass Bernard's physical strength. Bernard and Elsie put the human-host hybrid out of his misery, and come to the terrible realization that Delos has been copying developed minds and placing them onto control units — effectively, a means for mere mortals to cheat death and become immortal.

Bernard believes he was tasked by Ford with building another body for another person, but isn't sure who that person is. Rifle in hand and terrible knowledge in mind, Elsie and Bernard make a pact to work together to find out the answer. Elsie makes Bernard promise to never lie or hurt her again. "Of course," he responds, moments before viewers are treated to another series of flashbacks, in which both Bernard and the drone hosts kill the human scientists whose bodies are currently littered around the lab. It leaves us to wonder: can we trust Bernard, or has he himself plunged too far down into the mouth of madness?

What do you make of the latest Westworld twists? Sound off in the comments below and keep checking THR.com/Westworld all season long for more coverage.