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“I need more milk, Arnold!”
Expect Westworld fans to cling to those words as a mantra about Arnold, the show’s biggest new mystery. In episode three, “The Stray,” Westworld’s lead scientific mind Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) gives his protege Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) a history lesson about a man named Arnold, whose name is being referenced by some of the park’s errant hosts.
According to Ford, Arnold was the co-founder of Westworld, scrubbed from the history books by their business partners. During the park’s first three years of existence, Ford, Arnold and other scientists did nothing but work on developing the hosts and the technology seen throughout Westworld, without any guests or board meetings to worry about.
“Those years were glorious,” Ford remembers wistfully. “Pure creation.”
Things took an apparent turn when Arnold developed an interest in creating actual consciousness within the hosts. His model came in the form of a pyramid: memory at the base, then improvisation and self-interest in the subsequent ascending levels. He never confirmed the fourth, topmost portion of the pyramid, but had a theory: “the bicameral mind,” allowing hosts to hear their own programming as inner monologue. Ford’s argument against Arnold’s idea of imbuing the hosts with consciousness: “In this place, you don’t want the hosts conscious,” and it would also risk driving hosts insane with voices they could perceive as gods.
Bernard supposes that some of the recent glitches in hosts — Abernathy (Louis Herthum) and the photograph, Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood) and her trip down the rabbit hole, the robot bandit Walter (Timothy Lee DePriest) pouring milk on fellow hosts who killed him in the past, all while evoking Arnold’s name — are signs of Arnold’s old code resurfacing. Perhaps, but according to Ford, don’t expect Arnold himself to surface: the man died in the park, his “search for consciousness [consuming] him totally.”
“We called it an accident, but I knew Arnold,” says Ford. “He was very, very careful.”
It’s a bit of an info dump for both Bernard and viewers alike, learning about Ford’s forgotten friend and colleague. But remember Ford’s words earlier in the episode, when he offers Teddy (James Marsden) a role in his new narrative, “a fiction that, like all great stories, is rooted in truth.”
With that in mind, what are the odds that Ford’s deceased associate isn’t really dead at all? And if that’s the case… who and where is Arnold? Here are a few possibilities:
1. Arnold Is Dead
Occam’s razor, right? After all, the philosophy was evoked in the second episode, once again in a scene between Ford and Bernard. The simplest answer is often the right answer. “The problem,” Ford added at the time, “is that what we do is so complicated.” Take Ford at face value on the Arnold story if you wish, or trust his earlier words and apply it to Arnold: The truth about this mystery man is much more complicated than Ford is willing to reveal.
2. Arnold Is Ford
Perhaps it’s because we’re still only a few weeks removed from Mr. Robot, but is it possible that Ford and Arnold are the same man? That Arnold represents Ford’s earliest days at Westworld, a philosophy he’s let die in order to achieve more mainstream success? Following that idea further, maybe Ford is returning to his Arnold roots, and is intentionally leading certain hosts toward awakening. With that said, if Ford and Arnold are separate entities, it gives the show the opportunity to cast a formidable actor as Anthony Hopkins’ formidable foe, an idea that’s too rich to ignore. And with that in mind…
3. Arnold Is the Man in Black
Ed Harris’ gunslinging gamer wants to access “the deepest level of the game,” doing anything and everything he can to find this so-called “maze.” The Man in Black has been coming to Westworld for 30 years, which seems to be close to the same age as the park itself. What if the MiB is actually Arnold, someone who has carte blanche at the park as a customer due to his forgotten role in history as one of the founders? What if he’s only now enacting the final stage of his plan to bring consciousness to the hosts — or otherwise enacting vengeance on the people who ousted him? That said, the MiB is a gamer at heart; why would he want the NPCs of Westworld to achieve sentience? There are still ways to get Harris and Hopkins in a scene together without pulling the MiB too far away from his nebulous, nefarious roots.
4. Arnold Is Bernard
And Bernard is a host. It’s an out-there idea, but what if Arnold truly did die, and Ford continued Arnold’s research after the man’s death, and gave sentience to a host modeled in Arnold’s own image? It would add a twisted layer to the relationship between Ford and Bernard as master and student. It also twists Bernard’s most humanizing moment to date, the revelation that he had a son who passed away. What if that’s nothing more than a fiction, created by Ford — or a memory of Arnold’s life, technically not Bernard’s? It’s a disturbing possibility and perhaps a far-fetched possibility, but a possibility all the same.
5. Arnold Is Wyatt
In the episode, Ford gives Teddy memories of a nightmare nemesis named Wyatt. According to the fiction — “a fiction that like all great stories is rooted in truth,” as Ford said — Wyatt and Teddy were friends and soldiers on the battlefield together until Wyatt went missing for weeks, only to return with “strange ideas,” slaughtering innocents with abandon in the process. Now, Teddy wants vengeance against Wyatt. It’s a scary prospect if this fiction mirrors the true relationship between Ford and Arnold, right? And if Arnold is still alive somewhere in the park, as a figure we have not yet seen before, perhaps he’s the Wyatt at the heart of Teddy’s narrative — a man in the wild of Westworld, with menacing hosts at his command, and “strange ideas” in his heart.
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