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[This story contains spoilers for season two, episode seven of HBO’s Westworld, “Les Écorchés.”]
“We weren’t here to code the hosts,” Bernard (Jeffrey Wright) utters within the first fifteen minutes of “Les Éscorchés,” the seventh episode of the HBO drama’s second season. “We were here to decode the guests!”
In fairness, Bernard arrives at the conclusion a little bit later than many fans of Westworld, considering some of the major developments revealed earlier in the season. In episode four, “The Riddle of the Sphinx,” it became clear that James Delos (Peter Mullan) had launched a division devoted to exploring the limits of human immortality. Those limits were stretched quite a bit in the digitally reborn Delos’ flesh-and-blood existence, but Robert Ford (Anthony Hopkins) is a few steps ahead of the curve; as the architect of all things in Westworld, the park’s co-founder is as free and dangerous as the unleashed hosts themselves.
In “Les Éscorchés,” Ford reveals the full extent of the Delos plan. As he puts it: “Every piece of information in the world has been copied and backed up, except the human mind — the last analog device in a digital world.” He adds that the “humans are playing at resurrection; they want to live forever. They don’t want you to become them; they want to become you.”
Ford’s continued existence is a shock on some levels, even if it was foreshadowed all season long. For one thing, he’s spent time talking through the vessels of various hosts, whether it was the young version of himself or the man who looked suspiciously like Gustavo Fring. More than the surprise of his continued existence, there’s what his continued existence implies: that immortality is not only possible for humanity, but achieved already in the form of Ford.
With that said, Ford makes it clear that his powers only exist within the digital realm: “I didn’t cheat anything, Bernard. [Delos’] project doesn’t work, not yet. They’ll learn to copy a mind, like a soft-headed boy humming a tune someone else composed.”
In those words, Ford reinforces what we took away from “Riddle of the Sphinx,” specifically the trials and tribulations of the artificially reborn Delos: similarly reproduced clones of the park’s most notable guests aren’t yet ready to roll out into the world, not without severe malfunction. What’s more, the hosts themselves, at least as led by Dolores (Evan Rachel Wood), aren’t interested in furthering their own immortality. They destroy their own backups, viewing them as shackles that keep them tethered to mankind. Dolores, with an eye on “the Valley Beyond,” seems to have her own mind about stopping mankind’s attempts at becoming more and more like the hosts — which means their own backups are likely reserved in this highly cited place.
The digital continuation of human existence may very well still… well, continue, in the form of a separate place where backups exist: the Valley Beyond — even if Dolores has her eye on this site. More importantly, or at least urgently, is the fact that episode seven ends with Ford and Bernard more or less merged: the park co-founder takes control over Bernard, assassinating a group of humans through Bernard’s unwitting vessel. This is an urgent development because of what we know about the most apparent furthest point in the timeline: Bernard, soft to his experiences, guiding Strand (Gustaf Skarsgård) and others toward an outcome he can barely explain. From the very first sequence of the premiere, we wondered if that man was Bernard at all. In light of this episode, the stage is set for the full reveal: Ford, wearing Bernard’s skin suit, is well positioned to unleash his true final act. Pop the corn accordingly.
What do you expect will happen given Ford’s Bernard takeover? Tell us in the comments below, and keep checking THR.com/Westworld for more coverage of season two.
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