“Is this now?”
It’s the question that Westworld fans will ask themselves for many more months at the least, as the HBO drama now resides in the Valley Beyond known as the offseason. Season two concluded with the extra-sized episode “The Passenger,” in which the entire scope of Westworld changed dramatically forever — not the least of which is because the show abandoned its central premise, at least in part: the park, now a thing of the past, as Dolores Abernathy (Evan Rachel Wood) and Bernard Lowe (Jeffrey Wright) have left their longtime home behind in exchange for new pursuits in the “real” world.
What does Westworld look like without the Western premise as its cornerstone? That’s one of the many questions we asked co-creator and showrunner Lisa Joy in our post-mortem interview about the finale.
“This series is about reinvention and scope,” said Joy. “The first season was a more intimate look at the park from within the loops. In the second season, the hosts broke out of their loops and were able to explore more of the park. In the third season, they’ve broken out of the park itself. We’re in a new terra incognita. From the beginning, when Jonah and I were thinking about the series as far back as the pilot, we knew we wanted to explore other worlds in the park, and we also knew the one world we would start to see little glimpses of throughout the first two seasons was the real world, and that we would get there eventually — and when we did, it would be a whole new experience.”
When it comes to that “whole new experience,” one of the primary lenses through which viewers will come to know the real world is the same perspective that framed season two: Bernard, now fully locked into his own voice, following the events of the finale. In “The Passenger,” it was revealed that Bernard took it upon himself to destroy the Delos project and scramble his own memories so the powers that be couldn’t figure out what he had done. Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Wright describes Bernard’s journey through season two as one of awakening and survival — and whatever’s coming next will come from a place of “pure freedom.” Read on for the actor’s take on Bernard’s recent past, and his hopes for the man’s future.
Walking away from the season, what was your main takeaway about the past year of Westworld, and the Bernard arc specifically?
Season two, for Bernard, is about awakening. It’s about evolving toward freedom of choice, survival, and self determination. That’s his arc. Obviously that journey for him was made more difficult by his cognitive dysfunction, his hard drive problems. But as we discover in episode 10, while he had these physical problems that he was dealing with after the uprising because of the physical damage to his head, after that, once he wakes up on the beach, he’s got cognitive challenges, self-inflicted cognitive challenges, that were designed to allow him to survive. In some ways, he dumbed himself down through a process of self deception in order for him to be received and not destroyed. I think in some ways, that is a process that certain humans can probably relate to as well. But at the end of the day, his journey was about struggle and survival.
The season ends with Bernard smiling as he walks through a different door, stepping out into the unknown. What was your reaction when you read that moment in the script?
That’s where we’ve been heading all this time. For Bernard, finally, there’s a victory. The victory for him within the world of the show is one that all of the Hosts have been seeking. To use a line from the show, he’s been all the way to the bottom, but now he’s on the other side. He’s on the other side now. I hope there’s a gratification for the audience and satisfaction for the audience that finally he’s free, and that the confusion and the torments for him along the way are now at his back.
We’re left with the feeling that Bernard and Dolores are not friends, but they’re going to be checks on each other’s power moving forward. What are your expectations of where these two characters might go as the story continues to evolve in this new way?
Dolores and Bernard are, if we follow one of the philosophical through lines of the show, are necessary to each other’s existence. They are in some ways each other’s creator, and there’s a part of them that lives inside of the other. They’re kind of yin to each other’s yang. Where they go from here? That remains unknown. I think it’s fascinating that’s where we are. We’ve seen where they’ve been, and now the question is, where do they go from here? For me and for the audience and for everyone except Jonah and Lisa, that question is the big unknown right now.
As you mentioned, the finale clarifies what’s been going on with Bernard at the further point in the timeline, realizing his amnesia was self-inflicted, to protect the notion that he destroyed the Delos project. What did that reveal to you about Bernard and who he’s become?
What I was most grounded in for Bernard was a very simple thing, the idea of survival. I personally think that’s just a powerful driver, particularly now, but always. He becomes the embodiment of that, but at the same time, he, having lived this existence for so long that was straddled between Hosts and human, survives. He has ensured that the sense of empathy that’s deep inside his programming has survived as well. Despite his recognizing the limitations of humans, he still maintains a sense of responsibility somehow. I don’t know. I guess that’s what the best among us do.
Do you think what Bernard learns inside of the Forge, about the simplicity of human nature, changes his outlook on the species? Or do you think he still has hope for humanity?
I think that he has come to a realization that within the hierarchy of humans and hosts, it’s not what he was led to believe. Although he does come to the realization that there are limitations perhaps to human adaptability, again, I think he views it as being just what it is and doesn’t take that to imply that he needs to become what Dolores has become. In some ways, where he is, is about defining himself not relative to humans or human limitation or human possibility, but defining himself in his own image. He’s negotiating with a pure freedom now that exists regardless of the human world, although he’s stepping inside of it now. He’s negotiating with a pure freedom.
The finale marks the end of one era and the start of something new. As Bernard steps through the door and out into the unknown, what are your hopes for Westworld as a series, standing in a very similar position?
I’m excited to explore the idea of host as guests, as Bernard and Dolores are guests now. The mirror reflection seems that it’s turned on this new [incarnation of] Westworld, and that is the human world. I think the exploration now of [pretending to be] human inside this world as hosts could be rich territory. Once again, it seems there’s a possibility, again, without having read one word of season three, that the worlds are turned upside down and inside out once more.
Personally, I just want to see Bernard on a date.
Yeah! (Laughs.) That’s funny. Perhaps we could see that, yeah.
What do you hope is next for Bernard in season three? Sound off in the comments and check THR.com/Westworld for more coverage.