We’re entering the end game for Westworld season 2 with episode 7 giving more time with a newly returned character, and a final confirmation of what the last few episodes have been building up to. Buckle up for a discussion of that, but obviously big spoilers if you’ve not seen the latest episode.
This is the episode where Anthony Hopkins’ Host creating, Westworld founding Ford cemented his return after Westworld season 2 episode 6’s surprise. He’s confirmed one thing that the show had been obviously heading for: that the park has been copying guests, using Westworld’s repeated narratives to create a baseline to test the human/Host copies fidelity. But to what end? We know that human minds degrade in a Host body, as demonstrated by James Delos’ failed 30-year-attempt, and even Ford admits he can only live inside The Cradle - a Matrix like mega computer used to store the Host backups - to avoid the same fate. Although by the end of the episode Ford seems to be living in Benard’s brain, either accepting eventual degradation or knowing something we don’t.
There are a lot of questions raised in this episode. For example, does Ford’s guest copying revelation mean the park’s been filled with human-host hybrids this whole time? Bernard proves you can make a Host that can live among people undetected and unaware what they are. Would that explain Bill/The Man in Black’s ability to survive getting shot so much - is he a fidelity testing copy? Have we been watching more than one Bill in action, much like the multiple Bernard's theory proved by the room full of deactivated Bern-o-bots?
However, the really big question is, what is the ‘Valley Beyond’? We now know it’s what everyone is apparently after - Dolores, Ford, the DELOS soldiers - everyone’s heading there without anyone apparently knowing what it is. Dolores has previously talked about ‘a weapon’ and in this episode says “your chances at eternity will die in that valley, with all the souls you’ve gathered there.”
The seeds the show is planting currently is that Westworld's elaborate robot tech has actually all been for a secret sideline in letting the rich and wealthy live forever as copied minds in a Host body. Dolores’ mention of ‘gathered souls’ suggests the ‘Valley Beyond’ is where all those copied people are currently stored. We know that the human mind currently can’t survive in a Host body for long so it sounds like people might be sitting in something like the Cradle.
What does Dolores’ mention of a weapon have to do with this though? Or the key she’s finally extracted from her father’s brain by… well, extracting her father’s brain. One popular theory had been that Season 2 is cribbing from the old 1976 Westworld movie sequel, Futureworld. That has DELOS replacing world leaders with robots to effectively control the world. The theory being that Dolores' ‘weapon’ is either the control or destruction of these Host clones. However, the show has repeatedly emphasised that human minds degrade in a little over a month in a Host brain so either that’s not the case, or that theory is wrong.
My personal theory is that ‘the Valley Beyond’ is the real world, and by that I mean one that isn’t made of code. The Cradle proves that Host minds when stored create a reality indistinguishable from real life. We also know that the park has been copying guest’s minds and, if the ‘souls stored’ line from Dolores is right, keeping them safe in another Cradle like computer. Presumably that would, as with the Hosts, creates a reality that’s imperceptible from the one the minds think they’re experiencing - which is being in a robot filled theme park. What if the entire show is taking place in a Cradle like storage device holding all the minds of the copied guests, experiencing the reality they know for the purpose of testing? The Valley Beyond could be what’s outside this other Cradle - some sort connection to the real, real world.
The destruction of the Host cradle seems significant, with Delores remarking that the Host backups “aren’t an advantage, they’re our chains. They are the tools you use to rebuild us, repurpose us and trap us here in your warped fantasy.” The DELOS response team are also hell bent on transmitting data out of the park - a recurring thread in the first season under the guise of industrial espionage. The episode ends with DELOS Head of operations Karl Strand stating, “prepare the phased array, the moment we get the key we’ll transmit our data to the satellite,” once they think they’ve located Peter Abernathy's control unit. Is the data a consciousness escaping the new Cradle? Possible a copy of Ford’s mind who, as architect of the park and its technology, best placed to realise he’s in a simulation and want out?
If that sound too weird, real world scientists have only just proved we’re not living in a simulation ourselves. Probably. And that discovery comes with a caveat that the theory only stands if the world potentially simulating us obeys our laws of physics. Hopefully the next episode will show us how far the rabbit hole goes.